1. What makes a computer seem human isn’t how we perceive its intellect but its affect. Can it display frustration, surprise or delight just as we would? A computer scientist friend of mine makes that point by proposing his own version of the Turing Test. He says, “Say I’m writing a program and type in a couple of clever lines of code — I want the machine to say, ‘Ooh, neat!’ “

    That’s the goal of the new field called affective computing, which is aimed at getting machines to detect and express emotions. Wouldn’t it be nice if the airline’s automated agent could rejoice with you when you got an upgrade? Or if it could at least sound that way? Researchers are on the case, synthesizing sadness and pleasure in humanoid that fall just this side of creepy.

    — 

    Geoff Nunberg

    Computers can win chess games and Jeopardy, but can they express emotions?

  2. turing test

    computers

    Geoff Nunberg

  1. For all their differences, Piketty and Marx talk about “capital” in the same singular way. Each of them puts it at the center of his narrative—not just as the sum of money and productive assets, but as a historical character in itself. Piketty sometimes talks about capital as if it were an animate being. “Capital… is always entrepreneurial, that is its vocation,” he says, which echoes Marx’s remark that capital brings forth living offspring. For both men, in fact, the capitalists themselves figure only as personifications of capital—neither heroes nor villains, just extras, the supernumeraries who carry capital onstage on her litter. It says something that Piketty could write a 700-page book on the concentration of wealth under capitalism without ever using the word “greed.”

    — Geoff Nunberg considers the word “capital” in light of the popularity of economist Thomas Piketty’s Capital in the Twenty-First Century” and its allusion to Karl Marx’s classic work, "Das Kapital."

  2. Geoff Nunberg

    Das Kapital

    Karl Marx

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  1. Linguist Geoff Nunberg wonders what exactly students learn when they’re flipping through those SAT vocabulary flashcards —-


"Faith in vocabulary begins with the belief that every new word you learn comes tied to a new idea. But the words you study are always tied to old ones. That’s what flashcards are for, to pair exotic words with familiar ones: "amicable" means friendly, "superficial" means shallow. That’s all you need to know to answer those SAT sentence-completion questions. "They tried to interest her in many things but they couldn’t overcome her _______." Should it be (a) apathy, (b) fervor, (c) acuity or (d) aloofness? It’s “apathy,” of course — what they want you to do is fill in the blank with the word that makes the resulting sentence least interesting.”

[Image: timlewisnm/flickr]

    Linguist Geoff Nunberg wonders what exactly students learn when they’re flipping through those SAT vocabulary flashcards —-

    "Faith in vocabulary begins with the belief that every new word you learn comes tied to a new idea. But the words you study are always tied to old ones. That’s what flashcards are for, to pair exotic words with familiar ones: "amicable" means friendly, "superficial" means shallow. That’s all you need to know to answer those SAT sentence-completion questions. "They tried to interest her in many things but they couldn’t overcome her _______." Should it be (a) apathy, (b) fervor, (c) acuity or (d) aloofness? It’s “apathy,” of course — what they want you to do is fill in the blank with the word that makes the resulting sentence least interesting.”

    [Image: timlewisnm/flickr]

  2. geoff nunberg

    Sat vocabulary words

    vocabulary

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    Fresh Air

  1. What was linguist Geoff Nunberg’s Word Of The Year?
Selfie. 

ISS Astronaut Aki Hoshide taking a selfie in space via Twisted Sifter View in High-Res

    What was linguist Geoff Nunberg’s Word Of The Year?

    Selfie.

    ISS Astronaut Aki Hoshide taking a selfie in space via Twisted Sifter

  2. fresh air

    selfie

    linguistics

    geoff nunberg

    word of the year

    2013

  1. The rules for quoting and attributing can seem arbitrary at times, with little connection to the respect for intellectual property that originally motivated them. You could think of them just as a kind of literary etiquette. But etiquette is just what comes of reducing moral principles to the explicit codes of conduct that govern our civil life. [Rand] Paul may not have been guilty of dishonesty, just cavalier disrespect for the rules. You don’t put on the feathers of another, not even the drab ones that you find lying around on the ground.

