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Old 4th September 2020, 06:44 PM   #1
pharphis
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USC prof no longer teaching after using Chinese word that sounds like racial slur

https://campusreform.org/?ID=15580


Quote:
On Tuesday evening, the USC Marshall School of Business provided Campus Reform with a statement, confirming that Patton is no longer teaching his course.

“Recently, a USC faculty member during class used a Chinese word that sounds similar to a racial slur in English. We acknowledge the historical, cultural and harmful impact of racist language,” the statement read.
More in the article, don't want to quote in full.

Wondering what people here think about this incident. I think the title alone practically gives enough context to say "big deal, sometimes words sound like other words" and move on with life but after listening to the short clip I'm now 100% in that category. Video in article.

It looks like there *may not* be any long-term punishment, if I'm understanding the article correctly. Changes aren't finalized. Still, I think just about any administrative reaction here is over the top.

In fact I think by having another teacher substitute for now they will almost-necessarily make the class experience worse as the course was designed by the first instructor, not the temporary one.
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Old 4th September 2020, 07:25 PM   #2
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Not much to say really.

Students now seem to be mentally traumatised easily.

If a foreign word does it imagine how bad it must be hearing the real version in music videos.
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Old 4th September 2020, 07:43 PM   #3
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After how many of these cases there have been (Master Slave in disk technology, "Niggardly" in several cases) he probably should have used a different language as an example, but over all... *sigh*
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:03 PM   #4
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I really hope the Chinese students point out the traumatizing history of erasing a people's language.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:07 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by PhantomWolf View Post
After how many of these cases there have been (Master Slave in disk technology, "Niggardly" in several cases) he probably should have used a different language as an example, but over all... *sigh*
I worked in supplier contracts and was transferred to Baltimore in the 90's. I relaized early on that using the word 'reneged' raised some eyebrows so I had to find ways around saying it. Also the word 'boy' somehow got a reaction if I used it to refer to some adult behavior. Coming from California, I had no clue how racially sensitive other parts of the country were. None of it would cause even the merest blink out this way.

eta: Oh! I do have one from college though. My friend whose speaks portugese from the Azores was calling her buddy a word in her dialect that sounded like "neee-gah' over and over which was a term of endearment. That sounded uncomfortable, even here- but no one, in our very mixed group, said anything.

Last edited by Sherkeu; 4th September 2020 at 08:10 PM.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:09 PM   #6
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This is the kind of story that, even in this day and age, I have to believe has some sort of element missing from the reporting.

Can USC be that stupid? I hope not.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:11 PM   #7
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Originally Posted by Sherkeu View Post
I worked in supplier contracts and was transferred to Baltimore in the 90's. I relaized early on that using the word 'reneged' raised some eyebrows so I had to find ways around saying it. Also the word 'boy' somehow got a reaction if I used it to refer to some adult behavior. Coming from California, I had no clue how racially sensitive other parts of the country were. None of it would cause even the merest blink out this way.
Apparently things have changed, since the story is from USC.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:19 PM   #8
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I've studied Mandarin Chinese and I think I know what they're referring to.
But if just saying it was enough to get him "cancelled", then that's pretty ridiculous.

Remember when Brett Weinstein was called to resign for refusing to abide by some loose no white teachers tradition at his school? Just a sad indictment of faux wokeness.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:19 PM   #9
pharphis
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
This is the kind of story that, even in this day and age, I have to believe has some sort of element missing from the reporting.

Can USC be that stupid? I hope not.
if I didn't watch the video I would be thinking the same thing.

Well, there still could be some detail missing but I'm really struggling to guess at what it could even be since this is the context reported.

Maybe a bit out there, but perhaps a student complained and the professor told them (politely?) to get bent? Then at least something like that could be the reason (insensitivity - though I would argue justified) for looking into it further. Possibly.
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Old 4th September 2020, 08:24 PM   #10
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Originally Posted by Meadmaker View Post
Apparently things have changed, since the story is from USC.
Indeed. Anything offensive anywhere is now offensive everywhere, given just one person to complain about it. Context or language is irrelevent. And there seems no shortage these days.

