Free joke of the day

Hi-larious Benjamin Hart mansplains why mansplaining must be retired as a word in the English language. Apparently, some people misunderstand or misuse the term, so none of us can use it ever again. The evidence he furnishes for these crimes against language are the eminent, peer-reviewed scholars known as “some random a-holes on Twitter.”

If only this were true of other words people misuse all of the time! Like, for example, “irony.” Or my pet peeve, the nearly universal misuse of “flaunt” when “flout” is usually the appropriate word. Or people who say “based off” rather than “based on,” because they misunderstand the function of a base. You can think of others, I am sure. Yet I hear no choruses for striking irony, flaunt, flout, or off.

Why do you think “mansplain” has so many men eager to throw it under the bus? We dare not flout our superiority over grammar-flaunting louts, based off what we learned in college. Now, that would be ironic!

23 thoughts on “Free joke of the day

  1. Um… so he’s mansplaining *mansplaining*? Does that mean that he’s flaunting convention?

    (My pet peeve is “pouring over” instead of “poring over.” It always sounds like people are pouring water over texts, as opposed to paying very close attention to them, which would be hard to do with all that ink running…)


  2. No great irony involved, but I go crazy when students write things like “the colonist all objected to this measure, although for very different reasons, depending on where they lived…” There’s just no ‘splaining the underlying problem with this usage, no matter how hard youse try to get it across.

    “Off” also rankles when students say they didn’t have enough time to “print off” a copy of their assignment, when they obviously had plenty of time to print it out.


  3. I don’t share your general principle, Historiann: I find that some words have been so corrupted that they need to be retired. My usual example is the hopelessly-ambiguous “collegiality,” which in the academic world is applied indiscriminately to the things that should count and the things that should not count. I’m wondering if I ought to give up on “disinterested,” which even some educated people think means “uninterested.” As for “mansplain,” I liked it initially: it seemed a good word for claims to expertise and authority that rely upon maleness rather than upon *valid* markers of authority (education, experience, etc.). But too frequently I see “mansplain” applied to people whose transgression lies in speaking as if they know something. In any case, the solution is encouraging precision, not insisting that “none of us can ever use [a word] again” (if that really is what Hart advocates—I read him differently).


  4. Indyanna: my students do the same thing, like they don’t hear the “s” at the end of colonists, or the rules for making plural nouns, or they just don’t care.

    EngLitProf: as your own examples suggest, there are many more English words that are misused more egregiously than mansplain, which if used correctly retains all the precision it needs.


  5. I’m actually also getting the lack of plural s, which is already common in some dialects of African-American and Upland Southern English. I’ve been wondering if it’s a trend- if the next stage of the language’s evolution is to drop plural s in unambiguous situations. That’s what many Asian languages do, and French gets along well with few vocalized plurals.

    Just curious Anne- are you getting “tooken” as the past participle of take? I’ve been seeing it for a while, along with taughten, diven, and a bunch of other weird forms. It seems like some of the irregular strong verb forms are mutating. Which is fine with me, strong verbs are amusingly Germanic, English needs more of them.


  6. While I’m thinking about it- the verbal particle thing you’re seeing (print off) is also an African-American/Upland Southern thing. The same dialects in which one “takes up” instead of “collects”. I suspect “print off” is an extension of the particle’s use in “cut off”, as in “separate from its origin”. It’s similar to constructions in Ancient Greek, which loves it verbals.

    This is part of a trend in which American English seems to be evolving faster and becoming less uniform, probably because people no longer move as much and no longer aspire to sound elite. It’s fascinating to a linguist. Probably annoying to those of you who teach writing, however.


  7. It could have evolved from the old dot-matrix printers which used to use form-feed paper. You had to print and tear-off the paper to get, the report you wanted.


  8. Somehow I doubt any of Indyanna’s undergraduates have ever seen or even heard of a dot-matrix printer, let alone a mimeograph!

