Gina’s school for climate change deniers

St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls is a private school in Perth1. For girls to attend, they charge $17,786 for Kindergarten and $27,120 for Year 12, with other years being charged amounts in between2, so it is mostly for the upper crust of Western Australian society.

St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls had the good fortune (at least financially) of having Gina Rinehart (then Gina Hancock) as a student, and sometime boarder. As a consequence, she was invited to give a speech at the 125th anniversary of the school earlier this year. While the delivery of a speech doesn’t necessarily translate effectively to printed text, some of the best speeches do. If you read speeches by Lincoln3, or Churchill4, you will see what I mean. To hear them must have been an exceptional experience, and to read their speeches is equally awe-inspiring, probably mostly because we understand the history behind them.

While one would not necessarily expect Rinehart to be able to deliver speeches of this calibre, a video of her speech and its text are both available online5.

To be blunt, the transcript of Rinehart’s speech is poorly written and poorly punctuated and in places is indecipherable. She starts off with detailing her family’s association with the school. Her mother and aunt attended the school, as she and her daughters did. However, after that, the speech starts to turn very weird. Rinehart states “I’m grateful that I had a real education, not one based on propaganda, but facts, and rationale [sic].”5 Presumably she meant rationality, as the word ‘rationale’, as almost everyone knows, refers to a reasoning for a course of action, a practice or belief6, and is not a word to use in this context6.

Rinehart goes on: “I continue to believe that facts and rationale should provide the basis for education, it concerns me greatly that the current generation of school leavers and attendees, too often miss such important basics, as too often propaganda erodes these critical foundations.” She then suggests that parents, guardians or grandparents should interrogate the children as to what they are learning, to counter any propaganda5. Gee, I wonder what she could mean. She explains that she had “heard that senior school students in a previous headmistresses [sic] time, were having to watch sometimes 4 times over for their various classes, even English lit, the ex-Democrat [sic] Vice President Al Gore film, ‘An Inconvenient Truth’ catchy title, but sadly short on delivery as far as truth is concerned.”5. It is ironic Rinehart refers to ‘English’ in this sentence, when this segment of the speech is so illiterate. She is unable to distinguish between the plural ‘headmistresses’ and the possessive ‘headmistress’’ [you leave off the last s, when the possessor noun ends in s]. In addition, Al Gore, is not an ex-Democrat. He is still a Democrat, but is an ex-Vice President. It is instances like this which make this speech so hard to read without the occasional eye-roll or guffaw.

Rinehart comes out with the old climate change denying trope of ‘polar bear numbers have increased’. This is based on a Russian extrapolation which scientists did not accept at the time. This trope is one of those which has been used by the idiotic Craig Kelly in his unhinged rants about climate change7. She then referred to the ‘hockey stick graph’ of Gore’s and referred to it as “even a graph that looked like a hockey stick, part going backwards!”5  What this means is anybody’s guess.

To counter the supposed propaganda of Gore, Rinehart hilariously brought “Lord Monckton and Professor Ian Plimer to address senior students and hopefully take away some of the emotional fear that was being spread around by such film and speeches”. Guffaw! Monckton is a hereditary peer and is prone to misrepresenting the scientists whose work he cites. His assertions have been debunked numerous times and in various fora8, 9. Monckton mostly lies. Difficult as Monckton’s drivel is to believe, Plimer is even more bizarre in some of the assertions he makes10.

After this, Rinehart asks the students to “do their own independent research”. This has become the mantra at which most normal people laugh when they hear it from climate change deniers, antivaccination activists and all the crazy QAnon conspiracy theorists. She also asks the students to ask their teachers “which comes first, global warming or an increase in carbon”[sic]5. This is yet another old denialist trope that global warming happened before the increase in carbon dioxide in the atmosphere. Of course, it is a lie too11. The answer to this question “should help to point to four independent facts, which all come to the same conclusion, independently, including, what has been found in the geological record of ice, ocean floors, and separately chemistry principles.”5  This is so poorly written it is difficult to know what she is trying to say.

Then comes an absolute doozy. She states that it is not easy to find facts these days “when the government supports grants towards one side of the argument, making it less beneficial to consider the natural influences on our climate, distance from the sun as the earth orbits, which we should know influences summers and winters, volcanoes, including the many that erupt under the ocean, and other scientific facts that I had the benefit of learning while I was at school, indeed, that the earth lived thru [sic] many ice ages and global warming’s [sic], pre man even being on this planet.”5

I don’t actually know anyone who believes that the seasons are caused by variations in the distance of the earth from the sun; I have never met anyone that ignorant. The senior science students and teachers must have been wetting themselves trying not to laugh out loud at this drivel. The reference to volcanoes seems to be to intimate that they are a major source of carbon dioxide. This is also another denialist trope, and of course, it too is a lie. Volcanoes emit less than 1% of the amount of carbon dioxide emitted by burning fossil fuel, cement manufacture and land use changes12.

