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  1. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #1

    [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories



    The web wouldn't be the web without its crackpot theories, and we have been honoured with a fair number of these, ranging from the latest artificial universal language that promises world peace and happiness before disappearing without trace to novel ways of viewing the English language, including a theory about how English would have to become a tonal language as we can only remember a tiny fraction of the number of words Chinese speakers can commit to memory, and had also declined disastrously in our memorisation powers since Shakespeare's time, though the connection to tonal languages and our historical decline was less clear.

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    #2

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Personally, I love a good crackpot theory. Pedroski has honoured us with several in recent months, like the one that seeks to deny 'was' in e.g.

    I was in the garden.

    the status of a copular verb on the basis (wait for it...) that I am not a garden!!

    Utterly hilarious.

    Let's have more!!!


  3. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #3

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    They do brighten the day.

  4. 5jj's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    They do brighten the day.
    They do indeed.

    I just worry sometimes that the ensuing debate, even when we manage to avoid personal insults, will confuse many learners. It is, after all, learners who come to 'Ask a Teacher' for help with what is often a fairly straightforward enquiry. By the time philo, pedro and a few others* have vented their spleen, the poor learner doesn't know what is going on.

    I feel that there is an argument for moderators to step in sometimes, and transfer the pedants and nutters* to a separate forum (Crackpot's Corner?) to have their fun, leaving the helpful answers in the original thread.

    *I do not include myself here, of course. My answers are always accurate, sane, objective and concise.

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    #5

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    None of the crackpot theories posted has been deleted, but some of the theorists have been banned, not for their theories, however colourful and imaginative, but for breaking forum rules about getting abusive and fighting.
    Particularly I have always been totally against banning. This is a radical procedure which should be avoided as much as possible.

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I just worry sometimes that the ensuing debate, even when we manage to avoid personal insults, will confuse many learners. It is, after all, learners who come to 'Ask a Teacher' for help with what is often a fairly straightforward enquiry. By the time philo, pedro and a few others have vented their spleen, the poor learner doesn't know what is going on.
    I agree with you in part. It is indeed a problem we should try to find a solution.

    But I think there are many learners (specially advanced ones) who understand what is going on and do benefit by reading different disagreeing opinions. I mean, they have the opportunity to see some 'real' English, with different schools of thought, AmE, BrE, etc. - a grammarian's, teacher's or a linguist's opinion, a professional writer's opinion, a crackpot's and so on. Though it is a pity that many illustrious members should remain anonymous.

  6. 5jj's Avatar
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    #6

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Abstract Idea View Post
    But I think there are many learners (specially advanced ones) who understand what is going on and do benefit by reading different disagreeing opinions. I mean, they have the opportunity to see some 'real' English, with different schools of thought, AmE, BrE, etc. - a grammarian's, teacher's or a linguist's opinion, a professional writer's opinion, a crackpot's and so on. Though it is a pity that many illustrious members should remain anonymous.
    I think you have answered your lament in the last sentence by the preceding ones. If you discovered that I am really Noam Chomsky or Randolph Quirk, for example, you might be afraid to question my authority. In many of the types of issues that lead to the disagreements, there are few absolute answers.

    That the plural of child is children not childs is a fact. and we don't need a Chomsky or Quirk to confirm it. When it comes to whether had in I wish I had a million pounds should be considered a subjunctive form in the English of 2010 is a different kettle of fish. At least one of our contributors writes as if he knows the answer for an absolute fact. Even if we were to discover that he was C or Q, it wouldn't necessarily make his opinion fact.

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    #7

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Abstract Idea View Post
    Particularly I have always been totally against banning. This is a radical procedure which should be avoided as much as possible.
    I intensely dislike censorship. However, unlike some members (I am not referring to you, Abstract Idea) I do not think we have the right to say anything we wish on this forum.

    The administrators originally built this site, I think, to help people with questions about English, not as an example of democracy.

    They have never made any claims about allowing everything. I think they have an absolute right to ban anyone they wish. If we don't like their judgements, we have the freedom to set up our own sites and write what we wish.

    I am full of admiration for their tolerance of crackpotism and even occasional abuse. Personally, I think they go too far sometimes in their desire not to restrict the freedom of others to rant away, but I accept it. I have to! If they allow me that freedom, it would be churlish of me to attempt to prevent others from abusing it.

    Incidentally, my suggestion was to sidetrack crackpots, not to ban us them.

  8. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #8

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Abstract Idea View Post
    Particularly I have always been totally against banning. This is a radical procedure which should be avoided as much as possible.
    Banning is not a pleasant thing to do and in these cases, people have not ever been banned for the ideas, which have not been censored. However, when people think they have a radical and brilliant view of things, which they usually do in these cases, they expect people to go for their ideas, so this leads to disappointment and it is the failure to convert people to their view that creates the problems more than the view. The views can stay, though they will be contested, but when there's flaming or the theories are racist/xenophobic (two cases, both quite a long time ago), things are different. There are other people who have posted their radical views that could come back and do it again because they did it without flaming, etc.

    Apart from the dross of spam and tacky astroturfing, banning is always a last resort and an unpleasant thing to have to do. However, from time to time, we do come under attack from trolls, who come in under multiple names, using spoofed IPs, etc, to start fights and make trouble- they're one of the less charming features of the web, but a real one.

    I don't censor views- I will say that I disagree, or that things are wrong; views can be expressed freely, but we should try to be mannerly about expressing them.

  9. Raymott's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by fivejedjon View Post
    I feel that there is an argument for moderators to step in sometimes, and transfer the pedants and nutters* to a separate forum (Crackpot's Corner?) to have their fun, leaving the helpful answers in the original thread.
    I vehemently disagree.

    Not least of my concerns would be the qualifications that the moderators have for determining who is a nutter or a pedant and what is helpful. I also believe that nutters and pedants should be accomodated within the general discourse, unless they display antisocial behaviour to the extent that warrants banning. (Moderators are much better at determining what is frankly abusive than what is simply unhelpful or unacceptably unorthodox.)
    We should also consider that it's not just the crackpot that would be sent to Coventry - the whole thread would have to go; and all those who are participating in the discussion with them in the spirit of tolerating their ideas for a while would be subject to the same offensive penalty of being told that their ideas are not worthy of being aired in the mainstream group.
    By the way, there are many situations where pedantry is exactly what's called for (and who knows, maybe even nuttiness).

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    #10

    Re: [Tdol's Blog] Forum Policies- Crackpot Theories

    Quote Originally Posted by Raymott View Post
    We should also consider that it's not just the crackpot that would be sent to Coventry - the whole thread would have to go; and all those who are participating in the discussion with them in the spirit of tolerating their ideas for a while would be subject to the same offensive penalty of being told that their ideas are not worthy of being aired in the mainstream group..
    If that is what happens, then I accept without reservation that it is better to leave the whole thread and learn to live with the crackpots. My original words were (emphasis added):

    I feel that there is an argument for moderators to step in sometimes, and transfer the pedants and nutters* to a separate forum (Crackpot's Corner?) to have their fun, leaving the helpful answers in the original thread.


    In my ignorance of forum technology I thought this might be possible.


    I would also add, in response to your vehement disagreement, that I was not urging that this should be done. I said simply that I felt there was an argument for this. I also feel that there is an argument against it.

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