There's a fine line between recursion and intertextuality

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…and between intertextuality and self-indulgence.


  1. Neal Goldfarb said,

    February 24, 2018 @ 12:58 pm

    I can't wait for this post to go out over Language Log's Twitter feed.

  2. Arthur Waldron said,

    February 24, 2018 @ 9:23 pm

    I find the word intertextuality embarrassing Prof Liu and Ah Q is great stuff but we and she have no need for that pretentious show-off word that yet mysteriously adds no meaning at all. Lit crit still covers the territory. Let’s not make fools of ourselves ANW

  3. TIC said,

    February 26, 2018 @ 9:33 am

    Well, I guess I've waited as long as my curiosity can endure… (Sigh)… 'Fraid I'll have to reveal both my ign'ance and my cowardice… My ign'ance in that I must admit that I have almost no understanding of most of the key terms and concepts at play in these two posts, such as pragmatics, meta-pragmatics, maxim of quality, implicature, recursive/recursion and intertextuality… And my cowardice in that I must acknowledge that I fear the certainty that my head would explode if I were to even try to look them all up and piece their meanings together into any semblance of an understanding of what's going on in these two posts…

    Would someone please provide even the start of an explanation of the dialogue for a lowbrow like me?… In doing so, you needn't even go to the trouble of defining each of the individual terms and concepts… With even a cursory understanding of the gist of the exchanges going on, I'll eagerly look up the components in order to gain a fuller(?) understanding of and appreciation for the nuances… Many thanks in advance!…

  4. Coby Lubliner said,

    February 26, 2018 @ 1:30 pm

    My version of TIC's comment:

  5. TIC said,

    February 26, 2018 @ 2:20 pm

    Ayup, Coby… Sans all the parsley, that's pretty much the pig of it…

  6. TIC said,

    February 26, 2018 @ 7:28 pm

    Since I seem to have this comment thread mostly to myself at the moment, I'm hoping that you'll all collectively indulge me by a) bearing with me, b) ignoring me, and/or c) correcting me as I work my way through my befuddlement… First, in a lightbulb moment for this non-Twitterer, it only belatedly dawned on me that NG's tweet was the latest, not the earliest, of the original three…
    So, our tale begins with BD commenting on a common error by a TV journalist… (Coincidentally, within the last week, I reflexively shouted, "That's 'flouting', not 'flaunting', you nitwit!", at a talking head on my TV)…

    Then LM chimed in with a comment to him that still has me pondering a couple of points… I've successfully worked through post-asterisk line (re: pragmatics, the maxim of quality, the understatement and the implicature)… But I'm not sure whether she's actually BD's professor; I'm inclined to assume that she is although, of course, it's really not significant…

    What I'm still pondering is what, exactly, is "the same" that she'd like him to do… Is she suggesting, perhaps with tongue in cheek, that he's not actually/earnestly "studying pragmatics"?… Or that he, too, should know the difference between the two words?…

    Still merrily pondering away . . .

  7. Eleanor said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 5:52 am

    TIC: "I'm not sure whether she's actually BD's professor"

    BD is managing editor/"copy chief" at Random House, so it's unlikely. He's an entertaining and interesting tweeter, as someone whose day job is to uphold standards and rules in language but to do so with social awareness and humour, not prescriptively. I've quit Twitter because of all the Nazis, but if I were still there I'd still be following him.

    (Now worrying that I've missed a recursive joke.)

  8. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 8:13 am

    Thanks so much for the insights, Eleanor… It prob'ly should've occurred to me to look up (sez he, avoiding the ugly verb "google") the protagonists as well as some of the key terms… So, now realizing that there's almost certainly no inside-joke (actual) professor/student banter at play here, I find myself pondering in slightly different directions for the meaning behind and the wit (recursive, and/or otherwise) in LM's retort…

    Please don't anyone think that I'm being at all disparaging in that comment or in this overall endeavor… The truth is, I'm more than a bit ashamed that I'm missing what I suspect is some real and clever wit here… And, of course, I haven't yet even made it to much consideration/appreciation of NG's contributions…

    Thanks for bearing with and allowing my pondering (and my ponderous nattering along the way…

  9. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 9:17 am

    So, I've come to the realization that my obsessive little quest here is in itself, if one is inclined toward sympathy and charity, an exercise in practical pragmatics… Or, of course, if one is otherwise inclined, it's merely the delusional ramblings of a certifiable Dunning-Kruger ijit… And I promise not to be unduly flattered or unduly traumatized if anyone chimes in to second either of those competing opinions…

    I'm now (only) to the point, in my plodding analysis/decoding of these nested riddles, of suspecting that LM's comment isn't really a retort to BD's but rather more of a (somewhat parallel) follow-up or add-on… And I'm now working on the notion that I need to try to fully parse and appreciate her first line (which hinges on the concept of pragmatics) before then proceeding to a secondary level of wit in the asterisked line…

    Still merrily pondering away (and still muddily plodding along) . . .

  10. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 9:35 am

    Hmmm… Or me be the wit (in both the "intelligence" and "humor" s

  11. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 9:53 am

    (Grrr)… As I was musing, mebbe the wit (in both the "intelligence" and "humor" senses of that word) hinges on two different senses of the word appreciate(?)… The teacher would appreciate (i.e., be grateful) if the student would appreciate (i.e., fully recognize/understand) something… But just what that something actually is (from among a few possibilities that occur to me) still eludes me…

    FWIW, I'm currently leaning more toward the D-K ijit than the amateur pragmatist self-assessment…

  12. Neal Goldfarb said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 1:26 pm

    TIC: Although it may appear that I'm ignoring you, I'm not. Sit tight.

