Category Archives: Semantics

If Teaching facts makes you a bad teacher, does rocking when you’re not stressed make you a bad autistic?

A monkey glances up and sees a banana, and that’s as far as he looks—

Eoin Colfer

Monkey tricks by VicaVersionOn perception:

One of my pet hates is when I hear educators moan about facts as if they were hazardous to health. I’ve heard them moan that they serve no purpose, that they’re a waste of time; outdated or are somehow superfluous; that it’s not proper teaching. There are numerous complaints, too many to list— however the median I seem to come across most, might as well be the very devil himself: the date:

1066, the Battle of Hastings;

1588 and the Spanish Armada

1805, Trafalgar and so on and so forth…

And to some degree I agree that there is a limited quality, albeit a limited re-usable quality to this type of knowledge. Personally, I love it, can’t get enough but that’s just me, give me more…

However, facts make learning easier. Facts give concept-based teaching context. Facts make learning more effective. This is not a judgement call, nor is it an opinion— unlike approaches based purely around concept, there is mountains of data which suggest that the use of facts as part of a learning strategy works; having a solid bank of knowledge regarding a particular topic, then makes conceptual-learning effective, not the other way around. The very notion that anyone can form long lasting contextual assessments on anything without knowing what it is they’re supposed to be contextualising is counter-intuitive— but this is one of the things modern teachers are taught to do, even though it flies in the face of most of the available evidence.

Don’t get me wrong, I think the ability to conceptualise is an imperative to successful learning; and the reasoning that the way it’s now used is ‘best’ and the way it should be done comes from reasonable sources— these are not stupid people. It just doesn’t work as they’d like it to work; it cannot work because the reasoning is built on whimsy, not the real world.

Facts: those concrete, unshakable units of information which are not subject to change are unpopular, when they should be the foundations upon which effective practices are built.

It’s difficult to understand why the idea of learning useful, relevant and re-usable information is so frowned upon— as a former practitioner, I do at least understand the potential difficulties involved in the presentation; I did all the time— but again, the median argument against it is just as unreasonable: we can’t just have kids reciting dates over and over…

Of course not— that really is stupid. Professional teachers should be able to incorporate some kind of fact-based content into their lessons if they are proficient in their subject, without the furore— they do it everyday to some degree as it is, but there’s just something about the word fact that they’re taught not to like. I would’ve taught in a dress if I had cold hard data suggesting cross-dressing made learning more effective; and that should be the only thing that matters. There are approaches which work and some which work better than others; some are just unpopular.

Now the reason I bring it up actually has nothing to do with teaching, but the underlying trait which shapes this particular issue.

It’s a packaging problem— rightly or wrongly our perception becomes this: so it’s gotta be true. It’s exactly the same problem we have with labels— some of which effectively describe certain people and conditions, but are wildly unpopular. Some of which are too accurate so a semantically broader variant is encouraged as preferable. Personally, I struggle with aspects of this— I don’t find words, tags or labels to be inherently functional without context. One of the problems of being concept-based people instead of substance based, will be an increased obsession with eradicating ‘offensive’ lexis, regardless of context. Which in itself, is an act I find deeply offensive.

Anyway, the catalyst for this came about from several sources, independent of which, I wouldn’t have had a contextual springboard to unite them— however when taken together, there are similarities which I think are fascinating.

The first was this article1, which recounts the author’s experiences with a couple of group sessions for adults on the autistic spectrum. She writes:

“I told the group about my own experiences in coming to terms with autism, about wanting to be autistic because it was the only thing that felt like all my experiences finally made some sense. About redirecting my energy and efforts towards things that would help me cope, instead of things that would make me appear normal. Allowing myself to be more visibly autistic.

“At those last words, the entire group gasped in shock … I’m not joking. I was the only one there who thought it wasn’t actually all that bad to be stimming in public.”

Now my first reaction was to try to empathise with group— some of whom were clearly uneasy with the author’s rocking but I couldn’t consolidate what it was about the article that was impressing upon me without resorting to speculation, despite the resonance of one of the questions: “If I don’t do things like that, then maybe I’m not actually autistic?”

