Moundsbar Multilingualism—Metalleus SpecGram Vol CLII, No 3 Contents Morphological Spectroscopy: An Anthropological Linguistic Study of the Wu<sup>h</sup> N<sup>w</sup>ur D<sup>i</sup>anz—Claude Searsplainpockets


A Critical Methodology for Critically Assessing Critical Thinking


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as the art of persuasion, has a long and none-too-honorable history. Silly or stupid ideas, couched in the right language, may swayand in many cases have swayedthe uncritical thinker.

Anti-rhetoric is a method for assessing a listener’s susceptibility to rhetorical suasion. The technique itself is simple, yet powerful. Present two sides of a lopsided argument in a counter-lopsided wayusing the full complement of rhetorical tricks to prop up the untenable position, while burdening the obviously logical position with the antithesis of each rhetorical device used.

For example, as a test for most Americans, let clever copy, delivered by a polished professional speaker, in a posh British accent, argue for an illogical position. On the flip side, barely grammatical prose, spoken by a presenter with stage fright and a tendency to mumble, in a lower-class Boston accent (or, preferably, in a bad imitation of a lower-class Boston accent if possible) should argue for an inescapably correct position.

Consider the following brief “debate”:

Delivered by Judi Dench:

Lords and ladies, gentlemen and gentlewomen, I stand before you to speak out against the on-going tragedy of the loss of case in English. A once-proud tradition of inflectional morphology, handed down to us through the generations, is at risk. Young speakers, naïve and unaware of the damage they inflict on us all, unthinkingly utter such abominations as “Who is it for?”

Staunch defenders, patriots even, in the cause of the English languagefrom Shakespeare the playwright to Wordsworth the poet to Mrs. Henderson the English teacherhave bestowed upon each of us the precious gift of this glorious language.

Do not waste it, and do not let it waste away. Ask not for whom the bell tolls, it tolls for thee.

Thank you.

Delivered by Lou, a seafood delivery guy from Boston (or, if possible, by Dwayne Stilpert, of Minneapolis Minnesota, currently a freshman at the University of Old Franconia, New Amsterdam, who is taking a drama class only to “meet chicks,” in the character of Lou):

Hey! Wise-ass! Uh, like, give it up with that “whom” crap, will ya? The, uh, case system of English, while it ain’t dead yet, it’s in a persistent vegetative state, y’know what I mean? No? Well let me tell you. Its, uh, eyes and all may be open and it, like, flops around from time to time on occasion, but, like, if you look close you can see ain’t nobody home and it ain’t gonna get any better any time soon. The, uh, bards of Beowulf are pretty much begging you to let it die with dignity. Let it go, you friggin’ knucklehead. Just let it go.

And don’t you dare go asking for “whom” the bell tolls, or I’ll shove the bell up your ass for “thou.”

The more astute observers would undoubtedly recognize that Lou’s position, though poorly argued, is the only one with merit, while Dame Judi is simply rehashing tired old common wisdom that, while common, is not all that wise.

I suggest giving this challenge to all students on the first day of Linguistics 101. Those who fall for Dame Judi’s exquisite charms should be discouraged from pursuing a career in linguisticsor at least they should be channeled into documentary linguistics where the damage they can do is minimal.

Butch McBastard  l’École de SpecGram, Istanbul

Moundsbar Multilingualism—Metalleus
Morphological Spectroscopy: An Anthropological Linguistic Study of the Wuh Nwur Dianz—Claude Searsplainpockets
SpecGram Vol CLII, No 3 Contents