The Deadman Night Rider

A forum for evening students of the SMU Dedman School of Law and other outlaws..

Monday, July 17, 2006

Oh, Mr. Yagoda, if you only knew...

One of the things people either love or hate about law school is the minute focus on language--sometimes going all the way down to the level of individual words (e.g. what the meaning of "is" is). If you don't like that sort of thing, it seems nit-picky and meaningless, but if you're built for it, it seems really cool. Now I'm a language geek from way back, so I always enjoy articles about how new words and phrases develop, but this one from Slate about how "need to" has supplanted other words used to convey an imperative is especially great.

The term "kindergarten imperative tense" alone is worth reading the article for, but here's the best part: how Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs plays into the deal. Here's a quote from the article about how wide-ranging the effects of this particular psychological paradigm really are:

The notion, tinkered with by Maslow until his death in 1970, had traction and then some. It led to a new and now-dominant meaning for the adjective "needy"—more or less the antonym of "emotionally self-sufficient"—and to a paradigm shift in both popular and academic psychology. I once overheard an undergraduate remark to a friend that she had been taught about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in every single college class she had taken.

The author, Ben Yagoda, little knows how right he is. If you've never heard of Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs, then you were obviously not a member of the VHS debate team between the years of 1987-1990. Much like that unnamed undergrad, I think I heard about Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs in every single debate round I ever participated in.

Congratulations, Kellus--today you are vindicated. I guess next week Slate will have to post an article about Skinner boxes...

Tuesday, July 11, 2006

Ask a stupid question...

Reading through an old Supreme Court case written by Chief Justice Vinson today, I came across the word "minuend" in a footnote. Eagerly taking this chance to expand my vocabulary, I went to Merriam Webster online, where I found this definition:

Main Entry: min·u·end
Pronunciation: 'min-y&-"wend
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin minuendum, neuter of minuendus, gerundive of minuere to lessen -- more at MINOR
: a number from which the subtrahend is to be subtracted.
(My emphasis--D.)

So, now I thought, double-banger--I'm going to learn two words today. So what did Merriam Webster have to say about 'subtrahend', you ask?

Main Entry: sub·tra·hend
Pronunciation: 's&b-tr&-"hend
Function: noun
Etymology: Latin subtrahendus, gerundive of subtrahere
: a number that is to be subtracted from a minuend.

Welcome to law school!!

Saturday, July 08, 2006

The soccer post

For some reason the Deadman wife has really gotten into the World Cup this year, so I've watched a few games. It's interesting enough, I guess--not that I watch all that much sports to begin with. The more interesting thing, though, is the perennial question: why does this sport that shuts down the rest of the world fall so flat here? Consider this:

Four times as many watched this year's Academy Awards as an average day of the World Cup, 91 million tuned into the 2006 Super Bowl, and even last month's finale of "American Idol" drew 36 million viewers. (By comparison, the article says that only about 9 million Americans have tuned into the World Cup this year--D.)

Now I've gone through all the sociological explanations: Americans are result-oriented as opposed to those process-oriented Europeans, too little chance for commercials to generate TV revenue, our collective short attention spans that require high-scoring games (cf. the 24-second shot clock in basketball). But, I think I've finally got it--the real reason this sucker just won't get off the ground.

I call it the sippy-cup theory. It hit me after I read a couple of stories about how soccer has to be the future because so many kids play it when they're young. Then I realized, the reason it's not the future here is because so many kids play it when they're young. Just like the fact that almost every kid starts out using a sippy-cup, but as soon as they are able, they graduate to a grown-up cup. Does this mean there's something wrong with sippy-cups? Not at all--at work, I should really probably be using one when I set my coffee down right next to my laptop, but I'll never do that. Here's why: even as a kid, I realized that I was given the sippy-cup because I was being kept from normal cups--and therefore the sippy-cup took on an irrevocable stigma. Here's how one article describes the reality of soccer in the U.S.:

But at about age 10, something happens to the children of the United States. Soccer is dropped, quickly and unceremoniously, by approximately 88 percent of all young people. The same kids who played at 5, 6, 7, move on to baseball, football, basketball, hockey, field hockey, and, sadly, golf. Shortly thereafter, they stop playing these sports, too, and begin watching these sports on television, including, sadly, golf.

The Slate article goes on to strangely attribute this fall-off to soccer's statist image and past association with Communism, plus the modern-day scourge of flopping, which the Italians have elevated to an art form. I think this misses the point that due to a convergence of odd forces (youth soccer associations who sold hordes of soccer moms on the idea that their sport was a safe, civilized alternative to football by watering down the game by eliminating slide tackles and aggressive play) soccer acquired the sippy-cup stigma here. It's seen as the baby sport your mom wants you to play, which of course you ditch as soon as you're old enough to choose for yourself.

Effect: just like beer, we get Miller Lite while the rest of the world drinks Guiness. Here's a pictorial representation:

Soccer for the rest of the world:

Soccer for Americans:

Of course, there's also the offsides rule, but we'll save that for another day.