It wasn’t until I read this post, that it all clicked into place: that, like some teachers’ point-blank refusal to accept that facts do not give you cancer, what I had in front of me was another packaging problem— which lead me to re-read the question as, I wouldn’t mind being autistic if I didn’t do things like that…

What struck me upon the second reading was an event from another session, which thanks to the second article, had even greater meaning in this context:

“[O]ne of them said to me that maybe I needed a time-out to calm down, because I was rocking back and forth so much. And when I said I was just focusing on the conversation, and not feeling anxious at all, he didn’t believe me.

Was she not believed because: autistics only rock when their stressed; or because ‘he’ only rocks when he’s stressed: so it’s gotta be true? It starts to become clear that across a wide range of things— how narrow and inflexible our associations can really be.

However, without Disabled, Not Broken2, I wouldn’t have written this at all. It finds the author posing a simple question and answering it by defining what he is and what he isn’t through a short exploration of language and its denotations: even the words which we use to define other words, which we then use to define who we are or what we think we are, aren’t always satisfactory contextually.

Add to that, that if you rock back and forth you are defined by your actions and emotional state: you must be autistic and you must need a time out. If you’re a teacher and heaven forbid you teach facts: you are defined by an historical context; that you’re out of touch, you’re doing something wrong and a bad practitioner. Perhaps, by the same reasoning: if you rock and you’re not stressed, it makes you a bad autistic?

In each case there are misconceptions based on a perception that has attributed to it, a value of some kind, so if you do it, think it, use it or say it, according to that perception: it’s gotta be true.

Right?

I don’t know, it’s just an observation—

But without a bank of knowledge to draw on, I wouldn’t have been able to get far.

Just a little background: noise & biography…

Everyone chases after happiness, not noticing that happiness is right at their heels.

Bertolt Brecht

iuI read that and instinctly think cats. That’s biography.

I am fascinated by the heroic age of Antarctic expedition, history, education, great sex, openness, cats, cameras; the space race; sentence-structure, lexis, discourse conventions and phatic communication; cinema; the sounds of cricket and its numbers; golf swings, sortes, piropo, productivity, logical fallacies; fagottists— which leads to the double-o phoneme and coda-less syllables; falderals, nonsense; nanism— my fear of developing it and albino-clowns who already have. Ironing, long-sleeves, compound swearing, yellow pads, yoof-speak and linguistic representations— meh. Books, tea, science, feets, unnecessary plurals and corrugated-cardboard to name but a few.

It’s a pointless list because there isn’t much I’m not interested in. I like the feeling of insignificance in knowing how little I know; and how each little thing helps me know what I already know a little better.

And I still don’t know what this makes me, but it kind of works like this:

Perhaps it just makes me English since ‘England is the paradise of individuality, eccentricity … hobbies and humors.’1 Quite whether the world thinks we are small or great, but such is the context of opinion. Goethe wrote that, ‘people of uncommon abilities generally fall into eccentricities when their sphere of life is not adequate to their abilities.’ Well spheres be damned as, ‘No one can be profoundly original who does not avoid eccentricity.’2 But to what end is thought’d: ‘eccentricity in small things [is] crazy’3 and though it ‘destroys reason, [it does] not [the] wit?’4

All I’m really trying to do here is to show a little of what it’s like to be autistic— from the ground up I’ve taken my traits and applied them to certain functions within the texts: from word orders and word types, semantic variances, repetitions and rhetorical devices— even archaic syntax to the very deliberate structure I use to present things. It’s not always easy to read and it’s not meant to be, It’s supposed to be a little overwhelming at times and take the reader in circles— but it’s a desirable difficulty designed to stimulate a little over-processing, in the same way real life does to me. It’s the only way I know how to present what it’s like to me: to demonstrate it, not write about it— especially when there are a million people out there able to just describe it so much better.

I was going to just post the blueprint, but thought the meta-language would just make it pointless— like the list…

I’m not just a linguist or educator or golfer or cricket fanatic or autistic or anything for that matter—

I’m just curious…

And I guess lists should be conspiculous by its absense, but it’s really not…

1 George Santayana
2 André Maurois
3 Edward Bulwer-Lytton, 1st Baron Lytton
4 Nathaniel Emmons

I sometimes google autism and the nun; autistic nun; nuns on the spectrum – just AS nuns, sometimes do…

It’s habit, but what exactly to call it—

And would it smell as sweet?