  13. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 1:38 pm

    Perish the thought, NG… No expectation of a response from you… I'm content, at least for the moment, to hack away for the meaning(s) and the wit… And even, in doing so so openly, to amuse onlookers in the process… I'm sure that my struggle has more than a bit of a pig-contemplating-a-wristwatch quality to it for most of LL regulars… I just hope that my nattering is too irritating to too many… If this comment thread had any other activity, I'd never dream of hijacking it like this… Thanks…

  14. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 1:45 pm

    Meant ISN'T (too irritating) of course…

  15. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 5:31 pm

    Well, I've come to the assumption (and nearly to the "final answer" conclusion) that LM's contribution is a witty and multi-layered line that a teacher of pragmatics might teasingly deliver to a student… It brings to mind a good (Dorothy) Parkeresque quip; not sure if that's properly termed an epigram or not… And I'm taking LM's asterisked follow-up to be (merely) an explanation of the pragmatics, and double entendre*, at play… I'm also guessing (in the absence of any other connection that's apparent to a dullard like me) that her contribution was prob'ly triggered only by the similarity in phasing/construction with BD's opener…

    So, with that much (almost) behind me, I'm ready to move on to NG's initial comment… I know, I know, my lightning-speed progress is nothing short of astonishing!…

    *I'm aware that there's a more appropriate/exact term (prob'ly a Greek one ending in -is) for this type of wordplay revolving around multiple meanings of a word, but I'm in humility mode at the moment and so won't go look it up in order to drop it in…

  16. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 6:05 pm

    *Well, I poked around a bit and I guess I was vaguely recalling antanaclasis… But this (a single instance of a word, but with two meanings) isn't actually an example of that… And there's still the possibility, of course, that the point and wit of LM's quip has gone completely over my (low-browed) head…

  17. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 6:26 pm

    Final comment for today (I think)…

    NG: I trust that neither you nor anyone else who might be following my along mistook my saying that I don't EXPECT a response from you for a suggestion that I don't very much WELCOME any and every comment you might offer… Even if it's something along the lines of, "Stop, TIC, you're just embarrassing yourself (and abusing the Comments forum)"…

  18. RfP said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 7:40 pm

    TIC: You’re amusing the Comments forum.

    Thank you for sharing!

  19. Jerry Friedman said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 10:08 pm

    TIC: If it's any comfort, I too don't understand what these two posts are about, and I'm looking forward to Neal Goldfarb's explanation.

  20. TIC said,

    February 27, 2018 @ 10:46 pm

    Thanks, RfP and JF, for the notes of support… FYI, I've taken a half-step backward and am mulling anew the "do the same" part of LM's comment… Still can't figure it out; "the same"as what?… But, in the progress column, I guess I can — with the stipulation that some exercises in "education" are less than clear and productive — agree with NG's initial comment that these tweets have indeed been "an education" of sorts for me… G'night, all…

  21. TIC said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 7:03 am

    Woke up to the sneaking suspicion that perhaps I'm simply at sea in the midst of a pointless odyssey… Mebbe I'm not a pig contemplating a wristwatch after all… Mebbe my search for rich wit and deep meaning in a mere (and all but random) Twitter thread is a misguided quest for profundity in a source more noted for mere fecundity… Then again, it remains a distinct possibility that I'm simply a swine before which pearls have been cast… Hmmm . . . . .

  22. TIC said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 7:08 am

    RfP: I love a well-turned phrase and I really shoulda attaboyed yours above… Noice!…

  23. TIC said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 2:53 pm

    My interest in all this hasn't waned a bit but, to be honest, my attention has shifted a bit as I'm forced, more and more by the hour, to focus and concentrate on maintaining my tight sitting in the face of inevitable and inexorable slackening…

  24. Mark Young said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 7:44 pm

    @TIC — I had much the same reaction as you did — also not knowing that the messages at the top were the newer ones.

    I expect Lynne Murphy's comment was directed at her own students, not at Benjamin Dreyer. She wants her students to know the difference between flaunting and flouting, and will dock points from their submissions if they get it wrong.

    Or maybe I'm in way over my head, too.

  25. TIC said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 9:12 pm

    Thanks for the confirmation that I wasn't alone in initially misconstruing the sequence of the comments, MY… With the insights provided by Eleanor's comment, I now completely agree that LM's tweet wasn't directed at BD… And I'm inclined to agree that she's addressing students, her own or rhetorical… Not quite sure, though, that "do the same" refers to knowing the difference 'tween the two f-words… It's quite possible, of course… And I'd prob'ly have little doubt of that if the asterisked add-on wasn't there… But that line, especially the reference to the "implicature", somehow still befuddles me…

    Having said alllll of the above, I've got to admit to a bit of guilt over my fixation on and my obsessive parsing and (over?)analysis of LM's tweet… It's prob'ly completely understood and appreciated by her intended audience… But it eludes and intrigues me… (So it's her fault, dammit for casting pearls

  26. TIC said,

    February 28, 2018 @ 9:14 pm

    Grrr… So it's her fault, dammit!, for casting pearls (or mebbe dangling a wristwatch?) before swine…

  27. TIC said,

    March 1, 2018 @ 12:28 pm

    Well, my day and a half of tight sitting certainly paid off (in NG's latest post) much more richly then I could have possibly imagined…

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