A shitload more brevity
In Geoff Pullum's brief
about (one of) the Gricean maxims, he makes a good point. It's tough to blog
briefly. Which makes me, as a new wet behind the ears apprentice
underblogger, wonder just what the rules of Blog really are.
The beauty of Grice's maxims is that they seem a priori
obvious. They tell us to be as informative as necessary but not more
so, to convey true beliefs justified by adequate evidence, to be
relevant, and to be (cutting a longer story short) brief. Just plain
old common sense, right? But at least
since Keenan (1974)
linguists have wondered whether the maxims apply universally, and
independently of culture, style and genre.
Think about bloggers, who as Geoff shows us by anti-example, are
typically none too brief. In a blog, be
seems strangely not and standards of evidence are not in evidence.
Besides, just how much of the blogosphere's great outpouring of
cyber-information is truly necessary?
justified his maxims as being special cases of one supermaxim
- the Cooperative
Principle. "Make your contribution
such as required, at
the stage at which it occurs, by the accepted purpose or direction of
the talk exchange in which you are engaged.
Herein lies the root of the problem. In the case of blogs, uncertainty
over audience make-up and mores reaches a new high. You could be anybody
In fact, many of you are not bodies at all, but automated web-crawlers.
And there simply is no commonly accepted purpose or direction. Bloggers
are free to make up purposes and directions as they go, to inform as
much as they like about whatever they like in pretty much any way they
like. A young
underblogger's apprentice does not (intentionally) stray far from
standard purposes and directions, and hence conventions. But deeper in
blog-space, anything might go. Who is to say whether bloggers follow these
, or these...
The Maxims of Blog
Maxim of Enlightenment:
1. Bring enlightenment.
2. Wear shades.
Maxim of Controversy:
1. Be controversial. (Occasionally say what you are certain is true. It
2. Hint at that for which you have no evidence.
Maxim of Digression:
Digress. (Especially (auto)biographically. Note that
Gorky was born Aleksey Maksimovich Peshkov, and "Maxim" derives from
his Father's name, the "-ovich" being a patronymic ending. Thus does
one Maxim beget another. Hopefully, more
and other naming conventions in a later log. And perhaps someone more
literary or political than I will have something to say about "the
father of Soviet literature and the founder of the doctrine of socialist
realism," and the reason Nizhny Novgorod was
for many years hard to find on a map. The
Nizhny Novgorodites are still
proud of Gorky as far as I can tell, but not enough to have their city bear his name. (Beaver, Utah is not named for me (or vice versa (note the
embedded parenthetical - these are good)), but it is apparently the
birthplace of Butch
Cassidy, ne Robert LeRoy
Parker. So why "Butch"?
Well, he once worked as a butcher. His most famous partner in crime
(aka Harry Longabaugh) was nom de guerred in a reverse Gorky manoever:
as a young horse rustler the Kid spent two years in jail in Sundance, Wyoming.
Not much going on in my name, except that Beaver is supposedly a case
of very poor translation by English officials helping my ancestors
anglicize their Polish family name, "Kaczka",
which means "duck". David Duck.))
Maxim of Entropy:
1. Hyperlink obscure expressions.
2. Keep 'em guessing.
3. Use acronyms.
2. Maximize entropy.
Keenan, Elinor O. 1974. "The Universality of
Postulates." Studies in Linguistic Variation
, ed. Ralph W.
Fasold and Roger W. Shuy (Washington, D.C.: Georgetown Univ.
Press), pp. 255-68. (Back)
Posted by David Beaver at November 20, 2003 04:18 AM