Odd “Even”

April 10, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

The “Mad Men” exhibit at the Museum of the Moving Image shows how scrupulously Matt Weiner and company sought historical authenticity. They are proud of their period-perfect props, objects that we will glimpse for a split second or not at all – the lunches in the office fridge, the driver’s license in Don Draper’s wallet.

Why, then, does nobody check the script for linguistic anachronisms? I’ve noted some of these before (here). In this seventh and final season, “even” has popped up ahead of its time.  In an episode before the mid-season break, Bert and Don have this conversation. The year is 1970.

Here’s the transcript:
Bert:  You thought there was going to be a big creative crisis and we'd pull you off the bench, but in fact, we've been doing just fine.
Don:  So, why am I even here?

To my ears, that “even” sounded odd, a bit too recent.  Mark Liberman at the Langauge Log agrees. In a 2011 post (here) on the history of “even,” he says that this use of “even” for emphasis is very recent.

The specific phrase "what does that even mean?" has become fairly common in the news media and in books, but most of the hits are from the past decade. . . . I don't remember this expression from my youth, and I can't find any convincing examples before 1993.

Google nGrams too shows that the sharp rise does not begin until after 1980.

In another Season 7 episode, teenage Sally, briefly home from boarding school, has a confrontation withe her mother. Echoing Dad she says, “Why am I even here.”

For the final episodes, Weiner has brought legendary screen writer and screen doctor Robert Towne on board. Towne was born in 1934, and he has an ear for dialogue. Maybe he will be able to keep the language suited to the historical period.

My Handshakes Bring All the Boys to the Yard

April 6, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

Handshakes are important. They can make a difference.

After Kentucky lost to Wisconsin in the semis Saturday night, several of the Wildcats started off the court, skipping the handshake line.The Kentucky coaches managed to round up some of them, but three of the Kentucky stars shook no hands.* 

That was now. But this Kentucky-handshake contretemps seems to be history repeating itself, albeit with some color reversal.

In 1950, for post-season basketball, the NCAA had a close rival in the NIT. The “I” stands for “invitational,” and Kentucky, always a basketball power, easily won an invite. City College was a bit iffier, but they too were invited, and in the second round they matched up against Kentucky, coached by the legendary Adolph Rupp.

Part of the Rupp legend was racism.  According to journalist Marvin Kalb, Rupp had been quoted saying he’d never coach a team with “kikes” and “blacks.”  This was still in the days when Southern universities were segregated. The Kentucky squad was all White, all Christian, something of a contrast to the City College starting five – three Jews and two Blacks.

As the game was about to start, the City College coach Nat Holman told his players to show their sportsmanship and shake hands with their Kentucky counterparts. The City College players went to their positions for the opening tip-off and, following coach’s orders, each extended a hand to the Wildcat standing next to him. Before a crowd of 18,000 at the Garden, the Kentucky players turned away. No handshakes from the Wildcats.

The scenario had the effect Holman had intended. The City College players were, to say the least, fired up. Final score: City College 89, Kentucky 50. That may still stand as the worst loss in Kentucky’s history.

Sure there are differences – the no-handshake before rather than after the game, the players doing the snubbing Black, the snubbees mostly White. But the similarities – Kentucky, no handshake, loss to a Northern team – were a thematic echo I found too intriguing to pass up.
* Some observers lumped this unsportsmanlike conduct together with Andrew Harrison’s comment about Wisconsin’s center Frank Kaminsky. In a post-game team interview, when a reporter asked a question about Kaminsky, Harrison, thinking he was off-mike, muttered, “Fuck that nigga.” I see this less as poor sportsmanship than as grudging admiration. If I were Kaminsky, I wouldn’t be offended. I’d be flattered.

Cops – Killing and Being Killed

April 3, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

This story from Kos has been quickly circling through the left portion of the Internet.

Let’s assume that the numbers are accurate.*

Don't bother adjusting for population differences, or poverty, or mental illness, or anything else. The sheer fact that American police kill TWICE as many people per month as police have killed in the modern history of the United Kingdom is sick, preposterous, and alarming.