Perhaps less laughable, but more insidious, is Rinehart accusing others of the crimes she commits in saying to the students: “Please be very careful about information spread on emotional basis, or tied to money, or egos, or power-seekers, and always search for the facts”5. For it is people like her who would rather protect their huge income than the futures of children like those she was addressing.

After all this climate change denying, Rinehart then launches into a mishmash on women pioneers and lists Marie Curie, stating that she used the “tried and true scientific approach”, in a snide suggestion that climate scientists don’t. I was not surprised that she didn’t mention another pioneering woman scientist, Eunice Foote, who used the scientific method to determine the physics of the greenhouse effect, all the way back in 185613.

Bizarrely, Rinehart than mentions the Special Air Service (SAS) and whines about the “dangerous media endeavouring to undermine our finest”. Members of the SAS are currently the subject of enquiries regarding war crimes allegedly perpetrated in Afghanistan. The media have only been reporting on the enquiry14. The stupidity of Rinehart in blaming the messenger is astonishing if not unexpected.

Another touch of irony in the tail of this speech is Rinehart’s series of quotes from former UK prime minister Margaret Thatcher. I have another quote from Thatcher which Rinehart unsurprisingly did not include. It was a in a speech delivered to the United Nations General Assembly in November 1989. In that, Thatcher stated: “What we are now doing to the world, by degrading the land surfaces, by polluting the waters and by adding greenhouse gases to the air at an unprecedented rate—all this is new in the experience of the earth. It is mankind and his activities which are changing the environment of our planet in damaging and dangerous ways. … We are seeing a vast increase in the amount of carbon dioxide reaching the atmosphere. The annual increase is three billion tonnes: and half the carbon emitted since the Industrial Revolution still remains in the atmosphere. At the same time as this is happening, we are seeing the destruction on a vast scale of tropical forests which are uniquely able to remove carbon dioxide from the air”. … The result is that change in future is likely to be more fundamental and more widespread than anything we have known hitherto. Change to the sea around us, change to the atmosphere above, leading in turn to change in the world’s climate, which could alter the way we live in the most fundamental way of all.”15

It would be interesting to see what Rinehart thinks of the Murdoch backflip regarding climate change, unless of course, she knows it is all about getting Morrison re-elected16. The poor grammar in Rinehart’s speech makes one hope that St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls has improved its teaching of English since Rinehart finished her tenure at the school. Similarly, the lack of understanding of even the simplest science demonstrated by this speech makes you hope that St Hilda’s has also improved its teaching of Science since Rinehart left. Being a Christian church school one would have thought that inviting someone to give a speech which is replete with lies would be seen to be a mistake. One can only hope that is the case. If it is, I doubt they will invite her back.

Sources

  1. https://www.sthildas.wa.edu.au/about/
  2. https://www.sthildas.wa.edu.au/wp-content/uploads/2021/06/Schedule-of-Fees-2021_A5.pdf
  3. https://blotreport.com/2017/01/08/lincoln-vs-trump/
  4. https://www.historyextra.com/period/second-world-war/churchills-greatest-speeches/
  5. https://www.ginarinehart.com.au/speech-by-mrs-gina-rinehart-celebrating-125-years-of-st-hildas-anglican-school-for-girls/
  6. https://www.collinsdictionary.com/dictionary/english/rationale
  7. https://blotreport.com/2019/09/26/more-craig-kelly-stupidity/
  8. https://skepticalscience.com/docs/Monckton_vs_Scientists.pdf
  9. https://skepticalscience.com/Monckton_Myths_arg.htm
  10. https://blotreport.com/2019/11/25/plimers-lies/
  11. https://skepticalscience.com/co2-lags-temperature.htm
  12. https://blotreport.com/2017/10/12/deniers-and-volcanoes/
  13. https://theconversation.com/scientists-understood-physics-of-climate-change-in-the-1800s-thanks-to-a-woman-named-eunice-foote-164687
  14. https://www.abc.net.au/news/2020-11-19/afghanistan-war-crimes-report-igadf-paul-brereton-released/12896234
  15. https://www.margaretthatcher.org/document/107817
  16. https://blotreport.com/2021/10/14/climate-backflip/

22 Comments

  • Mark Dougall says:

    She isn’t a good advertisement for the school. In any way.

    • admin says:

      Mark,
      It is an extraordinary speech: mangled English to the extent that she’d be very lucky to get a passing grade in junior high school; and no understanding of basic science at a level that most people learn in junior high school. I bet they don’t invite her back. I expect there were some smart girls there who were into science; they would be shaking their heads in disbelief.

  • admin says:

    Another one from Arthur, who still cannot access the website:
    You may recall that my academic background is in the field of Linguistics. I therefore refer you to Muphry’s Law: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Muphry%27s_law. Please note the misspelling of Murphy. It’s deliberate, and ironic.

