Twisted by Jessica Zafra – Pumping irony since 1994

Archive for the ‘Language’

“We still believe in free speech, the world just needs a new theory of it.”

January 19, 2018 By: jessicazafra Category: Current Events, Language, Technology No Comments →

The most effective forms of censorship today involve meddling with trust and attention, not muzzling speech itself. As a result, they don’t look much like the old forms of censorship at all. They look like viral or coordinated harassment campaigns, which harness the dynamics of viral outrage to impose an unbearable and disproportionate cost on the act of speaking out. They look like epidemics of disinformation, meant to undercut the credibility of valid information sources. They look like bot-fueled campaigns of trolling and distraction, or piecemeal leaks of hacked materials, meant to swamp the attention of traditional media.

Read It’s the (Democracy-Poisoning) Golden Age of Free Speech by Zeynep Tufekci in Wired. Then read the entire issue: Free Speech, Tech Turmoil, and the New Censorship.

Long weekend links: Social media creates angry partisans, how to tell if you’re a jerk, and what earwax is for

October 30, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Health, Language, Psychology, Technology No Comments →

Are You A Jerk? (with attempts at definitions of jerk and asshole)

Illustration from Nautilus by Jackie Ferrentino

The scientifically recognized personality categories closest to “jerk” are the “dark triad” of narcissism, Machiavellianism, and psychopathic personality. Narcissists regard themselves as more important than the people around them, which jerks also implicitly or explicitly do. And yet narcissism is not quite jerkitude, since it also involves a desire to be the center of attention, a desire that jerks don’t always have. Machiavellian personalities tend to treat people as tools they can exploit for their own ends, which jerks also do. And yet this too is not quite jerkitude, since Machivellianism involves self-conscious cynicism, while jerks can often be ignorant of their self-serving tendencies. People with psychopathic personalities are selfish and callous, as is the jerk, but they also incline toward impulsive risk-taking, while jerks can be calculating and risk-averse.

Another related concept is the concept of the asshole, as explored recently by the philosopher Aaron James of the University of California, Irvine. On James’s theory, assholes are people who allow themselves to enjoy special advantages over others out of an entrenched sense of entitlement. Although this is closely related to jerkitude, again it’s not quite the same thing. One can be a jerk through arrogant and insulting behavior even if one helps oneself to no special advantages.


Qapla’! Easy Klingon phrases that may save your life

September 07, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Language, Movies No Comments →

LOS ANGELES - JANUARY 9: Michael Dorn as Lt. Worf in the Star Trek: The Next Generation episode, "The Big Goodbye." Season 1, episode 11.  Original air date January 9, 1988.  Image is a screen grab.  (Photo by CBS via Getty Images)

quSDaq ba’lu’’a’ (Is this seat taken?)
Usage: When you’re sitting down to negotiations with a Klingon, it’s probably best to proceed with caution—although your polite question may betray your humanoid tendencies.

vjIjatlh (Speak)
Usage: As a greeting. “A Klingon will not waste time on trivial pleasantries,” notes Windsor. Why say “hello” when you can issue an order, instead?

Read it in Wired.

Today is the 50th anniversary of Star Trek, the series that saved my life. I was an antisocial 11-year-old nerd when Star Trek reruns started airing on local TV (We martial law kids only had 4 channels). It introduced me to science-fiction and the idea that the universe was bigger than I could possibly imagine, and crammed with possibilities, including people I could talk to who would not think I was a freak. Thank you, Gene Rodenberry and all the brilliant writers who boldly went where no one had gone before, and took us with them.

Friending, trending, messaging: You’ve been verbed

September 05, 2016 By: jessicazafra Category: Language, Technology 8 Comments →


Mothers and fathers used to bring up children: now they parent. Critics used to review plays: now they critique them. Athletes podium, executives flipchart, and almost everybody Googles. Watch out—you’ve been verbed.

The English language is in a constant state of flux. New words are formed and old ones fall into disuse. But no trend has been more obtrusive in recent years than the changing of nouns into verbs. “Trend” itself (now used as a verb meaning “change or develop in a general direction”, as in “unemployment has been trending upwards”) is further evidence of—sorry, evidences—this phenomenon…

New technology is fertile ground, partly because it is constantly seeking names for things which did not previously exist: we “text” from our mobiles, “bookmark” websites, “inbox” our e-mail contacts and “friend” our acquaintances on Facebook —only, in some cases, to “defriend” them later. “Blog” had scarcely arrived as a noun before it was adopted as a verb, first intransitive and then transitive (an American friend boasts that he “blogged hand-wringers” about a subject that upset him). Conversely, verbs such as “twitter” and “tweet” have been transformed into nouns—though this process is far less common.

Sport is another ready source. “Rollerblade”, “skateboard”, “snowboard” and “zorb” have all graduated from names of equipment to actual activities. Football referees used to book players, or send them off: now they “card” them. Racing drivers “pit”, golfers “par” and coastal divers “tombstone”.

Read it in 1843.

It’s the End of The Word As We Know It

November 20, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: Language 2 Comments →


Read it in words.

The mathematics of history

August 18, 2015 By: jessicazafra Category: History, Language, Science No Comments →

via 3QD