Chalupas Cowen interviews Ben Sasse. I had no clue who this Sasse guy was, but apparently he’s a poster child of a well-adjusted American conservative. The uber cuck. Now this is a bit unfair. The guy does seem smart. And he seems like a good person. A healthy, down to earth family man. He’s even written a book about education which isn’t half bad.
The guy just seems like a very productive person. A german-descendend guy from Nebraska, when he commits to a job he does it well. Extremely well. And now his job is to be a Republican senator. To be a cuck. So he’s a professional cuck. An extremely productive cuck. It’s not his fault really, it’s just the world we live in. If he had lived in Germany in the 1930s he would have been an extremely productive Gestapo commander. If he had been an Englishman in the 19th century he would have been an extremely efficient colonial conqueror. Alas, he’s a Nebraskan in the current year. So he went to Harvard, then was a university manager, and now he’s a proffessional Senate cuck.
By the way I wonder what it takes for a white evangelical kid from the Midwest to get into Harvard. Maybe things have changed since this guy’s time. But the few non-connected white Christians who get into Harvard must be *extremely* tightly screened.
This post isn’t about Ben Sasse himself; there’s little I can say about him. I’m not an ornitologist. But I am a linguist. So I can talk about his way of speech. Now many of you might have heard of “uptalk”. Most Americans don’t notice it, the way fish don’t know what water is. But for foreign learners of English, uptalk is just weird. They don’t teach uptalk in English classes. I should talk about language teaching some other day, it’s really broken. The only way to actually learn something is if you have the power to notice things by yourself. But that applies to most education. Anyway, I digress.
Uptalk is the relatively recent (last 25 years or so) trend of mainstream American speech, where the rising tone typical of question clauses gets applied to words in the middle of a declarative sentence.
I like traveling to foreign countries? Because I think that the culture? And the things you see? Are fascinating and fullfill me as a person?
The whole things doesn’t make a lot of sense. But as always, there’s two dimensions to language. There’s language as a set of rules, which are made clear by prescriptive analysis. And then is what people actually do with the rules, i.e. change them all the time, and that’s descriptive analysis. Uptalk started apparently with teenage girls in California. But now it’s freaking everywhere. And you have a 45 year old man, a US Senator with 3 children, using uptalk 5 times per sentence. It’s infuriating. But let’s not have value judgment stop us from doing a good analysis.
Why do people do uptalk? We can define uptalk as the transfer of question marks into non-questions. Now why would people do that? There’s a good thing that questions and non-questions are distinct in speech. But the common way of explaining questions vs. non-questions is, as tends to happen with all Western style social science, heavily restricted by a logical analysis of how language works. Questions don’t only demand information. They’re also a way of calling attention. Of showing epistemic humility. Or of being a pussy who doesn’t stand by his opinion.
A statement implies certainty. I like traveling. Yes I do. That’s my prerrogative. And now I let it known. That’s how it used to work. But not anymore. Now every statement is suspect of fascism. Being too sure of yourself is toxic masculinity. Assuming that people talk to you because they want to know something about you is mansplaining. The correct way of having a conversation is to make it everything into a question. The implication is “I’m not very sure about this, if you think I’m wrong or a fascist or I’m guilty of having a penis please forgive me, I’ll change my opinion sooner than you can say the word “cuck””.
… or that’s what Roissy would write. Well, actually that’s pretty much exactly what Roissy wrote some time ago. I wrote the above before checking that out. The thing with language though is that one shouldn’t read too much into it. At the end of the day, language is just a behavioral habit. People don’t “generate” language according to some calculated inputs. I’m quite sure Senator Sasse isn’t generating uptalk because he’s a passive-aggressive cuck who actually wants to coerce your agreement after each freaking clause. He’s just doing what everybody else in his milieu does; and him being a *very* well-adjusted religious German who does what his peers expecting him to do, he got a habit of uptalk.
Which is interesting in its own way: language is *the* window into human behavior, because it follows the same rules as every other behavior does, but it’s orders of magnitude more frequent and easy to analyze. And a good rule that language analysis gives us, is that if you want to find the cause of some behavior, you shouldn’t look at its present shape. The present shape is just a function of habit and people copying each other, especially higher status people. The best way of achieving some explanatory power is to loo at the evolutionary process by which a habit became common. In genetics I think they call that “achieve fixation”.
In evolutionary terms, Uptalk started with teenage girls, and indeed it was an effect of modern Californian teenage girl society, which is a good approximation to a Hobbesian state of nature of all against all, where you must police your every single act, lest the sisterhood comes crashing down on you and throws you and your status into some ghetto in Oakland. So that’s how teenage girls evolved passive-aggresiveness and high-frequence semi-questions as self-defence. The interesting thing is why that spread out of teenage girl life into wider society. This implies there’s something about modern society which is similar to teenage girl total status war.
Uptalk can also be seen as the fusion of the colloquial tags “like…”, “you know?” into the actual word itself. “Like” and “you know” are also a ways of holding plausible deniability about one’s statement. You aren’t just asserting something. You aren’t really like, sure, you know, so you hold plausible deniablity lest your interlocutor be short of status in that particular moment and she uses the chance to throw you under the bus. Again, one way of putting this is epistemic humility. Another way of putting this is a complete breakdown of social trust so that conversation is pretty much… impossible?
Steve Sailer often says that it’s a good thing we got this Tower of Babel thing; as different languages make the transfer of bad ideas extremely easy, and different languages act as a good barrier. Uptalk makes an excellent example of this. In a few decades it has conquered the whole US, and it’s fast making inroads into Britain; while I’ve never seen anything like it in any other language. Parochialsm has its own problems, but avoiding Uptalk and other progressive memes makes it worth it.
Do check out the whole podcast. Not that the content itself is interesting; that would be controversial and problematic. Interestingly Tyler Cowen has its own slightly milder version of uptalk, but he uses it in almost every single end of clause. This follows Cowen’s own style: he follows the mainstream, he’s a well behaved true-believer; but he does it his own way; lest the wind changes some other way, then he can claim that he was always for war against Eastasia. Of course he was.