    The main takeaway from this Wikipedia article is that one should exercise extreme care when criticising anyone else’s grammar, punctuation, literacy, fluency, spelling, pronunciation, proofreading, or other linguistic issues, because in any such critique, any deviation from linguistic perfection on your part will at best reduce its effectiveness and at worst make you look careless or silly.

    To wit:

    “they charge $17,786 for Kindergarten and $27,120 for Year 12, with other years being in between”. A pedant might suggest that the other years (1 to 11) are obviously in between, but that your real meaning is that what is in between is not the years, but the fees for those years.

    “While the delivery of a speech doesn’t necessarily translate effectively to printed text, the best speeches do.” This statement effectively excludes many excellent speeches from your undefined category “the best”. Many are the speeches whose appeal relies on factors which cannot possibly be captured in a transcript: historical context, location, audience, timing, strategic pauses, body language, facial expression, emotion, word and phrase emphasis, syllable stress patterns, paralinguistics, gesture, intonation, pronunciation, use of catchphrases well known to the audience and relevant to the topic. The list is long, varied, and almost endless. A speech is by definition a collection of words and thoughts and concepts which are SPOKEN. Many of “the best speeches” simply do not “translate” [sic] effectively to printed text – you have to see and hear them to understand their full effect in context.

    “To be blunt, Rinehart’s speech is poorly written and poorly punctuated”. On the subject of punctuation, it’s unclear whether you’re referring to the spoken version, in which case punctuation is a matter of interpretation, which will vary from one transcriber to another, or the written version, in which case one must always allow for the fact that text punctuation very frequently fails to reflect the actual delivery and intent of a speech.

    “Shestarts off with detailing her family’s association with the school”. Here’s where Muphry’s Law cuts in. A space between “She” and “starts” would be good. Yep, it’s a small point, but when you’re pointing to others’ grammatical and punctuation failures, you can see how your own might attract finger-pointing.

    “It is ironic Rinehart refers to English ‘lit’ in this sentence, when this segment of the speech is so illiterate.” Her reference ’lit’ in this context is very obviously to the word “literature” and not to literacy.

    “She is unable to determine the distinguish between the plural ‘headmistresses’ and the possessive ‘headmistress’’. Sorry, John, but “unable to determine the distinguish between” is an obvious error, which could have been eliminated by proofreading. I suggest “distinction” instead of “distinguish”. If you’re criticising others’ literacy, this is precisely the kind of error you need to avoid.

    “[you leave off the last s, when the possessor noun ends in s]”. Actually, John, it’s not as simple as that. The rule regarding the possessive apostrophe for nouns ending in s is not entirely clear in English, as this excellent webpage suggests: https://oneminuteenglish.org/en/possessive-nouns-ending-in-s/ As someone whose surname ends in s, I’ve been dealing with this for a while, but I think “C*****s’s” (with an extra pronounced syllable) is preferable to “C*****s’ “. As for “headmistresses” (plural) and its possessive form, I’m sure you can work out where I stand on that.

    “the ex-Democrat Vice President Al Gore film”. Now here’s a complex noun phrase which needs discussion. It has eight elements, but it’s very clear that the focus noun is “film”. The main thing she’s drawing attention to is not the political party the Democrats, not the former vice-presidential rank of the guy, not even the guy himself Al Gore, but THE FILM. So I would take this as a composite noun phrase in which the “ex” component refers not to his political party adherence but to his former vice-presidential rank. Internal references between elements of a long complex noun phrase are always debatable, and this one is no exception, but your interpretation of “ex” referring to “Democrat” is shaky at best. I suggest that the “ex” could well have been intended to refer to the whole adjectival phrase “Democrat Vice President”, and that your criticism of it is not all that justifiable.

    “This trope is one of those which has been used by the idiotic Craig Kelly is [sic] his unhinged rants about climate change”. A typo. Typos, unproofread, inevitably reduce credibility in pieces accusing others of grammatical imperfection. Replace “is” with “in”.

    “To counter the supposed propaganda of Gore’s”. The apostrophe and possessive s here are unnecessary and, strictly speaking, superfluous.

    “Monckton is an hereditary peer”. The variant “an” of the indefinite article “a” is correct only before a noun which begins with a vowel sound. (Note: vowel SOUND, not vowel letter.). “Hereditary” begins with the pronounced vowel sound “h”. The variant “an” is appropriate before nouns and adjectives where the initial “h” is silent, such as “honour”, “honest”, “hour”, “heir”. When people begin to say “an horse” and “an house”, be sure to let me know.

    “Plimer is even more bizarre in some of assertions he makes”. I think you’re missing a definite article here.

    “that the earth lived thru [sic] many ice ages”. Yes, I know. “Thru”. Ok, it’s not standard English. But is it really so incomprehensible that you need to insert “[sic]”? Did you really misunderstand this? I really don’t think you did. Let it go, and maybe concentrate on the substance of the article. Your highlighting of this minor alternative spelling distracts from your justifiable points about Reinhart’s speech.

