August 22, 2006

Excessive activity leads to loss of intelligence

As readers well know, Language Log has been hot on the trail of false claims about language and gender recently (here, here, and here). Now it's time for the Geriatric Division to kick in because, I suppose, as we grow older we worry about our loss of mental capacity. How to guard against this comes from Pope Benedict XVI himself, who advises that work is the major culprit leading to IDS (intelligence deficiency syndrome). As proof, the Pope cites the 12th century writings of St. Bernard, who made this point:

Watch out for the dangers of an excessive activity, whatever ... the job you hold, because many jobs often lead to the 'hardening of the heart,' as well as 'suffering of the spirit, loss of intelligence.'

I don't know about you but I never knew this before. Since St. Bernard penned this for the benefit of popes, one might conclude that it relates only to them. But no, says the "79-year-old" Pope Benedict. He says it's valid for every kind of work, including, I would think, linguistics and even Language Loggers.

Whether or not the bosses upstairs have noticed, I want them to know that I've been relatively silent recently simply because I've been  trying hard to preserve my spirit and intelligence. Okay, so we don't have any empirical evidence that the Pope is right about this one. Who needs evidence? It matters little in an age when people can make claims about virtually anything with little or none of it.

P.S. And while I'm at it, I'd like to know why the Associated Press seems to feel it necessary to tell us that the pope is 79 years old. Any suggestions?

Posted by Roger Shuy at August 22, 2006 02:40 PM