More Geoff Nunberg

Hardly seems worth cutting into vacation beer time for this, but here is the man referring to this over-aggressive post of mine:

Trevor has me claiming that the object-present participle form of compounding is a recent invention of the political right and originates with nigger-loving.

And in a new post:

I was hardly claiming, as Trevor seems to assume, that the contemporary right had invented the O-PP compound,

Anyone with basic reading skills will note that I didn’t claim that he had claimed that the right had recently or contemporarily invented his precious compound or trope or rhetorical figure or construction or whatever. What I actually pointed out was

  1. that it went back a whole lot further than he said, something which he now admits and which he knew all the time but omitted to mention, and
  2. that it could be hardly regarded as being owned (even in the sense of controlling it) by that under-defined collective, the right, something which he seems to acknowledge in downgrading “The fact is that the right owns those object+present participle compounds” to “the right has more-or-less owned the trope of using these compounds” in his second piece.

    (Zachary Roth’s comment on widespread African-American use is interesting because online content searches are regarded as (and often are) a reasonable way of generalising about actual usage–check eg Nunberg himself and a riposte from Julian Sanchez. We know that African-Americans still figure lower on net usage stats than the population at large; if, as I suspect, they figure much lower in terms of online content creation, then Google results need to be taken salted.)

Enfin, I rather doubt that he “could trace the whole history of the right’s campaigns against liberals via those compounds … until you finally excavate the crude origins of the trope in nigger-loving, the ur-denunciation of white liberal sentimentality”, but it would be good to see him try.

[I’m a mere transvestite bar pianist while Nunberg is an adjunct full professor, but it seems to me that it might be smart to tag inventions as throwaway on publication rather in the follow-up. It’s not like Berkeleyian book-buyers are going to care much. I wonder if he thinks it’s OK to do this kind of thing in blog posts but not in academic papers. Certainly he had a rather more serious confrontation a couple of years ago on Language Log when he made various claims about work on media bias by Tim Groseclose and Jeff Milyo. They responded, calling him a liar and various other stuff, to which his reply was an extended silence on Language Log and no defence of which I’m aware. Mark Liberman chewed holes in G&M later in the year, but as I understand it their criticism of Nunberg still stands.

(Nunberg’s “If he owned a dictionary” property qualification cracked me up, since Groseclose & Milyo obviously thought they could kick his legs from under him with a similar “gerrorf me farm” squire-ism–“academics who would use blogs to pose as experts on subjects well-outside those for which they have the requisite knowledge or technical expertise”. Tree-based dictionaries are there to light barbecues, just as soon as they go online.)]

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