A Counter-Cultural Conundrum

If three keyly committed core components of the counter-cultural community say “in terms of” 105 times in an hour, how many times will one keyly committed core component of the counter-cultural community say “prior to” in terms of 23 minutes?

Elsewhere Other-Accessible:

Titus Graun: Heresy, Homotextuality, Hive-Mind
All O.o.t.Ü.-F. posts engaging issues around I.T.O.


Oh My Guardian #5

‘We’re stepping out of a binary’ – celebrating the art of marginalized LGBT Muslims

[…] The show features artwork themed around issues of Islamophobia, racism and homophobia to “highlight the struggles common among contemporary Muslim queer, trans and gender non-conforming communities,” said co-curator and activist Yas Ahmed. — ‘We’re stepping out of a binary’, The Guardian, 22/i/2018.

Elsewhere other-accessible:

Oh My Guardian #1
Oh My Guardian #2
Oh My Guardian #3
Oh My Guardian #4
Reds under the Thread

Nice Noise

Pre-previously on Overlord-in-terms-of-the-Über-Feral, I looked at how Tolkien used the word “noise” and concluded that he didn’t use it well:

He heard behind his head a creaking and scraping sound. […] There was a shriek and the light vanished. In the dark there was a snarling noise. – “Fog on the Barrowdowns”, Book One, VIII

Now I want to look at a much better writer: Ian Fleming. At first glance, he might seem to be using “noise” badly too in this bit of Live and Let Die (1954):

At about the time he [a treasure-seeking fisherman] should have reached the island the whole village of Shark Bay was awakened by the most horrible drumming noise. It seemed to come from inside the island. It was recognized as the beating of Voodoo drums. It started softly and rose slowly to a thunderous crescendo. Then it died down again and stopped. It lasted about five minutes. – ch. 16, “The Jamaica Version”

Should “drumming noise” not simply have been “drumming”? Well, no: Fleming got it right. The phrase “X noise” or “noise of X” should be used either when a noise resembles X but isn’t X or when there’s some doubt about whether it is X. In the extract above, Fleming’s choice of words captures what must have gone on in the minds of the observers, or rather the auditors: “What is that horrible noise from the island? It sounds like drums. Wait, it is drums. But how on earth could etc.” This is confirmed by what Fleming writes next: “It seemed to come… It was recognized as…”

And once the noise has been recognized, it can be described without qualification. This bit comes later in the chapter:

Strangways described his horror when, an hour after they had left to swim across the three hundred yards of water, the terrible drumming had started up somewhere inside the cliffs of the island.

In the previous chapter, there’s a use of “noise” that I’m not so sure about:

After a quarter of an hour’s meticulous work there was a slight cracking noise and the pane came away attached to the putty knob in his hand. – ch. 15, “Midnight Among the Worms”

Would “slight cracking” have been better? It’s not as clear-cut as “drumming noise”, but I think Fleming got it right again. “Cracking” is ambiguous, because it could have meant that the glass cracked physically but not audibly. Fleming was writing considerately, leaving his readers in no doubt about what he meant.

Now try this from Evelyn Waugh’s Put Out More Flags (1942), as Basil Seal watches one of his girlfriends panicked by an air-raid:

But Poppet was gone, helter-skelter, downstairs, making little moaning noises as she went.

Waugh was an even better writer than Fleming, but did he misuse “noises” there? I don’t think so. These alternatives don’t conjure the scene as effectively:

• But Poppet was gone, helter-skelter, downstairs, emitting little moans as she went.
• But Poppet was gone, helter-skelter, downstairs, uttering little moans as she went.

The noises Poppet was making weren’t real moans and the trailing phrase “making little moaning noises” mimics what Basil would have heard as Poppet fled downstairs.

I conclude that, unlike Tolkien, Fleming and Waugh were making nice noise:

nice, adj. and adv. … Particular, strict, or careful with regard to a specific point or thing. Obs. Fastidious in matters of literary taste or style. Obs.Oxford English Dictionary

Oh My Guardian #4

• The past 16 years have involved a lot of questioning and reflecting, both in terms of what it means to be “good”, but also on the various racist myths about Muslims. — Let’s be clear: Muslims are neither good nor bad. We’re just human, Farah in terms of Elahi, The Guardian, 14/xii/2017.

Elsewhere other-available:

Oh My Guardian #1
Oh My Guardian #2
Oh My Guardian #3
Reds under the Thread

Noise Annoys

“Noise” may have an interesting etymology. Some think it comes from “nausea”, which itself comes from Greek naus, meaning “ship”. Neither the putative etymology of “noise” nor the undisputed etymology of “nausea” would have been news to J.R.R. Tolkien. He was, after all, a professional scholar of literature and languages.

