Friday, March 18, 2005

The Case of Language Log vs. Frank Delaney

Language Log cited Frank Delaney for gilding the lily in his NPR interview last Saturday. I won't argue against Language Log's main point -- that Mr. Delaney is out of his depth when discussing the finer points of the Irish language. Mr. Delaney probably wouldn't argue either.

However, I think Language Log crossed the line with phrases like, "Delaney was ... babbling to Scott Simon about the Irish," and, "Why is everyone so given to bullshitting about language and thought?" I heard the interview and Mr. Delaney was not babbling. He was quite eloquent. Neither was he misleading us about his expertise as an Irish linguist. He was simply answering a question about why the Irish are good communicators. Listen to the NPR interview yourself. Then ask yourself if his larger point was sound.

Why is this important? It is important to me because Language Log's extra dose of attitude wasn't necessary to establishing the main point. Language Log didn't have to take Mr. Delaney down a notch to prove anything. We all are guilty of gratuitous attacks like this, of course, but we all can do better.

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