    “makes one hope that St Hilda’s Anglican School for Girls have improved their teaching of English”. School is singular. So this should read “makes one hope that St Hilda’s School for Girls HAS improved ITS teaching of English”.

    John, I really hope you take this in the spirit in which it is intended. In the comments above, I’ve been just about as pedantic as I could possibly be, as a linguist, grammarian and phonetician. And I wouldn’t always do that, except that in this case, I think that your highlighting of Reinhart’s linguistic shortcomings actually distracts from your very valid points about her political, ideological and climatological failings.

    My advice would be to stick to what you’re demonstrably good at, which is political and scientific criticism, and leave the linguistics to linguists. If your writing then contains a few minor errors in grammar, spelling, punctuation or whatever, as everyone’s does (including mine), hardly anyone will notice, and probably nobody will care. Their main focus will then not be distracted from your excellent political and scientific commentary.

    • admin says:

      Arthur,
      As a former editor of a journal, I appreciate such feedback, and most of the instances you note have now been corrected or modified. There are a couple of your points with which I disagree, because they go against my own idiosyncrasies rather than anything else. In my defence, I finally completed writing the draft last night at about 1:30am, and obviously my proof reading this morning was a bit lax (I hadn’t had my second coffee).

  • clive pegler says:

    an ‘orse, an ‘orse, my *insert object of choice here* for an ‘orse 😛

  • Russell says:

    Well well, Isnt (sic) arthur (sic) a stickeller (sic) for corectness (sic) in ones’ using (sic) of English??! Actually, truth to tell, in point of fact, to be precise, my very own eagle eye also noted most of the less than especially egregious errors which Arthur (e)spied, and which then, in what can only be described as an appallingly pompous fit of academic pique, or a literacy purist’s self-serving show of supercilious sanctimony, tossed back in the very face of the hapless author of what was otherwise a fine and sincere critique of Ms Ginbottle Rhinestone’s abysmally incoherent act of sordid “speechifying” (sic).
    I jest merely of course, Arthur. You must be one of the few surviving people in the English-speaking world (or as one might put it,”Anglosphere”), who is so fulsomely, indeed handsomely, acquainted with every single aspect of English grammatical structure and with proper or, at least appropriate, modes of expression. It is shocking, in my humble view, to witness (and moreso to be forced to endure) in the current ghastly age, how the English language is increasingly mangled, tortured, ill-employed, degraded and debased. The detailed knowledge of syntax has suffered grievously at the hands of Departments of Education which no longer truly regard the subject as of great need for their students. During my own time (not “tenure”) at primary school. In the 1960s, as I recall, young students had correct English usage and sentence structure dinned into our brains by teachers who believed it their duty to inculcate excellent literacy to the utmost of their ability. I thank those dedicated, if also rather imperiously demanding teachers, but in another sense I hold them culpable for my present suffering. By that I mean the mental suffering I must undergo every day as I hear stark grammatical errors leap from the television screen, and poor forms of English usage continually emitted by folk whom one would expect to have reached a fairly high level of both written and spoken capability. For those of us who still read books, who love good, intelligent conversation, who cherish the language in all its historic and cultural richness, the present time must, of necessity, appear one of linguistic barbarism and a near-catastrophic decline of standards. What now reigns supreme over once-elegant English usage? I affirm here, that the slogan, the empty mantra, the untutored and clumsy phrase, the ten-second sound bite, and all their horrid ilk, are today usurping what was once a noble, a beautiful thing; clear, correct communication in English. Oh! Oh for a Richard Hoggart or a new Frank Leavis or a reborn Doctor Johnson to blast from the face of Australia all the execrably endless messing up and mauling of the language that Arthur so dearly appreciates – and with him, I……(or is it “me”?)

    • admin says:

      Russell,
      Despite Arthur’s flaying of my writing, I too get the hump with the poor English and spelling which you commonly see these days. I am particularly annoyed by those who create memes, with an image with text over the top of it. Almost invariably there is a problem with the punctuation or the spelling of that text. I have also seen it in the ticker at the bottom of the screen on the ABC news. One recent one was referring to assorted states having ‘closed boarders’. It may have been typed by the work experience kid. One thing which I have noticed is that people from the right of the political spectrum tend to be worse at compiling sensible English sentences. It may be that John Stuart Mill was correct in his assertion that “Conservatives are not necessarily stupid, but most stupid people are conservatives”. And the stupid people who are conservatives believe what the smart conservatives tell them, and keep voting for them, despite that being against their best interests. That is one thing that got me about Ms Ginbottle Rhinestone (I laughed out loud at that one) when she was accusing those concerned about the planet doing it for money, when that is precisely why she is a denier. Accusing others of the crimes you commit.

