Thursday, August 27, 2015

Maybe this is one of those "think with you heart" sorts of questions?

I saw this on a friend's Facebook wall, and it made me think, "Hmm..."

I really like the sentiment, but given how quickly human beings are causing the extinction of species (including the colorful ones) on a planetary scale, the basis of the opening position that human beings cherish "the variety of color in every species" is questionable.

It is true, though, that human beings DO like certain varieties of colorful species. To such an extent that we capture them, confine them, and forcibly breed them so that our personal enjoyment of them can continue. This is, after all, what zoos and aquariums do, and the basis upon which many historically rested their conservation platforms. Furthermore, this is why there is a pet trade (indeed, a "pet industry") that makes its money in breeding and selling animals.

The presence of zoos, aquariums, and the pet industry is a factually correct response to the answer to the first part of the "why" question that specifically responds to why and how human beings choose to provide conservation help to only specific species, even as human beings also continue to cause a planetary extinction. However, recognizing that we effectively treat the colorful animals that we love as virtual or effective slaves is a ... troubling response when considering the second half of the question.

Monday, August 03, 2015

Super-typhoon Soudelor and a need for new hurricane & typhoon metrics

Super typhoon Soudelor is hitting sustained wind speeds of up to 178 miles per hour! That totally blows the Beaufort scale out of the water, and also leaves the Saffir-Simpson scale well behind, too.

There are two reasons why these scales are not too useful:
  1. They all have maximum values,
  2. The maximum values are tied with technologically based assumptions and purposes.
The Beaufort scale maxes out at "Hurricane force" winds that are anything of 72.9 mph or greater, and this maximum was set based on the technological limitations of shipping, for which the scale was developed. The idea was that anything greater than a category 12 was effectively as dangerous to ships as the winds at 72.9 mph, and so there was no reason for ship captains to worry about categories larger than 12.

The Saffir-Simpson scale maxes out at "Category 5 hurricane" winds that are anything of 157 mph or greater, and this maximum was set based on the technological limitations of building construction in the 1950s US. The idea was that anything greater than a Category 5 was effectively going to blow apart any building, and so there was no reason for having higher categories (despite an increasing number of buildings with the capacity to withstand 157mph and higher winds).

It's that "or greater" part that really is troubling to me. Why? Because it means that a hurricane with sustained winds of 157 mph is classified as a "Category 5" hurricane... right along with a super typhoon like Soudelor, which is reaching wind speeds of almost 180 mph.

Back in 2011, I noted that the scale for the Saffir-Simpson scale was somewhat linear, up to Category 5; but if we took that linear scale and extended it, we would be able to include a Category 6 (and even Category 7) type of storm:

Category 1: <95mph
Category 2: 96-110mph
Category 3: 111-130mph
Category 4: 131-150mph
Category 5: 151-175mph
Category 6: 176-205mph
Category 7: 206-235mph

Under this extended classification, Super typhoon Soudelor is a Category 6; one of only a few in recorded history, but potentially one of a growing number in a future with global warming.

Similarly, the Beaufort scale can be extended beyond the category 12. The Beaufort Scale progresses along an x-squared rate (Excel comes up with the equation: y = 0.4952x^2 + 5.2857x + 0.0382), giving us:

Beaufort Number
0: <7mph
1: 0.8-3.4mph
2: 3.5-7.4mph
3: 7.5-12.2mph
4: 12.3-17.8mph
5: 17.9-24.1mph
6: 24.2-31.0mph
7: 31.1-38.4mph
8: 38.5-46.4mph
9: 46.5-54.7mph
10: 54.8-63.6mph

11: 63.7-72.9mph
12: 73.0-83.7mph
13: 83.8-94.7mph
14: 94.8-106.3mph
15: 106.4-118.5mph
16: 118.6-131.3mph
17: 131.4-144.8mph
18: 144.9-158.8mph
19: 158.9-173.5mph
20: 173.6-188.8mph

Under this classification, Super typhoon Soudelor has a Beaufort number of 20! This is very different from just classifying it as a 12, solely because 12 arbitrarily is the largest value on the Beaufort scale.


