Monday, September 25, 2006

the futility of multilateral trade talks

Well, I'm happy to report that I'm almost entirely well again. The phlegm still lingers, but the aches and sore throat are gone, and my energy is just about back to normal. And the weather here is still nice, so I walked to school today, which was lovely after so much sitting on my ass.

I bullshit my way through my international economics seminar tonight after only sort of skimming the readings. We were discussing the WTO and the collapse of the Doha round, about which I already know a fair amount. One of the articles we were assigned to read was written by Joseph Stiglitz and Andrew Charlton, who subsequently wrote an entire book on the same topic (Fair Trade for All); I read that book last spring, so I figured I could blow off that article. Most of the other things we were assigned to read were various short papers coming from the US, the EU, or the developing world, all blaming each other for the failure to come to an agreement after five years of negotiation under the Doha round. But what we're talking about is multilateral trade talks that require unanimous agreement among 150 countries that then have to go back and sell the agreement politically (well, the ones that are democracies at least) to a populace that is totally ignorant regarding even the most basic of economic issues. It's hardly suprising to me that negotiations collapsed, and it's the fault of a lot of countries, not the least of which is the US, which uses talk of agricultural liberalization to help developing nations as a guise to open up the EU's wheat market to US exports. Not that the EU isn't also ridiculously intransigent in its own ways. And what's with China and India, with booming export sectors and annual GDP growth of 10% and 8% respectively, claiming that as poor developing countries they can't be expected to lower tariffs?

Anyway, my point was that given that I'm only taking two classes, I feel a little bad when I half-ass one of them. I should really be working on econometrics right now, but I think instead I'm going to do a NYT crossword puzzle and go to sleep early (yes, getting to sleep before one a.m. is early in my world). Hopefully tomorrow I will wake up feeling totally healed and I'll have an uber-productive day.

14 comments:

Rebel said...

Shouldn't that be "I bullshat my way through class?"

What is with China and India... tsk tsk tsk.

;)

nathan said...

On bullshit/bullshat:

Surprisingly, the Oxford English Dictionary does not indicate the past tense of the verb bullshit. Furthermore, none of the illustrative quotations in the OED's entry are any help with this question, as none use the term in the past tense.

So, based on the assumption that the conjugation for the verb bullshit is analogous to that of the verb from which it is derived, I turn to the entry for shit, which indicates both shit and shat, as well as shitted, as past tense forms of the word shit. Furthermore, none of these variations is marked as obsolete or archaic.

All of which to say that you're both right, if by "right" we mean "operating according to contemporary conventions of English-language use."

A last note: I thought it interesting that bullshit is, as a noun or verb, tagged as "coarse slang," where the verb to shit carries a usage note that reads "not now in decent use."

Anonymous said...

was it ever in "decent use"??? i suppose maybe it might have been proper terminology at some point to describe the actual feces of an actual bull...? but even then you're not really "supposed to" say "shit"...
-mj

Anonymous said...

was it ever in "decent use"??? i suppose maybe it might have been proper terminology at some point to describe the actual feces of an actual bull...? but even then you're not really "supposed to" say "shit"...
-mj

jenn said...

i'm fascinated that "shat" is actually one of the past tense forms. i always thought that was something someone made up to be funny. but i guess if you make up a word and enough people use it, they put it in the dictionary eventually.

and mj, it's apparently only the *verb* form of shit that's "not now in decent use", so maybe once upon a time proper ladies excused themselves to "go have a shit" or something. or maybe it does have some sort of livestock-related origins.

nathan said...

mj: regarding my comment on the different usage tags for shit and bullshit, I was alluding to a peculiar vagueness in the usage notes. My point was to ask: what is the qualitative (or quantifiable) difference between "not now in decent use" and "coarse slang" as apparently distinct classifications for two words? (For whatever it's worth, "not now in decent use" applies also to the noun form of shit.)

It also occurs to me that "not now in decent use" might not hearken to a past in which the term was in decent use (tho more about this in a moment), but rather to a projected future moment in which the term may yet be used in "decent" conversation -- that is, that the social "status" of the word may at a later date shift, such that it is no longer considered an obscenity. On this note, it's worth mention that shite seems to pass by American FCC censors, though a native British-English speaker might argue that there is little or no distinction between the terms.

