Tuesday, September 4, 2007

Steven Pinker and the Funniest Clown on the Internets

Over the past few days, I've been picking away at this interview with Steven Pinker, one of my favourite contemporary thinkers and writers. It's frigging long and could've used a severe edit, but as the interviewer seems inordinately fond of pointing out, the internets are full of assclowns who just throw content up willy-nilly. The interview shows Pinker not only to be keenly intelligent and well-informed in many areas, but extraordinarily patient and good-humoured, as, for the most part, he gives good answers to bad questions. There are points at which he seems to be taking the piss a bit, as when he thanks the interviewer for "teaching me the useful word sciolism"--after the unintentionally hilarious interviewer had used it four times. Sciolism is, funnily enough, making a superficial show of learning. Perhaps in this case, more like making a show of superficial learning. The interviewer's preening, self-congratulatory questions are larded with $10 words and he often uses them slightly incorrectly, giving the impression that he yanks them from one of those word-a-day vocabulary-building calendars and actively seeks opportunities to trot them out. Which is awfully sciolistic, ain't it? But, given that the interviewer seems to see himself as a "great writer" who is reforging the language (by spelling "a lot" "alot," apparently), he would no doubt see this as a pedantic quibble.

At any rate, I've got to get my hands on Pinker's new book (did I mention that my birthday's coming up?). I've read three of his books now and he's greatly informed and clarified my thinking on a number of topics. Anyone who writes should read The Language Instinct at the very least. The Blank Slate is probably my favourite of his books overall.

1 comment:

bengal*foam said...

Thanks for the book tip, I've got to try and find this. I came upon another entry on Pinker during my procrastination trawls at work, thought you might be interested in it: http://3quarksdaily.blogs.com/3quarksdaily/2007/09/monday-musing-p.html