I recall, in my 20's, thinking it a shame that McDonalds was put right across the narrow street from Windsor Castle when I visited there in the 90's. Some infections just cannot be stopped. A blight on humanity.

Perhaps I am becoming a 'get off my lawn' human. Maybe I just need to get with the times and shut up.

The weird thing about my area?
More black middle class people have moved here in the last few years than have ever been in the OC before. They are fleeing LA. I think.
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Old 4th September 2020, 10:10 PM   #11
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The situation is obscene. Worse than students pretending/scamming to have been mentally injured is if they're telling the truth. This sort of thing also undercuts the standard defense of Blacks' rampant use of the word "*****" as a way of "turning something negative into a positive" in order to "take back the power." The word has instead been vested with mind-crushing power.
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Old 4th September 2020, 11:01 PM   #12
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I can't get my VPN to connect right now so not able to watch the video.

That said, he probably said "那个“ which literally means "that". And when speaking Chinese people (myself include it) also use it the same way you'd say "um" when speaking English. It's not like it's an obscure word. Speaking Chinese you say it very frequently.
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Old 4th September 2020, 11:22 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
I can't get my VPN to connect right now so not able to watch the video.

That said, he probably said "那个“ which literally means "that". And when speaking Chinese people (myself include it) also use it the same way you'd say "um" when speaking English. It's not like it's an obscure word. Speaking Chinese you say it very frequently.
And commonly pronounced nee guh.

(Even though the formal pronunciation is more like na ge...)
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Old 4th September 2020, 11:30 PM   #14
pharphis
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Originally Posted by Roboramma View Post
I can't get my VPN to connect right now so not able to watch the video.

That said, he probably said "那个“ which literally means "that". And when speaking Chinese people (myself include it) also use it the same way you'd say "um" when speaking English. It's not like it's an obscure word. Speaking Chinese you say it very frequently.
That's exactly what happened.
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Old 5th September 2020, 12:02 AM   #15
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Sounds a lot like it is the Chinese version of our kiwi saying "Yeah na" or "na yeah" depending on what we agree with before things as a thinking staller. And chucking "eh?' At the end like the Canadians.
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Old 5th September 2020, 06:16 AM   #16
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Originally Posted by novaphile View Post
And commonly pronounced nee guh.

(Even though the formal pronunciation is more like na ge...)
My wife is ethnic Chinese and says na ge all the time when she is speaking Chinese. She wouldn’t pronounce it the same way that the guy in the video did, it sounds like ‘knacker, knacker’, but it’s definitely the Chinese version of ‘um, er’ - or the newer, posher version ‘sort of, kind of’. Nei ke is another common variant pronunciation according to my dictionary.

Maybe he should have chosen a different language, but you would hope an apology and explanation to someone offended would be the end of it.

On the other hand, Campus Reform sounds like a bunch of *****.
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Old 5th September 2020, 07:36 AM   #17
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Well, he's screwed:

Quote:
“It is an uneasy feeling allowing him to have the power over our grades,” they wrote, according to the conservative magazine National Review.

“We would rather not take his course than to endure the emotional exhaustion of carrying on with an instructor that disregards cultural diversity and sensitivities and by extension creates an unwelcome environment for us Black students,” the letter states.
They could use his course on communications. That first sentence is cockeyed and oddly passive.

Oh, and this accusation appears to be false:

Quote:
The group also accused Patton of “conveniently” stopping the Zoom recording right before saying the Chinese word, an allegation he denies.
Given that the video linked in the OP has him saying the word, it seems that the Zoom recording did not stop at that point.

Still, he's toast.
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Old 5th September 2020, 07:46 AM   #18
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Did he say the Governator's surname? Because Schwarz is German for Black..,,
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Old 5th September 2020, 08:20 AM   #19
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Originally Posted by pharphis View Post
https://campusreform.org/?ID=15580

More in the article, don't want to quote in full.
....
The story says he's on "short-term leave," not that he's been fired. It's hard to believe that something like this won't blow over, especially if the video is seen in context.

