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12 February 2011

The History of the Word Rape

via GOOD by Mark Peters on 2/11/11

RapeThe recently abandoned Republican effort to distinguish between "rape" and "forcible rape" sheds light on the word's perceived shades of gray.

Language is always changing, but there are some words that decent, non-evil people want to protect: One is “rape.”

The word "rape" came under attack when Republicans—as part of The No Taxpayer Funding for Abortion Act—tried to make so-called “forcible rape” the only kind of rape that would entitle women to health coverage for an abortion. Jason Linkins summed the issue up well in HuffPo: “People thought this was insane, because it was.” In response to the outrage, the language was changed from “forcible rape” to plain “rape,” making a noxious bill marginally less so. As you probably know by now, the best response to the issue came from the always wonderful Kristen Schaal, who brilliantly spoofed the anti-woman crowd: “You’d be surprised how many drugged, underaged, or mentally handicapped young women have been gaming the system. Sorry, ladies, the free abortion ride is over.”

They politicians eventually dropped the language from the bill, but the situation serves as a reminder that “rape” has always been both a battleground of a word and an atrocity of a crime. I’m not sure a goofball columnist like myself is remotely qualified to deal with the history of this word in English, but I hope I might shed some light on current battles over its meaning. Language always struggles to convey reality, but that struggle is impossible when reality is at its most repugnant.

Over time, the various meanings of “rape” make our current situation seem simple and clear cut. In Old English, a rape was a district in Sussex. In the 1300s “rape” meant the root of a turnip, a type of medieval dish, and a synonym for “speed”—being “in a rape” meant “in a hurry.” Also in the 1300s, the current meaning was first foreshadowed, as the Oxford English Dictionary starts finding examples meaning “The act of taking something by force; esp. the seizure of property by violent means; robbery, plundering.” Sometimes this meant an animal raping—meaning “devouring”—its prey. This 1706 quote shows this seizing, violent meaning in action: “When Kings their Crowns without Consent obtain, 'Tis all a mighty Rape, and not a Reign.” “Rape and pillage” fits with this sense, as does another use from 1673: “Unjust Men! that in your Nameless Pamphlets would Rape us of our Reputation.”

It wasn’t until the 1400s that the sense of “rape” as a man forcing a woman to have sex with him took hold. The word often referred to kidnapping as much as sexual violation: women were “raped away,” in one of many uses of “rape” that is close to “seize.” This is the meaning we find in Alexander Pope's mock-epic poem "The Rape of the Lock," which involves the theft of a lock of hair.

Depending on your time period, culture, country, or state, the legal meaning could vary widely. In more awful times, it used to be considered “impossible” for a husband to rape his wife, as seen in this 1891 quote: “The law allows her husband to commit abduction, imprisonment and rape upon her.” There are many sad footnotes to the history of this word: though “rape-happy” is found back in 1953, “rape counseling” isn’t mentioned till 1972. It's shocking now, but “rape” continued to develop positive meanings over the years, including "To transport with delight, to enrapture." These lines from 1649 could not sound more bizarre today: "One Kisse of hers Makes me contemplate of a future happinesse That rapes me to an Extasie of pleasure."

Aside from congressional scumbags, the blame for a term like “forcible rape” can be laid at the door of other terms like “date rape,” which added shades of grey to the issue of rape—necessary or unnecessary shades, depending on your viewpoint. The similar term “statutory rape” is much older; it’s first found in 1898. Other, recent variations make “date rape” seem forceful by comparison. Grant Barrett’s Double-tongued Dictionary records “bandwidth rape,” which involves the theft of files and info from someone’s Internet connection. There’s also “stay rape,” which is used “ describe how you feel when someone overstays their welcome. It has the following subsets: Aggravated Stay Rape—When they’re especially annoying. Statutory Stay Rape—When they bring their kids. Date Stay Rape—When it’s a date who won’t leave. You get the idea.” Recently, the TSA’s enhanced pat-downs inspired the term “gate rape.”

There are probably dozens or hundreds of similar terms, but I have little interest in looking them up or sharing them with you. I usually can’t get enough of inappropriate language and slangy invention, but I never use a term like “gate rape.” It just seems too insulting to anyone who’s been "rape raped" (as Schaal would put) and to the concept of rape itself. My list of taboo words is smaller than most people’s, but “humorous” rape terms are on it.

When thinking about and legislating something as horrible as rape, we have more to fear than tone-deaf politicians who want to make raped women pay for their own rape-caused abortions. language itself lets us down. The lexicographer in me knows that words change and there’s not a damn thing you can do about it. The human being is me feels like it’s important to not to muddy the waters of what “rape” means too much. The real tragedy is that we need such a word at all.