Why worry?
Back in 2011, I wrote up a short extension of a 2005 paper in Nature, that indicated that the total number of hurricanes has been remaining the same, but that the strength of the hurricanes has been growing stronger. This means that there are a lower number of Category 1, 2, and 3 hurricanes now than in the past, but the number of Category 4 and 5 hurricanes has increased:


What is being measured here is storm intensity by proxy of hurricane Category. However, such a measure will not show the entire picture if Category 5 remains anything over 157mph, since this open-ended category definition would mask the rising intensity of hurricanes that is shown in the graph.

While this might seem an academic point, another way to think about this is to ask why the Richter scale doesn't have a maximum value? After all, if the Saffir-Simpson scale was built around the idea that structures wouldn't be able to sustain a force of a Category 5 hurricane, then why shouldn't the Richter scale max out at 7.0? And if the idea that the Richter scale should max out at an arbitrary number (like 7.0) sounds ludicrous, then why accept the idea that Category 5 in Saffir-Simpson (and Category 12 in Beaufort) are the maximum of the scale?

Especially in a future where the numbers of increasingly intensive hurricanes is only going to increase as the numbers of "lesser" hurricanes decrease?

Thursday, July 30, 2015

Ruminations on forward-looking ancestors and backward-looking descendants.

I don't know if it's because I am the child of two different countries, or just because I like to think about these sorts of things, but I have long thought about the reality of my highly contingent existence and how it maps on to the reality of my very lived experience. How can I exist, given all the potential possibilities of mixtures between egg and sperm that could have happened? And, even if a genetic twin of me existed, how could that person be me, given all the different ways that my environment shaped me vs. how even minor changes in environment would have differently shaped that twin? (And then scale that to all the potential changes to me and my forebears through time.)

A hint of that popped into my head when I saw this graphic:


To me, the message was incomplete. While you may be the "result of the love of thousands [of ancestors]," you are also the result of a random chance meeting between one of several million sperm (each one a random assortment of half your father's genes) and one egg (which was a random assortment of half of your mother's genes) of several million that happened to be the one that matured, developed under gestational influences that caused certain epigenetic predispositions to be expressed in addition to the genetic expressions encoded in your genome, raised in a specific time and place in world history among a random assortment of peers, and made a series of unreplicable personal decisions in concert with the personal decisions and actions of those around you, which - if any one of the countless variables had been different (amongst your peers, in you, and amongst all of your forebears and your peers forebears) - would have resulted in a completely different timeline of existence than the one in which those particular ancestors stood behind the particular person you recognize as yourself.

But it's likely that those different ancestors would have told that different self that they were the result of a differen set of thousands bestowing their love.

IOW: Your entire existence (and the existences of everyone you know and don't know) are highly contingent and effectively random. But that doesn't change the simple fact that you're here as a result of the effort and love of those who came before you.

Friday, July 24, 2015

White Power is not the same as Black Power

(And saying that racial harmony is important as your conclusion really misses the point of what Black Power is all about)

So I saw this image flow through my Facebook wall,



and the implicit comparison struck me as so utterly wrongheaded that I needed to respond. On the face of it, to someone naive of racial history in the US, the comparison seems plausible. (Indeed, it fits into a rhetorical trope that speaks to the pattern-seeking nature of humans.) However, the naive logical parallel that comes when you say "'White Power' scares people who are not White; 'Black Power' scares people who are not Black" is only correct if both of the two movements are exactly the same on on fronts, except for race.

... but they aren't.

... not at all.

The only way that you could say that "White Power" = "Black Power" is if you compare the position held by the majority of people in the "White Power" movement and compare it with the extremists in the "Black Power" movement.

POSITIONS OF THE MOVEMENTS
The White Power movement is almost entirely embedded within the framework of White Supremacy, in which the goal is to attain White superiority over all other races. Depending on where and when you are talking about "White Power" in the US, this definition of "Whiteness" excluded several White races that weren't/aren't White "enough," since the definition of "White" (until relatively recently in the US) revolved around WASP-ishness. Therefore, if you were Catholic, you weren't "White." If you were Irish, you weren't "White." If you were Russian, you weren't "White." If you were German, you might have been "White" (so long as you weren't a Catholic German). And if you were/are Jewish, you weren't/aren't "White."

The Black Power movement formed around the goal of attaining equality for Blacks within society, with some groups advocating for a more militant approach. However, only a minority within the Black Power movement advocates for extending the mission of social equality to that of social dominance.

