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On the understated liberalism of ironic stupidity

March 11, 2014 1 comment

You know when you hang out with your buddies who you’ve known for years, sometimes decades, and no matter what you say, they know how to read that against the backdrop of your past actions and words? And how often you’re glad nobody else hears what you say, because they’d be bound to get the different levels of sarcasm and irony all wrong and take your utterings literally? Which is likely to result in you getting punched in the teeth or slapped upside your head with a handbag — by the very people who you feel most sympathetic for? (I would’ve expected them to at least hi-five me.)

There’s little else that feels as comfortable as being blindly understood regardless of the level of literal stupidity that comes out of your mouth. But then you meet new people (which is a good thing, mind you!) If you’re lucky, you instantly click and find you share the same kinds of views, and you find out you do so because you realize that new acquaintance is fully fluent in sarcasm and has all the right comebacks for your remarks? It’s like a match made in heaven! Sometimes, however, you meet new people and you realize whatever you say causes massive confusion in the other. That’s when you have a problem on your hands. That’s where you’d have to do the obvious thing and snap out of sarcasm mode, and instead speak in plain text. Oh the humiliation! But with the kind of near-pathological knack for understatement and sarcasm that I have, I flat-out refuse to explain myself. Au contraire, I like to use sarcasm as a kind of light meter to detect the degree of brightness in my new interlocutor. If they fail to spot even the most ridiculous of utterances on, say, the wenches, or the bloody foreigners (I’m half-immigrant myself, by the way, and some of my favourite people in the world are women), I know it’s not worth going much deeper. If they do pick up on the impossible stupidity of what I’ve just said, we have a basis for communication and, dare I say, a friendship might not be too far off. (Somebody understand me!)

I’ve often thought about ways of giving an innocent person a heads up. It’s probably not their fault if they’ve grown up in an environment where people just say exactly what they mean, with no twists and turns to it. But then I abandoned the thought to avoid going through the tedious task of teaching someone how to assess the presumable seriousness of an utterance against the real world of modern thought and latest facts available. Not to mention that what they secretly think of me plays an important role, as well. If they take me for a moron to begin with, they won’t bother trying to find the brilliance that I’ve ever so carefully and painstakingly wrapped into several layers of double-entendre and irony. (I occasionally like to flatter myself.)

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Obama killing it…

May 13, 2009 Leave a comment

I’ve been Barack Obama, I’ll be here all term. Don’t forget to tip the waitresses…

There’s a couple of hard punches in this one. Those about Cheney and the one with Axelrod had me crying with laughter.

Brummies get no respect at all…

April 4, 2008 3 comments

A study into people’s perceptions of English dialect speakers has shown that some dialects seem to make the speaker sound more intelligent than others. (Now everybody in the Southern US or in Germany’s Saxony go tell me about it.)

But you know things are really bad for you if your accent can’t even outdo silence on the intelligence scale. Especially if you call Birmingham your home you get the short end of the stick…

Silence could well be golden for ambitious Brummies, after research found people with the distinctive nasal Birmingham accent were seen as stupid while those with a Yorkshire twang were considered clever.

The study into dialect and perceived intelligence found that people who said nothing at all were regarded as more intelligent than those with a Brummie accent.

This is despite a general trend in which regional dialects have become more respectable. The Yorkshire accent is rated as the most intelligent-sounding, beating received pronunciation, the accent of royalty and public school alumni, for the first time.

The biggest surprise the study has produced is that RP (received pronunciation, or The Queen’s English) rates even slightly lower than the Yorkshire accent.

The average intelligence ratings given by the study participants, out of 10, were: Yorkshire: 6.71; RP: 6.67; silence: 5.99; and Birmingham: 5.6.

Read the full article in the Guardian.

And now a few examples, taken from IDEA, the University of Kansas International Dialects of English Archive.

White female, born 1912, raised Greetland, West Yorkshire. Details.

White male, twenties, born Grimsby, raised Darlington. Details.

And now for a Brummy speaker:

White female, domestic worker, born 1947, lifelong resident of Gaydon, Warwickshire, a few miles from Birmingham. Details.

But let’s just make one thing clear:

Birmingham’s not shit.

Categories: utterings, [andbehold]

Steve Coleman – I want to hear a poem…

January 29, 2008 2 comments

From Def Poetry Season 1.

Just pure niceness. He’d make a great rapper, too.