The Tyranny of Tradition
Posts Tagged language
How the Commodity Relation Infects Our Language
Posted by Keith Spillett in Really Brilliant Things You Should Read But Probably Won't Because You Are A Pantera Fan on October 24, 2013
An absolutely fantastic article taken from a fantastic new website called The Classless Classroom.
Every time you tell a child, “Good job!” you are reinforcing the capitalist commodity relation as the fundamental relation in our society. Our language polices us — we do not express ourselves freely. Here are further examples:
- We buy ourselves time, we save time, we invest our time wisely — meaning productively — and we spend our time, and must account for it. After a long and taxing day slaving away on our work, we’re spent. Time is money, and that’s how we treat it.
- We are accountable. We own our mistakes, and own up to our faults. To overcome them, we must capitalize on our strengths.
- We ask to be given some credit when not believed, and are discredited when proved wrong. We prove we have been to school when we earn credit.
- We want to be trusted. We must earn trust. We earn a reputation, good or bad.
- When unconvinced, we’re just not buying it. We need to be sold on a new idea.
- We can have a lot of class, or be classy. It’s better than being low class. No woman wants to look cheap, though we may sometimes like cheap thrills or a cheap laugh at someone else’s expense. What we’d really like is a rich experience, a rich dessert, writing that is rich in detail.
- We can pay attention, or lose interest. We can change our minds. Barely hanging in there? We’ll manage. Let’s act professional about it. Deal with it.
- We wage war. Sin has wages, which are death. But when you’re great, you’re money. Others are in your debt. They owe you, big-time.
- Slaughter is wholesale — why pay retail? Don’t get short-changed. We can put paid to that idea.
- We take stock of a situation, and stock up on supplies.
- Pregnancy begins with oviproduction and ends in labor. When relationships end, we’re back on the market.
- You did a poor job — poor you. You did very poor work on your assignment. But it will all work out, especially if you go to the gym like you’re supposed to and have a good work out.
- Anything missing from this list? It’s not a deal-breaker. We may need to coin a phrase for it.
- What if money really were no object?
Class, Commodity Relation, language, Social class
The Politics of Sneezing
Posted by Keith Spillett in Articles I Probably Shouldn't Have Bothered Writing, Totally Useless Information on March 3, 2011
I sneeze and people feel obligated to reply. The more you think about that, the weirder it is. You are on an elevator with ten complete strangers, you sneeze and all ten race to beat each other to say “God Bless You”. You are on a subway, it is 3 o’clock in the morning and you are surrounded by several odd looking strangers who look like extras from The Warriors. They are taking turns leering at you with a detached sense of malice. You sneeze. A cacophonous chorus of disinterested voices mumble something that sounds remotely like “GesundheitGoblessyou”.
This pervasive but odd little social custom seems to insert itself everywhere without regard to circumstance. There are plenty of bizarre customs out there, but this one seems thoroughly inescapable. I have allergies and live in Atlanta, which means I spend a good portion of the spring testing the politeness of strangers. A sneeze never fails to draw some sort of reply. No one knows particularly why we do this. There are several old stories handed down about it. One story says that it was created during the Black Plague to ward off the spread of the virus. Another story claims that the custom began over the fear that the heart might stop during a sneeze. Yet another tale claims that it was a way of forcing the soul to return to the body after a sneeze.
Most of these stories are meant to explain the “God Bless You”, but there is less explanation for the “Gesundheit”. Why would a room full of non-German speaking Americans suddenly nearly crawl over one another to shout a German expression at someone who has just fired a blitzkrieg of germs at them? Politeness?….really?!?!?! Occasionally when one sneezes they are given a “hatchoo” by someone near them. Why on earth would someone imitate the sneezer? I find this response to be quite demeaning. To get how strange this is, imagine if a person burped and was greeted with a choir of fake burps in response?
I have only experienced this sort of weirdness in America, but apparently it is popular around the world. Most cultures have some word that means “to your health” that is thrown at the offending germ cannon. The oddest sneeze response I’ve come across are the Mongolians who say something that sounds like “burkhan urshoo”. This translates to “May God forgive you”. Not knowing much about the Mongolian culture, this leads me to believe that sneezing is serious business over there. It must be some sort of crime or something. God would be quite busy if he or she had to spend the better half of eternity forgiving sneezers. In Iceland, they say something that translates into “May God help you!” This sounds like a threat that is better suited to someone stealing your pet llama. The Tamil language has a word that translates to “may you live for one hundred years”. The sentiment of this is quite lovely, but the actual math becomes severely problematic. If I were to sneeze five times a day for one year I would have added 182,500 years to my life. Imagine the effects on the economy in many Southern Asian nations if they had to deal with taking care of scores of 2 million year old allergy sufferers?
No one particularly knows why we do it, but if your curious to see whether this custom is alive and breathing today, try sneezing in front of a room full of strangers. If you cough, people barely notice. If you blow your nose, most people simply go about their business. Sneeze and the world stands up and takes interest.
Bless you, Culture of Mongolia, existential dread, German language, God, illness, language, philosophy, silkk the shocker, Sneeze, sneezing, social customs, South Asia, Tamil language, United States, virus
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