Emma Byrne, a science writer and artificial intelligence researcher, has just published a new book called Swearing is Good for You: The Amazing Science of Bad Language and it sounds fucking great. "If you ask people what they think about swearing, they tend to insist that it diminishes the speaker’s credibility and persuasiveness—-especially if the speaker is a woman," Byrne writes. But actually, a presenter's swears can sometimes make them damn more convincing. From Smithsonian:
Read the rest
In the book, Byrne cites one study that examined the rhetorical effects of swearing on an audience that was already sympathetic to the speaker’s message. For the study, psychologists Cory Scherer of Penn State University and Brad Sagarin from Northern Illinois University showed videotaped speeches to 88 undergraduate students. Participants listened to one of three different versions of a speech about lowering tuition rates at a university—one with no swearing, one that had a “damn” thrown in the middle, and one that opened with a “damn.” The rest of the speech was unchanged.
“The students who saw the video with the swearing at the beginning or in the middle rated the speaker as more intense, but no less credible, than the ones who saw the speech with no swearing,” Byrne summarizes in her book. “What’s more, the students who saw the videos with the swearing were significantly more in favor of lowering tuition fees after seeing the video than the students who didn’t hear the swear word.”
Byrne delineates between what she calls propositional swearing, which is deliberate and planned, and non-propositional swearing, which can happen when we’re surprised, or among friends or confidants.
Behold, the glory of the compound noun: Fernweh ("the feeling of wanting to be elsewhere, anywhere but where you are at this moment"); Weltschmerz ("the state of weariness one feels at the state of the world"); Fuchsteufelswild ("a state of unfiltered, primal rage"); and of course, the indispensable Backpfeifengesicht. Read the rest
The Associated Press reports that the classic "whatever" was the most annoying word of 2017, though "fake news" gave it a run for its money. Whatever.
The recent addition "fake news" was slightly ahead of "no offense, but" for second place, 23 percent to 20 percent. About one in 10 found "literally" to be most grating, as did a similar number for "you know what I mean."Read the rest
The BBC's pidgin service is aimed at West African audiences; it is a pure delight. Read the rest
An excellent post to the ISO/IEC JTC1 SC2 WG2 mailing list sums up critical feedback over recently approved emojis, including a fierce denunciation of the (IMHO) excellent "frowning pile of poo" emoji, which is viewed as a slippery slope to an entire "a range of emotions to PILE OF POO." Read the rest
Horses use 17 discrete facial movements in communication, compared to 27 for people, 16 for dogs, and 13 for chimpanzees. University of Sussex researchers determined this by studying the musculature under a horse's face and watched videos of horses of all ages and multiple breeds. This enabled the scientists to create a catalog of facial behavioral sequences named EquiFACS (Equine Facial Action Coding System.) From National Geographic:
Jennifer Wathan, the study’s lead author, says the similarities between horse movements and human ones are striking. They include raising inner eyebrows (“puppy-dog eyes”) to show fear, surprise, or sadness; pulling back lip corners (smiling) in greeting or submission; and opening eyes wide to indicate alarm...
Her team’s research, which is already helping veterinarians and trainers, could also connect facial expressions to emotional states. “We don’t know much about the emotional lives of animals,” she says. “What does a positive emotion look like? This tool could help us see it.”
It's not quite "Gibberish rock song written by Italian composer to sound like English", as it is in English. Sort of. It's the Englishiness of it all that makes it so good. Who put the ram in the ramalangadingdong? Warning: blackface.
Here's part 2: Read the rest
Judge Rodney Gilstrap serves the Eastern District of Texas court, the venue from which patent trolls have extorted billions in useless menaces money from US industry; Gilstrap hears 25% of the patent cases brought in the USA, and has a track record for making epically terrible rulings. Read the rest
One of the reasons that online review sites still have some utility is that "crowdturfing" attacks (in which reviewers are paid to write convincing fake reviews to artificially raise or lower a business or product's ranking) are expensive to do well, and cheap attacks are pretty easy to spot and nuke. Read the rest