By Robin Abrahams
August 8, 2007 | 06:54 AM
The water-cooler news story of the day is that of the man who smuggled a monkey onto an airplane under his hat. (I hope it was a yellow hat.)
I do try to have original commentary on this blog, but for this one I'll be content to echo the thoughts of everyone else who has or will see this article:
1. What the--?
Oh, okay, let's bring it on home to manners somehow:
4. This is what happens when people think it is socially acceptable for men to wear hats indoors.
*My mother does not actually live in Newark, but that gave the line a retro 1960s Catskills stand-up-comic-in-a-plaid-jacket feel, so I'm leaving it in.
By Robin Abrahams
August 7, 2007 | 06:22 AM
A number of readers have written in about this week's column, in which a person wrote in to complain about a grammar-correcting friend. The LW (advice-column lingo for "letter writer") had said that they "felt badly" about an ill friend, and the friend they were talking to jumped on it.
Lots of people, including some darned good letter-writers, think that "I feel badly" is correct. I wish they were right, because that would mean that the person who, rudely, corrected their friends' grammar was not only wrong but incorrect. Which would have been fun. But in fact the tactless friend was right. One feels bad for a sick friend, not badly. Bryan Garner, author of the incomparable Dictionary of Modern American Usage, backs me up on this. So, sorry all, but "I feel bad for you" it is.
And a special thanks to everyone who wrote in to correct my "grammer." Y'all got a special place in my heart.
(Those whose grammar-correcting urge still isn't satisfied may note that I've used "they" as a pronoun for a singular "letter writer" or "friend," which is technically incorrect. But it avoids sexism, and I have seen both Austen and Shakespeare use "they" as a singular pronoun, and if it's good enough for Jane and Will it's good enough for me.)
By Robin Abrahams
August 6, 2007 | 06:25 AM
A recent news report promises that scientists may soon develop "A Nasal Spray to Shed Your Shyness." (Slightly less sensational coverage here.) The spray apparently increases levels of oxytocin, a neurotransmitter that seems heavily involved in the whole peace love & understanding thing. According to the report, "The spray is very easy to use, and an individual can boost self-confidence just by squirting it up the nose."
Leaving aside the dubious wisdom of inserting things in one's nose to boost self-confidence, will the widespread availability of such a spray put Miss Conduct and her ilk out of business? I doubt it. Such a chemical fix might well jog some people out of shyness or even mild depression. While healthy neurotransmitter levels are necessary for good social functioning, however, they are far from sufficient. No amount of warm fuzzy feelings can compensate for training and practice in social skills. Peace and love are not enough--you have to have understanding in order to get along in the world.
This isn't just my cranky, anti-Rousseau side talking. When we look at people with Williams Syndrome (a genetic disorder causing a range of physical and psychological abnormalities) we see what happens to people who are full of love and trust, and low on social skills.
The personalities of people with Williams Syndrome, according to the New York Times (in a lengthy and fascinating article) combine "a love of company and conversation ... with a poor understanding of social dynamics and a lack of social inhibition." People with Williams probably have outstanding levels of oxytocin, yet they suffer from loneliness, and concomittant sadness, because of their poor social skills. With training, however, they can improve drastically, and develop the social networks they so long for.
So there it is. Love is not all you need, and I don't think I'll be losing my job to a nasal spray anytime soon.