Types of bitches

I was just directed to a hilarious post over at 'And I am Not Lying', called 'Types of Bitches', about a list written by third graders at an inner-city Washington DC school, detailing almost 100 types of bitches.

I'm blown away by the ingenuity of whoever wrote this. No way I could come up with that many types of bitches (or most things, for that matter) if I needed to. Clearly, these are kids who are absorbing a ton of language, and remembering it and recombining it at an impressive rate. I think we rarely see written examples of that.

But the real linguistic gem is the blogger's subsequent post, analyzing the comments people (presumably mostly adult, educated people) left on the original post. The blogger and some of the commenters he quotes really seem to get that a language prejudice issue arose out of this.
Stop being so judgemental. Damning her, her values, her upbringing, her likely future is ridiculous. She might be a “reflection of our future” but these are just a few sheets of paper not a manifesto or a clear indicator of a life rife with turmoil.
This is language practice -- a big part of what kids do with words is categorize, recombine -- test it out. It might tell us something about what the author hears a lot, but I don't think it tells us too much else about her. Certainly not that the "kid has issues", as one commenter put it. These are probably really powerful words in this kid's community -- words that let people exclude each other and seem better than each other, for example. What kid wouldn't want to play with that?


The Language of Signs on Slate

Slate is running a really nice series of articles about signage this week.

Road signs are one of the, well, sign systems that got invented usage started, so I'm excited to see them examined in depth.

The first part in the series discusses the guy at left, who dressed up as a Caltrans worker and posted his own interstate sign because he was so fed up with the poor signage.

The second part provides an neat tour and analysis of what can go wrong in a poor sign system. I'm also looking forward to part four, about the informal maps we draw each other. These semiotic systems all fall under the heading of 'wayfinding', which is not just about making nice signs, but rather covers the whole science of how people will use signs to find their way. Wayfinding designers consider common use cases and other possible routes users might take -- a lot of the same steps user interface designers go through when planning a web site.

One of the most interesting things about linguistics and semiotics is the fact that people use language systems almost unconsciously (until the systems fail). That's the starting point of the Slate article ('They're the most useful thing you pay no attention to.'), so I'm already on board.

Thanks to Sonia for sending this over.


Tomorrow is National Grammar Day

Not sure how excited to be about this, but I suppose, if invented usage celebrates any day, it should celebrate National Grammar Day.

It's certainly nice to see that the usage blog community is alive and well -- I found out via twitter about this grammar limerick contest.

I'm entertained enough that I will participate by pretending it's about cognitive grammar, and maybe grammatology, rather than the pedantic lack-of-error grammar and a celebration of cringes. I intend to have a grammartini, at the very least.

(Thanks to Maveric for the tip!)

Update: Unfortunately, his week is also National Procrastination Week, so grammar will have to wait.