Not so perfect, not so young

Thursday, February 23, 2006

Arguing for fun and sport

Today I was thinking about how, when I used to teach ESL, I would try and try to help my students understand the difference between a dependent and an independent clause, which was very hard to do, so they would write a lot of essays that contained sentences beginning with "but", "because", and "or", and I would try to convey to them that you could actually join two clauses together using words like that, and if you don't join clauses occastionally, your writing looks more like abstract poetry that a TOEFL-award-winning essay. For example:

I like to swimming with my family.
But my sister is not like swim.
Because my sister is afraid of to swim.
When the sharks are in water.
She is thinking they will be bite the foot.

I realized that my style of writing lately has contained a lot of those same awkward one-clause sentences, so I thought that I would write a post that contains sentences with a lot of clauses. Check out all the commas, and all of the conjunctions, and adverb clause markers. Whooo!

Today's post is for any armchair psychologists who might like to speculate on why we do what we do. The thing is, I'm an argumentative person, but I only enjoy arguing in certain situations, with certain people. Specifically, I love to argue with my husband or some other family members, but I am paralyzed with fear and anxiety if I can sense the slightest hint of an argument growing with acquaintances or colleagues. I'm too lazy to analyse the situation, but if anyone has any thoughts on why it's fun to argue with those we love, please let me know your thoughts.

My love for arguing resulted in a strange situation yesterday; I'd had an okay day, but when my husband came home, I picked a fight wherein I criticized his haircut, which is totally a legitimate thing for me to criticize because I am the one who cuts his hair, because he refuses to get his hair cut in a salon). I'm not sure why I started the argument, but my main points were as follows: a) I'm not good at cutting hair, because no one has ever taught me how, b) The haircuts I give Daniel make him look like a character from "Dumb and Dumber", because he will only use styling products on his hair for special occasions such as weddings and graduations, c) He should get a decent haircut in a barbershop or salon so I can at least use that as a guide for one or two subsequent haircuts. This went on for some time, and we both knew it was just arguing for the sake of hearing me raise my voice (because other people in the house need to hear my arguments so they can side with me when I ask for support).

(Writing long sentences is hard work)

The strange thing was that the argument ended with Daniel cutting his own hair over the bathroom sink, and this really wasn't my intention when I started the hair tyrade in the first place. Boy, did he show me! Now he looks a bit like he escaped from bootcamp before they finished shearing the new recruits.

Next time I pick a fight, I'll argue about the dishes or the vacuuming, so he can demonstrate his superior skill in those tasks. Back to my main question: Why do I argue for fun and recreation with the person I love most in the world, but I am terrified of actually disagreeing with people I don't like one bit?


  • At 12:03 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    Hmmm. Maybe arguing with a loved one feels like a fight in a ring--bounded--but arguing with an unloved one feels like a fight on mesa with a 100 meter drop on all sides. I dunno. I'm a big fan of arguments too, and while I think I tend to happily argue with anybody, after the fact I'm sometimes obsessed and fearful about the possibility that I've alienated them or made them hate me. Maybe the difference between you and me is just that you have the foresight to shun the kind of arguments that give me nightmares later.

  • At 12:04 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    BTW, not to start an argument or anything, but isn't "speech language pathology" redundant? Surely "speech pathology" would suffice.

  • At 10:35 AM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    Hi Murky - no argument here! They specifically train us SLPs to answer your question wrt the distiction between the terms "speech" and "language":

    "Language" refers to the linguistic message constructed in the brain of the speaker, or reconstructed in the brain of the listener. Pathologies related to language can be expressive (e.g., related to vocabulary, syntax, or social use of language) or receptive (related to understanding the written or spoken language of others).

    "Speech" refers to the production of the acoustic signal that carries the linguistic message. Pathologies related to speech include articulation problems in children, stuttering, voice problems, and muscular weakness due to stroke or degenerative neurological conditions.

    I'll concede that there's a problem with the title - it's the order of the words. Since the linguistic message needs to exist before it can be encoded and produced as speech, maybe we should call ourselves "Language-Speech Pathologists". But it just doesn't have the same ring! :)

  • At 1:28 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    Why it struck me as subtly redundant is that "speech" in common English mean primarily (sense 1b):

    "The faculty or act of expressing or describing thoughts, feelings, or perceptions by the articulation of words."

    "Utterance" is only a secondary meaning. So "speech" tends to connote language. I guess if I were a persnickety chair of a department that also studied language deficits occurrence in the absence of motor deficits, then just to be painfully clear I might call it "Speech/Language Pathology" or "Speech and Language Pathology," even though I feel sure some compound names leave out such cues as to their compoundity. Thanks for stopping by my blog.

  • At 2:12 PM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    Aha. So you DID want to start an argument!

    "The faculty or act of expressing or describing thoughts, feelings, or perceptions by the articulation of words."

    Speech may connote language in common parlance, but in the interest of being persnickety, I would argue that the above definition of speech is inadequate. It omits the intervening process(es) whereby "thoughts, feelings and perceptions" are encoded linguistically. (But I suppose distinguishing between thought and language is a whole other argument in itself!)

  • At 3:56 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    Why you normativist running dog! Don't you realize that nobody owns the language!? We are all of us captive to the "common parlance," as your patronizing ilk chooses to denigrate it. If a descriptivist dictionary like the AHD says that's what the word means to most people, why that's what the word means to most people, or else the publisher will be hiring new staff for the next edition. If you want to teach people otherwise, why don't you and your prescriptive friends hire Michael Jackson to star in some ads for you on TV. But you and Big Brother will never win!! Never!! We'lls speaks as we wantsta!!!

  • At 4:23 PM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    I'm SO busted.

    I knew I was in trouble with the "common parlance" bit! I have strayed far from my descriptivist linguistic education into a world of prescriptivism.

    But I've been indoctrinated for two years by this cult of speech/language remediation!

    To tell you the truth, using nonstandard grammar is one of my guilty pleasures in life.
    I'm a model of a fossilized English language in all its 'don't-put-apostrophes-in-third-person-singulars' glory by day, user of superflous third person singular 's' by night.

    I gots to go running now (honestly, my shoes were already on when you called me a 'running dog').

  • At 11:45 AM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    You realize this is the worst of all possible outcomes? We're agreeing to agree? Where's the fun in that? Anyway, thanks for so agreeably engaging with my pot shot to the name intended your profession.

  • At 12:05 PM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    Ha ha! Thank YOU for the exercise in argument outside 'the ring'. I totally took the bait.

    Agreeing to disagree is my favourite 'out' - hopefully I won't lose too much sleep over my divided linguistic allegiances.

    ps - Murky Thoughts, are you affiliated in some way with the author you recommended? Your interests are uncannily similar.

  • At 4:06 PM, Blogger Jaimie said…

    Um, oops. Agreeing to agree. yes.

  • At 6:29 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    Nope, no affiliation with Wright, although I've traded e-mails with him. Moral Animal did make a big impression on me, including sparking an interest in sociobiology, which I'd known about but (as a lefty) regarded as ideologically tainted and taboo (but no longer).

  • At 6:32 PM, Blogger Murky Thoughts said…

    Nope, no affiliation with Wright, although I've traded e-mails with him. Moral Animal did make a big impression on me, including sparking an interest in sociobiology, which I'd known about but (as a lefty) regarded as ideologically tainted and taboo (but no longer).

  • At 10:21 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said…

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