530420_10150764779066041_2054832089_nI am terribly fond of trifles— a trifle cleverness for instance, provided it’s not too early in the morning. There’s always so much to do and what with wakefulness becoming such an undertaking, I find it unnecessary in the extreme. I’m far too fond of taking my particulars in a pedestrian manner— just one of the customary customs I’m accustomed to, to speak nil of the custumal. I’d call it routine were I able to abide the laziness of it— there’s far too much of that about, especially when everything else I have to write about is stripped of unnecessary words. And while nude text is most effective when dealing with the real world, I must confess how partial I am to the eccentricities of abusing syllables to the dozen when a few would certainly do. Suffice to say this trifle is rather filling. But let’s see…

I like a particular light, a particular quiet, in a particular room; two particular pints of one particular tea in twice the particular mug— though I’d refrain from describing this as fussy; not in the slightest— just a superficial type, more trinket than trapping that I’d hate to break: habits are most certainly not records.

By pint number three I may have settled into my reading, sometimes it’s hard to tell— the simmering awkwardness that accompanies me throughout the day’s most noticeable at this time, so it’s best to tread carefully. It’s also so rather dependant on the weather— the rain makes a racket and the gloom makes the room; then there’re those bloody wind-chimes: there really ought to be some observances regarding their uses enforceable by civilians prone to a little grumpy now and then.

Whether ritual or routine, it isn’t any wonder why we’re co-dependant, or simply compatible; or whether we’re just mutually beneficial— there’s always an elegant symmetry in antistrophe: I to the text, the text to I— to say nothing of the tea… or the light, or the quiet, the mug, weather or…

Each year one vicious habit discarded, in time might make the worst of us good.

Benjamin Franklin

Or at the very least, freak out a tad before doing so…

The Gramm’azis’s a rude bunch. Even the term [just spoils my tea]…

When was their 1919 moment?

Besides the mobile-phone…

536031_10150755819601041_591256550_nGramm’azis sometime jump all over paragraphs, because in their rage they sometimes fail to recognise them as paragraphs; instead focus on a particular phrase. Even the term— perhaps even the use of Nazi in the plural tense— perhaps even the use of italics instead of the inverted comma. They’d complain that ia sentence wasn’t a sentence and didn’t make sense and blah to the la-de-dah, calling people stupid and whatever. And in one version of the universe— where cohesion, elision, endophora, hell, even the minor sentence didn’t exist— they’d be quite right, which is why I find the very term Grammar Nazi so apt. There really couldn’t be a more fitting soubriquet; it’s accurate with just the right hint of irony. Lucky for me however, I live in a galaxy far, far away from the one party state where a little sterilisation is OK. Because although language is a constituency of one, grammar is just one of the bits. Granted it’s one of the big bits, but without a complement of bits, shit gets sterile; and that would be— as long as you accept gramm’azis turd is safe to eat— an ineffective form of rule. And a contradiction: shit should not be fit for human consumption.

Don’t get me wrong, I like Standard English and think it ought to be protected. As a teaching tool it’s invaluable and as a means with which to measure English variance, there’s really no substitute, but holy-moly. I wouldn’t want to imagine a world where these guys go unopposed, which shouldn’t be too Earth-altering because they inhabit a really small place; it’s not even part of the planet. It’s a place with zero separation of spelling and grammar— which is a big no no Brown-Shirts, and if the metonymy offends you, you’re gonna love this one: grammar is based on sound, not words. The your, you’re, their, they’re, there place— I don’t know what to call this ego-enhancing pleasure-palace— is not a grammar problem, it’s a representation issue, it’s orthography; and yes, it’s annoying and best avoided, but in comment-boxes? Really? Is there really no higher place to call? Did pragmatics and deixis suddenly disappear?

