Monday, 19 March 2018

Naughty Homophones

homophone, definition:
1. Phonetics. a word pronounced the same as another but differing in meaning, whether spelled the same way or not, as heir and air.
2. a written element that represents the same spoken unit as another, as ks, a homophone of x in English.

Tim Torkildson was a teacher in Provo, Utah. He was also an education blogger. On his weblog, he wrote a posting about homophones ... and was fired by the owner of the language school he was working for. Homophones would be associated with homosexuality, some students could become offended or think the school had a "gay agenda". The teacher could not be trusted to write a regular blog. That was in 2014 (via and via and via).

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photograph by Robert Doisneau via

Thursday, 15 March 2018

The Fortune 284

Since 1955, Fortune Magazine has been ranking the 500 largest US-American companies by total revenue. The Center of American Entrepreneurship analysed the Fortune 500 data for 2017 and found that 43% of them were founded or co-founded by a first- or second-generation immigrant. Among the largest Fortune 500 companies their occurence is even higher (52% of the top 25 firms, 75% of the top 35 firms) (via).

photograph via

Thursday, 8 March 2018

Girl or Woman? Language Matters.

In the late 1970s, Robert Brannon gave 462 college students a story to read which described a female's application for a high-level executive position. In one version, she was referred to as a "girl", in the other as a "woman". Students then had to rate her personality traits.

Results: When the female applicant was called a woman, students described her as more tough, mature, more qualified, more deserving of a higher salary than when she was referred to as a girl.

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- Brannon, R. (1978). The Consequences of Sexist Language. Paper presented at the American Psychological Association Meetings, Toronto.
- photograph by Joseph Szabo (1976) via, copyright by owner(s)

Tuesday, 6 March 2018

Atelier de conversation

"There are no strangers. Only people who we do not yet know.'"

Once a week, people from all over the world meet at the Atelier de conversation in the Centre Pompidou in Paris to talk to each other, to improve their French. People who would otherwise probably never meet come together at a place where "social and cultural borders dissolve" (via).

Author and director: Bernhard Braunstein
Awards: Opening Film, Cinéma du rèel 2017, Paris/France; Documentary Special Jury Prize, Karlovy Vary International Film Festival 2017, Karlovy Vary/Czech Republic; ARTE Documentary Film Prize, Duisburger Filmwoche 2017, Duisburg/Germany

"The therapy aspect is very important, but there are a lot of other aspects. I think the language is important and there are really people who are struggling and want to learn something and they’re writing down vocabulary. But there are also a lot of people who are coming there to find friends. The people connect and become friends, some help each other to find a flat or even move in together. So, this social part is very important and, of course, they are all going through a difficult experience and they feel that they can talk about it together. This is the therapy part of it."
Bernhard Braunstein

"We need to start to become human, rather than talking about the masses of immigrants that will destroy us, we should see the individuals. I think this is something you can see in my film. You see that these are people, these are humans with a story and not somehow a danger."
Bernhard Braunstein

Monday, 5 March 2018

(Un-)Quoting Frederik Jacobus Johannes Buytendijk

"Football as a game is first and foremost a demonstration of masculinity as we understand it from our traditional view of things and as produced in part by our physical constitution (through hormonal irritation). No one has ever been successful in getting women to play football. ... Kicking is thus presumably a specifically male activity; whether being kicked is consequently female - that is something I will leave unanswered."
Buytendijk (1953:20)

"Kicking differs essentially from throwing. For one thing, kicking is by nature more aggressive than throwing; for another, throwing is linked to catching, i.e. receiving, whereas kicking is linked to kicking back. ... One can certainly throw like a girl, but one can only kick like a man."
Buytendijk (1953:20)

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- F. J. J. Buytendijk (1887-1974), Das Fussballspiel. Eine psychologische Studie, published in 1953
- photograph of the Dick Kerr Ladies F.C. via

Sunday, 4 March 2018

The League of Ordinary Non-Gentlemen

Today, Italians go to the polls. Immigration has become the key issue which automatically means that the radical right has a party programme: Italians first. The party Lega Nord per l'Indipendenza della Padania (The Northern League) was founded by Umberto Bossi who in 2017 was sentenced to two years and three months' imprisonment for using hundreds of thousands of euros in public funds to pay personal expenses. Former Northern League treasurer Francesco Belsito was sentenced to two years and six months. Umberto Bossi's son Renzo, by the way, was also convicted and given a sentence of one year and six months (via and via and via).