    — Fresh Air’s Linguist Geoff Nunberg takes a critical look at plagiarism

  2. fresh air

    geoff nunberg

    linguistics

    plagiarism

  1. The Oxford English Dictionary still doesn’t have an entry for the modern meaning of “demonize,” as in “they demonized the bankers,” and it still defines a “couple” as “a man and woman united by love or marriage.” And no dictionary I know of has an or “slur” as in “racial slur,” to refer to a word that disparages somebody on the basis of traits such as race, ethnicity, or gender. That new use of “slur” goes back half a century. But it doesn’t jump out at you the way novelties like “squadoosh” and “twerk” do.

    What we get from the Internet isn’t a Google Earth view of the entire language. It’s more like a screenshot of its Twitter feed.

    —  Geoff Nunberg, linguistics contributor for Fresh Air

  2. twerk

    fresh air

    geoff nunberg

    language

    linguistics

  1. Today Geoff Nunberg talks about Google Glass,

    The real problem with Glass was pointed out by the New York Times’ tech blogger Jenna Wortham. It isn’t so much the glassholes as the “glassed out,” the people who wear a slack-jawed look of druggy disengagement as they focus fixedly on the little screen in front of their eyes. It reminds you that in Shakespeare’s time “distraction” was another word for madness.
        Indeed, Glass brings us literally to face with the fundamental metaphysical perplexity of modern life, as it was crisply summed up in the title of a classic comedy album released by Firesign Theater back in 1969: How can you be two places at once when you’re not anywhere at all?

  2. review

    fresh air

    geoff nunberg

    google glass

    SNL

    fred armisen

    weekend update

    seth meyers

  1. Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the metadata of de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America:

In the old days, it was just a tool for getting to the stuff you were really interested in. Think how much metadata you had to wade through to find a passage about drunkenness in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America — looking up the book in the library card catalog, writing down its call number, finding it on the shelves, searching for “drunkenness” in the index, then finally turning to the page you’re after.

    Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the metadata of de Tocqueville’s Democracy In America:

    In the old days, it was just a tool for getting to the stuff you were really interested in. Think how much metadata you had to wade through to find a passage about drunkenness in Alexis de Tocqueville’s Democracy in America — looking up the book in the library card catalog, writing down its call number, finding it on the shelves, searching for “drunkenness” in the index, then finally turning to the page you’re after.

  2. Fresh Air

    Commentary

    Geoff Nunberg

    Metadata

    Drunkenness

    De Tocqueville

  1. Posted on 21 June, 2013

    680 notes | Permalink

    Reblogged from fastcompany

    Geoff Nunberg on “metadata”:

    It’s the data you find on a card in a library catalog, or the creation date and size of a file in a folder window. It’s the penciled note on the back of a snapshot: “Kathleen and Ashley, Lake Charles, 1963.” Or it could be the times, numbers and GPS locations attached to the calls in a phone log.

    fastcompany:

    These amazing maps generated from Twitter metadata will blow your mind

  2. Fresh Air

    Commentary

    Geoff Nunberg

    Metadata

    Fast Company

  1. Redefining a word isn’t always the same as giving it a new meaning. Sometimes you’re just trying to pare it down to the core concept that people missed the first time around. Dictionary definitions of “camera” used to mention film and plates; now they just refer to a photosensitive surface. But the meaning of “camera” isn’t different; it’s just that now technology lets us see what its essence has been all along.

    — Geoff Nunberg on how dictionaries are even grappling with getting ‘marriage’ right

  2. Geoff Nunberg

    Dictionary

    Marriage

    Linguistics

  1. “Equality,” “prejudice,” “race” itself — how can you have mid-nineteenth-century characters use words like those without anachronistically evoking the connotations they have for us? To many of Lincoln’s contemporaries and even his allies, “equality”still evoked alarming echoes of the French Revolution. To speak of “race equality” implied not just that people should all be treated alike, but that the races really were morally and intellectually equivalent. That was an extreme and dubious proposition to all but a few radical Republicans, like Thaddeus Stevens.

    — Geoff Nunberg on how connotations have changed since the 19th century and how those connotations are alluded to in Tony Kushner’s screen adaptation of Lincoln.

