Context, people, context!

I moved to New York City, and I needed to make money. I wasn’t having luck getting a job. It’s a common tale.

My solution was to grab my typewriter that I bought at a yard sale for 10 dollars and bring it to a park. I’d write stories for people, on the spot—I wouldn’t set a price. People could pay me whatever they wanted. I knew that I had the gift of writing creatively, very quickly, and my anachronistic typewriter (and explanatory sign) would be enough to catch the eye of passersby. Someone might want something specific; they might just want a story straight from my imagination. I was prepared for either situation…

I woke up one day not long after I started “Roving Typist” to a flurry of emails, Facebook posts, text messages and missed calls. A picture of me typewriting had made it to the front page of Reddit…

Without the sign, without the context, I definitely look like someone who is a bit insane. That’s how I thought of it, before I clicked to look at the hundreds of replies; I figured people were probably wondering why I would bring my typewriter to a park. And when I started reading the comments, I saw most people had already decided that I would bring my typewriter to the park because I’m a “fucking hipster.” Someone with the user handle “S2011” summed up the thoughts of the hive mind in 7 words: “Get the fuck out of my city.”

Illmatic707 chimed in: I have never wanted to fist fight someone so badly in my entire life.

Leoatneca replied: Bet 90% of his high school did to. It’s because of these guys that bullying is so hard to stop.

I’m back in Portland right now which is full of…”hipsters” like these. It’s important to remember that everyone has their own stories and reasons for what they do – it’s not always what you assume it is. This story about how someone, somewhat undeservedly, became a hated hipster meme is both gripping and an insightful reminder of how careful we need to be.

Concepts I learned today: negative concord

People love to smugly point out that “I don’t got no money” logically means “I do have some money” — according to formal mathematical logic, which is very different from the logic that defines the grammar of naturally occurring spoken languages. But I would be very, very surprised if any competent native English speaker ever heard someone say “I don’t got no money” and genuinely believed that the speaker was claiming to have some money.

via the delightful Comics Curmudgeon I have learned the word for the linguistic concept of negative concord: in many languages, negatives do not cancel each other out but rather intensify the negation.

[Nerd alert: This means a language negative is an additive operation, not a multiplicative one.]