Sunday, September 10, 2006

Running Short of Action Verbs, Sports Writers Turn to Literary Criticism

"Sharapova, 19, ... deconstructed Justine Henin-Hardenne ... 6-4, 6-4" NY Times.

Just a few years into the new millennium, the nation's supply of synonyms for 'beat' is already critically low. Language experts are rushing to fill the gap. But how will sports fans react?


Blogger Desargues said...

From the people who brought you earnest, serious scholarship on the problem of light-hearted irony, now comes a sample of po-mo athletic bullshit.

I'm confused. Had I read this in a French newspaper, it would have made total sense to me. After all, it's not like their myriad undergrads with degrees in lit crit can actually find any jobs in that field. When they're done wiping their collective behind with that useless diploma, they can go on and become night-shift operators at gas stations in Paris. Or sports writers.

But to see the Grey Lady go for that thing is a bit unsettling. Even more disturbing is the use of the phrase 'thoroughly deconstructed.' A belief in thoroughness is surely a remnant of essentialist thought -- part of the phallocentric edifice of Western rationality, thinly disguised as objectivity, and closely allied with its darker cousins sexism, mysogyny, racism, classism, elitism, Eurocentrism, speciesism, and so on, and so on. The people at the NYT really ought to get their ideological shit together.

8:03 PM  
Blogger Project WANNABE said...

Heh. Making fun of the NYT is like shooting fish in a barrel. Easy and endlessly fun.

I originally had "English majors" rather than "language experts." But I didn't want to offend ... um ... anyone.

Well, as far as phallocentrism goes, if the shoe fits ... wait, that's not what I mean.

6:33 AM  
Anonymous Yakblister Harmoniphobe said...

Offend who? I don't, you know, like, get, so to speak, "it". Or whatever.

The shoe fits like a glove, is the correct phrase, I believe.


This is OK.

12:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"Action" verbs?


12:44 PM  
Blogger Project WANNABE said...

An action verb is a verb denoting, um, an action, or, an activity, of some kind.

1:01 PM  
Blogger Project WANNABE said...

Whoa. I just went to your link Arl and watched a 22 year old Art of Noise video.

Anne Dudley (keyboard)
J.J. Jezkalik (keyboard)
Gary Langan (keyboard)

Live in front of a small yet totally unimpressed audience.

1:26 PM  
Blogger Desargues said...

Here's a verb that does nto denote an action: "to exist". To suppose that existing is an active endeavour on the part of things is, as J.L. Austin once put it, to commit the mistake of imagining that existence is something objects do, like a metaphysical ticking over, only quieter.

'Action' verbs get their generic name from late Hellenistic grammarians, who followed the ancient and accepted distinction between actions and passions (in Aristotle's metaphysics, they're both categories, that is, fundamental types of predication). The distinction may be ultimately untenable, but it makes some prima facie sense to assume that 'to write' is more of an action than 'to hurt' or 'to starve' (both used intransitively).

1:56 PM  
Anonymous Grover Kluson said...

re: "'Action' verbs":

Hm. Good point(s).

Er, but wait, no, no, I don't think I agree at all, in fact I think "sitting" isn't in any useful sense, like, umm... verbular, so to speak, any more than it's verbial to exist.

No, I think those words should not be considered verbs, and I further think that when you see a thing like that, entirely counter to common sense and reason, you have to stop and ask yourself, you know, and wonder, "cui bono?"

Follow the money.

2:07 PM  
Blogger Desargues said...

Well, I made my disclaimer, Grover. The distinction collapses, if you look too closely at it. But it looks useful from a long way off.

5:05 PM  
Anonymous Grover Kluson said...

My grandmother once told me never to make disclaimers. Have the courage of your convictions, she said!

She was, actually, in the end, convicted, and died on the inside during a riot she herself had instigated. But I have no doubt that she apologized for nothing at the end. "The Ayatollah", she said, "The Ayatollah, Grover, is a very holy man. It's in the Good Book. I don't know which book, but it's good, it's a very good book."

6:14 PM  
Blogger Desargues said...

Well, seeing as I grew up behind the Iron Curtain, my own grandfather learned the hard way personal convictions were a luxury only the decadent bourgeois could afford. The Party's always right, he was told -- a message he internalized when his conviction ended. Spared him the cumbersome task of thinking for himself for ever after that.

7:54 PM  
Anonymous Grover Kluson said...

But don't you think the, um, the Revolution was betrayed? I mean, is it really fair to condemn a whole worldview just because of one, or, well, to be fair, okay several, quite a number really, of slipups?

9:07 PM  
Blogger Desargues said...

Dear God. Here we go again. Isn't the ideal right, even though its execution was shoddy and criminally incompetent? Well, no. But if want a strict argument for that claim, here's one: to continue to believe in the rightness of an objective in the face of repeated failure to implement it is to commit the fallacy of sluggish induction.

It is remarkable how enthusiastic adepts of left-wing secular utopias are never so slow to generalize to the impossibility of competing doctrines -- e.g., Christian socialism, right-wing corporatism, or just plain old nationalism. That's where they hurry to commit the opposing fallacy, hasty generalization: it failed once; therefore, it will fail forever.

Sorry, I meant to keep this light-hearted and stuff, but I get a bit touchy when things communist are mentioned. Had to grow up under those bastards for the first 15 years of my life.

And now we return to our usual program of light banter and carefree chatter... :-)

6:27 AM  
Anonymous Grover Kluson said...

More like "it almost always succeeds, but never quite perfectly, therefore it will always fail". Or "it usually succeeds quite well, but Che t-shirts look pretty cool, therefore it will always fail".

8:41 AM  

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