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This is a question World of Random

There's a pile of scrap timber, rubble and general turds in the road opposite my work with a hand-written sign reading "Free Shed". Tell us about random, completely hatstand stuff and people you've seen

Suggested by Sandettie Light Vessel Automatic

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 11:38)
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People need to learn what 'random' means....
'Random' doesn't mean unexpected. "That pelican randomly flew at me!" No. It didn't.
'Random' isn't a description of you. "I'm just SOOOO random!" No. You're eccentric, spontaneous, or perhaps just stupid. Variations include things like "did you see that episode of family guy? it was so RANDOM".
'Random' isn't a filler word for when something happens. "Then the pile of papers just, like, RANDOMLY fell over." ARGH.
Just the other day I heard a girl recalling a story to her friend, where she walked past another person who was "randomly eating a sandwich". How can you RANDOMLY eat a sandwich??? Did she pick a sandwich at random and start eating it? Or was she ingesting it in some sort of convoluted, 'random' way, that STILL wouldn't be a random event? ffs.

'Random' isn't even a word for a stranger. "Who is that?" "Oh, just some random". ...FUCK OFF.

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:15, 52 replies)

Deserves a click that. Think the term actually can apply to my story though, since I genuinely think my landlady just said things at random, and just came up with whatever response her brain happened to come up with at any given time, so I think I can just about get away with it. I did include a disclaimer goat the start though
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:19, closed)
Such as kidnappers who write a 'random' note?

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:19, closed)
It's such a misused word
it's a wonder Alanis Morissette hasn't written a song about it.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:22, closed)
That would be ironic

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:46, closed)
It's like ten thousand gorillas when all you need is Isla St Claire.

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:01, closed)

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:03, closed)
Exchanges like this
Are why I love B3ta
(, Fri 22 Apr 2011, 14:01, closed)
Take a biscuit from the tin that Gibbon.

I HATE the random use of the word random.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:24, closed)

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:25, closed)
It is important
that people are trained to use words in the correct way. This after all, is a message board on the Internet, therefore it is critical that posts do not appear that contain inapporpriate use of words.

I think I can speak for everybody here when I thank you for your post. It seems to me you are doing a usefull job, and any accusations of you being a pompous windbag are just jealousy.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:30, closed)
Useful only has one "l".
Rule #54, man - Rule #54.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:40, closed)
I fucked up
inappropriate as well.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:55, closed)
That defence never stands up in court, though.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:18, closed)
I have never agreed with anything on this site as much as your post. How random.

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:39, closed)
I used to get het up about things like this too
But language is constantly evolving, so get used to it...

Language misuse, as you call it, only becomes a problem when meaning becomes ambiguous.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:42, closed)

Meaning does become ambiguous with misuse of random. "I started talking to this random girl in the pub", for example, is probably meant by some to mean "a girl I liked the look of caught my eye, so I decided to go over and talk to her" but actually means (especially because random is still in common usage in its proper sense) "I picked a girl completely arbitrarily, it could have been anyone in the pub, and I started talking to her for no reason whatsoever"
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 12:53, closed)
You must be a blast at dinner parties.
You have to be willfully obstinant to not know how the word 'random' is being intended and used in this QOTW, and if I were you I'd let it go or walk away from the computer, cos you are going to be in for one longass week if it bothers you that much.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:00, closed)
It's not just obstinate literalism you know
It's all well and good people attaching a second meaning to a word, but the next generation will suffer for it. This is especially true in this case where the two meanings have some overlap, and the original meaning covers a very important and not-at-all intuitive concept.

Just like when 'incredible' stopped meaning "not credible" and 'fantastic' stopped meaning "illusory" and both came to mean simply "good", we lost some vitality, texture and depth of meaning in our language.

I do understand the arguments of the language permissivists, and agree to a certain extent - but you can't seriously tell me that when you compare what is spoken in the House of Commons today to what is recorded as spoken 100 years ago, that we haven't lost a great deal of subtlety, depth of comprehension, accuracy of communication and scope for originality, by allowing our language to become de-formalised (if that is a word).