On a related note, there was a huge blowup in Washington some years ago and a D.C. official lost his job after he said he had a responsibility to be "niggardly" in spending the public's money.
https://apnews.com/4d97adcd78ad93d17f12830a20e1cb18

Last edited by Bob001; 5th September 2020 at 09:14 AM.
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Old 5th September 2020, 08:37 AM   #20
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Imagine if a new superpower country in the world had "and um" or just 'um' as racially offensive.
What would English speakers do?
Not that I'd mind so much at the forced compliance. I hate all the 'um's. I'd like to see all the like um like 'so.. like.. um's gone too!
But then we'd just get a lot of errrs and uhhhs to fill in.
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Old 5th September 2020, 09:16 AM   #21
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They should have fired the students
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Old 5th September 2020, 09:18 AM   #22
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I guess we need to come up with some politically correct term for the country of Niger and the river that said country is named after. Otherwise someone might be offended during a geography course or something.
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Old 5th September 2020, 09:31 AM   #23
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
The story says he's on "short-term leave," not that he's been fired. It's hard to believe that something like this won't blow over, especially if the video is seen in context.

On a related note, there was a huge blowup in Washington some years ago and a D.C. official lost his job after he said he had a responsibility to be "niggardly" in spending the public's money.
https://apnews.com/4d97adcd78ad93d17f12830a20e1cb18
I haven't paid close attention to every single case of this sort of stupidity, but usually, being told that they are utterly wrong causes the complainers to dig in their heels even harder.

The administration can either stand up to the whiny and ignorant students, or give in to the whiny and ignorant students. I assume it will be the latter, which is unfortunate for everyone. It's unfortunate for the teacher, it's unfortunate for the students themselves, and it's unfortunate for the rest of us who have to live in a society dominated by this sort of idiocy.
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Old 5th September 2020, 09:37 AM   #24
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
They should have fired the students
If more University presidents/admins would just tell the kids to stop being so stupid (in a much more articulate way than I would), then I bet more parents would pay to send their kids to such places of learning in the future.

They just seem to look at the immediate fallout of these kerfuffles and the short-term social blackmail.
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Old 5th September 2020, 09:51 AM   #25
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I used to meet a lot of people who went to USC. My impression was that there were quite a lot of people there who came with ethnic* Chinese ancestry - many with pretty recent ancestry. I'm surprised more Chinese and Chinese-American students are speaking up more.


*including Taiwain, Singapore, and Chinese speaking parts of Vietnam.
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Old 5th September 2020, 10:19 AM   #26
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
On a related note, there was a huge blowup in Washington some years ago and a D.C. official lost his job after he said he had a responsibility to be "niggardly" in spending the public's money.
https://apnews.com/4d97adcd78ad93d17f12830a20e1cb18
The problem with that incident is that "niggardly" has been outmoded English since the early 20th century, and the official who used it was not old enough to have been around during a time when it was actually in use. So the impression is of a person who knew about this archaic word and was not only well aware of the potential for misunderstanding, but was in fact counting on it so that he'd have a chance to call offended black people ignorant for not knowing the word.
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Old 5th September 2020, 10:32 AM   #27
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Originally Posted by Brainster View Post
They could use his course on communications.
Obviously not, since they appear to have been literally taking said course during this incident and it doesn't seem to have taught them anything. Between that and the blunder that got this guy fired I'd say they could probably have been better served by another, better teacher's course on communications.
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Old 5th September 2020, 11:35 AM   #28
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I guess it was just one of these niggling little words.
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Old 5th September 2020, 12:09 PM   #29
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
The problem with that incident is that "niggardly" has been outmoded English since the early 20th century, and the official who used it was not old enough to have been around during a time when it was actually in use. So the impression is of a person who knew about this archaic word and was not only well aware of the potential for misunderstanding, but was in fact counting on it so that he'd have a chance to call offended black people ignorant for not knowing the word.