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Smoker-free worker

via Cop in the Hood by PCM on 2/10/11

Ahhh, I hear the immortal if overused words of Martin Niemöller... then they started drug testing at work. But I did not complain, because I was not a drug user. Actually, just for the record, I've complained every time I've taken (and passed) a drug test.

Well it seems that now there are more places that are drug-testing for cigarettes. That's right. It's not that you can't smoke at work. It's that you can't work and be a smoker.

That ain't right. My work and my home life (even when I work from home) are separate. I don't want my boss telling me what I can and can't do when I'm not getting paid.

More worrisome is the precedent. This is exactly what people warned about when drug tests were first allowed, thanks to Ronald Reagan's getting tough on drugs. We're the only country that tests people for what they do outside of workplace.

First they test for illegal drugs. Then they test for legal drugs. If we don't draw the line, they'll test for fatty foods, kinky sex, and political conformity. It's not right.

People are up in arms with real and perceived government abuse of power. Where are the right-wing protesters when big corporations usurp the same power?

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11 February 2011

real wood

via Designboom - Weblog on 2/11/11

the chair and footrest feature sloping soft curves, with a frame made from sen wood upholstered with natural leather.
read more

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10 February 2011

Bad-Girl in Action or Smart on Crime?

via Jezebel by Margaret Hartmann on 2/10/11

The British woman who was caught on video earlier this week fighting off six men as they robbed a jewelry store has been identified as Ann Timson, a 71-year-old grandmother. Timson told a local newspaper that she ran across the street to attack the men because she thought they were beating up a kid, CBS News reports. She says: More »

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The Dark Side of Creativity: Original Thinkers Can Be More Dishonest

via HBS Working Knowledge on 2/10/11

Published:February 10, 2011
Paper Released:January 2011
Authors:Francesca Gino and Dan Ariely

Executive Summary:

Anyone who has spent significant time with artists knows that creative genius often comes with a dark side. This paper offers experimental evidence, specifically with regard to the relationship between creativity and unethical behavior. Research involving four experiments with university students was conducted by Francesca Gino of Harvard Business School and Dan Ariely of the Fuqua School of Business. Key concepts include:

  • Creative students who showed a natural aptitude for divergent thinking tended to cheat more than linear thinkers.
  • Creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence.
  • Students who were deliberately induced to think creatively were, in turn, more likely to cheat than those who weren't primed to think outside the box.
  • Creative people are more likely to cheat in part because their creativity helps them to come up with ingenious explanations to justify their unethical behavior.


Creativity is a common aspiration for individuals, organizations, and societies. Here, however, we test whether creativity increases dishonesty. We propose that a creative personality and creativity primes promote individuals' motivation to think outside the box and that this increased motivation leads to unethical behavior. In four studies, we show that participants with creative personalities who scored high on a test measuring divergent thinking tended to cheat more (Study 1); that dispositional creativity is a better predictor of unethical behavior than intelligence (Study 2); and that participants who were primed to think creatively were more likely to behave dishonestly because of their creativity motivation (Study 3) and greater ability to justify their dishonest behavior (Study 4). Finally, a field study constructively replicates these effects and demonstrates that individuals who work in more creative positions are also more morally flexible (Study 5). The results provide evidence for an association between creativity and dishonesty, thus highlighting a dark side of creativity.

Paper Information

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Safe Havens: Saving Teen Moms

via THEROOT.COM on 2/9/11

By: Jacque Reid

The baby didn't have a chance. Monday evening, police found a newborn infant, lifeless, in a plastic bag near his 14-year-old mother's bed after the teen, bleeding from having given birth, was rushed to the emergency room Monday morning. Her parents say that they didn't know she was pregnant.

Pending an investigation, this mother could be facing criminal charges for neonaticide, which is killing a baby within 24 hours of its birth. It is common among teen mothers, according to the New York Times: "Experts on neonaticide say mothers who kill their newborns are usually young, unmarried, emotionally isolated and often still living with their parents. Most are in too deep denial about their pregnancies, and remain so even after their babies are born. They give birth alone and secretly, usually over a toilet, and kill their babies moments after birth."

In the case of this Brooklyn, N.Y., teen, her life is changed forever. The 14-year-old may face manslaughter charges, and then there's the psychological damage that comes with the entire ordeal.

The saddest part of it all is that there are services and safe-haven laws that would have allowed that young mother to drop her baby off somewhere safe or have someone come and pick up the baby. The mother could have walked away -- no questions asked.

