Letter L

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The technical basis of their argument, which for a time cleaved the linguistics world in two, remains well beyond the intellectual reach of anyone who actually had fun in college, but it was a personal and nasty disagreement, and it basically went like this: Chomsky said that linguists should concern themselves with discovering the universal rules of syntax, which form the basis for language. Lakoff, on the other hand, theorized that language was inherently linked to the workings of the mind — to "conceptual structures," as a linguist would put it — and that to understand language, you first had to study the way that each individual's worldview and ideas informed his thought process.

Chomsky effectively won this debate, at least in the sense that most American linguistics departments still teach it his way.

Matt Bai

In an article The Framing Wars in The New York Times, 17 July 2005

If ever the last 50,000 years of man's existence were divided into lifetimes of approximately 62 years each, there have been about 800 lifetimes. Of these 800 at least 650 were spent in caves. Only during the last seventy lifetimes has it been possible to communicate effectively from one lifetime to another — as writing made it possible to do. Only during the last six lifetimes did masses of men ever see the printed word. Only during the last four has it been possible to measure time with any precision. Only in the last two has anyone used an electric motor. And the overwhelming majority of all material goods we use in daily life have been developed within the present 800th lifetime.

Hans Küng

In "On being a Christian".
For more years than I care to remember, I had thought that this (fine) quotation came from a NASA report on Technology Transfer in the mid-60s... Heck, I even put it into a book I wrote for IBM on the history of CICS, though that's another story. (Sample chapter.) I now find this same quotation, in the late Alec Guinness' Commonplace book, attributed to Hans Küng of all people.

To laugh often and much; to win the respect of intelligent people and the affection of children; to earn the appreciation of honest critics and endure the betrayal of false friends; to appreciate beauty; to find the best in others; to leave the world a bit better, whether by a healthy child, a garden patch or a redeemed social condition; to know even one life has breathed easier because you have lived. This is to have succeeded.

Ralph Waldo Emerson

This mortal life is a little thing, lived in a little corner of the earth; and little, too, is the longest fame to come — dependent as it is on a succession of fast-perishing little men who have no knowledge even of their own selves, much less of one dead and gone.

Marcus Aurelius

In "Meditations".
Marcus Aurelius may date back 1,800 years or so, but his own fame seems to continue.

According to the series' organizers, "We aim to explore the leadership life journey of today's business leaders - the key highlights and turning points which have influenced their careers. The Global Leader Series is designed to give MBA students the opportunity to explore what it takes to become a successful leader, rather than as a platform for corporate business speeches."

PR hack

INSEAD one of the world's leading and largest graduate business schools, with campuses in Singapore and France and a faculty of 143 members from 31 countries.

When you are younger you get blamed for crimes you never committed and when you're older you begin to get credit for virtues you never possessed. It evens itself out.

Casey Stengel

Yes, I can see that happening...

Our old friend, George Costanza, from "Seinfeld", spoke true words of wisdom one night, "It's not a lie, if you believe it". If you can convince yourself that you are telling the truth, you won't act the liar. But George was merely a talented amateur, a one trick pony. Forcing yourself to believe you are telling the truth can work, but it can also get you locked up for being delusional, and requires an awful lot of work. ... In nearly every circumstance requiring a lie, there is often a fragment of your statement that is true, or a shard of the event that you don't have to fear being out in the open. The sign of a true master is the ability to include this element in the lie, and hold tight to it in your heart of hearts, because it is the truth. Then, as you tell the lie, but remember the truth, you are able to be sincere, to project that open honest face that will melt people's anger and suspicion, and keep you out of prison. All the best (and by that, I mean those who manage to stay in office without military backing) world leaders use this technique.

Wes Johnson

In his article "The Art of the Lie" on the Rum&Monkey web site. I added the emphasis.

Decent writing, of course, is every bit as important as subject matter, and however hard I tried to concentrate on the riveting facts of what one feminist academic I know calls 'the front bottom' — I don't suppose that, since the Boston Women's Collective manual, Our Bodies, Ourselves, there has been a non-pornographic volume so committed to female genitalia — I found myself distracted time and again by Blackledge's way with language. I became quite obsessed with the variety of ways in which it is possible to begin a sentence with an adverb. Adverbially fixated, you might say.

The following is my incomplete list (mid-sentence adverbs aren't included): horrifically, sadly, appallingly, amazingly, shockingly, fascinatingly, intriguingly, infuriatingly, startlingly, mesmerisingly, gruesomely, astonishingly, weirdly, quirkily, mind-blowingly, eye-wateringly, fantastically — and so many deliciouslys that I lost count. It comes, I imagine, from a fear that her data will not speak for themselves, so she must cue her readers in case they miss the meaning of the loving detail she has provided. 'Mesmerisingly, weaver bird copulation is characterised by lengthy mutual clitoral rubbing.' If she doesn't make it plain at the start of the thought, the lay reader might not realise just how mesmerising a fact that is.

Jenni Diski

From her review of The Story of V: Opening Pandora's Box by Catherine Blackledge in the London Review of Books, November 2003

It is thought that they mate for life, but we don't know whether this shows a commendable constancy or a disinclination to have to go through all that courting again every spring.


Of the "Bulfinch" (sic), in Graves' Garden Birds.
Moving on from weaver birds. So much for a lifetime of fidelity...