The founder of this party is the man who married in 1975, aged 35, and promised his wife to finish his university studies soon. After all, he was not really working and his mother was paying for his studies, so he had to hurry. In 1979, he told everyone that he had finally received his doctorate degree and would soon start to work as a doctor at the hospital Del Ponte in Varese. His proud wife bought him a beautiful brown briefcase which he left with every morning when he went to work, at the hospital, as a doctor. One day in 1981, in the meantime he had obtained his second degree, his wife went to university where - surprise, surprise - she learned that her wonderful husband had never finished his studies and never worked as a doctor (via and via). His son Renzo, of course, is completely different. Okay, he was charged with embezzlement too but at least he really got a degree. In fact, it was a bachelor's degree in Economics and Management at Kristal University in Albania. In 2013, Renzo Bossi was charged with corruption in Albania because "he earned a degree in social sciences without spending a single day in university. He has never been in Albania and he doesn't know the language" (via and via).
Now, the party's leader is Matteo Salvini. He studied at the University of Milan, never graduated but at least never pretended to have. Salvini was also involved in Bossi's fraud (via), he is a strong supporter of the football team A.C. Milan (which - what a coincidence - was owned by Berlusconi until last year), he supports Trump, opposes the embargo against Russia and same-sex marriage ... because, you know, traditional family values. He is the man who is going to rescue Italy by suggesting the introduction of segregation in public transport with reserved seats for "real" citizens of Milan but also for women to protect them from savage immigrants who he is going to deport as he is about to start a "controlled ethnic cleansing" (via and via).
This is not about the right, the left, or the centre. This is a party that offers no solution to any problem. Instead, it rides on the current wave of populist nationalism telling people how unfairly they are treated, that they themselves are not part of the so-called system but concerned about "the people" who they are fighting for making sure Italians get what they deserve. It is only about gaining votes with a rhetoric the world has not yet got tired of. This is also about a lack of style, class, and diplomacy in politics.

images via

Wednesday, 28 February 2018

To guard the loveliness he loves

When he comes home, will he find you as lovely as his heart has dreamed you'd be? Day's end or year's end ... will the sweet look, the soft touch of you ... be just as he remembered?
For his sake, guard your loveliness. Choose your beauty soap with care and caution. Know what it is made with!

Consider, for example, that of all leading soaps, Palmolive alone is made with Olive and Palm Oils. Into its making go no animals fats ... only those fine vegetable oils ... treasured as beauty aids since Cleopatra's day.
No wonder millions of women thrill to the way Palmolive helps keep skin smooth, petal-soft and at its radiant best. No wonder Palmolive is the world's largest-selling beauty soap. To guard the loveliness he loves ... turn now to Palmolive's gentle care!
Now more than ever ... keep that schoolgirl complexion

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image via

Monday, 26 February 2018


"It is anchorman, not anchorlady. And that is a scientific fact."
Champ Kind (Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy)

Australian TV anchor Karl Stefanovic saw the sexism his female colleagues had to deal with and decided to start an experiment. He wore the same blue suit for a whole year (2013/14) every morning on Channel Nine's Today programme. There was absolutely no reaction. His female co-host Lisa Wilkinson, however, kept receiving feedback (e.g. "Who the heck is Lisa's stylist?", "Today's outfit is particularly jarring and awful. Get some style.") (via).

"No one has noticed; no one gives a shit. But women, they wear the wrong colour and they get pulled up. They say the wrong thing and there's thousands of tweets written about them.
Women are judged much more harshly and keenly for what they do, what they say and what they wear.
I've worn the same suit on air for a year – except for a couple of times because of circumstance – to make a point. I'm judged on my interviews, my appalling sense of humour – on how I do my job, basically. Whereas women are quite often judged on what they're wearing or how their hair is ... that's [what I wanted to test]."
Karl Stefanovic

"Today’s media landscape, particularly for women, is one now so focused on the glossy and the glamorous, it often eclipses and undermines everything else,” she told the audience. “When you’re a woman doing breakfast TV, you quickly learn the sad truth that what you wear can sometimes generate a bigger reaction than even any political interview you ever do."
Lisa Wilkinson

Quotes from the movie (via):

Ed Harken: "A lot of you have been hearing the affiliates complaining about a lack of diversity on the news team."
Champ Kind: "What in the hell's diversity?"
Ron Burgundy: "Well, I could be wrong, but I believe diversity is an old, old wooden ship that was used during the Civil War era."
Ed Harken: "Ron, I would be surprised if the affiliates were concerned about the lack of an old, old wooden ship, but nice try."

Ron Burgundy: "Do you know who I am?"
Veronica Corningstone: "No, I can't say that I do."
Ron Burgundy: "I don't know how to put this, but, I'm kind of a big deal."
Veronica Corningstone: "Really?"
Ron Burgundy: "People know me."
Veronica Corningstone: "Well I'm very happy for you."
Ron Burgundy: "I'm very important. I have many leather-bound books and my apartment smells of rich mahogany."

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image of Will Ferrell, "Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy" via

Saturday, 24 February 2018

NBC's Winter Olympics' Gender Coverage Gap and Gender Marking

 "[This all] sends a powerful message about the value of women’s sport. We may be picking up on this during the 2018 Olympics, but none of this is new. There’s a whole history of examples of similar things happening, it’s just that sometimes we have these moments where we can really notice how even in 2018, despite the tremendous gains we’ve made, women’s sport is still occupying second-class status." 