    • Arthur Baker says:

      Russell, I’m struggling to decide whether your extraordinarily vituperative double-barrelled diatribe (“appallingly pompous fit of academic pique”, “literacy purist’s self-serving show of supercilious sanctimony”), quickly followed by your seemingly sincere denial that it was anything other than a well-meaning humourist’s jolly little jape, is an example of rhetorical paralipsis, praeteritio, or apophasis. It seems to be of a kind with the rhetorical strategy often adopted by politicians, whereby they declare they “won’t mention” some character fault or alleged transgression of their opponent, but go right ahead and mention it anyway, so that their audience is left in no doubt as to the accusation, and the speaker cannot be accused of slander or libel. Perhaps you would be so kind as to assist me in this matter.

      Also, I wonder if you could clarify which of the two (regrettably mutually inconsistent) meanings of “fulsomely” you intended to convey. If you are the language traditionalist you seem to be, I would have expected your meaning to be “in an offensive, overdone, or disgustingly exaggerated manner”, which was the unambiguous meaning of the word during my schooldays in the early 1960s. This would arguably present a diametrically opposite meaning to your subsequent adverb, “handsomely”, which was obviously intended as an intensifier to its predecessor.

      So I suggest that you may have, perhaps unwittingly, adopted the newer meaning of the word, which was perhaps generated, across several decades, by the very linguistic ignorance you deplore: “fully, handsomely”. Words, eh? You just can’t trust ’em to stay as they were in the Good Old Days when every word had its proper meaning and you knew where you stood. Language used to be such a reliable thing, a tarmac path across the shifting sands of meaning. But these days, the way those uneducated youngsters talk, you never know, when you use a word, whether it’s retained its PROPER meaning or not. Take “gay” and “partner” and “gender” and “awesome” and “Yugoslavia” and … oh dear, one has to be so careful now, it’s Political Correctness Gone Mad.

      I jest merely of course. Russell, my entire point was that the minute you start criticising others’ use of language, you can just about guarantee you’ll make errors yourself, and other people will notice. And it’s such a waste of time. The vast majority of the formal errors people make in speech or writing DO NOT result in misunderstanding. That’s the main guideline I stick by: was the statement or question, or whatever it was, unambiguously comprehensible? If no, then question it. If yes, let it go and get on with your life. At my age (73) I’ve got a lot more important things to do than be a language pedant.

      • admin says:

        Arthur,
        There are errors that everyone makes. I even had to make two corrections to the spelling of your post (it’s pathological; I was an editor). Such instances are just typographical errors and they do not alter the meaning of what you are trying to say. In some of Gina’s drivel, the meaning was completely indecipherable. That stems from ignorance, and a lack of appreciation of that ignorance. It is always wise to realise what you don’t know.

        • Arthur Baker says:

          “It is always wise to realise what you don’t know.”

          Precisely why I rarely reply to your excellent articles dealing with the details of scientific matters. If one hasn’t undertaken advanced study of a particular scientific field, it should be very obvious that one is unqualified to comment on it, although that doesn’t prevent some ignorant parliamentary bloviators, Craig Kelly and Manila Christensen I’m looking at you, from publicly sharing every dumb-arse thought that pops into their head on any topic whatsoever.

          But linguistics is a science too. And, for better or worse, it occupies a position in the public consciousness which is quite different from that of, for example, palaeontology, nuclear physics, and aircraft design. Linguistics is the field of study concerned with language, which is absolutely THE most useful tool in humanity’s toolbox, and the most important invention in the entire history of the human species.

          If you disagree with this claim, find me a more useful or important one, bearing in mind that language is the enabling tool for just about everything human beings do. As I pointed out in a letter to the Sydney Morning Herald not so long ago (and no other published correspondent subsequently disagreed), without language, neither mathematics nor engineering nor philosophy nor anything else would ever have got very far off the ground, for lack of a means to discuss any idea in detail.

          So just about every human being uses language every day, unlike palaeontology, nuclear physics and aircraft design. So, perhaps inevitably, everyone believes they’re a language expert. And to some extent that belief is justified, because only the most unfortunate few aren’t able to master their own native tongue(s), and many people master several others.

          But regarding oneself as an expert in language and linguistics, on the basis that one knows what a preposition is and how to punctuate properly, is arguably akin to believing one is an expert palaeontologist because “we did dinosaurs at shcool”, or a nuclear physics expert because “I watched that Chernobyl documentary”, or … … well, let’s not labour the point.

          Because everyone does language, uses language, talks or writes every day, communicates all over the place, people lose sight of the fact that there’s a world of further study out there in uni linguistics departments, a vast array of books, theses, and articles on the subject, and new ideas and insights flying around all the time. And NO, I really DON’T consider myself to be expertly across all of it. Who in their wildest dreams ever could? The professor of linguistics at the uni where I studied it, one of the most erudite men it has ever been my privilege to meet, was always ready to admit that the field was so vast and so quickly changing that no-one, even he, could possibly encompass and comprehend it all. Which was why he brought in so many dazzling specialising intellects into his department and made my time of study also a time of wonder, and yes, deep humility.