The author is right. Although the US has a much larger population, and it has more police officers . . .

(Click on the graph for a larger view.)

. . .but even adjusting for that, the US killings by cops dwarf the UK figure**.

Adjusting for the number of cops, US cops killed 8 times as many people in a single year as UK cops did in 115 years. But before we conclude that US law enforcement is “sick and preposturous” and dominated by homicidal racists, we might look at the other side – the number of cops who get killed. The entire UK police force since 1900 has had 249 deaths in the line of duty. The US tally eclipses that in a couple of years.

In this century, 25 UK officers died in the line of duty. The figure for the US, 2445, is nearly one hundred times that. Adjusting for numbers of officers, US deaths are still ten times higher.

My guess is that what accounts for much of the UK-US difference is guns. Most British cops don’t carry guns. Last August, I posted (here  – it’s gotten over 25,000 page views ) a video of a berserk man wildly swinging a machete in a London street. The police come, armed only with protective shields and truncheons. Eventually, they are able to subdue the man. In the US, it’s almost certain that the police would have shot the man, and it would have been completely justifiable. More cops with guns, more cops killing people. 

But more civilians with guns, more cops getting killed. Since 2000, six UK cops have died from gunshots; in the US, 788.  We have 11 times as many cops, but 130 times as many killed by guns.***

(I did not include the yearly data for the UK since it would not have been visible on the graph. In most years, total cop deaths there ranged between 0 and 2.)

Thanks to the ceaseless efforts of gun manufacturers and their minions in legislatures and in the NRA and elsewhere, US cops work in a gun-rich environment. They feel, probably correctly, that they need to carry guns. If that man in London had been wielding an AR-15 (easily available in many states in the US – in the UK, not so much, not at all in fact), the cops could not have responded as they did. They would have needed guns. There would probably have been some dead civilians, perhaps some dead cops, and almost certainly, a dead berserker. 


* We don’t have a good source of data on how many people the police kill.  (See this WaPo article.) An unofficial source since 2013 is KilledByPolice.net. The data on killings by the UK police is also not precise. Politifact (here) says that the Wikipedia numbers that the Kos article is based on are
far low, but we don’t know how low.” PolitiFact does suggest that many of those killings by police were not by London Bobbies. They were by the R.U.C in Northern Ireland during the “Troubles” with the I.R.A.

** The denominator for the UK – the number of police officers over the last 115 years  – is my own very rough estimate.

*** The other two leading causes of police deaths are heart attacks and car accidents. Maybe UK cops practice better cardio fitness. But they also spend less time patrolling in cars, and they are less likely to be chasing other cars on the highways.

Porn This Way

March 31, 2015
Posted by Jay Livingston

If you were gay and getting married, would you go out of your way to hire a homophobic photographer or baker? Would you seek out the florist who, as he delivers your flowers, lets you know that God despises you for your sinful and disgusting ways?

Let’s get real. The uproar over the Indiana law is about something other than a relatively small number of gays prevented from boosting the bottom line of bigots. It’s about something more important – not the practical consequences but the symbolism.  What the law symbolizes is the relative status of different groups. It is an attempt to reassure religious Christian Hoosiers that they still hold sway, that Indiana is still their state. The corollary is that in the state’s official view, gays do not have the same moral standing as Christians.

That reduced status of gays can have real consequences. The more that gays sense that others disapprove of their sexuality, and the more they get the message that their sexuality is not legitimate,then the more likely they will be to stay in the closet, generally not a happy place for them or their loved ones.

Although it seems eminently logical and reasonable to me that gays who live in places where homosexuality is not accepted will be less happy, it would be nice to have some data. Unfortunately, getting information on gays – the number in and out of the closet, and their general happiness – is an inexact science, and we have to turn to sources not usually explored in the undergraduate Methods course.

Over at Sociological Images, Lisa Wade recently posted some data from PornHub on the relative frequency of gay porn use in the 50 states.  What percent of all PornHub searches were for gay porn? They compared states with and without marriage equality.