That's quite a stretch. There's no reason to imagine that a political appointee to a black mayor in a majority black city was trying to piss people off. And the word might be more of a Britishism, but it's not archaic or unused.
Quote:
Recent Examples on the Web

Many Chileans are angry about the country’s unequal distribution of wealth and power, about niggardly pensions (for which people are supposed to save themselves) and about long waiting times for doctors’ visits and poor schools.
— The Economist, "2019 in review: protest and populism in Latin America," 25 Dec. 2019
To tap one of the country’s two largest and most niggardly mines is hard enough.
— The Economist, "Pakistan’s biggest private-sector firm bets on a fabled coal mine," 3 Feb. 2018
https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/niggardly

Also,
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contro...word_niggardly

Maybe the guy was just reading a lot of Dickens. It also appears that whoever turned him was a resentful holdover from the previous administration. Another adult might just have said "When you say that it's easy to hear something else. Use another word."
Quote:
Both aides who heard Howard use the word "niggardly" were holdovers from the Barry administration, and one was a candidate for the job Howard was given.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Contro...word_niggardly

Last edited by Bob001; 5th September 2020 at 12:11 PM.
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Old 5th September 2020, 01:16 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Checkmite View Post
Obviously not, since they appear to have been literally taking said course during this incident and it doesn't seem to have taught them anything. Between that and the blunder that got this guy fired I'd say they could probably have been better served by another, better teacher's course on communications.
I'm not seeing a blunder. He's a native speaker using a commonplace and inoffensive filler word in his native language. It's an idiom he learned in childhood, and that he and has been using habitually and correctly all his life. Without ever giving offense. I don't see how that could possibly be a blunder.

Unless you're saying he should have known his students would be this stupid and petty? To the point of having to exercise iron-willed control over his reflexive impulse to speak his native language as he always has? That's not realistic. Seems like you're victim-blaming to me.

The only blunder is the university not firing the students.

Last edited by theprestige; 5th September 2020 at 01:20 PM.
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Old 5th September 2020, 01:37 PM   #31
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This sounds similar to the word for the sun in my language.

"nika"
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Old 5th September 2020, 01:40 PM   #32
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Orrrr.....

.... is it possible that the following course of events took place here:

1) The prof says what he says (as shown in the video) on his remote tutorial

2) Someone watching the tutorial (poss a student) hears what they take to be a racial slur - and presumable this person isn't aware of the Mandarin placeholder word

3) That person makes a complaint to either the faculty or the uni

4) The faculty or uni review the video

5) They see and hear the word

6) The authorities have neither the expertise or the cultural understanding to enable them to make an instant binding decision, so...

7) ...they decide that the only prudent course of action is to suspend the prof while they try to figure out what happened, whether the prof really is saying a Mandarin placeholder word, and if so, whether the prof is pronouncing that word in a reasonably "normal" manner (and not, for example, deliberately choosing to mispronounce it so that it sounds like an English racial slur, for his own amusement etc).

8) And a big part of the reason why they followed this process is that they decided that they simply couldn't take the risk of making the wrong judgement - so they felt they needed to consult with experts in the field to make absolutely certain that they were treating this in the fair, correct way.


Bearing in mind the enormous sensitivity to the racial slur with similar pronunciation, I'd say that USC might well have been erring hugely on the side of caution, for fear of getting it wrong. It certainly seems like the prof's use of, and pronunciation, of the Mandarin phrase was both appropriate and reasonable. One would hope (and think) that USC will have come to the right conclusion eventually, and will have fully reinstated him.
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:14 PM   #33
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
......
Bearing in mind the enormous sensitivity to the racial slur with similar pronunciation, I'd say that USC might well have been erring hugely on the side of caution, for fear of getting it wrong. It certainly seems like the prof's use of, and pronunciation, of the Mandarin phrase was both appropriate and reasonable. One would hope (and think) that USC will have come to the right conclusion eventually, and will have fully reinstated him.
USC has a large East Asian Languages and Cultures department, including study-abroad programs in Taiwan and Beijing. It should have taken somebody about two phone calls to find out "what's this word?" https://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/ealc/eal...lty_roster.cfm
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:23 PM   #34
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Originally Posted by Bob001 View Post
USC has a large East Asian Languages and Cultures department, including study-abroad programs in Taiwan and Beijing. It should have taken somebody about two phone calls to find out "what's this word?" https://dornsife.usc.edu/cf/ealc/eal...lty_roster.cfm


True. But never discount incompetence (especially (and ironically) when combined with a desire to avoid cocking up which verges on the militant) - this maxim has served me well over the years, and has been borne out by events at least several times for me personally.