          And my point is again worth repeating: when a self-appointed armchair language/linguistics “expert” begins to opine vociferously on others’ use of language, (a) it is almost inevitable that their criticism will itself include formal errors of the very kind they are criticising; (b) those errors will easily be discerned by linguists for what they are, and (c) those errors, and others’ errors, don’t really matter in the greater scheme of things because they so rarely interfere with effective communication – people largely tend to suss out other people’s meaning even if the delivery is imperfect, because errors in real-time language production are so darn common. It’s just what we do, all the time.

          • admin says:

            Arthur,
            Jeez, you seem to have taken this very much to heart and it is something I find difficult to understand. In addition, you seem to conflate language with linguistics. We all use language. If we didn’t, we’d probably still be wandering around the savannah not thinking about linguistics, mathematics, palaeontology or nuclear physics, but where lunch was coming from. However, very few people are concerned with linguistics, just like very few people are concerned with palaeontology. I know very little about linguistics, but I know a fair bit about language, to the extent that I can determine what is meaningful or what doesn’t make sense; which is why I was asked to edit a scientific journal, and did so for 20 years. Journal editors don’t tend to hang around long if they are not up to par.
            Perhaps a decent analogy could be in mathematics. I use arithmetic all the time and I know what the square root of 25 is and what the cube root of 27 is, and if anyone makes a mistake I will point it out to them. This does not make me a mathematician, and I don’t pretend to be. Indeed, selecting this analogy reminds me of an instance in May, where I made an arithmetical error in one of my rants, and you pointed it out to me and I corrected it. At the time, I thanked you for pointing it out. I did not assume from that instance that you professed to be a mathematician, just that I made a mistake nor would I have expected a mathematician to harangue you for pretending you knew about mathematics. Your assertion that I should not question anyone’s use of language would have made my twenty years as an editor rather problematic. That is part of what editors do; point out errors in language. I know quite a few editors in my game and none of them are linguists and are much better than I ever was. Others’ errors are worth pointing out as you clearly realised when you corrected my arithmetic.

  • Russell says:

    Gina, Empress of Iron, is probably one of the meanest, most backward thinking, poorly spoken and unutterably dull billionaires one could meet. And that is truly a condemnation of Gina, because in my view, billionaires as a class are aggressive, crude, narcissistic, over-entitled oddballs at the best of times. Witness bland Jeff Bezos and smartypants Mark Zuckerberg, to name only two of these very strange people with a need to amass excessive wealth and to suck up attention from the mass media.

    Just to add to the comments you made about those annoying banners that flow across our TV screens constantly, the number of spelling errors I see daily shocks me. I presume some of the computer programs that generate those running news banners are better than others, but it is amazing that for every twenty words done correctly, there will always be one howler – i.e. a stupid spelling error. And yet, quite often one just has to laugh quietly because the mistakes are actually redolent of a school kid who has little ability at English- one who sees red pen marks by the dozen across his or her class compositions and spelling tests.
    To make matters worse, I often turn on the subtitles for films I watch, as I have a hearing deficit; and while most films have reasonably good subtitles others show multiple mistakes in English. I almost feel guilty telling about my aggravation, because it’s probably true to say many younger people than me think that these folk who obsess over correct usage of English, are simply out-of-date pedants or even neurotics. That dismissive reaction is a sad commentary on literacy in western society in the present period. Whatever the case, I think the English language is (in some key aspects) in a perilous decline where careful and capable usage are concerned. One only has to keep one’s eyes and ears alert to know this.

    • admin says:

      Russell,
      Remembering how I was taught English and comparing that to the way my kids were taught, demonstrated to me that the two methods were completely different. I was taught how to structure sentences and learnt what adjectives, adverbs, gerunds, etc., were. My kids were seemingly supposed to pick it up by osmosis. I hope they don’t teach aircraft engineering that way. Some subtitles are apparently generated by software in real time, and there was one hilarious instance recently, where the speaker used the word ‘Canberrans’ for the denizens of the national capital, and the subtitle came out as ‘Ken Behrens’. As a consequence, a few people, presumably all from Canberra, have changed their online handles to include either both names or only ‘Behrens’. While everyone makes mistakes (especially when typing with their fists), some English from RWNJs is so poor, it is not possible to understand what the hell they are trying to say. Some of these people belong to the same groups who seem to believe they know more than epidemiologists about Covid-19, and more than climatologists about global warming.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        “I was taught how to structure sentences and learnt what adjectives, adverbs, gerunds, etc., were.”

        Congratulations. If your school lessons in traditional grammar were even half as tedious as the ones I endured, I congratulate you on staying awake throughout them.