The gay percentage was slightly higher in states where gay marriage was not legal. 

PornHub’s research report has a couple of problems. For one thing, their map is badly out of date (they posted it only a couple of weeks ago). The number of marriage-equality states is not eighteen (including DC), it’s thirty-eight. Those fuchsia circles on the map are my addition – marriage-equality states that PornHub classified incorrectly. 

Another problem is that PorhHub did not take into account basic demographic facts about the states – age and marital status, for example – that might influence the numbers of gay and straight porn consumers.

Still, it’s surprising that the demand for gay porn, relative to straight, is as high in the deep South – Georgia, Alabama, Mississippi – as it is in states with well known gay areas.* That similarity is real, not just an artifact of PornHub’s possibly flawed methods. Seth Stephens-Davidowitz, writing in the Times in December of 2013 (here) found similar results using different data – Google searches for terms like “gay porn” and “Rocket Tube.” These searches, like those at Pornhub, constituted about 5% of all porn searches.

Stephens-Davidowitz also found that ratios among the states were similar regardless of general attitudes towards homosexuality.

While tolerant states have a slightly higher percentage of these searches, roughly 5 percent of pornographic searches are looking for depictions of gay men in all states. This again suggests that there are just about as many gay men in less tolerant states as there are anywhere else.

Stephens-Davidowitz’s “tolerance” measure is more sophisticated than PornHub’s simple law-or-no-law variable (even if they’d gotten it right). It was based on Nate Silver’s estimate of support for gay marriage laws.**

(Click on the image for a larger view.)

In 2012, states in the Northeast scored about 50% higher than did states in the South and Southwest. Yet in the ratio of porn searches specifying gay material, differences were very small. But while the proportion of men who are gay may be about the same in Mississippi and Oklahoma as it is in Massachusetts and California, the lives of those men are very different. Men in less tolerant states were, not surprisingly, more likely to be closeted. In the less tolerant states, fewer men identify themselves as gay in their Facebook profiles. In Mississippi, for example, while porn-search data suggests that 5% of the men are gay, only 1% of Facebook gender preferences are for another man.
Match.com shows similar results.

Of course, it’s possible that gay men in less tolerant states are already matched up with other men and have no need to declare their preferences on Facebook or Match.com. Possible, but unlikely.  Instead, these men are seeking others offline.  Or they are married – to women, of course – and surreptitiously searching for gay porn on the Internet.  If so, they are not doing such a great job of fooling themselves. Or their wives.

If you Google “Is my husband,” Google will complete the phrase according to the frequency of searches. This is what you’ll see.

Women everywhere, apparently, are more likely to ask “Is my husband gay?” than “Is my husband cheating?” But that ratio is higher in less tolerant states.

Searches questioning a husband’s sexuality are far more common in the least tolerant states. The states with the highest percentage of women asking this question are South Carolina and Louisiana. In fact, in 21 of the 25 states where this question is most frequently asked, support for gay marriage is lower than the national average.

Anti-gay sentiment in a state, a sentiment that takes the concrete form of laws, forces gay people into unhappy and unfulfilled life in the closet. Maybe that’s what the supporters of these laws intend.  The laws are their response to the feeling that their position of dominance is slipping. That’s the motivation behind proposals to make English the official language of a state or the country, or to make Christianity the official religion.***

In its symbolic message, Indiana’s “OK to Say Nay to Gays” law makes hetero the official sexuality of Indiana. The law is a reassurance to conservative, anti-gay Christians that Indiana is still their state. And the nationwide reaction against the law is no more about wedding cakes than the sit-ins of the 1960s were about the delicious hamburgers that Woolworth’s was serving to its White customers. What’s at issue is the moral legitimacy of an entire category of people.

* In Maira Kalman’s famous December 2011 “New Yorkistan” cover for the New Yorker, Chelsea appears as Gaymenistan.

**You can find more on Silver’s method here.

*** An earlier post on the wish for Christianity as the official religion is here. I have also argued (here) that the reaction against Obamacare is more about status politics than it is about health care.