An interesting article on the difficulties of de-biasing language difficulties of de-biasing language, from a machine learning viewpoint. The author notes that simple approaches can hide bias in automated systems without removing it, e.g., if an algorithm is trained on a biased dataset in which "programmer" clusters with words that are more often found on men's resumes, words that might be irrelevant to job qualification. At the same time, the effort is worth making; even if a completely unbiased algorithm isn't possible with current methods in a society with baked-in prejudices, a less-biased one will get better results if the goal is (say) to hire qualified programmers, or make loan decisions based on ability to repay, not on race or gender.

The problem we’re facing in natural language processing (as in any application of machine learning) is that fairness is aspirational and forward looking; data can only be historical, and therefore necessarily reflects the biases and prejudices of the past. Learning how to de-bias our applications is progress, but the only real solution is to become better people.

(via Richard Mateosian, on Copyediting-L.)
content note: somewhat political

Depending on who you ask, the word of the year for 2018 is justice (Merriam-Webster), misinformation (, toxic (Oxford dictionaries), or single-use (Collins).

The Macquarie Dictionary and Australian Dictionary Centre haven't announced theirs yet, and the American Dialect Society, which started choosing a word of the year in the 1990s, well before any of those dictionaries, will vote in early January.

Those are based on some combination of what's been looked up most and what some group (large or small, expert or self-selected) thinks is most relevant and/or most useful. also lists "top lookups," which seems to be based on spikes in queries: there may not have been a day on which "excelsior" was looked up more than any other word, but excelsior got a lot of attention after Stan Lee died. ("Respect" and "maverick" are on the 2018 list for similar reasons.) The ADS is specifically looking for new words or usages (so "singular they" and "because" followed directly by a reason rather than with a preposition have both been selected as their word of the year in the past).

The ADS has also been doing this long enough to have selected words of the decade for the 1990s and 2000s, a word of the (20th) century (jazz), and of the millennium (she). That's "she" as distinct from "hen" (the older word for plural "they," after which our ancestors started using "they" rather than "hen," (probably because it's easier to distinguish from "he"), and English-speakers have spent centuries, literally, disagreeing over whether "they" or "he" is the right word for one person of unknown gender.
Language Log digs into the "polyamory is wrong" because it mixes Greek and Latin silliness. It turns out thatthe oldest use in English of that prefix- is a direct borrowing from Latin; the next oldest are with French and Latin roots, not English.
[political] I am signed up for canvassing for Yes on 3 tomorrow from 10-2. Today I have sent some "please vote" texts through an app to friends and acquaintances I think might not vote (including a current freelance contact and an old coworker) and a long email to a mailing list, and made a few more GOTV calls for Yes on 4 in Florida.

Depending on how drained I am after canvassing tomorrow, I hope to sign up for a shift on Tuesday as well. I'm willing to collapse Tuesday evening and am planning to do nothing Wednesday, but if I collapse Monday evening I will listen to my body. (I voted last week specifically so I could volunteer Tuesday.) I'm holding off on the sign-up to save the annoyance of having to explain why I'm not making it, and to save the volunteer who would be calling the trouble.

Meanwhile, a mostly friendly discussion on an editorial list of when singular they is accepted/acceptable led to me mentioning the word "nibling" for niece or nephew, and including nonbinary relatives for whom neither gendered term is appropriate. And that got me some friendly messages, and one obnoxious one about "PC." *sigh* But my on-list answer to the obnoxious message (in which I dug out from ages ago the idea that, based on what it's applied to, PC stands for "plain courtesy") got a "thanks for saying that, I was too angry to phrase it well."

Too much of the work that is in front of me to do is work that shouldn't be necessary, but we live in an imperfect world. So, tomorrow I will fight for freedom and justice, and [personal profile] cattitude will feed me a nice dinner afterward.

(I am wondering if I should make the rainbow-background clenched fist my default userpic.)
Language Log linked to an OED post on that dictionary's "release notes" for updated entries on words to do with gender and sexuality. The post title says "formal language" but the discussion includes "trans*" and "cis," which don't feel formal to me, as well as "heterosexual" and the changing meanings of "bisexual" over time and in different contexts.

The author notes that the editors made extensive use of the Digital Transgender Archive. The earliest citations the OED could find for agender and cisgender were on Usenet. (On the other hand, the earliest usage they found for "transgendered" was from the TV magazine section of the Des Moines Sunday Register.
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Nov. 26th, 2017 08:13 pm)
I just got an email recruiting subjects for paid "medical conditions research." (I get a bunch of these, and every few years I match what they're looking for and get paid to answer questions.) The survey dropped me after three questions, when I said I haven't been diagnosed with osteoporosis.

What interests me is that the second question, after age, was "What is the gender on your birth certificate?" with options male, female, and prefer not to say. Usually this company asks simply "what is your gender?" Given that they're interested in osteoporosis, I would guess they're asking for gender "on your birth certificate" because exposure to sex hormones is relevant, and they think that maps onto gender assigned at birth.

Aside from the possible cissexism here, that question may not get the researchers the information I think they're looking for, because some trans* people have corrected birth certificates that show their actual gender rather than what was assigned at birth. (I am guessing the author of the survey was trying not to offend people, since they didn't ask about "biological" gender.)
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Sep. 24th, 2015 06:42 pm)
At physical therapy this afternoon, while showing me a stretch, the therapist said a couple of words of Spanish. I did what I thought she was asking for and asked "¿Como si?" which got me spread hands and "no hablo." I'm nothing like fluent in Spanish, but the code-switching just happened. So I went back to English, and then commented that the bit of Spanish had come out without particular thought, just as if I'd said "like this?" in English.
redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)
( Jun. 9th, 2013 06:31 pm)
In the course of buying cheese today, we were chatting with the salesperson, and I mentioned being from New York City. He asked why, then, I had an English accent. *blink*?