        Millions of people, perhaps the majority of the world’s population, can’t tell you what part of speech any particular word is, and many of them never know what the phrase “part of speech” even means. Nor do they care. That doesn’t prevent them from using language very effectively every day to convey meaning to others and understand the speech and writing of others. Knowledge of grammatical categories isn’t a prerequisite for functional everyday literacy. Isn’t language marvellous? It’s inclusive of just about everyone who has a functioning brain. The proof of this is that three-year-olds can put simple but grammatically correct and meaningful sentences together, years before anyone teaches them about adjectives and adverbs and gerunds. When you wrote that sentence, did you even think about what grammatical category each of its 15 words belonged to? I very much doubt it. I’m betting you just typed it out, proofread it to make sure it intuitively made sense, then hit the “submit” button. As we all do.

        I’m not trying to trivialise your erudition. I’m just pointing out that it’s icing, not cake. The cake, you need. The icing is nice, but not strictly necessary. It may also surprise you that the traditional grammatical categories are no longer used in the “Systemic Functional Grammar” now taught in many university linguistics departments throughout the world. In that discipline, sentences, clauses, phrases, words and morphemes are classified in terms of their function rather than their form – by what they DO in context, rather than their traditional dictionary categorisation. Linguistics has moved on from what we learned in school, and from Chomsky’s transformational-generative grammar. All fields of knowledge move on, as I’m sure yours has.

        None of which makes the slightest difference to speakers and writers, most of whom are adequately (and sometimes impressively) skilled in communicating with their fellow humans, without bothering their heads about what a gerund is.

        • admin says:

          Arthur,
          I actually liked those lessons, just like enjoyed geology, physics and chemistry. I even enjoyed analysing Shakespeare’s plays. It was a matter of understanding how things are constructed. I suspect it is because of the way I think, and probably why I became a scientist. My old man was a bit the same way. He always wanted to know why things were as they were. I use lots of physical and statistical techniques in my research and I could quite easily use them without knowing why they work. I imagine there are some people who use them without knowing why. However, I am not one of them. As you intimate, all fields have advanced since my schooldays and I have not followed the advances in linguistics in recent years, although some decades ago I did read some of Chomsky’s stuff. It was interesting stuff, but there are just not enough hours in a life to chase every interesting avenue one bumps into. In my professional life, I have to read stuff from all over the place just to keep up with developments and have been fortunate to be part of some of those advances. As you say, there is no chance that I analysed the parts of speech of the rants I post. That is because the ‘rules’ are ingrained. I tend to leave them for day or so between completion and proof-reading, so that I do not read what I expect to read rather than what is actually there. I will still hammer people for their poor English, and expect people to tell me where I have transgressed.

          • Arthur Baker says:

            “I will still hammer people for their poor English”

            Please don’t. Please stop it. It’s pointless, because mostly they’re not going to read your hammering, and even in the rare cases that they do, they’re not going to accept your criticisms anyway. They’re simply going to regard it as, for example, “an appallingly pompous fit of academic pique, or a literacy purist’s self-serving show of supercilious sanctimony”. I read that somewhere, don’t know where, don’t know when, but I know I’ll meet it again some sunny day.

            And it’s not going to change their opinion that they’re the world expert on what is correct English because they learned grammar and punctuation back in those halcyon days when every kid learned to talk and write proper and ain’t nobody gonna teach them any of these new-fangle-dangle wokie ways of speaking and writing.

            As I’ve said before, I recommend maintaining your focus on scientific and logical analysis of verifiable facts, which you are demonstrably good at.

            “and expect people to tell me where I have transgressed”

            I don’t think I’ll be bothering to do that in this forum any more. Others are welcome to have a bash.

          • admin says:

            Arthur,
            If it is pointless to point out others’ errors, then editors would have nothing to do, and I would have ignored any corrections that you, my partner, and several other people have pointed out to me. I read their criticisms and reacted accordingly by correcting where I needed to. I have no illusions that the idiotic Gina Rinehart would ever read something I wrote, but there are colleagues and others who keep asking me to review their written work, and I continue to do so.

      • Arthur Baker says:

        “those annoying banners that flow across our TV screens constantly, the number of spelling errors I see daily shocks me”

        “Some subtitles are apparently generated by software in real time, and there was one hilarious instance recently”

        I have two comments on this. Firstly on the ones which are written by humans. Have you considered that these banners have to be written very quickly to be relevant to the display on screen, and that in recent years, all traditional journalistic organisations have struggled to remain afloat owing to the proliferation of online competition for news space? And that one of the main ways these organisations have tried to deal with this is to reduce staff numbers? I encountered this in the IT business in the 1990s and 2000s – over and over again, there would be expense-saving staff culls (“downsizing, rightsizing”), and the result was that the remaining staff had to absorb the work of those who got the sack. We solved that by putting in extra (usually unpaid) hours, for fear of getting the sack ourselves.

