This is too good a story not to share it with you. The tl;dr version of it goes like this: a man has a brain tumor, loses his memories, gets surgery, and regains them. However, as is often the case with tl;dr versions, this does no justice at all to the story, which is both fascinating in terms of its content and a very compelling read. Just to give you a little appetizer, here's how he describes the moment when his memories start coming back to him:
They began to pour onto the neural highways of my brain like a torrential summer rain. I couldn’t stop them. Their onslaught was merciless. Evenings were the most intense, as the steroids that reduced my cranial swelling kept me wide awake. With little else to preoccupy my mind, my flashbacks were largely uninterrupted. A retrieval and indexing process began to occur spontaneously, from the moment I left the operating room. I experienced memories as moving pictures, or flashes of light, illuminating a football stadium’s worth of information all at once.
Now go read the whole piece; it's well worth your time.
As an unapologetic Apple fanboi on the one hand and a serious, hardworking linguist on the other, it is all too rare to see one's two passions collide. I guess the only instance that readily comes to mind is Apple's iconic 1997 slogan Think different (which I mangled, Google Translate-style, in the title of this post). Back then, the criticsm was that different was used as a manner adverb, and hence that it should be differently. In the Isaacson biography , Jobs (not surprisingly) had his own view on the issue:
"Jobs insisted that he wanted 'different' to be used as a noun, as in 'think victory' or 'think beauty.'" Jobs also specifically said that "think differently" wouldn't have the same meaning to him. Also, Jobs wanted to make it sound colloquial, like the phrase "think big."
There are several interesting sides to this. First, the construction Think X is an intriguing one, in that it indeed seems to nominalize whatever takes the place of X (a bit like how That was so Y (of him) can be used to adjectivize stuff). In addition, I was struck by the comment about big. At first I thought big was one of those adjectives (like fast) where adjective and adverb are homophonous, but as it turns out the form bigly does in fact occur. Apparently Jobs had a keen sense of more than just technology and design.
Today's issue is more clear-cut, though. Last month Apple unveiled the iPhone 6S and in so doing they introduced a clever new slogan, namely The only thing that's changed is everything. It's clever because in so-called S-years people typically complain that the phone hasn't undergone any substantial changes (because it looks the same) and so isn't worth upgrading to (while in reailty the S-years are the best ones to upgrade in). So far so good. The Dutch version of this slogan, however, goes like this: Alles wat is veranderd, is alles. Anyone with even a basic understanding of Dutch will tell you that this doesn't make much sense (it means something like "Everything that's changed is everything"), and that it is certainly not a correct translation of the original slogan. The fix is easy: replace alles 'everything' with het enige 'the only thing' and we're done: Het enige wat veranderd is, is alles.
As you can imagine, when I encountered this slogan, I felt it my civic duty to right this wrong. But how does one get through to a huge company (the biggest in the world in fact) that is known for its secrecy and its, shall we say, selective communication? I tried tweeting at Phil Schiller, and I filled out a 'send us your feedback on our website'-form on apple.com, but so far all to no avail. I visit the Belgian iPhone 6S site every day—I even have it tracked—but it looks as static as a Live Photo that hasn't been 3D touched. Rest assured, though, that as soon as the correct slogan appears, I'll be celebrating it as The Day I Changed The Apple Website.
No, not in that sense.
Careful readers will have noticed that I also changed the order of the verb cluster here, from is veranderd to veranderd is. Both versions are grammatical, but as Broekhuis & Corver (2015) point out, in passive clusters, the so-called 21-order is much more frequent (both in Flanders and in the Netherlands) than the 12-order.
Ok, there might be another reason for my many visits.
Do you like language? As in: like-like? As in: would you like to spend all day poring over the minutiae of natural language, like why adverbs can sometimes take scope over embedded clauses or why Hofstade-based 3-year olds inflect their complementizers? Do you like solving puzzles and want to work in an intellectually stimulating and challenging environment? Do you have the stamina, grit, and determination to work on a single project for four years and give it your all, even when the Impostor Syndrome strikes so hard all you want to do is crawl under your desk and cry? If you've answered 'yes' to all of the above questions—even if only hesitantly to the last one—then, well, in the words of Jeff Buckley, I'm calling you: I'm looking for a PhD-student to work on a project for four years and write a dissertation in the process.
Here are some of the practicalities regarding this job offer. The project in question is this one. If, on the basis of this project description, you feel the urge to read more on the subject (which would be a good sign), may I recommend this paper, where I work out the proposed analysis in some more detail? And if at this point you're still with me, you might be interested in knowing that all applications for this position have to go through the official KU Leuven jobsite. Said site also contains some more info on the job and the precise profile I'm looking for, but in case of doubt or additional questions, don't hesitate to contact me.
What's in it for you, you ask? Well, apart from being able to do one of the best jobs imaginable for the next four years, you will be supervised by someone who will not only consistenly demand the absolute highest quality from you, he will also inundate you with quotes from The Big Lebowski, The Fast Show, and Star Wars. Now, I don't want to go all horse's-head-on-the-bed-sheets on you, but to me this sounds like an offer you can't refuse. I'm looking forward to hearing from you!
Just read this post and it struck a chord with me. The whole piece describes a situation that is all-too familiar, but I was specifically taken by the following quote:
"we need time to think. I mean this quite literally: thought requires time. Ideas need some idle, nonproductive space in which to thrive. This kind of sustained thinking is an important part of being human, but it’s also vital for good academic work."
I could not agree more—I could try, but I would not be successful—and it's something I've begun implementing in my own work-life as well. So don't be surprised or offended if I say 'no' to whatever you're inviting me to do or contribute to in the upcoming weeks or months, because to paraphrase Apple slightly, it takes a thousand no's to arrive at a single yes.
Another catalyst in my thinking about this has been this book, which I read over the Easter break.