December 27, 2004

Eggheads' Naughty Word Games

So goes the New York Times headline (p. B1, 12/27/04) for this year's pissy snarky story (by John Strausbaugh) on the Modern Language Association meetings. While admitting, "The convention has become a holiday ritual for journalists", the piece goes on to revel anyway in the wackiness of those "postmodernists, multiculturalists, feminists and queer-theory advocates", piling on astounding titles, especially the sexy ones, and summarizing things as follows: "The association has come to resemble a hyperactive child who, having interrupted the grownups' conversation by dancing on the coffee table, can't be made to stop." (This is not a quotation; this is the journalist's own voice. It's not labeled as opinion, but, hey, this is a feature story, so I guess anything goes.)

Concluding sentence, of a story with 24.25 column-inches of text: "And yes, many believe that the press is encouraging them [the freak show contingent of the MLA] by continuing to pay attention."

I know, I know, the editor made him do it. (But I think that he secretly enjoyed it, and lord knows it's an easy story to write.)

By the way, other papers picked up the story; the pared-down Palo Alto Daily News version ran (on page 1) under the nutty head "Language purists, rebels face off".

zwicky at-sign csli period stanford period edu

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at December 27, 2004 09:24 PM