Thursday, August 16, 2018

Why General American English Was Codified in Cleveland in the '20s

"Talk American" is an episode of the podcast Code Switch.  In it they note the role of Hiram College professor John S. Kenyon of creating the name, and argument, that the "General American" accent was the accent of Cleveland in that era.

This sparked an idea that I have no way to prove.  Cleveland is an odd part of the Midwest.  It was originally claimed by Massachusetts as its "western reserve" (preserved in the name of Case Western Reserve University), and was long thought to have a more New England feel than Columbus or Cincinnati, Ohio's other big cities.

It makes sense to me that in the 1920s, Boston was long past the time when the evolved accent of the Puritans still dominated ordinary speech.  The mass Irish migrations of the 1840s, in particular, would likely have dramatically changed the speech of "old" New England. 

Cleveland on the other hand, might still have had a Puritan-derived speech among its dominant class, even as the wave of Eastern Europeans was arriving at the bottom of the class structure. 

The claim for the General American accent today is that it is the standard broadcasting language, used by news readers to bring the "news from nowhere" without an identifiable accented location.

Puritan culture has always had a claim to set the standard for American high culture.  It makes sense to me that its linguistic descendant is still the closest thing we have to a standard way of speaking.

Thursday, July 19, 2018

Where the Front Door is Still the Way In

Architect Anthony Alfonsin reveals this interesting development in "An Architect Defends the Suburbs.":

Canvasing of consumers indicated that a living room adjacent to the front door, a holdover of the Victorian parlor, was far less important than having more space in a great room. Without reconfiguring the outline of the building—changing slab designs is costly—the front parlor was transformed into a smaller office or guest bedroom. This design makes sense, as the front door is typically not used for entry these days, but as a marker of domesticity. 

I have been studying what I call "boburbs" - the dense, walkable, mixed-use neighborhoods favored by the bourgeois bohemians - the bobos.  These houses tend to come from an era in which the front porch was a real room, in talking distance of the sidewalk.  The residents walk up to the front door from the sidewalk for a variety of reasons, not just as the path to the car.

I agree with Alfonsin that in many car suburbs, the garage or the side door nearest the driveway is the normal point of entry. But in the boburbs, front doors are still real main entry points.

Tuesday, July 10, 2018

Mormons Will Save the Republican Party. Black Women Will Save the Democratic Party

When the Republican Party can moving beyond the smoking ruin that the Trump presidency will leave, I think it will be the Mormon Never-Trumpers who will rebuild the party on a moral foundation.  The evangelical Protestants who used to be the moral leaders of the party have wasted their authority by backing Trump.  I think we will see a massive falling off of young evangelicals, just as the priest sex scandal has driven away masses of young Catholics.

Black women have been the solid leaders of the resistance to Trump and of articulating a decent alternative.  I believe a record number will get elected this cycle, and many more will step forward as leaders.  Black women will be the most important -- though far from the only -- face of the rainbow party that stands against the White Man's Party now in power.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

The Democratic Party is 6% Gay, But Republicans Think It is Six Times Queerer

The U.S. population is about 3% gay and lesbian.

The Democratic Party is has twice than proportion of gays and lesbians.  This is pretty interesting, and not surprising.

What is surprising is that Republicans think that 38% of Democrats are gay and lesbian. 

Republicans also think Democrats are four times more atheist, and twice as black as they really are.

The area where Democrats are furthest off about Republicans?  They think Republicans are much richer than they really are.

Saturday, June 23, 2018

What People Who Don't Want to Pay for Government Services Are Like.

People who don't want to pay for government services that they do not use are like family members who don't want to buy the baby a crib because they don't sleep in one.

Friday, June 22, 2018

Nature, Structure, Culture: The Logical Order and the Experiential Order

I am working on a model for how to teach sociology based on a balance of nature, structure, and culture.

In reality, all three go together -- they are mutually producing.

In experience, though, we do not come to grasp them all at once.

The logical order is nature - structure - culture.

The experiential order, though, is the reverse.  That is, we come to understand that we do things differently from other groups, which makes us aware of culture.  When we investigate why, we discover that we occupy different positions in the social structure.  When we investigate where those structures come from, we discover the logic of nature.

This forward-and-backwards quality is like what George Herbert Mead says in Mind, Self, Society. Logically, society comes before us, and we develop social selves from learning different social roles.  Only then is it possible for us to step back from each of these roles and develop a reflective, personal mind.  Experientially, though, mind comes first, then self, then we begin to understand society.

Sunday, May 27, 2018

Why Would Centrists Be OK with Authoritarianism?

A disturbing new study by David Adler found that centrists show weak support for democracy.

Even after removing people who said they were centrists because they were politically apathetic, the remainder in the middle position were not sold on democracy as a method of political order in any notable way.

As a centrist, I find this particularly challenging.

I think the commitment to democracy depends on an informed study of the alternatives. Most people have enjoyed the benefits of democracy long enough to have forgotten what it cost, and what we had to beat to get here.  The dark lining of the silver cloud of the worldwide democratic norm is that we have forgotten how bad authoritarianism has proven to be, again and again.

I can think of another factor that might account for the rising appeal of authoritarianism, even among political centrists: growing up with family disorder. Family dysfunction is one of the few bad social indicators that is increasing.  To people who live in chaos, tyranny seems like a step up toward order.  Perhaps people living in societies of political order, but who grew up in families of personal disorder, end up centrists who are OK with authoritarianism.