LINGUIST List 8.388

Tue Mar 18 1997

Disc: Language and public behavior

Editor for this issue: Ann Dizdar <>


  1. Koutsomitopoulou Elenh, Re: 8.348, Disc: Language and public behavior
  2. Krista Casada, smile back!
  3. Condon Sherri L, Public behavior towards the handicapped

Message 1: Re: 8.348, Disc: Language and public behavior

Date: Tue, 11 Mar 1997 17:39:33 -0200 (GMT+2)
From: Koutsomitopoulou Elenh <>
Subject: Re: 8.348, Disc: Language and public behavior

On Tue, 11 Mar 1997 wrote:

> Date: Mon, 10 Mar 1997 17:38:39 -0500
> From: Mark Mandel <>
> Subject: Language and public behavior
> In LINGUIST 8.341, Elena Koutsomitopoulou writes:
> >>>>
> 	[...]
> But to tell the whole story, being polite and not discriminating show in
> several other (essential) ways and not really into smiling or keeping any
> face of compassion. Besides, offering help is one of the very common
> ways to take control over someone. What could really be helpful is the
> expression of our real (positive or negative) feelings when confronted
> with a disability. Above all, not all people are able to handle it......
> <<<<
> This makes sense to me, except for the second sentence. Is she
> recommending NOT offering to help someone -- e.g., offering to hold a
> door for a person in a wheelchair or on crutches -- because they might
> feel you were trying to take control over them?
> Mark A. Mandel : Senior Linguist :
> Dragon Systems, Inc. : speech recognition : +1 617 965-5200
> 320 Nevada St., Newton, MA 02160, USA :
> Personal home page:

I suppose I have to clarify what I mean when speaking about 'control
strategies'. Generally speaking, one may feel 'superior' and 'having
control' when offering help (or simply because one may just BE in the
position to offer help). It's like what Tannen refers in her very
famous (yet a bit old) sociolinguistic book about man and women
interaction (I'll have to check out for a precise reference). It's not
to blame people who help, but to be aware that as an action offering
help may not be so innocent as it shows.

So, my position is clear; of course we should offer help to anyone in
need. But the important thing to remember here is to be aware and
conscious of our real motivations when helping. Also to try to find
other (different yet additional) ways to help except for occasionally
opening doors and the like. F. i. some essential public influence (in
our class etc) would help no doubt. People have to start being aware
and sensitive of topics like treatment of the disabled and unconscious
control strategies. Being honest with ourselves would be the first

Thank you for your comments.


University of Athens
English Department
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Message 2: smile back!

Date: Fri, 14 Mar 1997 23:16:26 -0600 (CST)
From: Krista Casada <>
Subject: smile back!

My name is Krista Casada. I am a grad student in Spanish at the
University of Arkansas. I am handicapped. Please, all of you who have
complained, worried, and analyzed, try smiling back. Try appreciating
the friendliness that's apparent everywhere. This discussion's just
getting really scary. :) Krista Casada
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Message 3: Public behavior towards the handicapped

Date: Wed, 5 Mar 1997 20:38:48 -0600
From: Condon Sherri L <>
Subject: Public behavior towards the handicapped

I'm glad the discussion has continued long enough for me to respond to
something. I'm sorry I don't remember who made the comment about
women who smile at him and his perception that it is because they
don't have to fear him. As one of those women, I would like to assert
that he is definitely wrong in my case. It has nothing to do with
sex. I smile at women, too. Depending on the context (more likely in
an uncrowed situation, less likely in a crowded hall) I smile at
everyone! But it is true that I probably smile extra brightly at
handicapped people, and I'm not sure why. Part of it is a sense of
"yeah, you too. Everyone gets one," which does seem to carry an
unspoken "even people who are different like you". And, of course,
you could make this as ugly as you want: even people who are
abnormal/pitiful/deformed like you. But since I have a handicapped
brother and my mother is a teacher of the handicapped, I certainly
don't feel that way about them. Maybe part of it has to do with one
of the last things Kela said about people fearing not just a different
person, but the entire face- threatening situation of how to act
appropriately around this person. So we tend to over-react just like
the tired jokes on the sitcoms. I definitely appreciated the comments
that handicapped people made about how they want to be treated, though
I still plan to continue negotiating that on an individual basis with
the people I encounter, since the last thing I want to do is start
stereotyping. And I hope that this response will help handicapped
people do the same for those women who smile at them. :) (and there's
a smile for everyone on the list!)

Sherri Condon
Department of English and
Center for Advanced Computer Studies
Universite' des Acadiens
(University of Southwestern Louisiana)
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