When I called Timothy Jaccard of the AMT Children of Hope Foundation recently, he was in the middle of arranging the rescue of an abandoned baby. He said that it was his third baby rescue of the day.

Jaccard's organization was started by a group of ambulance medical technicians on Long Island, N.Y., after a series of cases of infanticide in their area had taken an emotional toll. Now the organization's reach is national. It arranges for the burial of the bodies of abandoned or unclaimed infants. It also helps save the lives of abandoned infants and serves as a safe haven to accept newborns.

Jaccard shared how he recently helped a young mother who was giving birth at home. "She called 911 but would not give her address," he said. "911 patched her through to me, and I talked her through the delivery over the phone. I convinced her to let EMTs come and pick up the baby."

Dr. Elizabeth Lorde-Rollins of New York's Mount Sinai Adolescent Health Center said that another part of the rescue is preventing these girls from delivering stillborn or severely unhealthy babies. "Typically, babies born to teen moms are smaller babies," she said. "These babies are growing inside teens who are still growing themselves."

Lorde-Rollins added that because these teens are hiding their pregnancies, they don't get vital prenatal care or even monitor their own health in order to protect their growing babies.

Like many facilities around the country, the Adolescent Health Center provides free and confidential services, including counseling and health care. Safe-haven laws and services are nothing new, but there is still a huge need to raise awareness.

There are many who take issue with educating teenagers about post-pregnancy options because they think it absolves teenagers from facing the full consequences of having a baby and, more important, of having sex. But the fact is, teenagers are having sex. And you can teach abstinence instead of explicit sex education all day long -- young girls are still going to get pregnant. Just ask Sarah Palin.

Let me be clear: I don't advocate teen sex or teen pregnancy. I am well aware of how becoming a teen mother can often ruin that young lady's future. These mothers are less likely to graduate from high school, and typically find it difficult to find a good job or a successful career.

But I do believe what is far worse is the murder of a newborn by a scared and confused young mother who will have to live with the psychological effects of killing her own baby and, if caught, face felony charges.

How can anyone be opposed to giving these girls a better alternative? Whether or not you are a parent, whether you are pro-choice or pro-life, whether or not you think teens should have access to contraceptives -- there is really only one side here.

Educate yourself on the safe-haven laws and services in your area. Take the time to hand out pamphlets or hang posters around town. Encourage local schools to include this information as a part of sex education. And most important, talk to the young teens in your life -- with parental consent, if you're not the parent or guardian.

Teen pregnancy is a problem. But the choices that a young girl makes after giving birth could turn a problem into a tragedy.

Jacque Reid is a broadcast journalist and a contributing editor to The Root. Listen to her biweekly on The Tom Joyner Morning Show, visit her at and follow her on Twitter.

Like The Root on Facebook. Follow us on Twitter.

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Et Tu, Brute

via Blog by Ted Gest on 2/10/11

If House Republicans have their way, major cuts in federal criminal justice programs could be in store during the current federal fiscal year, which ends Sept. 30. Among 70 proposed cuts announced yesterday by House Appropriations Committee leaders were $600 million for the Community Oriented Policing Services (COPS) program, $256 million in state and local law enforcement assistance, $74 million for the FBI, $69 million for the White House drug czar's office, and $52 million for law enforcement wireless communications.

This is just the start of a congressional process that includes committee and floor debate in both Houses and negotiations with the White House, but it signals potentially major reductions in federal programs. Some newly elected House Republicans want to make even deeper cuts.

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A Cut is Still a Cut

via Sociological Images by Lisa Wade on 2/10/11

CNN reported yesterday on the House Republicans’ plan to reduce spending.  Staff Reporter Charles Riley writes that it’s a “dramatic budget proposal… that would result in sweeping cuts to federal agencies and government services.”

Oh really?  Gin and Tacos puts it in perspective:

See that little green sliver?  That’s the budget cut.  I’ll let Gin and Tacos be the sarcastic one: “Wow, over 4/10ths of one percent of the FY2011 budget!”

More, it’s not even actually $58 billion because, as Riley reports:

In practical terms, the spending decrease is actually closer to $35 billion, since Congress failed to pass a budget for fiscal year 2011, and agencies have been operating at 2010 funding levels.

This is an ongoing problem for political conservatives.  Cutting spending is a useful sound bite, but when asked what they actually want to cut — you know, a plan to actually balance the budget without raising taxes or while cutting them — they typically flounder.  So, in this case, they’re successfully cutting four-tenths of one percent of the budget.  And what must we sacrifice for this tremendous step towards a balanced budget?  Among other things, this:

(View original at

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