July 15th, 2005

[BRIEF NOTE] Semantic Confusion

I was startled when I heard the word "twink" used during tonight's gaming session in a most unexpected context. From the Wikipedia article:

In the gay slang, twink is a term that describes a young or young-looking male, usually of slender build, only slightly muscular, with little to no body hair. Often they are described as blond-haired and blue eyed. To many gay men, the term is pejorative and implies shallowness and stupidity. Twinks are typically contrasted with bears.

"Twink" may also be used as a generic derogatory term to describe a weak or effeminate male.

In internet gaming communities, to "twink" is to equip a new character with equipment, status etc. not usually available to them by having another player give it to them. See twinking. In tabletop role-playing communities, a "twink" is a slightly less pejorative form of the term "munchkin," indicating a younger player with more interest in their character as a collection of statistics than as a fictional person.

The ultimate etymology of the word--where did it come from? which meaning came first?--is something that really interests me.
  • Current Mood

[BRIEF NOTE] On the Utility of Wikipedia

Ivor Tossell's web column in the Review section of The Globe and Mail last Friday contained a fascinating analysis of Wikipedia. I've excerpted a section below.

Wikipedia readers are more likely to carefully groom an article like the gigantic committee they are, bold-facing honorifics, debating the neutrality of word choices, and slowly grinding the article down to a version that everyone in the world can agree on. Some strike off and write new articles on related topics, which get vetted for themselves as readers find them. And so the Wiki grows. It's a fascinating process to watch, like a giant human ant farm.

The model has its limits. Nothing separates users who know what they're talking about. The same populist spirit that keeps the Wiki open to you and me also alienates academics, who see no need for their work to be peer-reviewed by the hoi polloi. And if you deny expertise and demand consensus, what you're left with is going to be shallow. The upshot is that the Wikipedia will tell you the first thing about everything, but the last word on nothing.

But instead of deep, the Wikipedia goes very, ery broad. Given the chance, people will write about what they know, and as it happens, everyone is an expert on their own lives. So the space in between major articles gets stuffed with the details of modern life: tales of individual floors of residences at small colleges, profiles of anyone who has enjoyed 15 minutes of fame, assorted geographic minutiae, and a not-to-be-missed cultural history of the Star Wars v. Star Trek debate.

Thsi makes the Wiki the ultimate conversationalist: well-read, interested in everything, apolitical and completely on top of today's newspaper. It works best as a museum of artifacts, woven together with hyperlinks to form a user's guide to our culture. That's its real value.

[BRIEF NOTE] The FN, the Pieds-Noirs, and Provence

This article in the Provençal monthly Le Ravi, an interview with doctoral student Emmannuelle Comtat, examines the question of whether the pieds-noirs living in Provence support the Front national. Comtat says no, and suggests that the pieds-noirs and their descendants have become integrated into mainstream French society:

On prête souvent aux pieds-noirs une grande capacité à faire jouer les solidarités internes. L’entraide, cela a fonctionné les premières années. Aujourd’hui, ils ne forment plus véritablement une communauté. La majorité d’entre eux n’adhèrent pas aux associations de rapatriés qui sont pourtant nombreuses. Ils ne les condamnent pas toutefois, et elles jouissent le plus souvent d’une véritable légitimité. La plupart des pieds-noirs ont retrouvé au prix de nombreux efforts la position sociale qui était la leur avant 1962 même si, lors de l’arrivée en métropole, ils ont perdu un temps leurs emplois et leurs repères. Il n’y a pas eu, véritablement, de déclassement social. De fait, la nostalgie s’estompe. Certains parviennent enfin à faire le deuil de l’Algérie. Et à admettre qu’il fallait bien décoloniser.

There are some interesting parallels to be made with the resettled Silesians, Pomeranians, Prussians, and East Germans in West Germany in 1945-1990.
  • Current Mood