8/30/10

I Like Dicks


The skeptical blogoverse is in turmoil. Phil Plait gave a speech, and said “Don't be a dick”. Other people said “You're a dick for telling me to not be a dick”

Since I have nothing worthwhile to contribute, I'll just tell a story.

Long ago I paid a visit to a friend, we had a few beers, shot the shit, mostly about the job and troubles with his boss. My main squeeze was with me but mostly just sat and listened. In the car after we left, this conversation:

That's the first time I've ever heard you talk bad about somebody.”

What? I didn't say anything bad about anybody.”

His boss. You guys were calling him an asshole and everything.”

Uhh, … !”

Now, the squeeze existed at the high end of the social scale, ran in circles with blue blood. The friend hung with the lower class, ran in circles with red necks. We had here a classic failure to communicate.

Neither of us had anything against his boss. We disagreed about a lot of things, didn't get along very well, but were just doing our jobs. Our conversation was airing frustrations in the language my friend was most comfortable with. To wit:

You're full of shit =

I don't agree with you
You're an asshole =

Ur doin it rong
Fuck him =

He's doin it rong
That's bullshit =

it's wrong
A bunch of fucken bullshit =

really wrong
he doesn't know his ass from a hole in the ground =

he fails to adequately understand the situation

< lecture mode>
Guaranteed, if I had used the right column with my friend, we would not have been friends. He'd've pegged me as an over-educated snob, been insulted, and dismissed everything I said. A lot of people make the mistake of thinking that words mean the same thing for every person. They don't.

For person to person communication to happen, you have to select a form for your message that evokes your idea in that person. Every person is comfortable in one or more linguistic registers, and are less likely to accept a message when they hear it in some other one.
</lecture mode>

Skeptics tend to be more comfortable with an 'academic' register than 'redneck', I think, and religious fanatics tend toward 'uneducated'. When each uses their own register, both sides might think the other is being a dick. Remember,

one man's dick is another man's best friend.

4 comments:

DM said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Jay said...

An excellent dissection of the cognitive dissonance between classes.

My first job after high school was in the warehouse of an electronics plant. I found that had to dumb down my language with my coworkers. They took me for some kind of snob when I spoke the English language properly.

uzza said...

know what you mean. It says a lot when an effectivly High School kid has to dumb down what he says.

I'm uneasy about calling them stupid though. When I was in college, and told some co-workers that I studied linguistics, they asked "What's the street name for that?" I was flummoxed.

Jay said...

The really odd thing is, I was a terrible English (or Language Arts) student. I assimilated spelling and grammar well enough, scored well on tests and was an avid reader, but my grades were often poor. The rest of the class activities didn't interest me. Diagramming sentences? Bah! Oral reports? I don't think so. I couldn't even write a one- or two-word report. My erstwhile English teachers would be shock - shocked! to know that I've had an often wordy blog for eight years.