Incidentally, I should point out that Jenn is right in assuming that the term once had a different status: prior to the Norman Conquest, shit would have been the accepted term. But after that point, members of the upper classes would likely have used the Latinate defecate, reflecting the fact that Norman rule brought a linguistic distinction between social classes (i.e., the educated classes spoke Norman French, while those occupying lower stations continued to speak the language that today is called "Old English"). In fact, most of the "obscene" words in use today (= those regulated by the FCC, or mentioned by George Carlin) at one point were the commonly-used and accepted terms, before the introduction of Latinate (including French) euphemisms, and their attendant association with the wealthier segments of society.

And Jenn: Yup -- if you invent a word and enough people use it, it'll eventually show up in dictionaries. This month, the online edition of the Oxford added bippy (as in, "you bet your sweet bippy"), Five-O, and celebutante.

Anonymous said...

i'm curious, what is the oxford definition of "bippy"?

and i'm also curious how you guys feel about the word "text" as a verb (as in sending a text message), and, if you find it acceptable and even likely to make it into the dictionary (i do), what would you say is the past tense?
-mj

jenn said...

mj- you read my mind. i desperately need to know--what is the definition of bippy? (and yes, n, we're all incapable of looking up words for ourselves. you're the official dictionary boy. congratulations.)

i guess i'd say i approve of the word "text", since i use it. after all, the current alternative is to say "sent a text message", which is much less efficient. furthermore, since texting is new, i think it's appropriate that we come up with a new verb for it. gift giving, on the other hand, is not new, and i am therefore strongly opposed to using the word "gift" as a verb (paradoxically, however, i have no problem with "regift", but again, i think this is because of it's efficiency--why say "gave a gift to someone that was something i got as a gift from someone else" when the concept can be expressed so eloquently in one word?). besides, you don't need to say "gifted", you can just say "gave" or "presented" or "bestowed upon" or whatever.

(all that aside, honestly, i think i really just decide what is and isn't acceptable based on what i think sounds stupid or randomly pisses me off, and then i construct justifications afterwards.)

but back to "text". i think the past tense should be "texted".
and i also think that text sex (like phone sex or cyber sex) should be called "sexting". but that's just me.

Anonymous said...

"sexting"...is that like "sexploitation"? ;)
-mj

jenn said...

mj- no, it's more like being a "sexpert". you know, one of those people who provides "sexplanations". =)

Anonymous said...

i love it! i have to tell my friend mark (who doesn't approve of the verb "to text" at all, even though he texts me all the dang time). i'm going to "text" him a "sexplanation" of the new verb "to sext"!
-mj

nathan said...

The OED defines bippy in two ways. First as a part of the phrase you bet your sweet bippy, which means "be assured, certainly." And, as a derivative, the term bippy refers to "the buttocks, the backside."

Incidentally, the first cited quotation comes from New York Times Magazine, in which a writer for Rowan and Martin's Laugh-In defines the phrase in question as having no meaning at all, but rather as a nonce word that takes the place of any dirty word the listener/reader wants to imagine.

As for to text, it's apparently quite old. The OED updated the definition in summer 2004 to include the telecommunicative variation, but the word was used as a verb (meaning "to write upon") as old as 1599, and appears in Shakespeare's Much Ado About Nothing. The OED provides no indication about the past-tense of the current variation, but one of the quotes uses "texted" for the past tense.

And you're right, Jenn, about the relative efficiency of this one. As Whitman points out (and I'm lazy, so I'll paraphrase, instead of walking 15 feet and opening a book), slang drives language through its efficiency and spirit.

As "denominal verbs" (verbs that got their start as nouns) go, I personally love to phone, and all its conjugations. But nobody uses that anymore...

nathan said...

On the subject of denominal verbs (again, verbs that began life as nouns), there's an interesting econ connection.

Most accounts (particularly mythical ones) of language's origin suggest that language starts as nouns. For example, the Hebrew (and, by extension, Christian) account has Adam give birth to language by naming the objects of creation. This notion, carried to its extreme limit, might suggest that most verbs in fact began as nouns.

A different Adam -- Adam Smith -- is one of a very few to propose the alternative hypothesis that "verbs of the impersonall form would be the first invented of any." Imagining a civilization of "savages" coming into language, he hypothesizes that they "expressed compleatly in one word" "the coming of some terrible animall as a Lion."

Or the actions performed by an invisible hand, perhaps...

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