But that’s why The Lord of the Rings is often a puzzling book. Why did someone so interested in words and languages write so clumsily? As I’ve said before: I wish someone would translate Lord of the Rings into English. But perhaps if Tolkien had been a better writer I wouldn’t have read Lord of the Rings so often. And perhaps if he’d been a better writer there would have been no Lord of the Rings at all. Even so, it’s hard to excuse writing like this:

He heard behind his head a creaking and scraping sound. […] There was a shriek and the light vanished. In the dark there was a snarling noise. – “Fog on the Barrowdowns”, Book One, VIII

Why did he use “sound” and “noise”? They’re redundant, because creak, scrape and snarl already describe sounds or noises. You could argue that the additional words are there to balance the sentences, but if they hadn’t been there I don’t think anyone would have missed them:

He heard behind his head a creaking and scraping. … There was a shriek and the light vanished. In the dark there was a snarling.

Later in the book Tolkien gets it right:

At that moment there came a roaring and a rushing: a noise of loud waters rolling many stones. – “Flight to the Ford”, Book One, XII

Then he gets it wrong again:

Turning quickly they saw ripples, black-edged with shadow in the waning light: great rings were widening outwards from a point far out in the lake. There was a bubbling noise, and then silence. – “A Journey in the Dark”, Book Two, IV

This would have been better:

There was a bubbling, and then silence.

It’s crisper, clearer and doesn’t strike an ugly twentieth-century note in an archaic setting. And it should have been what J.R.R. Tolkien wrote in the first place. I don’t know why he didn’t and I don’t know why his editors or those who read early drafts of Lord of the Rings didn’t point out his error. That’s why I’d like to visit the Library of Babel and find a copy of Lord of the Rings written by Clark Ashton Smith.

The Conqueror Term

True story. I saw a copy of Rub Out the Words (2012) on a library shelf. It’s a collection of letters by core counter-cultural colossus William S. Burroughs. I pulled the book off the shelf, opened it, and began to search for a hit of heresiarchal heroin. Exactly 23 seconds later, my eyes fell on this phantasmagoric phraseology:

I do not think a writer should be called upon to defend his work in terms of a legal system that dates back to the middle ages.

I was stunned. Exactly 23 seconds. Well, I didn’t actually time it, but it would have been exactly 23 seconds if you choose the right base. And it was round-about 23 seconds in base 10. So I think reality was trying to tell me something: that Burroughs was part of the Hive Mind. He used a toxic term that good writers shouldn’t use – never, nunca, nohow, nowhere.

And it wasn’t the sole example in the book, I have since learnt. Here, then, are my suggestions for how Burroughs should have rubbed out the offending words and replaced them with something shorter and less vague (the final two examples are by the book’s editor and by someone Burroughs is quoting):

• I do not think a writer should be called upon to defend his work in terms of a legal system that dates back to the middle ages. → in a legal system
• All this is quite possible in terms of existing techniques. → with / by existing techniques
• I am not talking in terms of a thousand years. I am talking in NOW terms. → not talking of a thousand years. I am talking NOW.
• I am thinking in terms of the no-paying far-out magazines like Yugen and Kulchur. → thinking of / about no-paying far-out magazines
• When two or more letters covered the same ground, I selected the best in terms of quality of writing and completeness of thought. → in quality of writing
• Mr Burroughs writes enthusiastically about apomorphine treatment but I do not feel his enthusiasm is justified in terms of published results. → by published results

Okay, there are a lot of letters in the collection and Burroughs himself used “in terms of” only four (or five) times, which isn’t too bad. However, each use is an echt Guardianism, so Burroughs was undoubtedly a victim of the Conqueror Term, like millions of others, then and now. But it isn’t only English-speakers who can be victims of the Conqueror Term: it has infected usage in French too. This is from a speech by the new French president Emmanuel Macron:

… c’est ensuite les routes des trafics multiples qui nécessitent des réponses aussi en termes de sécurité et de coordination régionale … – Emmanuel Macron empêtré dans une folle polémique, Mediaguinee, 10/vii/2017.

… it is then the roads of multiple trafficking which also require answers in terms of security and regional coordination … – French President Emmanuel Macron is in the middle of a social media firestorm, Vox, 10/vii/2017.

