Anything worth talking about, is worth blogging about

Canada 150

Happy Canada Day everyone.

Lots of Canada 150 celebrations will be going on. A 150th birthday does not come by very often.

 

Well, we went out and elected a minority government. Pending recounts and absentee ballots, the results are 43 Liberal, 41 NDP, 3 Green. The big winners look like the Green Party, who hold the balance of power with North America’s first green caucus. The results are also very regionally polarized, with the Liberals strongest in the Interior and Fraser Valley, and the NDP strongest in Metro Vancouver and The Island. The Greens won their seats on The Island.

As for what happens next, I think Christy Clark ought to be given a chance to continue governing. She won a plurality of votes and seats (one below a majority), and getting the support of the Greens, either by abstention or voting with them, provides more “breathing space” to avoid losing a vote of confidence. In particular, if the Greens abstain, then the vote is 43 – 1 (for the speaker who votes only if there is a tie) = 42 to 41. If the Greens vote with the Liberals, then it is 43 + 3 – 1 = 45 to 41. For the NDP to govern, they will require the support of the Greens. The votes would be 41 + 3 – 1 = 43 to 43. This is a tie, so the speaker votes. Clearly, it is much easier for the Liberals to command the confidence of the Legislative Assembly. In addition, there is also the convention that the incumbent premier stays in power if a minority government is elected or they resign. Hence, unless there is some concrete agreement between the NDP and Greens, and possession of Canada’s best whips, both the seat totals and established norms support Christy Clark remaining in office for the time being.

Also, see how close the election was? And how one seat was decided by nine votes? That’s why you should vote and why there should be compulsory voting. Turnout is too low. This election, you should have voted, because it could have mattered this time.

Make sure you vote.

Words of 2016

In its annual vote, the American Dialect Society has chosen its Words of the Year:

  • Political word of the year was “post-truth”, an era when opinion matters more than facts and reality.
  • Digital word of the year was “@”, to use the @ symbol to respond on Twitter.
  • Slang word of the year was “woke”, “socially aware or enlightened”.
  • Most useful/most likely to succeed (combined categories from last year) was “gaslight”, subtly psychologically manipulating a person in a manner to make them question their sanity.
  • Most creative was “laissez-fairydust”, using pure laissez faire economics as an economic cure-all and panacea.
  • Euphemism of the year was “locker room banter”, crude, vulgar misogynist talk that harasses women.
  • WTF word of the year was “Bigly”, in a notable way or important manner.
  • Hashtag of the year was “#NoDAPL”, used to protest the Dakota Access Pipeline.
  • Emoji of the year was the fire, essentially meaning important or hot.

And the Word of the Year is “Dumpster fire”, meaning a fast-progressing omnishambles that is a major disaster.

In a companion vote, the ADS’s sibling organization, the American Name Society, chose “Aleppo” as its Name of the Year.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year everyone.

2016 has been a pretty shitty year for everyone. Including in my personal life, as both of my remaining grandparents both passed away within two weeks of each other. It therefore goes without saying that I hope 2017 is better.

Merry Christmas

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays, everyone.

To celebrate, let’s do this video of what is, by some measures, the world’s most popular Christmas song.

Words of the Year 2015

In its annual vote, the American Dialect Society has chosen its Words of the Year:

  • Most Useful was “they”, an animate singular gender–neutral pronoun.
  • Most Creative was “ammosexual”, a gun nut who identifies weaponry with manliness.
  • Most Unnecessary was “manbun”, using a bun as a men’s hairstyle.
  • Most Outrageous was “fuckboy”/”fuckboi”, an objectionably–behaving man.
  • Most Euphemistic was “Netflix and chill”, a sexual advance disguised as a proposal to relax while watching Netflix.
  • Most Likely to Succeed was “Ghost”, to abruptly end a relationship by ceasing all contact.
  • Least Likely to Succeed was “Sitbit”, anything that rewards for not being active.
  • Most Notable Hashtag was “#SayHerName”, used to bring attention to the serious problem of violence against women.
  • Most Notable Emoji was the eggplant, used for sexual implications

And the Word of the Year is the singular they.

Let me take this opportunity for another demonstration of why prescriptivism is bullshit. The example in this is objecting to using “they” as a singular pronoun. The nonsense objections seem to boil down to variations of the following:

  • Singular they violates number agreement. Essentially, if an antecedent is singular, so is its pronoun, and “they” is plural. This includes the singular aspects of distributives. It seems rather strange for number agreement to be so important that it cannot be violated, while at the same time natural gender (or, alternatively, animacy) agreement to be so unimportant that it can be abandoned
  • Singular they, by using plural verbs for singular antecedents confuses people. We use plural verbs in the second person, even when the context makes it clear that singular meaning is intended. Clearly, verbs being ambiguous with respect to number is no barrier to understanding. For example, we get by just fine without number agreement most contexts, such as the past perfective.
  • Singular they is a newfangled construction that is ruining the English language. The singular they is found in Shakespeare and Chaucer, for example. The earliest prescriptive complaints about it appear to date to the nineteenth century. Essentially, then, the singular they is centuries older than the earliest known  complaints about it.

In a companion vote, the ADS’s sibling organization, the American Name Society, chose “Caitlin Jenner” as its Name of the Year.

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