  2. Fresh Air

    Interviews

    Geoff Nunberg

    Historical language

  1. Geoff Nunberg looks at how the language of the past is used and abused in the pop culture of the present:

Spotting linguistic anachronisms in Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey is as easy as shooting grouse in a barrel. “I couldn’t care less,” Lord Grantham says. Thomas complains that “our lot always gets shafted.” Cousin Matthew announces he’s been on a steep learning curve, a phrase that would have been gotten a blank reception even in the Sterling Cooper boardroom.

Disclaimer: the above are not direct Downton Abbey quotes.
Image via Telegrams from Downton View in High-Res

    Geoff Nunberg looks at how the language of the past is used and abused in the pop culture of the present:

    Spotting linguistic anachronisms in Julian Fellowes’ Downton Abbey is as easy as shooting grouse in a barrel. “I couldn’t care less,” Lord Grantham says. Thomas complains that “our lot always gets shafted.” Cousin Matthew announces he’s been on a steep learning curve, a phrase that would have been gotten a blank reception even in the Sterling Cooper boardroom.

    Disclaimer: the above are not direct Downton Abbey quotes.


    Image via Telegrams from Downton

  2. Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Geoff Nunberg

    Anachronisms

    Downton Abbey

    Lincoln

    Mad Men

  1. Geoff Nunberg on the linguistic anachronisms of Downton Abbey:

    No, Mrs. Patmore probably wouldn’t have said “when push comes to shove,” and Lord Grantham should have waited a couple of decades before telling his chauffer to step on it. But that isn’t the problem with Downton's vision of the past. Even when the characters are speaking authentic period words, they aren't using them to express authentic period thoughts. The Earl who frets over his duties as a job creator, the servants grappling with their own homophobia — those are comfortable modern reveries. Drop any of them into a drawing-room comedy by Shaw or Pinero and they'd be as out-of-place as a flat-screen TV.

    Downton Abbey Anachronism Watch via @Slate

  2. Anachronisms

    Fresh Air

    Reviews

    Geoff Nunberg

    Slate

    Downton Abbey

  1. Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the derivation of the phrase “the whole nine yards”:



In 1982, William Safire called that “one of the great etymological mysteries of our time.” He himself thought that the phrase originally referred to the capacity of a cement truck in cubic yards. But there are plenty of other theories. Some people say it dates back to when square-riggers had three masts, each with three yards supporting the sails, so the whole nine yards meant the sails were fully set. Another popular story holds that it refers to the length of an ammunition belt on World War II fighters — when a pilot had exhausted his ammunition he said he had shot off the whole nine yards. Or it was the amount of cloth in the Queen’s bridal train or the Shroud of Turin. Or it had to do with a fourth-down play in football. Or it came from a joke about a prodigiously well-endowed Scotsman who gets his kilt caught in a door.

    Linguist Geoff Nunberg on the derivation of the phrase “the whole nine yards”:

    In 1982, William Safire called that “one of the great etymological mysteries of our time.” He himself thought that the phrase originally referred to the capacity of a cement truck in cubic yards. But there are plenty of other theories. Some people say it dates back to when square-riggers had three masts, each with three yards supporting the sails, so the whole nine yards meant the sails were fully set. Another popular story holds that it refers to the length of an ammunition belt on World War II fighters — when a pilot had exhausted his ammunition he said he had shot off the whole nine yards. Or it was the amount of cloth in the Queen’s bridal train or the Shroud of Turin. Or it had to do with a fourth-down play in football. Or it came from a joke about a prodigiously well-endowed Scotsman who gets his kilt caught in a door.

  2. Fresh Air

    reviews

    Geoff Nunberg

    the whole nine yards

    etymology

    Some Scotsman's family jewels

  1. Geoff Nunberg on his Word of the Year, “Big Data”:

    But Big Data is no more exact a notion than Big Hair. Nothing magic happens when you get to the 18th or 19th zero. After all, digital data has been accumulating for decades in quantities that always seemed unimaginably vast at the time, whether they were followed by a K or an M or a G. The fact is that an exponential curve looks just as overwhelming wherever you get onboard. And anyway, nobody really knows how to quantify this stuff precisely. Whatever the sticklers say, data isn’t a plural noun like “pebbles.” It’s a mass noun like “dust.”

  2. Geoff Nunberg

    Word of the Year

    Big Data

    Fresh Air