Re: unusual language

Beth W. Baldwin (
Mon, 7 Oct 1996 11:43:15 -0400

On Mon, 7 Oct 1996, Timothy Mayers wrote:

> Beth, I'm a little troubled by this analysis. I have no intention or
> desire to defend the _Space and Culture_ project, but your post here
> reminds me of the kinds of arguments used by the likes of Rush Limbaugh and
> Bob Dole when they attack intellectuals and teachers. I'm certainly not
> saying you're "on their side" (your past posts make it abundantly clear to
> me that you're not).

Thank heavens for that! I'm certainly no Limbaugh sympathizer. I would
find it an easier task, however, to defend _Space and Culture_ than the
language in question, specifically in the sentence Annie quoted.

I don't know why you find my analysis troubling -- at least not in light
of the rest of your comments. I don't think we're far afield from one
another's position.

> In the final sentence of the paragraph above,
> you seem to appeal to a view of language-as-
> instrument. In other words, the transmission of "meaning" is taken to be
> the ultimate goal of language-users.

Yes, I do seem to appeal to that view. I infer that such an appeal is
troubling? Well, I've put my foot in my mouth many times, so I'll
continue. Yes, then, I agree:

> Language always carries meaning(s), I
> think, but it always does *other things* too. These other things exceed
> and escape our intentions, and sometimes (at least for me) these other
> things are more interesting than the propositional meanings and intentions
> which language is supposed to convey.

I maintain that the "other things" also have meaning, regardless of
whether or not they escape our intentions (e.g., foot in mouth syndrome,
Freudian slips, what's read between lines, etc.). My point is
that these "other things" in this case are more interesting that what
the sentence was meant to convey. That's precisely what I'm getting at.

One might say that they're trying to do a little image enhancement. An
alternate analysis might suggest that the writer/s have deep-seated
anxieties about whether or not their project is intellectually worthy.
(I think it's worthy; maybe they have doubts). But, that's for a
psychologist to explore. In any case, I agree that there are other things
going on and that these are interesting other things.

As to an attack on elites. There are elites and then there are elites. I
would never demonize anyone. I have too good a sense of humor for that.
Let's just say that sometimes people do things and say things in their
elite groups that subject them to attacks by people like Rush Limbaugh.
The very sad thing is that *many* teachers and intellectuals end up being
lumped together, deserve it or not, ask for it or not, and are thus
subject to demonization by the practices of a few.

For the sentence in question, I think that a little "plain" language
would certainly be more inviting, especially to those whose everyday lives
and practices this project directly pertains.

Thanks for not lumping me with Limbaugh.


Beth Baldwin, Ph.D. *
Office of Continuing Education *
University of North Carolina at Greensboro *
Greensboro, NC 27412-5001 *
910-334-5301, ext. 44 * *