The French and English can be shortened in the same way:

• des réponses aussi en termes de sécurité → des réponses aussi en sécurité
• answers in terms of security → in security

Macron, as you’d expect, is part of the Hive Mind too. He and many other Francophones have succumbed to the Conqueror Term, as you can see from these graphs at Google nGrams (“en termes du” behaves in an interesting way):

En termes de

En termes du

But there are termicides in French too:

Attention, on confond souvent la signification de “en termes de”. Cette expression signifie « dans le vocabulaire de », « dans le langage de » et ne veut pas dire « en ce qui concerne », « en matière de », « sur le plan de ». Cette confusion est sûrement due à l’expression anglaise “in terms of” qui elle a le sens de “en matière de”. Faut-il écrire “en termes de” ou “en terme de” ?, La Langue Française, Nicolas Le Roux, août 31, 2015.

Take care: people often confuse the meaning of “en termes de”. This expression means “in the vocabulary of”, “in the language of”, and does not mean “in what concerns”, “in the matter of”, “after the form of”. This confusion is surely due to the English expression “in terms of”, which has the sense of “in the matter of”. (My translation, so not reliable)

Things were worse than I thought. Pero… ¡La lucha continúa!

Elsewhere other-posted:

The Conqueror Worm — the title of the incendiary intervention above is of course a reference to the famous poem by Edgar Allan In Terms Of Poe
Paradigms Loused

Zo with the Flo

I had high hopes when I engaged issues recently around a Zoe Williams article in the Guardian interrogating issues around notions of rape in popular culture. And Zoe — what a thinker! — nearly fulfilled those hopes. I nearly had another scintillating sample for my award-winning “Oh My Guardian” series. This is nearly a perfect opening for a sentence of echt Guardianese:

In terms of narrative tropes…

But it should of course have been:

In terms of core narrative tropes…

So near — and yet so far. Still, “In terms of narrative tropes” is pretty darn good, worthy of the Great Gary himself. And it prompted me to interrogate issues around one of the core linguistic enigmas of our day. Here are two graphs from Google nGrams:

In terms of (UK English)

In terms of (US English)

What on earth is going on? Why have ITO usage metrics continued to rise in British English while peaking and falling in American English? This hasn’t happened with other core items of progressive English, like “issues around”:

Issues around (UK English)

Issues around (US English)

And “notions of authenticity”:

Notions of authenticity (UK English)

Notions of authenticity (US English)

And “engagement with” (in its progressive sense):

Engagement with (UK English)

Engagement with (US English)

If those keyly core items of Progressivese are “spiking” so healthily on both sides of the Atlantic, why is the even keylier corer “in terms of” not doing so? At least, I would say ITO is keylier corer, but does the ITO fall in America suggest that it isn’t?

Maybe not. One possibility is that “in terms of” has been depreciated in an influential (and anti-progressive) American manual of style that hasn’t been influential in the UK. However, American speakers have failed to see that the same grounds for rejection apply to “issues around” and so on.

But it’s hard to see why American progressive would take any notice of sensible advice about rejecting ITO. It’s also hard to see why the American drop in “in terms of” shouldn’t have influenced the UK even if this hypothetical style-manual (or arbiter) isn’t influential in the UK.

Something mysterious is going on and more research is plainly needed.

Previously pre-posted:

Septics vs Dirties
Get Your Tox Off
Guardianistas — all posts referencizing this core progressive demographic and their glossocentric performativity

Are U Worthy?

If you’re nagged by doubts as to whether you really are a keyly committed core component of the counter-cultural community, then simply engage issues around the following issues…

1. In terms of “in terms of”, how often do you hear this phantasmagoric phrase in terms of a daily basis?

2. Please hierarchialize the following core components of the counter-cultural icon community in terms of their “in-terms-of”-usage metrics: Will Self, J.G. Ballard, William Burroughs, Alan Moore, Miriam Stimbers, Michael Moorcock, Kathy Acker, Genesis P. Orridge, Alan Ginsberg, Stewart Home, Hubert Selby Jr., Norman Foreman (B.A.). (I.e., if you think Foreman uses “in terms of” most in terms of usage metrics, put him first; if you think Acker uses it second-most, put her second; etc.)

3. Engage issues around 1 and 2 again, replacing “in terms of” with “prior to”…

4. Engage issues around 1 and 2 again, replacing “in terms of” with “issues around”……

5. Engage issues around 1 and 2 again, replacing “in terms of” with “Vote Corbyn”………

Once you’ve engaged issues around the above issues, email your answers to Evaluator!@NakedKrunch and you should have your doubts laid to rest within 23 working days…

Previously pre-posted on Overlord of the Über-Feral…

Les Sez
Don’t Do Dot…
Metricizing Michael…
Terminal Breach
More Termination…

Oh My Guardian #2

“Instead, Mr Comey has rocket-fuelled a venomous contest just when Mr Trump was desperate for a lifeline…” — The Guardian view on the FBI’s Clinton probe: exactly the wrong thing to do

Previously pre-posted…

Oh My Guardian #1
Reds under the Thread