Scooping Language Log

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The Lousy Linguist posted recently (December 8) on how he "scooped" Language Log on two occasions and patted himself on the back for this accomplishment. I understand that Chris was just joshing, but still I was taken aback. Language Log isn't a news service, and we don't propose to get the "stories" out before our "competition"; I object to anything that encourages this way of looking at things. (Even when I worked on a newspaper, I objected to the adolescent competitiveness of scooping — "Nyah, nyah, we got there first".)

We also don't propose to "cover" everything that has to do with language. What gets posted about is mostly a matter of accident — what comes to the notice of the individual Language Loggers, what they have time to write about, and so on. Often, I conclude that other people have written perceptively on some topic (in some other place) and that I have nothing substantial to add. (In some such cases, people have told me that it was my job to report on this material, evaluating it. I have no such job, though I understand that what these people mean is that it's my responsibility, but I reject outright the idea that I have any such responsibility.)

The Language Loggers often confer (in our private mailing list) about things we might blog about. Someone offers a link, and then (mostly) no one follows up on it. Several times I've offered up a topic, in an area where I have no special expertise, but no one takes it on. That's life. Several times, we've had a considerable (and often illuminating) exchange on the matter, but then no one posts about it, even when they've said they would (remember that we're all people with Lives Outside of Blogging).

Meanwhile, proto-postings pile up. I'd estimate that I have about 800 partially completed postings, but though I used to keep some inventories of these, there are now so many different inventories in so many different places that I can't keep track of them. And beyond these, I have at least an equal number of newspaper pages, items from magazines, and e-mail messages on things I might (indeed, would like to) post about. So my actual postings are capricious, and people write about that (how could you have failed to write about X? why didn't you following up on Y in your posting? what was the point of this trivial posting?)

When I try to explain technical matters in linguistics, I'm likely to get the opposite responses: this is impossibly technical, it's all "jargon" (why can't you say it in ordinary language?), and so on.

Hard to know how to navigate these shoals.

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