The permissivist argument centres around a naturalistic conception of human behaviour. The line goes something like this- 'you wouldn't accuse birds of degrading their birdsong, or accuse whales of not producing whalesong as perfectly as their ancestors, so you can't accuse human beings of corrupting language'.

It's a nice argument and obviously holds some weight, and it's appealing because it sounds a lot more science-y than the arguments of most grammar nazis and letter-to-the-editor writers. But it denies the fact that some languages are simply better than others, and there are many ways that one language can be judged to be superior to another. It sounds a bit nasty and un-PC, but could you really argue that speakers whose first language is pidgin-French have no disadvantages in communication compared to speakers of proper French?

The other problem with the permissivist argument is that it justifies a laissez-faire approach to the evolution of language, encouraging people to let language be modified by any old cunt, rather than consciously and conscientiously trying to ensure that meaning is preserved. Underlying it is a rather Hegelian assumption that history is going to work out for the best whether we try to shape it or not, and that some unseen hand is guiding us towards some inevitable and happy endpoint. While I'd like to believe something like this could be true, there's no good reason why it should be. Also, believing it would be pretty dangerous - we should probably start trying to sort out our shit and make sure everything works properly, rather than thinking that some kind of hidden metaphysical process of sublimation is going to prevent us from becoming a species of babbling, retarded shit-flingers, unable to understand the concepts or technology of ancestors whose language used to be tightly formalised by academies and institutions.

Whoops- accidentally wrote a short essay. Back to work!
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:03, closed)

Brilliantly put.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:21, closed)
I find it hard to argue with most of that. It's a shame I didn't qualift my statement by adding something like "not to know how to not know how the word 'random' is being intended and used in this QOTW"

Oh. Wait. I did.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:34, closed)

I think the point in the mini essay is that even trivial things like this can contribute to cheapening of the language, and in communication becoming less nuanced.

As another example, imagine witnesses to a shooting. Police arrive and speak to witnesses. A witness says, while in shock "it was just so random, the bloke just started shooting"

The proper usage of the word, without the bastardised colloquialism, would clearly imply that the shooter fired indiscriminately, the slang usage just implies that the witness hasn't seen a shooting before. If the witness believes that they are using random correctly, the investigation could become confused before it has started, with the idea of the shooter planning to target a specific person or people ruled out.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:59, closed)
I think....
...that if I cared, I'd bother to read that, but I'm done.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:08, closed)
Most people haven't seen a shooting before so the slang usage of the word would more than likely be correct

Either way, please stop going on about it now.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:13, closed)

The slang usage almost certainly wouldn't be correct there at all.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:16, closed)
You said:
'the slang usage just implies that the witness hasn't seen a shooting before'

And they probably hadn't
So it would be right.

So shut up guy
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:49, closed)

Yes - the slang usage implies that the witness hasn't seen a shooting before - instead of implying that there was a random element to the shooting, eg that the shooter seemed to be indiscriminate in who he was targeting. So the slang usage is misleading or confusing, which was my original point anyway.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 17:09, closed)
I want to clicks it, but can't. :(

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 22:57, closed)
Lots of words there,
all of them imbued with the idea that language left to its own devices will start reducing to a set of grunts with no meaning. It won't. Try traveling to one of the many places where native languages without any written form routinely distinguish between whether information was seen, heard or just heard about.
Also, by definition there's no such thing as a native speaker of a pidgin. English-derived languages that you may consider unintelligible or savage (to take an example Tok Pisin) are not pidgins, and they also often allow for greater expression rather than less. Tok Pisin, for example, distinguishes between successful and unsuccessful actions using prepositions.
In short: Nobody designed the language, nobody's going to design it in the future. Go read something about historical linguistics and language change (I suggest this book as a good starter) then come back and make your case.
(, Fri 22 Apr 2011, 7:32, closed)
You're totally right of course
"a species of babbling, retarded shit-flingers" was gross hyperbole on my part. I'm no linguist and happy to admit that my understanding of the subject does not go beyond the level of popular science books.