I don't think it's necessarily overstretching credibility to think that maybe the HR diversity colleague who fended the complaint took the ass-covering decision almost reflexively (and maybe the situation was also compounded by there being relatively few people on campus owing to the COVID situation). It's amazing how many people in that sort of a position will hit the "suspension pending a full enquiry" button almost automatically: I've seen it happen to a friend of mine over an allegation of mild sexual misconduct - the truth of the matter (that he'd done absolutely nothing wrong, and that the person concerned had made a genuine mistake in interpretation) could, and should, have been determined very quickly. Instead, he was suspended for nearly three weeks while they sorted it out!
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:35 PM   #35
Checkmite
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Originally Posted by theprestige View Post
I'm not seeing a blunder. He's a native speaker using a commonplace and inoffensive filler word in his native language. It's an idiom he learned in childhood, and that he and has been using habitually and correctly all his life. Without ever giving offense. I don't see how that could possibly be a blunder.
Yeah I'm going to need to see some evidence that Greg Patton is a native speaker who was speaking in his native Chinese when he specifically invoked the idiom as an example during the lesson. His LinkedIn page and quite impressive CV don't give any indication that he is Chinese or had any pre-professional connection or interaction with China.
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:38 PM   #36
rockysmith76
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Originally Posted by pharphis View Post
https://campusreform.org/?ID=15580



More in the article, don't want to quote in full.

Wondering what people here think about this incident. I think the title alone practically gives enough context to say "big deal, sometimes words sound like other words" and move on with life but after listening to the short clip I'm now 100% in that category. Video in article.

It looks like there *may not* be any long-term punishment, if I'm understanding the article correctly. Changes aren't finalized. Still, I think just about any administrative reaction here is over the top.

In fact I think by having another teacher substitute for now they will almost-necessarily make the class experience worse as the course was designed by the first instructor, not the temporary one.
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Old 5th September 2020, 02:40 PM   #37
LondonJohn
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It may of course also be the case (as I think someone else already mentioned) that we don't have the complete picture here. For example, suppose that Patton joked to a colleague, after the lesson, that "Hey! I just found a hilarious way of saying the n-word in a lecture without anyone being able to touch me about it! Turns out there's a Mandarin phrase which sound just like the n-word, so I can just say that I'm using the Mandarin phrase and I can't get in trouble for it! Huhhh huhhh!"
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Old 5th September 2020, 03:08 PM   #38
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Lithuanian has a word "shitoy". Don't say it in the toy store. It means "that".

And I bet those same students would get up in arms over umm, killing off an ethnicity by emasculating the language. Better word? Ethnocide by absorption? ????
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Old 5th September 2020, 03:16 PM   #39
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Originally Posted by casebro View Post
Lithuanian has a word "shitoy". Don't say it in the toy store. It means "that".

And I bet those same students would get up in arms over umm, killing off an ethnicity by emasculating the language. Better word? Ethnocide by absorption? ????

This and the OP remind me of when Toyota had a model of sports car called the MR2. All well and good, they must have thought; that'll translate easily throughout the world, they must have thought.

Except....

In French, the model name is pronounced "Emm" (M) "Airrr" (R) "duh" (2). Which, if you say it fairly quickly, and strangle the first vowel sound (as is common in colloquial French), you end up saying something which sounds almost identical to the French word "Merdeux". Which means "faeces-y" (but with the s- word instead of faeces)

Last edited by LondonJohn; 5th September 2020 at 03:19 PM.
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Old 5th September 2020, 03:35 PM   #40
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Originally Posted by LondonJohn View Post
It may of course also be the case (as I think someone else already mentioned) that we don't have the complete picture here. For example, suppose that Patton joked to a colleague, after the lesson, that "Hey! I just found a hilarious way of saying the n-word in a lecture without anyone being able to touch me about it! Turns out there's a Mandarin phrase which sound just like the n-word, so I can just say that I'm using the Mandarin phrase and I can't get in trouble for it! Huhhh huhhh!"
It is a course about language and he has been doing it for 10 years with no issues, so I doubt it.
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