That was me thinking out-loud. And that was me being flippant. And that was me wondering why anyone— and let’s be clear here— anyone with but a rudimentary grasp of language think it’s perfectly acceptable to respond to something with— wah, wah, grammar police wah fucking wah wah?

Clever people don’t do that. Linguists and language folk don’t do that. In fact the guys who are in a position to comment upon specific language uses, tend not to make the mistake of using too many logically fallacious statements, especially not ad hominem, tu quoque crap like your momma’s do— come on. I mean, god— is there some kind of high-register discourse convention for comment-boxes that I don’t know about? The one where anything short of five-part essay-standard formality is open-season for the sanctimonious? Aren’t comment-boxes supposed to be a convenient way to get a point across when you’re doing something you’re not supposed to instead of working? Are gramm’azis so blind-sided by blues-and-twos that they cannot see that good points sometimes come in shitty packages?

The ability to spot these mistakes then point them out does not require any particular skill or training, it really doesn’t. It doesn’t make you smart— it makes you an asshole. It means, at the very least you have a rudimentary grasp of language and are conscious of it. Our cueing systems are remarkable things, brilliant; they’re not toys to throw at each other. Now, most non-drivers can tell the difference between a good and shitty driver, and on this I’d steak a gamm’azis’ momma. Driving is not an inherent attribute. Language acquisition and development is pretty uniform the world over which means we are all, to some degree grammatical creatures, we are also contextual creatures— with few exceptions, I should know, I’ve worked with a few. But I’m also careful not to generalise too sweepingly and incur wrath from the fallacy police, even though those guys know how to party.

I can go on for weeks, literally. It was my job— Actually, I rarely left a dry eye, but I’d rather not. These people are ruining just about every article I read these days.

Bollockations—

I just don’t like the rude, it’s not contructive…

Damn you gramm’azis! All I wanted to do was read about cricket, drink tea and find my day!

It’s certainly not any travel I know, just a hobby which shares characteristics with the way I think. We may sometimes dress alike…

I’m not yet forty; still a way off that particular milestone, but like everyone else who is—

I find it approaching a little faster than I’d like…

26396_430151901040_6641225_nThe social stuff between now and then, or whatever time-frame I tend to use as reference for what I have or haven’t done doesn’t get any smaller. Just because I can’t get it ticked off the list shouldn’t matter, but it go figures. It just becomes more compact, which is a whole other type of frustration. It’s just not as easy as other stuff: cups of tea, peace and quiet, stuff which I need more of these days— language definitely counts as stuff…

For twenty years, sabbaticals beside— which you need if you don’t want to go a little blind or, hurt people I guess— has been my primary: academically and vocationally. To describe it as a journey just doesn’t work for me. I get it, it’s all kinda kinds of fitting, but it’s used to describe football seasons, relationships, books, school, work, pregnancy; I can see it insofar as life and everything in it is neater when it’s compartmentalised and separated into a series of cultural markers, but only at a stretch. I still don’t like it; it’s not for me— my associations don’t work that way. I struggle to compartmentalise neatly because I have a need for everything to be intermentalised and far reaching, somehow— somewhere, it’s got to have a relative context and I couldn’t care less how superficially— which is why I became ever increasingly drawn to it, language that is, not superficiality, though that’s OK too. For a start it lacks the same degree of constraint which burdens journeys. In fact it’s always given me the impression that it doesn’t like to be constrained by anything— which has been the source of many a headache and a-ha alike.

If you can make a rule, there’ll be an exception; an observation, an aberration. A framework which might explains a phenomena, there’ll be an approach to make you question whether you were on the right track at all. So in that sense, it couldn’t really have more appeal to me than if I designed it myself. No, I’m pretty comfortable running with the assumption that it most certainly is not a journey. But, it could be thousands of them, all different, all seemingly heading the same way but overlapping, double-backing, reversing, contributing, refuting and turning one piece of work into many, many more.

It’s never just an aspect, or one thing— that’s too neat when you’ve got all these trains whooshing left and right and what-have-you. One aspect requires others and each of those require the same, even when it isn’t always plain to see how or why; which is why it all takes time and the social stuff keeps getting fat. There’s a lot of going back and forth— to the beginning, back and forth to the end sometimes; starting again, screaming and so forth.

