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How To Respond To Criticism

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criticismStop doing everything. Don’t say anything or be anything. Get as small as you possibly can without disappearing. Don’t exist. Or keep existing, but differently than before.

Remember: criticism is the same thing as wholesale condemnation and also murder, so react accordingly.

Apologize, but don’t really mean it, and plant a seed of secret resentment so deep in your own heart that years later you can’t even remember that you’re the one who nurtured it and made it grow, it seems that much like a native part of you.

Sink into a hole so deep that no one can ever find you.

No. No. No. No no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no no NO. NO.

JUST DIE. JUST GET SICK AND DIE AND THEN YOU’LL FEEL TERRIBLE YOU EVER SAID THOSE THINGS BECAUSE I’LL BE DEAD AND YOU’LL BE SO SO SO SORRY AND YOU’LL WISH YOU COULD BRING ME BACK BUT YOU CAN’T.

Give up on all of your goals immediately.

Tell everyone you know about the criticism, but in a way that makes it clear that you expect them to publicly find it ridiculous and assure you there’s not a shred of truth to it. Do this repeatedly, first while sober, then later after several glasses of wine on a Wednesday afternoon when no one else is really drinking except for you. “Can you believe it?” Ask them that repeatedly. “Can you believe that? About me?” Ask until no one will meet your eyes.

Spit until your throat bleeds.

Remember that life is a rich tapestry.

Become so rich and strong and tall that you’re a giant made out of gold and nobody can hurt you and everything you do is perfect and you can use your laser diamond eyes to melt the lungs of your enemies.

Dwell on it.

You can either be perfect or the biggest piece of shit who ever existed but not both, so if the criticism is right, you are the biggest piece of shit who ever existed. If it is not right, you are perfect and everyone else is wrong.

Fall in love with whoever criticized you. Don’t walk away until you’ve ruined their marriage.

Whisper their criticism every night to yourself until you have it memorized, word for word. Remember it forever. Have the words stitched into the shroud that covers your body before you’re lowered into the tomb so you and your criticism can embrace one another for eternity.

Do not rise above it. Never rise above anything. The sky is no place for a human.

Be sure not to separate the tone of the criticism from the content. If it was said ungracefully, it cannot be true. If it was said reasonably, it cannot be false.

Send an email explaining why you don’t deserve to be criticized, then another six emails after that, each one explaining the last, like a set of Russian nesting dolls that don’t think it’s your fault.

Set fire to something that was once beautiful.

Run into a cave and break your ankle so that people have to come find you and they see you lying at the bottom of this beautiful cave and maybe there’s a waterfall and the light from the crystals makes you look really beautiful and they say “Are you okay?” and you say “I think so” and they say “oh my God have you been here alone this whole time with a broken ankle” and you say “it’s okay” and they say “you’re so brave” and you are brave and you look so beautiful surrounded by cave crystals and everyone stands over you and says “oh wow” and “you poor beautiful thing” and “I’m so sorry we let you run into the cave but I’m so glad we found you” and let them carry you home and promise to be your best friends forever and that everything’s their fault and also they named the cave after you and you’re prettier than all of your enemies and your enemies all died of jealousy while you were in the cave.

Remember that there are only two kinds of people in the world: fans and haters. No true fan would ever express a criticism of you or your work; conversely no hater could ever seek to engage in a good-faith debate about something you said or did they disagree with. Dismiss everything everyone has to say about you.

Move away.

If it’s a close friend, say “Thank you for being so honest with me,” and then never talk to them again.

Do something with your feelings right away. It doesn’t matter what. Lash out, make a sculpture, whatever.

Log into YouTube and call someone “living Hitler” and “a waste of skin” until you feel better about yourself.

Remember, if someone doesn’t like your work, that means they don’t like you, and they wish that you had never been born, so just lay down in the road and die.

[Images viaWikimedia Commons]

Read more How To Respond To Criticism at The Toast.