A few points though. History has furnished us with examples of people who ended up with a true pidgin as their first (not native) language - slaves taken from various countries who ended up in the same plantation. Within a single generation this developed into a pidgin language derived from the language of their captors (I can tell you know already this, of course). These pidgins eventually developed into creole languages, which had a consistent grammar and only loose connections between derived and original words, like Tok Pisin. This creolization does not appear to support my argument, since it shows how language and grammar will develop spontaneously and ecologically (and as recent findings show, with a greater dependence on pragmatics than was previously admitted).

But I stand by my criticism of the now orthodox view on linguistics because of what I see as two very misguided assumptions.

First is the Hegelian assumption that I discussed briefly above. We do not have an explanation of the mechanism (or supposed mechanism) that keeps language evolving and alive. When you say that 'nobody designed language' you leave out the very salient examples of design in the history of language - the strict formalization of Latin and the various attempts in Europe to bring local languages more in line with Latin using prescriptive grammars and dictionaries (L'Académie française springs to mind). Not only that, there is the assumption that similar formalizing activities never took place in places like ancient Egypt or the Fertile Crescent, despite the discovery of works of grammar that would seem to suggest just that.

Secondly, there is the relativistic assumption that the linguistic output of two cultures is equally valid, regardless of any evidence to the contrary, and swinging accusations of ethnocentrism and even racism at anyone who questions this view (not accusing you of this of course). But then, you don't need me to tear relativism a new arsehole because Sokal did that in 1998 (and Paul Boghossian finished the job in 2006). I don't believe that you could translate a complicated book, say for example, A Brief History of Time, or Kant's Critique of Pure Reason into a creole language, no matter how skilful the translation, and expect the meaning to be preserved in all its subtlety. A better example might be comparing the King James Bible to one of these awful American "everyday English" bibles - a hell of a lot of depth of meaning is lost.

I do not think that language left to its own devices will reduce us to meaningless grunts (although I am aware of an increasing amount of meaningless grunts in the language I hear spoken every day). In tribal cultures, all members must be keen botanists, meterologists, cartographers and much more, and this is very clearly reflected in their language (I'm thinking of Jared Diamond's account of the language of Papua New Guinea). But in Europe we live in a built environment, where technology, media and other artifice is our entire existence. My concern is that by abandoning prescriptive grammar and allowing pragmatics and mere accident to shape language, we will end up with language that reflects life in the west as it appears, rather than how it is. To truly take part in modern civil society you need to understand many extremely complex and counter-intuitive ideas, and I think that relying on some unseen hand based on theories of broad patterns in history to guide language may be a mistake.

Edit: I just bought the book you recommended. I've heard of it before, looks like a good overview and I'm looking forward to reading it.
(, Fri 22 Apr 2011, 12:19, closed)
The context here is colloquial speech
In which case, the meaning does not become ambiguous as the context is generally assumed to be understood.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:03, closed)

Hey, if you're happy for the listener or reader to have to have a second of thinking "aaah, he doesn't know what random means, he is using it in the silly way that idiots do", I'm happy to indulge you in your colloquialism.

"Random" is a particularly stupid one though, as it is actually used in a way that misunderstands the term, rather than, say, being deliberately used in an opposite context, in the way that "wicked" or "sick" have been. Random still means something very specific, and no other term is in common usage to cover what random actually means, so yeah, I get slightly niggled at its misuse.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:09, closed)

Quite. I do understand that the meaning of words evolve and change naturally. But where do you draw the line between being pedantic and being concerned about losing use of defined, useful words?
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:13, closed)
Meaning is not lost in this case
As is the case for all colloquial speech, context is everything:

"I chatted to a random girl at the bar" - I talked to a girl with whom I had not previously been acquainted.

"I saw a donkey in the street. How random" - I saw a donkey in the street. How unexpected.

