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    Conversational etiquette, was: More on Thomas Hubbard Sumner
    From: Trevor Kenchington
    Date: 2005 Feb 11, 20:47 -0400

    I really don't have time for this but, if you missed out on some of the
    education most of us got in kindergarten or earlier, I'll have one last try.
    You wrote:
    > WHAT THE??!! You have got to be kidding. Trevor, I have NO IDEA what has
    > you so enraged (yet again!). You are inventing insults where none were made.
    I am not in the least surprised that you did not intend to insult me.
    Your postings often suggest the sort of supreme arrogance that would go
    along with frequent unintended insults to everyone within reach. But let
    me lay it out for you:
    In your offending (and offensive) message, you wrote:
    > Trevor wrote:
    > I, also, would recommend reading Dana's "Two Years Before the Mast". [snip]
    Since you didn't put anything in the snipped part which directed your
    reading advice to anyone but me, you essentially declared to the Nav-L
    list your opinion that I had not read Dana. Since I had just posted a
    message relating to Harvard men going to sea before the mast in the
    early decades of the 19th century, that was effectively a statement that
      (in your opinion) I had written about the issue without first taking
    the trouble to read the most obvious and most accessible of all relevant
    source material. You were only half a step away from telling the Nav-L
    list that, in your judgement, my posting was based on nothing but
    ignorance and should be ignored.
    Now: You likely haven't noticed and do not care but I make my living
    working with facts and ideas, sorting them into sequence and explaining
    them to others, so as to aid people in making better public-policy
    decisions. I happen to think I am quite good at my job. I certainly
    don't take to having someone declare, to the members of Nav-L (a group
    that I respect and would hope return that respect), that I am so
    incompetent that I don't even get the first step right. If that
    declaration came backed with facts and logic, I might not like it but
    I'd have to accept it. When it comes from someone who can't even be
    bothered to read through his e-mail and discover my statement that OF
    COURSE I have read Dana, it is insulting. Damned insulting.
    You bet I am enraged. And enraged again, as you note, because this is
    not the first time that I have had cause to rebuke you for such insults.
    Try picking any group of victims at random. For each one, proclaim to
    the world at large that they are so incompetent that they too cannot
    successfully complete the first step in whatever profession they call
    their own. I'm confident that a large majority of them would be
    insulted. Some would just walk away, while privately noting that you are
    a jerk who is best ignored. Some would react with words, as I did.
    Others would punch you out. But very few would simply admit that you
    were right and they are incompetent.
    And the kindergarten lesson in this? Most of us were taught that, before
    opening our big mouths, it pays to pause and think how our words will be
    perceived by others.
    You continued:
    > And Trevor wrote:
    > "Nor is it helpful to try changing the subject by pointing out the rather
    > obvious truism that it was no disgrace for an American sailor to serve
    > before the mast."
    > That's an "obvious truism"?? Well, go figure! As for changing the
    > subject, this is a conversation, Trevor. It is natural and normal for
    > the subject of conversation to shift and evolve. You have no business
    > attacking me for the behavior of normal conversation.
    Where the rules of polite conversation hold sway, it is not usually
    acceptable to change the subject without indicating that that is what
    you are doing. It is certainly not acceptable to twist the subject while
    you are pretending that you have not.
    You did not write: "It does not negate Trevor's point but sailing
    "before the mast" was no disgrace for an American sailor". You did not
    write: "Its a bit of an aside but sailing "before the mast" was no
    disgrace for an American sailor". You did not write anything of the
    kind. What you did do was to quote a piece of one of my postings, thus
    directing your remarks my way, after which you offered us your ludicrous
    diatribe about how Europeans cannot understand the virtues of the
    American Way (as though half the world wasn't soaked with the U.S.
    media!), and then presented us with your observation that American
    sailors were not disgraced by being sailors. If you weren't seeking
    to dismiss my questioning about what role the disgrace of Sumner's first
    marriage and subsequent divorce had on his decision to go to sea, by
    tossing in an irrelevancy for want of material pertinent to your case,
    what were you doing? Just loading the list with vague ramblings?
    And if that was what you were doing, why did you feel the need to drag
    me into it?
    While I'm confronting you on the style you adopt in what you term
    "natural conversation", perhaps you could do us all a favour: I
    understand that it is sometimes hard to keep up with the flood of
    messages on this list. When you do sit down to catch up, often there is
    an old message which cries out for a response. But perhaps you could
    take the trouble to scan the more recent messages to see whether someone
    else has already said what you wanted to say. Then, if you really have
    to say it anyway, just maybe you could add a few words to note that you
    are only agreeing with what has already been posted by ABC, that you are
    expanding on what XYZ has said or whatever may be the case.
    That way we could all be saved the impression, which you have provided
    in a number of recent threads, that some idea or point really doesn't
    merit attention until it has been made by Frank Reed.
    You ended your recent missive with:
    > And Trevor suggested:
    > "Finally, I suggest that you put a little more study into historical
    > topics before sharing your conclusions with the wider world. "
    > Nope. I will continue to converse on this list as I see fit. If it
    > doesn't meet your personal, highly idiosyncratic conditions, well, too bad.
    I have no idea why a man who has so much to offer to the members of
    Nav-L would want to parade his ignorance of those topics on which he is
    not well informed. But if that is what you want to do, you are of course
    free to ignore my suggestions.
    However, if you use your muddled notions in attempts to refute the
    postings of those better informed than yourself, and if you continue to
    present those notions in terms that express contempt for the rest of us,
    you can expect to have your ignorance dissected and exposed for public
    view. If that is what you really want to do: Go ahead. Make my day.
    Trevor Kenchington
    Trevor J. Kenchington PhD                         Gadus{at}iStar.ca
    Gadus Associates,                                 Office(902) 889-9250
    R.R.#1, Musquodoboit Harbour,                     Fax   (902) 889-9251
    Nova Scotia  B0J 2L0, CANADA                      Home  (902) 889-3555
                         Science Serving the Fisheries

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