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raquinsey
2361 days ago
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I will follow this advice until the end of my days.
Toronto, Ontario
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theotherhilary
2360 days ago
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I will have this story printed on my shroud and then wear the shroud before I'm dead because why should my corpse have all the fun
Saskatoon, Canada
TheUnchosenOne
2362 days ago
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Move away.
Madison, WI

A Linguist On the Story of Gendered Pronouns

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Gretchen McCulloch has previously explained exactly how the Benedict Cumberbatch name generator works, why dogespeak is so doge, and what old-school British accents sounded like.

If you’ve ever seen people complain about singular “they” or so-called generic “he” (for the record, I am 100% for singular they and 100% against “he” as a default pronoun), or if you’re just really not so keen on gender binaries, you may have wondered what life and language would be like without gender pronouns. If you haven’t, well, you’re about to find out anyway. So put your linguist slippers on and get comfy, because we’re about to take an epic voyage across time and space.

Why do we have pronouns?

imagesLet’s start with the most basic question. A pronoun, if you had that new-fangled type of education where you don’t learn grammar (the horror!), is a word that stands for a noun (or noun phrase.) So you have first-person pronouns like “I” and “me,” which stand for your trusty linguist who’s writing this article, second-person pronouns like “you,” which stands for the brilliant commentariat (flattery gets you everywhere), and third-person pronouns like “she” and “he” and “they,” which stand for other people who aren’t participating in the conversation, like Bendandsnap Calldispatch (alas.)

And the point of pronouns is that they let you keep talking about stuff without repeating names or descriptions every single time, because that gets tedious.

Let’s compare:

Gretchen: Hey Nicole, does Nicole think that Benadryl Cucumber has seen that article Gretchen wrote about Bandersnatch Cumberbund?

Nicole: Nicole doubts that this happy but also terrifying event is likely to have occurred.

vs.

Gretchen: Hey, do you think Bandicoot Cragglerock has seen that article I wrote about him?

Nicole: I doubt it.

See? Much shorter.

What do we even mean by gender?

This is probably the part where I should point out that there are two meanings for gender: there’s grammatical gender, which is sometimes also called noun class, and refers to a system of categorizing the nouns of a language (sometimes feminine/masculine, sometimes animate/inanimate, sometimes even more options) and then there’s natural gender, which is a system of categorizing people and sometimes unfortunately ballpoint pens. The grammatical sense of the word is actually older (from the 14th century: it’s related to genre and genus, i.e. type, kind, origin) and the meaning was extended in the 15th century to the human phenomenon. For a while, this extension led togender being used as a euphemism for “sex,” where both words could refer to social or biological differences, but starting in the 1960s, feminist writers began using gender to refer to the social distinction and sex to refer to the biological one, presumably to make it easier to talk about these two phenomena separately.

Incidentally, the conflation of the grammatical and natural meanings of gender is responsible for the confusion of English speakers learning a foreign language with a “gender system.” “What,” the learner inevitably remarks to themself, “is so darn male or female about plates and bowls anyway?” The answer is nothing. You might as well call the noun classes “fizz” and “buzz” and remember that the fizz class contains women and also pie, and the buzz class contains men and also cake. The terms “feminine” and “masculine” are basically a convenient ancient mnemonic for a few members of each category, but they might as well be unfortunate homonyms for what good they do. (For example, in German, as is often pointed out, the word for “girl” is neuter, and in Irish, as is less often pointed out, the word for “girl” is masculine.) It happens that in English natural gender and grammatical gender often go hand-in-hand though, and we’ll get to why in a little bit.

55e52-itmoviecoverBut before that, I want to point out that the English third-singular pronoun system is a little more complex than it’s sometimes given credit for. There’s she/her for female people, he/him for male people, it for non-people (both s/he and it are used for babies and animals, depending largely on whether you consider them people or not), singular they/them for gender-nonspecific people, and depending on your speech community, xe/xem, ey/em, ze/hir, and a host of others for gender-nonspecific and/or nonbinary people. (By comparison, languages with robust grammatical gender systems, like French and Spanish, have feminine for (most) female people plus an arbitrary set of other nouns, masculine for (most) male people plus a different arbitrary set of other nouns, and as far as I’m aware, no gender-nonspecific or nonbinary options, although if anyone has heard of some do tell us in the comments.)

