Tag Archives: speech pathologies

Monday Morning Ethics Warm-Up, 2/4/19: Super Bowl Hangover Edition

(Nice job, Gladys. Thanks)

New Rule:

I’m not saying “Good Morning!” until I can do it without coughing.

1. Is this hypocritical…or maybe just greed? Cardi B—if you don’t know who the singer is, then you are just hopelessly out of step— Cardi B refused to perform at the Super Bowl halftime show out of support for former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick. Then she showed up on the broadcast in a Pepsi ad.

Of course, the half-time gig doesn’t pay, and Pepsi does, but if you are boycotting the Super Bowl, how can you justify appearing in a Super Bowl ad? Well, performers tend not to be deep thinkers…

2. The Washington Post Super Bowl commercial…

Yes, the Post spent an estimated ten million dollars for pro-news media propaganda. Desperate and self-indicting, in my view. The best way for the Post and other mainstream news media to convince the public that they are trustworthy is for them to do their jobs ethically, and they obviously do not. This self-glorifying ad comes one week after the Post led the media attack on a 16-year old Catholic school student without checking the veracity of a deceptively edited videotape or talking with the student involved. The Post was indulging its anti-Trump bias by casting a kid wearing a MAGA hat as a racist. How did this disgusting and unethical performance embody the platitudes Tom Hanks mouthed in the ad—“There’s someone to gather the facts. To bring you the story. No matter the cost. Because knowing empowers us. Knowing helps us decide. Knowing keeps us free”? How about the Post actually doing those things, rather than spending millions to convince people that they are, when the evidence says otherwise?

Just as the ad was running yesterday, we learned of a 2004 sexual assault allegation against Lt. Gov. Justin Fairfax that the Post decided at the time wasn’t credible enough to report on.  Why? Well, theories abound. Maybe it wasn’t credible, but then, I thought the idea was to believe all women. How could it have been less credible than some of the accusations against Brett Kavanagh that the Post reported when it was trying to sink his nomination? Does the fact that Fairfax is a Democrat have anything to do with the Post’s “objective news judgment”? Might not Virginia voters have wanted to make up their own minds about the allegations, when Fairfax was running for Lt. Governor?

Tell us again about how “democracy dies in darkness,” Tom. Continue reading

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Filed under "bias makes you stupid", Business & Commercial, Ethics Alarms Award Nominee, Gender and Sex, Government & Politics, Journalism & Media, Race, Sports

Oh, No! Ebonics Again!

A court reporter in Philadelphia heard a witness say, “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” but transcribed it as, “We going to be in this neighborhood.” Yes, that’s the opposite the opposite of what the speaker meant, and  a soon-to-be published study finds that Philadelphia court reporters often make errors transcribing sentences that are spoken in what the New York Times and some linguists call “African-American English.” I call it bad English, and once again the claim is being made that it’s everyone else’s fault when people can’t talk.

Here’s a jaw-dropping statement from the Times article: “Decades of research has shown that the way some black people talk could play a role in their ability to secure things like employment or housing. The new study, scheduled for publication in June in the linguistic journal Language, provides insight on how using black dialect could also impact African-Americans in courtrooms.” Ya think? I confess when I hear anyone, black or white, express themselves with a sentence like “He don’t be in that neighborhood,” I tend to think that

  • Such an individual is not well-educated
  • Such an individual is not well-read
  • Such an individual is unlikely to think very clearly
  • Such individuals may not be very bright, not necessarily because he or she speaks in such a manner, but that because they lack the common sense to know that doing so will not leave a positive impression.

In short, it is not my fault if someone else can’t speak clearly, and claiming that a grammatical and syntactical dogs breakfast like “He don’t be in that neighborhood” is acceptable because a lot of people talk that way is a rationalization. More Bizarro World reasoning from scholars,

“People who speak African-American English are stigmatized for so doing,” said Taylor Jones, a doctoral student in linguistics at the University of Pennsylvania and one of the study’s authors. Mr. Jones added that there was nothing improper or broken about the dialect that some African-Americans inherited over generations, but negative stereotypes have influenced the way people hear or perceive it.

“If you’re taught that these people speak incorrectly, then it’s very easy to say, ‘Well, they don’t make any sense; what they’re saying is wrong,’” Mr. Jones said.

Those who argue that “He don’t be in that neighborhood” isn’t incorrect are essentially pointing us toward a cultural Babel where anyone can make up and adopt whatever dialect they choose, and insist that everyone else acceptand decypher it. That’s no way to run a business, a nation, or society. Clarity in language is essential, and must not be shrugged off as one more matter of personal choice. We have to communicate, after all. Continue reading

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Filed under Education, language, Law & Law Enforcement, Research and Scholarship, U.S. Society

The Henry Higgins Syndrome And Me

“An Englishman’s way of speaking absolutely classifies him!  The moment he talks he makes some other  Englishman despise him!”

—Alan J. Lerner, writing for Henry Higgins in “My Fair Lady,” in the song, “Why Can’t The English Teach Their Children How To Speak?”

Today’s latest “Let’s hate the President!” item from the news media was the leaked news that Trump can’t stand how AG Jeff Sessions speaks. Politico reported yesterday that Trump has griped “to aides and lawmakers”  “that Sessions isn’t a capable defender of the President on television — in part because he ‘talks like he has marbles in his mouth.’”

As usual, the fact that some un-named source says something doesn’t make it true, or, for that matter, legitimate to reports as news, by hey, it’s Donald Trump, so fairness, ethical journalism and professionalism are suspended, right? If you hate the man, here’s more non-substantive, unproven stuff to believe and complain about on line, and if your business is to try to define and encourage standards of societal and workplace ethics, here’s one more chance to be vilified on Facebook as a “Trump supporter” by pointing out that it is wrong for anyone to be subjected to hearsay snipe attacks like that.

In this case, however, there is another factor. There are a lot of speech habits and styles that I have a visceral dislike of too. Some I can defend, some are just a matter of taste, regional influences and upbringing, and some are genuine impediments to my treating people fairly.

Here’s one that my Facebook friends will love, for example: the way Donald Trump talks drives me crazy. His repetitive vocabulary–every thing is “great,” “strong,” “weak,” “stupid,” “smart,” “sad” or “tough; everyone is a “loser,” a “moron” “out of control,” or “dangerous”–signals “uneducated simpleton” to me. I’ve read all of the scholarly examinations of Trumps communications style and why it is effective, and I understand the theories. They are probably right. Where I come from, however, size, precision and variety of vocabulary is deemed a reliable way of gauging intellectual capacity. Continue reading

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