It’s rich, diverse and can be frustrating; though never less than rewarding, even when you’re getting nowhere. It is something which requires constantly chipping away at— and a good rail-pass. There’s always something new, a connection; a correlation, something utterly unexpected just around the corner— something you daren’t miss.

If I had one complaint, despite having been researcher, analyst, consultant and educator, it would be my failure to become proficient in no more than 5% of it.

By the time I am forty, that number will have shrunk…

In which case I’ll get stuff ticked off…

Superheroes, disguises & fairy landscapes…

What a difference a day makes—

I hate these differences…

375601_10150752315281041_1742842866_nThough it does indeed. No two are alike and as with the riddle binding the elegance and mystery of the moment together— such things reveal themselves to me whilst I find myself going through an unscheduled, artistic change— a small period of paper-blindness is quite normal…

One step was to alter my identity to avoid being recognised in unlikely places. The obvious dwelling places, such as dells and fairy-landscapes hold no odds for me of encountering misfortunates— and unlike previous do-gooders before me, blessed with the immortality that required little more than a good set of hair straighteners and a chunky pair of spectacles; I value my anonymity— CCTV and all. The last thing I want is to be chased by the owner of a car I saved from being run over by a delinquent whilst on a reconnaissance mission during a winter month.

As the days get colder, the nights are hotting up for action and I’m afraid, since I made an addition to my special suit— I have a distaste for describing it as a costume or uniform since I am neither a star of panto or a soldier. The scarf was not my usual spandex but holds within its fabric, a welcome love. Unfortunately the aerodynamics and drag it creates whilst cruising between 3 and 5 miles up, led to my making the decision to remove the spikes that had acted as a rudder; especially during times of high winds— I have decided to revert to a sharks’ fin in order to manoeuvre at high speeds and dub it the finbar.

With baldness comes sleeplessness and with no sleep comes an appetite for produce where ‘microscopic bacteria’ actually features prominently in the list of ingredients. The laughter comes in dribs and drabs, lasting up to a full minute if I am lucky; And I am so lucky— this I know. Those I save these chilly evenings barely know how to smile.

I wish I had one wish, the realisation of a what if— the chance to make a cautionary element of living, a treasure for the masses for a day.

It wouldn’t be the same without italics…

Would it?

I look after hearts when they least expect to need healing; pets and friends too. Even idiots who think they can climb tall buildings without a safety net. You’re all safe…

The semantic identity crisis surrounding all-in-one pyjamas…

Look back, and smile at perils past—

Or simply find the nearest grown-up in toddlers’ habiliment…

7720_204996201040_7432759_n

An adult in a baby-grow is wrong— in fact it’s practically retarded. Practically, that is, but not quite. Pleonastic perhaps, but entirely necessary. Regressive would probably be the better term, although reaction formation might do also, were it only a word and far too early in the peace to get defensive. I certainly wouldn’t feel the need to narrow my semantics any further to accomodate an r-word, particularly when there’s already a narrowing between metaphor and metonymy— that’s if, I were to believe in such a thing. The occupation of infant by adult is scant enough to satisfy my minimalism and certainly disturbing enough once summerised: contiguity via wardrobe. Three words. I could quite easily has decided upon, onesies are stupid or, jump-suits? Seriously? But I didn’t.

There. I said it: onsies are stupid;  the word ‘onesie’ is stupid; jump-suit is no better either. As far as I’m concerned, if you’re going to prefix novelty nightwear with the word jump or anything remotely like it, the clobber in question had better be fucking lacy; frilly even and not, even remotely opaque. Sleep-suit is at least sensibly self-referential, but to accept its self-evidence, one must also accept far too much sibilance for my liking. An abundance of s’s should ideally be held back for more ironic or moronic purposes. It’s also mean to would be readers who lisp.

If I had to pick a pillow to chew however, I’d opt, much like any other self-respecting inner-linguist-ninja would, for romper-suit; particularly for it’s ambi-sexual gender relevance— something which should resonate with everyone; kind of bringing us back to the word ‘onesie’: the adjective this time, not the noun.