NBC's primetime broadcast of the 2018 Winter Olympic Games is - so far - not gender balanced. Significantly more men's events are highlightened than women's events. In the first ten nights, men received 48.5% of the coverage, women received 32.9% (18.6% were dedicated to mixed-pair events). The 15.6% gap is smaller than the average gap found in the past two decades but wider than it was in the first half of the Sochi Games (via).
"The results of the first week of NBC’s primetime coverage of PyeongChang are a bit disheartening because of the continued press for equal coverage." James Angelini
Weiller, Greenleaf and Higgs analysed TV broadcasts of the 1991, 1996 and 2000 Summer Olympics which were all covered by NBC. They focused on sports that had male and female participants and noticed an increased amount of coverage of women's sports and athletes from 1996 to 2000. In numerous sports, gender marking (identifying the gender of the athletes, e.g. "swimming" vs "women's swimming") was evident.
"In track and field, audiences were reminded 57 that they were watching the U.S. Women's Track Team. They were reminded only 12 times that they were watching the U.S. Men's Track Team. Similarly, during the rowing competition, there were 27 instances of gender marking for female athletes during the one hour and 45-minute time frame televised. Little gender marking occurred for male athletes in rowing."
Karen Weiller
Gender marking of female athletes implies that in sports, male is the norm and female the deviation. For instance, we have "football" and "women's football". There is no "men's football", it is just "football".

There was also a hierarchy of naming as athletes of the women's rowing competition were called "girls" ten times; male athletes were never referred to as "boys". Women competing in swimming and diving were referred to by their forenames 87 times, gymnastic commentators used women's forenames 104 times (for men 11 times and 64 times) (via).
"It is obvious that media coverage of an event like the Olympic Games is critical in setting the tone as to how women are represented in the sports media. But as Olympics coverage shows, men's sports continue to enjoy a level of focus and sophistication that women's sports are missing."
Karen Weiller
"Comparison of female athletes to males in the same sport suggests a standard differential and standard comparison, most often with the female athletes being identified as the lesser of the two."
Karen Weiller
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Photograph of Elisabeth Demleitner and Stephan Hoelzlwimmer (West German luge team) with their latest design in helmets, Innsbruck, 1976 via

Thursday, 22 February 2018

Paul Klee, Wassily Kandinsky, and the Creation of Social Groups

"The aim of the studies was to assess the effects of social categorization on intergroup behaviour when, in the intergroup situation, neither calculations of individual interest nor previously existing attitudes of hostility could have been said to have determined discriminative behaviour against an outgroup. These conditions were satisfied in the experimental design. In the first series of experiments, it was found that the subjects favoured their own group in the distribution of real rewards and penalities in a situation in which nothing but the variable of fairly irrelevant classification distinguished between the ingroup and the outgroup. In the second series of experiments it was found that: 1) maximum joint profit independent of group membership did not affect significantly the manner in which the subjects divided real pecuniary rewards; 2) maximum profit for own group did affect the distribution of rewards; 3) the clearest effect on the distribution of rewards was due to the subjects' attempt to achieve a maximum difference between the ingroup and the outgroup even at the price of sacrificing other ‘objective’ advantages."
Tajfel et al. (1971)

In 1971, Tajfel et al. showed eight high school students - who thought the study was on artistic taste - paintings by Paul Klee (1879-1940) and Wassily Kandinsky (1866-1944). Based on their preferences they were assigned to two groups (X group and Y group). Then, they were given money which they had to allocate to the students of their in-group and the out-group (but not to themselves). The participants showed two tendencies: 1) Money between two students of the in-group or the out-group was allocated in a fair way, i.e., each received the same amount. However, 2) in-group favouritism could be observed as more points were given to the students of the in-group than to the out-group. In other words, gains of students of their own group were maximised in comparison to the out-group. That also meant that students were willing to give their own group fewer points if only the out-group got even fewer ones.
Example: Students chose to assign 8 points to their own group and 3 to the other group although they could have chosen to give 13 points each group (Stangor, 2004). Categorisation into groups based on arbitrary criteria and there it is: group favouritism. Tajfel (1971) concludes that discrimination is not necessarily related to a history of social conflict or hostility.

"Perhaps those educators in our competitive societies who from the earliest schooling are so keen on 'teams' and 'team spirit' could give some thought to the operation of these side effects."
Tajfel (1971)

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- Stangor, C. (2004). Social Groups in Action and Interaction. New York & Hove: Psychology Press
- Tajfel, H. (1971). Experiments in Intergroup Discrimination, download
- Tajfel, H., Billig, M. G., Bundy, R. P. & Flament, C. (1971). Social categorization and intergroup behaviour. European Journal of Social Psychology, 1(2), 149-178.
- image of Wassily Kandinsky via