And it’s not just English: although a few languages (such as Arabic) also have gender distinctions in the second person, by and large, languages tend to make gender distinctions in the third person (okay, sometimes including the third person plural.) There’s most Indo-European languages with feminine, masculine, and sometimes neuter (although a few, like Danish, have neuter and common), Afro-Asiatic languages with just feminine and masculine, Dravidian languages with some combination of feminine, masculine, animate, and inanimate, Basque and Algonquian languages with animate and inanimate, Niger-Congo languages with 7-10 genders (people sometimes say these languages have up to 20 genders, but that’s if you count singular and plural separately, which we don’t do for any other language family.)

In fact, of the 257 languages surveyed in the World Atlas of Syntactic Structures, 112 of them have some system of grammatical gender. That’s 43%. (You should probably take a digression and go click around the fascinating graphs at WALS for a bit. I’ll wait.)

Screen Shot 2014-06-01 at 1.56.27 PM

Of course, there are some 6000 languages in total, so this definitely isn’t all of them, and this percentage isn’t necessarily even a balanced one, but such a large and diverse number of people languaging reasonably independently of each other must have some reason for their actions. And, it turns out, they do.

Why is gender ever a thing?

What gives? We manage perfectly well in the first person, second person, and even the third person plural with a single, non-gender-specific pronoun, so why do we suddenly have a thousand blooming flowers of gender in the third singular?

Unlike with first and second person pronouns, the odds that you’re going to be talking about more than one third person are pretty high. Let’s look at what a sentence looks like if we don’t have several different words:

They told them that they liked their parents.

Does that mean that…?

a) 1 told 2 that 3 liked 4’s parents.

b) 1 told 2 that 3 liked 2’s parents.

c) 1 told 2 that 3 liked 1’s parents.

d) 1 told 2 that 1 liked 2’s parents.

e) 1 told 2 that 1 liked 1’s parents.

With gender, you can at least reduce the number of possible interpretations:

She told him that she liked her parents.

She told him that she liked his parents.

…and so on.

Not perfect, but at least a little better. And you can find lots of people on the internet having writing problems when they don’t have the option of using gendered pronouns to disambiguate between people.

Read more A Linguist On the Story of Gendered Pronouns at The Toast.

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raquinsey
2371 days ago
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I will use a singular they unabashedly
Toronto, Ontario
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alannashaikh
2363 days ago
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I also love pop linguistics. Maybe I should get out more?
WorldMaker
2371 days ago
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Nothing I hadn't researched on my own, but am excellent primer to those that haven't encountered the subject. It would be interesting to play with obviating pronouns in English, our even cardinal pronouns if we could simplify them. (Cardinality is what legalese has used for centuries [party of the second, et al] and essentially what ASL uses (in three dimensions) really well.)
Louisville, Kentucky
lelandpaul
2371 days ago
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This article is *even better than expected*, seriously.
San Francisco, CA
smadin
2371 days ago
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This is completely fascinating.
Boston
squinky
2371 days ago
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Relevant to my interests.
Santa Cruz, CA

Why You Never Hear Anything After Job Interviews

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fire“She was great. Wasn’t she great?”

“She was really great. And Tim loved her, which is key for a position like this.”

“Do you want to light the match this time, or should I?”

“Oh, I’d love to.”

they burn every trace of her application and existence, dancing naked among the flames

***

“How’d the interview go?”

“Really well. He had a lot of interesting ideas for the new campaign, and he’s perfectly qualified.”

“Oh my God, I just had the best idea. Call him and tell him we’ll ‘get back to him’ in two or three days.”

Karen, you are terrible.”

“I knoowwwwwwwww. Let’s go get drunk.”

“Oh my God, wait.”

“What?”

“Let’s also send him a request to connect on LinkedIn six months from now.”

“After never calling him to tell him we hired somebody else?”

“Exactly.”

“You bitch. I’m buying.”

***

“What are you doing right now?”

“Carving satanic symbols into my forearms. But that can wait. What’s up?”

“Want to go to a career fair and pass out business cards with slightly inaccurate phone numbers and made-up email addresses?”

