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is only funny if Lynne Rosenthal is an English professor.

Actually, I don’t think it’d be very funny even if she were, since if you read the details it isn’t about being a scathing schoolmarm. It’s about being a gratuitously unpleasant New Yorker.

You’re supposed to laugh at what ridiculous sticklers English professors are about language. Here’s a woman who so insisted on proper usage in ordering at Starbucks that she managed to get herself dragged out of the place by the cops, haha…

First off, I can’t find an English professor named Lynne Rosenthal. Best I can do is a Faculty Trustee at the University of the Virgin Islands.

Second, her behavior seems to have amounted to an extremely rude refusal (“You’re an asshole.”) to answer questions about how she wanted her food prepared. You don’t need a PhD in English – she claims to have one from Columbia – to walk into Starbucks and call people assholes. A degree from any of the Kaplan campuses would do.

Third, her obnoxiousness, coupled with her eagerness to get her picture in the paper (big smile in front of the Starbucks), suggests a cry for help.

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UPDATE: UD thanks a reader for sending her Rosenthal’s academic affiliation. She’s an English professor at Mercy College, in Dobbs Ferry, New York.

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More on Rosenthal.

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UPDATE: The Economist magazine agrees with UD that it’s a cry for help.

I’m sorry, Ms Rosenthal, but linguistically, your position is stupid hovering just above insanity. Most twenty-first century Americans understand that when ordering quick-take food at a counter, you will often be asked if you want various options. This is not limited to Starbucks. The competent thing to do, bringing all your meta-linguistic skills (the study of which is called “pragmatics”) to bear, is say “no, thanks.” Only someone whose pragmatic skills are severely impaired—some people with autism-spectrum disorders like Asperger’s have trouble with this, for example—lose the plot and insist on a pseudo-logical argument that “a bagel” logically excludes “a bagel with butter”, making the question “would you like anything else?” an affront.

It all reminds UD of one of her earliest exposures to pragmatics, via her parents’ 1962 Beyond the Fringe album.

Jonathan Miller plays an Englishman wistfully recalling his days at Trinity College Cambridge:

One of the advantages of living in Great Court, Trinity, I seem to recall, was the fact that one could pop across at any time of the day or night and trap the then young G.E. Moore into a logical falsehood by means of a cunning semantic subterfuge. I recall one occasion with particular vividness. I had popped across and had knocked upon his door. “Come in”, he said. I decided to wait awhile in order to test the validity of his proposition. “Come in”, he said once again. “Very well”, I replied, “if that is in fact truly what you wish”.

I opened the door accordingly and went in, and there was Moore seated by the fire with a basket upon his knees. “Moore”, I said, “do you have any apples in that basket?” “No”, he replied, and smiled seraphically, as was his wont. I decided to try a different logical tack. “Moore”, I said, “do you then have some apples in that basket?” “No”, he replied, leaving me in a logical cleft stick from which I had but one way out. “Moore”, I said, “do you then have apples in that basket?” “Yes”, he replied. And from that day forth, we remained the very closest of friends.’

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10 Responses to “This story, which is making the rounds…”

  1. Dave Stone Says:

    Our friend Dissertation Abstracts has this:

    THE CHILD INFORMED: ATTITUDES TOWARDS THE SOCIALIZATION OF THE CHILD IN NINETEENTH CENTURY ENGLISH CHILDREN’S LITERATURE
    by ROSENTHAL, LYNNE MERYL, Ph.D., Columbia University, 1974 , 340 pages; AAT 7507531

  2. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Thanks for finding that, Dave. Socialization, huh?

  3. Van L. Hayhow Says:

    Geeeesh, what a jerk.

  4. ricki Says:

    Is it that hard to say “Neither, thank you”?

    This woman is the kind of person who gives professors a bad name.

  5. Margaret Soltan Says:

    And Mercy tenured her.

  6. theprofessor Says:

    I don’t know, UD. Of our relatively few traditional snakepits, English is the worst. I think that they have gone through six chairs and two administrative referees/babysitters in lieu of a chair in the last 20 years.

    Which reminds me of a joke!

    A university president dies and goes (where else?) to hell. The devil registrar gives him the choice of regular hell or college president hell. Regular hell is pretty much of the Inferno variety. College president hell consists of a verdant, attractive campus dotted with nice, new buildings and populated by bright young people. The president gets a huge house, free cars, and a high salary, as well as an unlimited expense account. The college president is finally compelled to ask the devil giving the tour where the hell the hell is. The devil grins and says that the university has THREE English departments.

  7. Margaret Soltan Says:

    tp: LOL. I do think part of the amazing play this story’s getting has to do with the fact that she’s an English professor…

  8. dance Says:

    Interesting to see that some Economist commentators went straight to the ‘ugly spinster’ explanation.

  9. Dom Says:

    A recent RateMyProfessors.com entry implies that the barista was a former student of hers.

  10. Margaret Soltan Says:

    Gag comments always show up after stories featuring certain professors. It’ll probably be removed.

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