I'm not sure what my feelings are in terms of this opening to a travel piece:

Every language attracts a special kind of student. Spanish speakers are lazy and charming. Those who have mastered French are sometimes chic and always sybaritic. Hebrew attracts the committed; Turkish, the committed and complicated. Adventurers are drawn to Arabic, and Mandarin is for brainiacs who love a challenge—so much so that they often abandon the language altogether once they've got it down. And Japanese? Japanese speakers are serious, serious people. Of course, all languages demand tedious, diligent study, but there's something about Japanese that calls out to those who are quiet, kind, and, often, spiritual. People who would rather kneel on a tatami mat contemplating a calligraphy scroll than, say, slump on a sofa watching Gossip Girl.
There are some things I really hate about it: the heavy reliance on sweeping generalizations; the fact that I had to look up the definition of the word sybaritic (it means lover of opulence); the reference to that pox of my existence show Gossip Girl.

But, I find myself drawn to it at the same time. There's something fun about reading these sorts of broad generalizations. Stereotyping always has a certain appeal because it makes the world seem simpler and less indeterminate. Reading stuff like this is also a bit like going to a palm reader; what does the language that I speak say about me?

In conclusion, I've decided this is a good template for the lead-in to a fluff piece. I shall keep it on record and continue to collect similar devices. Once I reach a critical point, I think I should be able to design a program that automatically spits out engaging fluff pieces. I'll make millions.

P.S. Do they teach this kind of stuff in J-School (I know you've read this "anonymous" so you better respond)

P.P.S. They do in short story writing classes:
Dialogue: Hills Like White Elephants by Ernest Hemingway
Narrative Structure: The Lady with the Pet Dog by Chekov
To show that creative writing isn't all formulaic: Emergency by Dennis Johnson

P.P.P.S Someone should start teaching In Dreams Begin Responsibility by Delmore Schwartz for an example of some excellent neuroticism. Since the majority of people in creative writing classes are neurotic, they should learn how to channel their disability productively.

P.P.P.P.S. Why do asperger sufferers get an official diagnosis and heaps of sympathy and not neurotics? Someone needs to create a neurotics lobby that fights for the rights of all neurotics. I nominate Woody Allen.


  1. Anonymous on 27 January 2009 at 15:46

    Since you ask, this is exactly what journalism school professors fight against in their pre-retirement cocoons.

    And i'm not sure this device is necessarily a sign that it's a puff piece. Grand generalizations with little proof to accompany them are what makes the world goes round.

    As I've said before, it's very annoying for all us who live and die by anecdotal evidence that such evidence is summarily dismissed by the likes of you as "mere journalism" -- only when it's confirmed 8 years later in a cross-sectional study will it treated by news in the academy ("Levels of academic proficiency among students of language in schools where choices of language.") By which time, the news will be useless.

    I'd say that people who learn Japanese are either Rastassyrian or sugar-fanatic, based on my experience.

  2. Anonymous on 27 January 2009 at 21:22

    what neither of you has recognized is the fact that these generalizations are 100 pct true.

    of course, the question is, how do you define a French-Turkish speaker? Does one language's influence overpower the others?

  3. Gimpei on 27 January 2009 at 23:36

    Anonymous number one AKA Anders AKA McLamity: What's up with all this anonymous tosh, why not post as McLamity? As for this statement:

    Grand generalizations with little proof to accompany them are what makes the world goes round.

    I don't know if they make the world go round, but I they do sell papers... Except, given the sorry state of print journalism, not so much anymore.

    Thankfully, dear reader, the future is much brighter. The Daily Gimpei is the model du jour. So long MSM with your sweeping generalizations; hello web 2.0 with your groundless ad hominem attacks, your videos of dogs getting hit in the nuts by dancing babies, and most of all your annoying twitter feeds. If I really care about what you are doing every second of the day, I'm probably stalking you, so why make it any easier for me?