January 12, 2004

Rosanne: woman of mystery

Cyberspace makes for some weird situations regarding knowledge of other human beings. Take the case of the mysterious "Roseanne" of another language and linguistics blog, The X-bar. Mark Liberman and I (and several other Language Loggers including Geoff Nunberg and Chris Potts) were at the LSA meeting over the weekend in Boston, and, we now know, so was "Roseanne". We must have seen her. We were at Chomsky's lecture, and Jackendoff's, and so was she. We saw women linguists with infants in arms, and we know that one of them was "Roseanne" (she mentioned in one of her posts that she had her baby with her: Chomsky smiled at the baby). How should I truthfully answer if anyone ever asks me, "Do you know who Roseanne is?" I know her nom de net, and some of her opinions and ambitions and interests, and her probable real first name, and her location over last weekend. I know Mark and I were in the same room with her, several times. And yet in a sense I have no idea who she is, and I have no way to find out. She saw Mark and me and could identify us (we had our full real names on badges on our chests), and we probably saw her, and her badge (you had to wear your badge to get into the big-name lectures), but that doesn't enable us to identify her. Despite being out in the open amid a thousand people and wearing a name badge, she was able to watch us from a position of complete privacy, like a mountain lion hidden in the undergrowth. Woman of mystery.

Posted by Geoffrey K. Pullum at January 12, 2004 04:11 PM