        But in a job where stuff has to be produced in real time, the result is even worse. They have to do more work, more quickly. With less time to proofread, under pressure to get it up on screen, NOW. Inevitable result – less time for error checking, more egregious errors on screen. Try reducing the time you spend on writing emails by 50%, then check through your work later and see how you’ve fared. You’ll be shocked, I guarantee.

        Combine this with the consistent attack by our current government on ABC and SBS (because they sometimes have the audacity to screen opinions which disagree with Liberal/National orthodoxy), and this exacerbates the situation. Budget cuts lead to inevitable downsizing, which makes the corner-cutting worse. That’s why you’re seeing more misspelled banners across the foot of your TV screen.

        Secondly, software-produced subtitles. As a linguist and phonetician, I worked in the field of telephonic speech recognition as a speech database manager in the mid-1990s. Fortunately, the recognition engine we were creating only needed to consider a limited vocabulary of about 30 words and phrases, but the problem was nevertheless tremendously complex, and we struggled to achieve the required 98% accuracy for commercial viability of our software product.

        In the intervening quarter of a century, this technology has of course moved forward in leaps and bounds, but now has to deal with ANY words of English, spoken in rapid colloquial and idiomatic speech by ANYONE, male or female or child, educated or broad-accent-speaker, with ANY accent including some from outside Australia including non-native speakers of English, and with the usual frequency of dysfluencies, hesitations, umms and ahhs, that occur in everyday speech. And it has to deliver a result in text format WITHIN ABOUT THREE SECONDS, knowing that every error is going to generate mocking comments from people who have little or no knowledge of linguistics in general or phonetics in particular, and that some of the inevitable egregious errors will be the subject of ignorant ridicule in the media all over the place.

        Mate. Maaaate. Can you really appreciate the complexity of this task, and the progress that has been made in recent years? Text-To-Speech (TTS) algorithms are complex. My visually impaired friend has a superb OCR device which reads his incoming emails and texts and most website text to him in beautifully-fluent English, changing his life for the better. But the wonderful algorithm which does that is not remotely as complex as real-time Speech-To-Text (STT)

        Even when I was a speech database manager, that required immense attention to detail, constant scrutiny to minimise errors, linguistic complexity beyond description. With the general STT algorithms they’re working with today, that complexity has increased by several degrees of magnitude, to the extent that I can hardly contemplate working in that field.

        Might I suggest that an appropriate response to the computer-generated Speech-To-Text you see on your TV screen should not be mockery of the inevitable errors that will occur (“Ken Behrens” etc), but instead, deep respect for the progress made by highly skilled linguists, systems analysts and programmers in this field, and for the demonstrable life-benefits this software already provides for the deaf and hearing-impaired community?

        It’s not perfect. We all know that. And yes, some of the errors it makes can be comical. Yep. Ha ha ha. I laugh along too. But I also appreciate the decades of research effort and entrepreneurial investment which has gone into this field, and which continues to refine one of the most difficult algorithms in the field of computing.

        This technology’s shortcomings have nothing at al to do with illiteracy or linguistic ignorance. Rather, its remarkable accomplishments owe an inestimable debt to linguistic and IT expertise and effort. A bit of respect for others’ technical and intellectual expertise wouldn’t go amiss.

        • admin says:

          Arthur,
          Yes, I am sure the tickers are typed very quickly and people do make mistakes. However, they are often not relevant to the display on screen. They are quite often completely divorced from it. And yes, I have considered what commercial pressures television news is under and how they have cut staff. This is because their free-to-air business model is likely in terminal decline. It is not only that caper who has been through staff cuts. I don’t know anyone who hasn’t been through staff cuts. Where I worked, it made it necessary for me (the only one in my game left in the organisation) to be involved in about 5 or 6 projects at a time. It was a pain, but most people coped, possibly less than optimally.
          I am sorry if my relating the Ken Behrens instance has upset your applecart. In turning speech into text, I cannot begin to imagine how difficult it must be to take account of all the differences in people’s speech patterns, accents and suchlike. Indeed, an acquaintance of mine is involved in research in that field and like most fields of science or lingusitics or anything else, it is an extraordinarily deep field of expertise. However, that does not alter the fact that ‘Ken Behrens’ was funny, as were people’s responses to it.

  • Mark Dougall says:

    Well guys, I actually couldn’t give a toss about Rinehart’s grammar, or that of any other mindless, but powerful, man made disaster denying, and generally enabling, knobhead. It is the idiotic dangerous content that is the problem, and the fact that they are given a platform, and have the power, to influence a lot of people. Many totally illiterate people can see what is happening to this planet. Literacy is not needed to be able to see things clearly, and often very well written, and spoken, people use their communication skills to help obscure the truth. Great speeches are not the measure of truth. In fact great speeches, and great orators, are often very dangerous.

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.

Bitnami