    I have never had a college student conjugate the past participle of take as tooken, but who knows what kind of mayhem I’ll find when I return from sabbatical. You’re right, rustonite–it’s very German-sounding!


  9. God, yes. This whole post. All the comments. Yes, yes, yes. And “pouring over.” Where the hell did that come from? What are these people thinking? In my mind’s eye I don’t see water. I see a flaccid and spent writer draped over the work. It’s everywhere. I’ve seen it in the LATimes. Aargh.


  10. Print off is definitely a thing here ins the northereastern or midalantic or whatever region it is I currently live in. It evolved from run-off with copiers. It had almost died out at my school with the older faculty leaving at my school but with the rise of the printer/copier kids now “print-off” several copies of handouts for peers, etc. As in “I’ll print-off 6 of our MUN notes for our nation before the conf.” [Translation: I’ll print 6 copies of our Model UN notes for our nation before the conference.”] Keeping up with kidspeak is exhausting.


  11. The meaning of recent slang will tend to wander after a few years. Many people who say someone has “drunk the Kool-Aid” seem unaware that the Kool-Aid at Jonestown did not make people irrational; it killed them.


  12. I’ve used “drunk the Kool-Aid” knowing what it means (but then I’m old enough to remember Jonestown). I think the operative phrase is really “don’t drink the Kool-Aid,” meaning, “don’t be persuaded to follow That Guy.” But yeah, if you don’t know what it actually means, the phrase does get fuzzier…


  13. Ah, mimeo! I used to even not mind a surprise Algebra II quiz if the teacher handed it off to the class on those sallow white sheets of paper with the purplish-blue ink and that weirdly alcoholish aroma vaporing from the pages.

    I’m pretty sure that the arrival of 3-D printers will to make the vocabulary of production mutate in ways we can scarcely even imagine now. Print “off” a stylish new carrying case for your laptop?


  14. Kool-Aid was something that Obama supporters were frequently accused of drinking in 2007-08. (I made some of those accusations on this blog, esp. because so few of them seemed to have a realistic grasp of his policy positions & seemed to be more motivated by fictional representations of Hillary Cinton’s policies and campaign.) But I think accusations of or warnings about drinking the Kool-Aid have more to do with the act of drinking than the result in Jonestown–that is, it’s more a warning against blind obedience, not about the deaths that resulted. (But it’s probably true that many today who don’t know about Jim Jones or Jonestown might think that “don’t drink the Kool-Aid” is the functional equivalent of “don’t take the brown acid.”)

    I still love that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when all of the students smell their mimeographs. What will young people today make of that scene? Even in the early 1980s, the significantly less fragrant photocopies were replacing mimeos, so when that movie was released in 1982 I think the scene had the ring of nostalgia already. It was pre-stalgic, I think.


  15. I think that’s right, “drink the Kool-Aid” refers to people “buying-in” to some position that the critic thinks to be mad. Dying or not dying costs extra. (Not to be confused with, or distinguished from, “buying-OFF” on the same crazy idea).

    “Mansplain” came up in an unexpected rhetorical context at a conference today, ‘splained quite well, by a man, of all things.


  16. “I still love that scene in Fast Times at Ridgemont High when all of the students smell their mimeographs. What will young people today make of that scene? Even in the early 1980s, the significantly less fragrant photocopies were replacing mimeos, so when that movie was released in 1982 I think the scene had the ring of nostalgia already. It was pre-stalgic, I think.”

    Yeah, that was fucken awesome! There are so many candidates, but for sheer hilarity I consider the best scene in the movie to be the pizza delivery to Spicoli during Mr. Hand’s class.

    “I think I just came. Didn’t you feel it?” is up there as far as LOLSOB goes.


  17. I don’t think those Kool-Aid associations are unrelated. I’m sure the acid Kool Aid is where Jones got the notion, but Evan, thanks for the note so we can appreciate the longue duree of Kool-Aid drinking!

    (And I almost just typed “Kook-Aid” instead. HA!)

    Just back from a small conference and being offline for 3-1/2 days. Will post soon. Watch this space!


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