“Yes.”

 ***

“What are you doing?”

“Putting that job posting up.”

“Aren’t we hiring Trish’s sister for that?”

“Oh, it’s done. I just took her over to HR to get an ID badge.”

“So why are you posting it?”

“To give them hope.”

You sick fuck.”

they do intravenous drugs together until the walls melt into an orgy of time and space

Read more Why You Never Hear Anything After Job Interviews at The Toast.

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raquinsey
2403 days ago
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Toronto, Ontario
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grammargirl
2403 days ago
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This seems 100% accurate.
Brooklyn, NY
RedSonja
2403 days ago
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See also: grad school applications.

Morse Code

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Oh, because Facebook has worked out SO WELL for everyone.
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raquinsey
2404 days ago
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Toronto, Ontario
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wakemp
2404 days ago
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.. .-.. --- ...- . -..- -.- -.-. -..
Victoria, British Columbia CA
sulrich
2405 days ago
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i have to admit a bit of concern about the rate at which i keep saving xkcd's as of late.
wakemp
2404 days ago
.. .-.. --- ...- . -..- -.- -.-. -..
sulrich
2404 days ago
well played wakemp, well played. :)
aaronwe
2405 days ago
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And somewhere out there, my LiveJournal account lives on without me.
Denver
jasonh09
2405 days ago
Alt text: "Oh, because Facebook has worked out SO WELL for everyone."
mrmeyer
2405 days ago
sphyr, your current position in the Top Journals is: 1,358,863
adamgurri
2405 days ago
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lol
New York, NY

A Correspondence with Nick Bantock, the Creator of Griffin and Sabine

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IMG_20140424_174712.jpg

(Nick Bantock reads at Elliott Bay Book Company at 7 pm on Monday, April 28th. The reading is free.)

Chances are good that if you were ever in a long-distance relationship after 1991, you've probably encountered Nick Bantock's Griffin and Sabine trilogy. The books are beautiful, totemic objects depicting a long-distance relationship between a man and a woman who are separated by more than just space—they learn that through some bizarre eldritch mechanics, they can't occupy the same place at the same time. Each of the letters and postcards between Griffin and Sabine are represented physically in the books—you open an envelope and pull the folded letter out to read it—which lands them squarely in the realm between epistolary novels, comic books, and art books.

Click to enlarge.
  • Click to enlarge.
Speaking as someone whose first real love affair started as a long-distance correspondence—through the mail, no less—I can personally attest to Bantock's appeal. We identified with the Griffin and Sabine books the way other young couples embrace a pop song or a movie, absorbing the characters so much into ourselves that it's impossible to recall our romance without also remembering those books. They provided us with a vocabulary for what we were feeling, and they added an element of mystery and adventure to our teenage love affair.

So receiving a letter from Nick Bantock in the mail is a serious head trip. Bantock agreed to a mail interview in advance of his appearance in Seattle to support his new book, The Trickster's Hat: A Mischievous Apprenticeship in Creativity (Penguin, $20). His handwriting looks like a perfect mix of Griffin's and Sabine's, as though he were the product of their relationship and not the other way around...

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raquinsey
2408 days ago
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Loved the Griffin and Sabine series as a teenager...
Toronto, Ontario
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Suffragettes Who Sucked: White Supremacy And Women’s Rights

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suffragettesSuffragette: Susan B. Anthony, 1820-1906 (Social reformer, member of the Anti-Slavery Society, president of the National American Woman Suffrage Association)
Hooray: “I think the girl who is able to earn her own living and pay her own way should be as happy as anybody on earth. The sense of independence and security is very sweet.”
Wait, What: “Mr. Douglass talks about the wrongs of the Negro; but with all the outrages that he to-day suffers, he would not exchange his sex and take the place of Elizabeth Cady Stanton.”

Suffragette: Anna Howard Shaw, 1847-1919 (Physician, Methodist minister, president of the National Woman Suffrage Association, inspiration for an episode of 30 Rock)
Hooray: “Around me I saw women overworked and underpaid, doing men’s work at half men’s wages, not because their work was inferior, but because they were women.”
Wait, What: “You have put the ballot in the hands of your black men, thus making them political superiors of white women. Never before in the history of the world have men made former slaves the political masters of their former mistresses!”