Where you draw the line depends on your audience, and most definitely if used in formal speech.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:37, closed)

But it has an intended meaning that confuses what random actually means. It is possible to talk to a random girl in a bar: "right, I dare you to chat up the next girl who comes out of the girls toilets" is an example of how that could occur.

Brevity improves most sentences, and I think "I was talking to a girl in the pub" clearly implies that the girl was previously unknown. Adding "random" muddies the waters, either by confusing people as to what random actually means, or by making people have to do a slight bit of working out that you didn't actually mean "random"
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:57, closed)
'"I was talking to a girl in the pub" clearly implies that the girl was previously unknown. ' is horsehit.

It could also very well mean that the girl is unknown to the person being spoken to at that point, but not unknown to the person saying it.

'I was talking to a girl I didn't know in the pub' vs 'I was talking to a girk you don't know in the pub'.

If you weren't being such a pain in the arse, i really wouldn't be bothering with this, but you're clearly unsuited to B3ta. Or at least this section of B3ta this week, and I have nothing better to do in the office this afternoon.

I'll go back to my original point, the very question itself talks about the note on the rubble. The example given is not random, it is not intended to imply random in it's pure definition and if you are going to rail against it in the context it is clearly used and intended and against every answer that doesn't fit the way you think random must only be used, you are in for a long and frustrating week.

In fact, stick around, it'll be fun to watch you suffer.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:14, closed)

"the example given is not random, is clearly not intended to imply random" and there, in a nutshell, is my problem with the term. Not with B3ta, not with the individuals posting in the spirit of the thread, choosing to ignore that they are doing the equivalent of posting "it rained on my wedding day" in a QOTW about irony, but with the attitude of "well, we know it doesn't mean what we are using it to mean, but it doesn't matter anyway" - it's just a bit lazy, some people think it does matter a bit, and the QOTW could easily have been called "coincidences" or "bizarre"

To be honest, I am as bored as you this afternoon, but I don't need to get personal about it. As I said, It is just something that niggles me. I even tried to get in to the spirit of it to start with but the sheer quantity of non-random random stories irritated me to a slight extent.

I like a lot of the stories already, I think the theme isn't a bad one at all, just don't like the silly title
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:27, closed)
It's a word.
Not a 'term' or 'phrase'...

...OK, I am doing it on purpose now. Let's draw a line under it.

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:32, closed)
I get slightly niggled turn into a interminable dullard and overwhelming cockbite at its misuse
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:15, closed)
^This is what happens when you get a load of geeks to answer a three word question.

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 13:45, closed)
yeah, what evs granddad

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:05, closed)
This will be the best response this week.
There's no point anybody saying anything else.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:11, closed)
^What she said^
But in a sexy fashion.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:37, closed)
Tell me kind Sir...
...how does one "FUCK OFF" exactly? I have never in my brief existence encountered any sexual positions that appeared to be locomotive in any way, so is there something I'm missing?
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 14:58, closed)

(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 16:22, closed)
very quickly

(, Tue 26 Apr 2011, 17:06, closed)
This all over.
I hate the new usage of 'random'. Not necessarily because of the language evolution point that leviticus made - although I do agree with his argument - but because it's been a very obvious and very audible change. From first hearing it a few years ago, it's built up quite quickly to have a new and ridiculous meaning. Like watching fashion in slow-motion.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:05, closed)
I blame Scott Mills.
It's probably his fault.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 15:07, closed)
Works for me.
He sounds a rum 'un.
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 16:19, closed)
whether or not it's his fault is entirely beside the point
it's still his fault.
(, Sat 23 Apr 2011, 12:15, closed)
I agree
And have the posting credentials to prove it
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 16:37, closed)
language evolves
so it does. Spelling is a convention and grammar nazis can just go and stuff their semicolons up there backsides (The misuse of "there" actually caused pain).
(, Thu 21 Apr 2011, 22:16, closed)
It's annoying for you,
it will seem standard to the next generation,
it will be old-fashioned usage within the next 50 years,
and there's nothing you or anyone else can do about it.
(, Fri 22 Apr 2011, 7:36, closed)

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