Sunday, July 21, 2013

The Frickin' Interjective

This is completely off-topic for this blog. I mean, not even close. So bear with me, and if you have any friends whom you think it may interest, feel free to pass it along.

As those who know me slowly get to realize, I'm something of a grammar freak. I read Eats, Shoots & Leaves for fun and actually enjoyed it (and found a mistake in it; not a typo, but a minor substance error), despite the lack of the Oxford comma in the title. On that note, I have strong feelings about the Oxford comma. (I'm for it. Strongly.)

Something about how grammar imparts structure and organization to language appeals to the engineer in me. (Ironically, surrounding my computer right now is somewhat of a holy mess of papers and other desk-related paraphernalia. I'd like to organize it, but the lazy-guy-in-me beats the engineer-in-me almost every time.)

With any good organizational system, everything has a function. Even better, when analyzed methodically, gaps, if any, in the system are unmistakable. I believe I have found one.

The interjection is used to express an emotion or sentiment on the part of the speaker. Syntactically, it's usually used by itself or at the beginning of a sentence. There are other parts of speech which may be used to give an indication of something about the speaker, including the ejaculation (which almost always stands on its own), the discourse marker, and the filler.

There is another way that words are used to express the emotion or sentiment of the speaker, but isn't, to my knowledge, recognized as an interjection. This is because it's hiding as an adjective. It comes before a noun or noun phrase, but doesn't modify it at all. Rather, it's used by the speaker to express an emotion, usually a negative one. Thus, it deserves its own, new part of speech.

What do I mean? I'm glad you #*@%-ing asked. Here's an example: You're eating dinner, and ask someone if he can pass you the rice. He says he can. You ask him if he will pass you the rice, he cleverly (to his mind, at least) says that he might if you ask. You then tell him to "pass the #*@% ing rice". The word preceding "rice", syntactically, is being used as an adjective would. However, it in no way is being used to describe the rice (if it is, I'd like that recipe), but as a reflection on your emotional state, as the speaker, toward your dinner-mate. In this case, it's justifiable, maybe borderline-homicidal, frustration.

(A neighbor of mine pointed out that sometimes it actually is an adjective, as in "damned rice", the implication being that you're taking you're frustration out on the food and expressing your desire for it to spend an eternity on Satan's buffet. I'll concede that sometimes this could be the case, but generally speaking, that's generally not true. Most times, other words are used, which indicate a gory state, as in the British "bloody", copulation, or nothing at all, as in "frickin'".)

Since it's somewhat of a cross between an interjection and an adjective, having the properties of the former, but being used syntactically as the latter is, I've come up with the portmanteau "interjective" for this new part of speech. Spread the word. It's gonna be a thing. A #*@%-ing thing.

Wednesday, July 17, 2013

Ruth Calderon, go to your room!

Last week, MK Ruth Calderon was skewered for suggesting that the Knesset install a makeup room so that female MKs can freshen up during the course of the day. Given the insignificance of her plan, it naturally became big news. Among other silliness, her party, "Yesh Atid" ("There is a future"), was referred to as "Yesh Ippur" ("There is makeup"). The Palestinian conflict and the Iranian threat took a backseat for a short while.

Some of the criticism came from other female MKs themselves. Their main point was that MKs are not putting on a show, and shouldn't focus too much on their appearances.

As a man, I tread very carefully when it comes to issues which affect the fairer sex, since I am, along with my fellow bearers of Y-chromosomes, a complete and bumbling moron when it comes to these matters. However, I don't understand the criticism. People, especially women, are judged based on their appearances. It's also possible (again, I'm going off the reservation here, so I apologize in advance if I'm wrong, which, as a man, I probably am) that (some) women aren't as confident when they feel that they need to re-powder their noses, or whatever else they need to do to freshen up. As unfair as it is, it's pretty well established that people perform better when they feel confident.

It's perfectly appropriate for female MKs to be as presentable as possible (some of the male MKs could do the same), since they'll be taken more seriously, and may actually perform better. It's not fair, but that's the way people are, and I think that even those who leveled criticism at her are aware of it (of course, the need to score points by making populist statements at someone else's expense can be a powerful temptation for some politicians).

However, I don't see the need for the Knesset to provide dedicated makeup rooms, as Calderon suggests, even if the MKs themselves are paying for the making-up. Among the amenities provided to MKs is an ensuite bathroom attached to their offices (sorry about the Hebrew; I couldn't find a suitable article in English). They should use the space given to them for freshening up their makeup when necessary, and not burden the Knesset budget to provide them with dedicated makeup rooms.

If Calderon feels the need to fix her makeup during the day, she should do so. But she should go to her room.

Nailed it - Nefesh B'Nefesh Uses My Idea

The Jewish Agency and (probably) Nefesh B'Nefesh have found a way to get around the strike in the Foreign Ministry to bring olim to Israel this summer. (The article doesn't mention NBN's involvement, but they are directly involved in all aspects of Aliyah, plus their website mentions that they are working with the Jewish Agency to find a solution to the problems caused by the strike. In addition, a friend of mine who works for them strongly suggested to me, while doing his best to not spill any beans, that they were involved as well.)

It's remarkably similar to the plan I suggested over two weeks ago on this blog. (OK, it's possible that they were working on this before I suggested it.)

Maybe next time they have a problem they should come to me first. :-)

Thursday, July 4, 2013

Plastic Gun "Threatens" the Prime Minister

A TV crew from Channel 10 news printed a plastic gun, and managed to get it within a few meters of Bibi. The gun was manufactured with a 3-D printer, tested, and brought to Knesset, where it got past all security checks, including a metal detector. That 3-D printers can print a working gun based on plans easily available is not new, but reports of a gun made with the technology bypassing safeguards in a secure building are (do far) rare, AFAIK.

However, there's good reason to not be so alarmed about this.

Firstly, 3-D printing is a way of making something out of a plastic (or plastic-like) material. Such materials are hardly new. In the Clint Eastwood film In the Line of Fire, (spoiler alert; but seriously, the film is 20 years old) John Malkovich's protagonist manages to fire at the president using a gun he made out of plastic. Not only has plastic technology been around for many, many decades (remember the scene in The Graduate where Dustin Hoffman's character is advised to go into plastics?), but the idea of sneaking a plastic gun past security to assassinate a world leader hit the big screen 20 years ago. 3-D printing is not what got the gun past security, plastics did. Somehow, even with plastics easily available, and the idea of using a plastic gun to foil security being well-known for decades, we've haven't seen people successfully sneaking plastic guns into secure buildings and using them there.

Secondly, to misquote the bumper-sticker, guns don't kill people, bullets do. And, so far, they are made out of metal. Getting a gun to within 2 inches of a target won't help a would-be assassin unless he could somehow get the bullets there as well. (In fairness, they covered this in the movie as well, but I don't know how well a movie stratagem would work in real life.) As long as the Knesset still uses metal detectors, and as long as bullets are still made out of metal, I think we could breathe a little easier.

While the fact that a gun was smuggles into the Knesset, and got within firing range of Bibi, is disconcerting, bear in mind that it was done for dramatic effect, and doesn't necessarily mean that things are all of a sudden less safe than they were yesterday.