Suffragette: Belle Kearney, 1863-1939 (Orator, novelist, Mississippi state senator)
Hooray: “Equal pay for equal work.”
Wait, What: “The enfranchisement of women would insure immediate and durable white supremacy, honestly attained, for upon unquestioned authority it is stated that in every southern State but one there are more educated women than all the illiterate voters, white and black, native and foreign, combined. As you probably know, of all the women in the South who can read and write, ten out of every eleven are white. When it comes to the proportion of property between the races, that of the white outweighs that of the black immeasurably.”

suffragette2Suffragette: Elizabeth Cady Stanton, 1815-1902 (Social activist, abolitionist, author)
Hooray: “The best protection any woman can have is courage.”
Wait, What: ”What will we and our daughters suffer if these degraded black men are allowed to have the rights that would make them even worse than our Saxon fathers?”

Suffragette: Laura Clay, 1849-1940 (Founder of Kentucky’s first suffrage group)
Hooray: “Religious intolerance just now is abroad in the land. It is an evil passion of the heart which dies hard…This campaign is a call to every true American of whatever party to stand firmly for the principle of religious freedom.”
Wait, What: “The white men, reinforced by the educated white women, could ‘snow under’ the Negro vote in every State, and the white race would maintain its supremacy without corrupting or intimidating the Negroes.”

Suffragette: Frances Willard, 1839-1898 (Feminist lecturer, founder of the National Council of Women, anti-child abuse activist)
Hooray: “Politics is the place for woman.”
Wait, What: “Alien illiterates rule our cities today; the saloon is their palace, and the toddy stick their scepter. The colored race multiplies like the locusts of Egypt.”

Suffragette: Carrie Chapman Catt, 1859-1947 (Founder of the League of Women Voters)
Hooray: “”There is one thing mightier than kings and armies”–aye, than Congresses and political parties–”the power of an idea when its time has come to move.” The time for woman suffrage has come. The woman’s hour has struck. If parties prefer to postpone action longer and thus do battle with this idea, they challenge the inevitable. The idea will not perish; the party which opposes it may. Every delay, every trick, every political dishonesty from now on will antagonize the women of the land more and more, and when the party or parties which have so delayed woman suffrage finally let it come, their sincerity will be doubted and their appeal to the new voters will be met with suspicion.”
Wait, What: “White supremacy will be strengthened, not weakened, by women’s suffrage.”

suffragette3Suffragette: Rebecca Ann Latimer Felton, 1835-1930 (First woman to serve in the Senate)
Hooray: ”A Senator of the U.S., a woman, is still a sort of political joke with our masculine leaders in party politics…. But the trail has been blazed! The road is apparently rough—maybe rocky—but the trail has been located. It is an established fact. While it is also a romantic adventure, it will ever remain an historical precedent—never to be erased.”
Wait, What: ”I do not want to see a negro man walk to the polls and vote on who should handle my tax money, while I myself cannot vote at all…When there is not enough religion in the pulpit to organize a crusade against sin; nor justice in the court house to promptly punish crime; nor manhood enough in the nation to put a sheltering arm about innocence and virtue—-if it needs lynching to protect woman’s dearest possession from the ravening human beasts—-then I say lynch, a thousand times a week if necessary.”

Read more Suffragettes Who Sucked: White Supremacy And Women’s Rights at The Toast.

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raquinsey
2413 days ago
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Toronto, Ontario
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Courtney
2414 days ago
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I really appreciate their "the first person who says "but everyone was racist then" is going to get so many wodehouse quotes thrown at them" tag
Portland, OR
ryanbrazell
2413 days ago
LOL! I hadn't noticed that, thanks for pointing it out :)
grammargirl
2413 days ago
Missed that tag at first because you have to click through, but BRAVO.
grammargirl
2414 days ago
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Your Fave Is Problematic (tag: "boy that's uncomfortable")
Brooklyn, NY
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