Another stranger (same kind of context) has asked if I was British, because he thought I had such an accent, since we moved to Bellevue. (I know there isn't one British accent, but that's what the guy said.) I've had people wonder that a time or two before, but not twice in as many months. I know I don't have a strong/stereotypical New York accent (though I do speak quickly), but "you don't sound like a New Yorker" and "you sound British" are very different statements.

The guy today said he had lived in New York for a year, a while back, while attending City University of New York, but when I asked "which part of CUNY?" gave me a blank look, as if he'd never heard the term "CUNY" before, and said he couldn't remember when I clarified that I meant which of the colleges that make up the City University, only that he had been studying business.
Looking out a bus window this afternoon, I saw a banner "Let love form a family."

They weren't talking about marriage equality: we've won that fight here in New York. It's an agency that is trying to recruit foster parents.
This morning, [ profile] rysmiel and I were at a halal market, which they say has good meat, including good cold cuts, to get fruit and something to put on sandwiches. As rysmiel was looking at the ingredients on some smoked chicken, I looked at a package and went "Matjes!" in pleased surprise. Since I was enthusiastic, and we couldn't find smoked meat (only pastrami, which is a bit different), we got a package of matjes herring, as I wondered idly what language that word is from*. The rest of the large print on the package was in Polish, which neither of us knows. (The legally required small print was in French and English, of course, but the ingredients list just said "herring.")

There is absolutely nothing to stop herring from being halal (or kosher; I regularly buy kosher pickled herring in sour cream). I'm not sure how much of my surprise was seeing matjes in neat packages, and how much was the Polish package in a Montreal supermarket that has lots of hummus and date paste and other Middle Eastern foods (and fairly standard brands of tea and kinds of apple and such).

So, city life.

For dinner we went to an Italian restaurant in the Gay Village and ate pasta. On our walk back to the metro I saw banners on the street with amusing and/or inspirational quotes about various aspects of gay life and liberation. (I couldn't read all of them; my French isn't what it might be, though I can read more French than I can speak.) I spent some time chewing over "Being gay is not a choice; it is a necessity," going quickly from "not for me" to "yes, it is" to wondering what "being" means here. (I may be misremembering the phrasing, and what I'm working with is my on-the-fly translation, not what was printed on the cloth.) I trust the writer's description of his own experience, but once the text is printed on a banner above the sidewalk, people are going to apply it more broadly. For me, it's more complicated; the "not for me" tangles in with the different choices that come with being bi, as well as other people's tendencies to assume I'm straight if they see me with a male partner. But how much effort I make to be visible is separate from not making an effort to hide.

It would be nice to have a similar collection of banners in English, and maybe some in other languages, in my own Village.

*[ profile] cattitude was sitting at his computer when I told him this story, so he asked the net. With that spelling of "matjes," apparently either German or Swedish (Dutch would have another "a"). But I suspect that matjes is the English, and maybe French, for that kind of herring, just as "biscotti" is the French and English for a particular kind of Italian-style cookie.
This is prompted by a discussion on [personal profile] conuly's journal. (I don't think I can actually cross-post a poll, but I'm going to do my best.)

Poll #9573 suggest
Open to: Registered Users, detailed results viewable to: All, participants: 39

How do you pronounce the word "suggest"?

View Answers

14 (35.9%)

sug-jest (with a g as in "girl")
22 (56.4%)

2 (5.1%)

0 (0.0%)

something else (leave comment)
1 (2.6%)

Are you from the New York City area?

View Answers

Yes, raised and still live there.
2 (5.1%)

Raised in the New York area, but live elsewhere now.
4 (10.3%)

Raised elsewhere, live in New York.
2 (5.1%)

Not exactly (explain in comments).
3 (7.7%)

No (see next question)
28 (71.8%)

If the answer to question 2 is no, where are you from?

redbird: The words "congnitive hazard" with one of those drawings of an object that can't work in three dimensions (cognitive hazard)
( Feb. 11th, 2012 10:05 pm)
This may be the translation error of the week, on a list of gelato ingredients (from the GROM chain): "candied cedar, lemons, and oranges." I'm almost disappointed to be sure of what they actually mean: "Cassata Siciliana" isn't on their February flavor list, but I'd be tempted to try something with "candied cedar" just for the weirdness value.

( doubts the claim that "citron" is from Greek, κεδρον, but people have been connecting at least the names of those trees for a long time.)
redbird: a two-gendered cardinal, female one side and male the other (two-gendered cardinal)
( Jul. 5th, 2011 09:47 pm)
Another person’s sex or gender identification cannot possibly change my own, or threaten it in any way. About the worst that another person’s sex or gender identification can do to mine is to make me think a little more carefully about my own sex and gender and how those things are a part of my life.

I’m gonna say this because it needs to be said: if your own sense of yourself can’t hold up to the occasional bit of introspective scrutiny, you have bigger fish to fry than how someone else is identifying hir sex or gender. —Hanne Blank

The first panel I went to, "How Intersectionality Enlarges Feminist Community," was about politics and activism, and grouped under "Feminism and Other Social Change Movements." The pocket program description is:

item description cut for length )

cut because this got long. And a bit rambly. )

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redbird: closeup of me drinking tea, in a friend's kitchen (Default)

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