The Ethos of Ambiguity

"Our preferred method for integrating incongruous information is not to revisit a faulty premise, it seems, but to squeeze and stretch the existing premise in ever more convoluted ways to fit the new information."

Jessica Love offers us a brief road map for words and sounds that lend themselves to multiple interpretations. Check out Derailed By “Who’s on First” to make sure you aren’t thinking about Play-Doh the next time people mention the Symposium.

People tend to be far more tolerant of variable spellings (and probably pronunciations) for words that appear infrequently than for words that are encountered more often. Teh is obviously a typo, but we’re less certain about opossum versus oppossum—or is it just possum? (The usage experts are adamant—of course they are!—that unless one is “playing possum” it is always opossum.)
Jessica Love talks about language, and the 20-odd variants of “caddy-corner.” Read.
First, that the speakers of British English, particularly the upper-class dialect known as Received Pronunciation (RP, or “the Queen’s English”), would rate highest on measures of social status and power, such as wealth, education level, and assertiveness. Second, speakers with American accents (particularly the same American accent as the raters had) would score highest on measures of solidarity, such as friendliness and sense of humor.
Jessica Love explains the impact dialect and accent have on our perception of a speaker. Read What Prestige Sounds Like.
 The Weekly Scholar 
William Deresiewicz on politics in academia.
Paula Cohen waxing poetic about Life Coaches.
Priscilla Long explores he Antarctic ice shelf from her armchair with explorer Richard Byrd.
Jessica Love explains phonetic neighborhoods, and why we articulate words and mumble others.
William Zinsser drops some knowledge on prospective writers.
Enjoy your weekend, tumblr.
(Above, Richard Byrd)
The Weekly Scholar

William Deresiewicz on politics in academia.

Paula Cohen waxing poetic about Life Coaches.

Priscilla Long explores he Antarctic ice shelf from her armchair with explorer Richard Byrd.

Jessica Love explains phonetic neighborhoods, and why we articulate words and mumble others.

William Zinsser drops some knowledge on prospective writers.

Enjoy your weekend, tumblr.

(Above, Richard Byrd)

It takes listeners longer to determine what a word is—to understand c-a-t to be cat—when that word has lots of neighbors. That’s because when we hear a word, everything that sounds like that word becomes slightly more accessible in memory. With a large neighborhood at the ready, it is more difficult to eliminate the words that were not said; it’s harder to rule out the possibility that the talker said cut or kit or cot or cad or cap rather than cat. A word like gem, which has fewer neighbors than cat, is simply less confusable, and thus, all else being equal, requires less work to identify.
Jessica Love on word neighborhoods. Read.
When written, a g is a g is a g, regardless of the letters that surround it, and so there is no need to plan one syllable at a time. Yet we do appear to plan in syllables, as evidenced by the finding that, for multisyllabic words, we’ll write the first letter of a second or third syllable more slowly and less fluently than the second letter of that syllable.
Jessica Love, on the tiny idiosyncrasies in our everyday conversations. Read