Help Needed from English Profs

My blog is popular among professors of English (because they are very smart) and enthusiasts of the language. So I’m asking them to help out a non-native speaker.

Here is my question: does the word “vociferous” have negative connotations for you? For example, in the sentence “Barcelona was vociferous in demanding the return of these papers”, is the speaker trying to express a veiled dislike of Barcelona’s demands or am I imagining a whiff of negativity here?

The Best Post Title Ever

And sometimes I just thank the universe for my blogroll.

Today, I’ve been to the swimming pool, missed the bus and had to trudge through the snow for 25 minutes, had my 2-hour driving lesson, went to the bookstore, worked on my article, made dinner and was ready to drop dead because I had no more energy left whatsoever. And then I saw this genius post title in my blogroll and it jolted me awake and ready for additional scholarly pursuits:

I’m Dreaming Of A White Santa

This is really brilliant.


And the December issue of The Atlantic states that

men whose wives out earn them actually do a smaller share of housework than their breadwinner peers.

Oh yes, I have anecdotal evidence in spades that confirms this observation. It is obvious why this happens. Men’s primary gender identification still comes from financial and professional success. If their partner is doing better in these areas, they often try to protect their manliness by avoiding what they see as women’s work.

This will, of course, change but not immediately.


In November’s issue of The Atlantic, Karl Taro Greenfeld asked if the readers could imagine “a profession in which employees spend all day at the office, work four or so hours afterward on homework, and still have work to do over the weekend.”

It is sad, indeed, to see a journalist who is so out of touch with the realities of contemporary workplace. Everybody I know works this way, and I don’t mean only people in academia.

N works at a company that creates medical software. He is required to improve his professional skills by way of obtaining programming certifications in new computer languages. He is also expected to publish his research. All of this has to be done on his own time. So he comes home from work, has dinner, and then works some more because that’s what he needs to do to keep his job.

My sister has her own small business, and this means that she has to work well into the night every day. Even on vacations, she has to be plugged in and working.

I don’t know if there are any white-collar jobs left where people put in their 8 hours a day and do ok more work.

Have a Nice Morning!

In the locker room at the gym, two elderly ladies were engaged in a very loud conversation while I was changing behind a curtain. The cheery subject they chose for their morning chat was dead husbands.

“. . . And when she woke up, he was lying there DEAD. He was completely cold and blue, so he must have been DEAD for hours!”

“. . . And when she went outside, he was lying in the snow DEAD. He’d slipped and broken his neck!”

“Gosh, this is probably the most morbid subject they could have chosen at this early hour,” I thought.

As if to prove me wrong, the women switched to an even juicier topic: dead babies.

“She gave birth to a perfectly healthy baby boy but 3 months later he just DIED!” one of them vociferated gleefully.

“. . . The baby was born premature and only lived for two days,” the second woman chimed in.

When I emerged from behind the curtain, the ladies looked at me inquisitively.

“Do you have any stories about sudden death?” one of them asked in an eager voice. “I’m sure you do. Everybody has heard a story or two about somebody who just DIED all of a sudden.”

I wanted to tell them that I knew a story about this woman whose baby died and then there were two elderly ladies who aggravated her at the swimming pool. And then these ladies were found in the locker room and they were DEAD. They were completely blue and cold and had probably been lying there for hours.

But I’m not cruel, so I just wished them a nice morning and left.

Linguistic Personae

Reader Kathleen asks:

I know you mentioned this in passing before…something about different personality traits being expressed by one person when that person speaks a different language? Could you expound on that a little bit? Did you do a post about it and I missed it? I am terribly interested.

After 6, 092 posts, I have no idea what I have written, so if I’m repeating myself, please forgive me. I definitely have a different persona for each of the languages I speak well.

The Russian-speaking Clarissa has the best sense of humor of all. (You are missing some linguistic brilliance, people.) I use a lot of puns and verbal acrobatics. My Russian is very adverbial. I never managed to perceive Russian as fully my own and treat it like a stranger I will never fully comprehend. Since I’m not emotionally attached to it a whole lot, I welcome a lot of experimentation with the language and eagerly adopt neologisms. Russian is very poor vocabulary-wise, so I invent many new words and use a variety of suffixes (not prefixes, though) to enrich it and create my own version of the language.

The English-speaking Clarissa is the least emotional of all. My English-speaking persona is the most competent and organized. I feel very protective of English and suffer almost physiologically when people mutilate it.

The Spanish-speaking Clarissa gesticulates a lot, swears a lot, and is either emotional or mumbly (which are simply two sides of the same coin.) Also, Spanish makes me feel manly. It’s hard for me to figure out why that is but I really feel like a man when I speak the language.

Do you have different personae for the languages you speak?