That and I think I’d feel less of a wanker wearing something to sleep in which came with ears:

Romper-suit it would seem—

Ticks all the appropriate boxes.

Which still don’t make it so…

You’ll find lots of things at my desk to assist me when the need is greatest…

Acorns were good until bread was found.

Francis Bacon

555751_10150808762961041_1512462874_nContinuing with the most unlikeliest of themes— an absolutism which despite appearances isn’t the statement of a complete cretin, considering ours is a time of constant hyperbole and overexposure to superfluous superlatives where all is garbage or great; it therefore makes its self a meta-sentiment which holds semantic weight considering the vastness of the post-modifying element of the phrase, and also quite appropriate owing to its observance to a law other than stylistics— something I happen to know a little about; but not too much.

What we expect and what are the unknowingest parts of the mundane exist only from our desire to rise above such trivialities in order to offer ourselves respite from whatever trappings we use to define our servility. Mine are deliberately superficial, affordable for the most part— in the least part not exactly cheap or morally legitimate, but congruent to my own sets of values. This tryphé may be subject to further discussion were it not of an impending consequence that I amend Mr Bacon’s alluring aphorism with something I hope is not unedifying. Acorns were indeed good, as was bread, but that was until breadsticks. Of course, once it’s possible to be in a position where you can purchase a packet of acorns at your local supermarket for recreational purposes, we may see this priority change hands once again.

I must confess, with some amusement I might add, that I had never have seen any benefits in eating breadsticks or anything else with them for that matter, because they’re a kind of non-food stuff. They’re not a snack and barely count as an accoutrement to a meal. I would never have ‘let alone’ imagined there could be any value in them outside their nutritional content, which is very little; and certainly wouldn’t have credited them with the sustenance required to cause astonishment— at least not in the quantity required for me to  link them to something as ‘surprising’. But with any such awe comes inevitability and with that we are led to the writing of the predicament I now find myself in— which is not so much the refuting of a man’s maxim, albeit not one of his best, than the fashioning of a new one.

Were I to say that I like the idea of inventors messing around in their garages, taking apart toys and microwaves to find something new that’ll change the world as we know it, would you say it was rather like being revolutionary born in Switzerland? Probably not, that’s why there are two different kinds of people, equal nonetheless, but that’s where my similarity to any form of revolutionary rests; being Swiss don’t got nothing to do with it.

I also like the idea of writers messing around in their studies, taking apart ideas and words hoping to find new ways to describe the world— they just need  something to help them do it. Things like breadsticks.

The other types of people are readers.

From the naturalistic point of view, all men are equal. There are only two exceptions to this rule of naturalistic equality: geniuses and idiots.

Mikhail Bakunin

And food, with the odd exception is food…

When ‘about’ is the definite article, it can only ever be a partial introduction. And why a simple ‘hello’ should suffice…

I’ve never been entirely comfortable with the use of the word ‘about’, when it’s used to denote precisely what it is about to—

Or at the very least, ought to

IMG_8749

With very few exceptions, I’ll be neither the object of a particular thought or action, nor and woe beide, any feeling which might get the better of me and wind up clipped and airing itself for all to see. It’s use in this context is something I’ve always considered somewhat cold and improper. Nor do I, or at least wiln’t— to a point, consider myself to be the subject of anything published here. For a start, I’m far too dull and again, it feels like a prepostion too far and just, for the lack of a better word: unsatisfactory.

However, since there’s more to showing than telling and since my sensibilities on this matter should reveal more ‘about’ me than my favourite colour or shoe-size— I can’t help but feel a certain imbalance has been addressed. Besides, I’m all about the fun; not the confessional; especially since I’m declaring my reluctance to do something in order to state it and by doing so, it becomes almost impossible to avoid. That and many, many ‘nors’. Like I said, I’m all about the fun.

My character in that case can be found in my quirks, which are pretty evident; my D.N.A. in my tendancy to structure those quirks around em dashes and everything else, word-wrapped around them— quite possibly italised. Now, provided I’ve constructed that last phrase correctly, I think you’ll find Me:

Less about and more:

Metabout.

And that’s about as certain as I can be…