So, to recap:
White Power
Black Power
White dominance over other races
Social equality for Blacks
Strong connections with white supremacist groups, like Neo-Nazis and KKK
Connections with Civil Rights Movement

SIMILAR-LOOKING SALUTES?
One thing that you see in the image, is that the similarity of the hand gestures only accentuates the extremely naive parallelism that the words seek to engender. The people in the top-left panel are each raising their straightened right arms and yelling, and the people in the top-right panel are each raising their straightened right arms and yelling. So it seems that there is a parallel here, as well.

But again, to think that these two gestures are direct parallels is - again - to fall into the trap of pattern-seeking that the human mind is so good at doing, and can only be overridden by knowledge. The White Power movement has strong support from Neo-Nazi groups, which use the Nazi salute as a symbol of their group allegiance. Neo-Nazis are not - as a general rule - in favor of equal rights for non-Whites, which is why they tend to support the White Power movement in the US, and the use of a Nazi salute by supporters of White Power seeks to evoke the nature of superiorty of the White race over the others.

In contrast, the Black Power salute was born from an act of protest during the 1968 Summer Olympic Games in Mexico City, when sprinters Tommie Smith and John Carlos raised black-gloved fists as they hung their heads while facing the US flag as they stood on the winners' podium. This act of protest, during a period in which the US was suffering from "race riots" following the assassination of Civil Rights icon, Martin Luthor King, Jr., spoke to the problems that continued to plague many Black communities and Black lives. However, as evocative as it is, it is not the sole means of saluting "Black Power, and it was never tied to a regime or movement that advocates for racial domination of one group over others, as has the Nazi salute used solely within the White Power movement.

Equality for Black people with White people (and - by extension - other races) is not the same as dominance by White people over all other races. To place them next to each other in such a way as shown in the graphic is to tacitly imply that the two movements are somehow identical. And such an implied conclusion is just wrong, even though it does look rhetorically pretty.

AN ADDITIONAL PROBLEM WITH THE CONCLUDING IMAGE
Finally, an argument could be made that the pairing of these two images with the final image of "this is the only power that scares the establishment" does a great disservice to the Black Power movement by effectively shutting down the discussion about equal rights and the specific problems faced by the Black community. The line of reasoning is pretty much the same as to why stating "All Lives Matter" completely misses the point of the "Black Lives Matter" movement. The problem of effectively saying that racial harmony is important is that it effectively is saying that the Black Power movement (which is seeking racial equality for Blacks) is somehow asking for special treatment for only Black people... Which is like saying that LGBT rights movements are somehow askign for special treatment for only LGBT folks...

Or, to use Felonius Munk's explanation of why "All Lives Matter" is not really helping as a parallel:

Thursday, July 23, 2015

Maternity Myth: Chinese postnatal confinement of the mother

The first time I heard of 坐月子 ("Sitting the Month") was when a Taiwanese Chinese colleague was getting ready to have her first child. The conversation went something like:

"I can't come in to the lab for the next month."

Oh, no?

"No. You know, I have to stay in bed for a month after I have my baby."

What?

"You know: a new mother has to stay in bed for a month after having a baby."

No... I don't know what you're talking about.

"Didn't your mother stay in bed for a month after you were born?"

I don't think so. I have photos of her doing things around the house before I was 1 month old.

"Oh, you mean that she went to the bathroom?"

No. I mean that she was cooking and cleaning after she recovered from her birth.

"Whaaaa? Did she wash her hair?"

I'm pretty sure she did...

"Whaaaa???? Did she drink cold water?

Uhhh... Yeah, she probably did... Why?

"You know that she should not have done that!!!"

This was the way that I learned about "Sitting the Month," and the more I learned about my colleague's version of it, the more I thought that it was just wacked-out insane. What's more interesting is that my colleague (the only Chinese person in the lab) was absolutely certain that this was how women had to act in order to recover from their birth. All women. And she was certain that it was just my being a man that meant that I didn't understand this. When she talked to a female colleague, she was even more confused, when that female colleague was similarly clueless of this absolute truth of post-natal living and similarly convinced that it was wacked-out insane.

The whole experience of uncovering this Chinese maternity myth (which apparently formed a deep part of my Chinese colleague's expectations of the first month after the birth of her child) reminded me that so many social customs are culturally insulated, because they rarely come up in conversation, partly because we all (falsely) assume that "everyone" knows the same "truths" of the world as we do (and partly because - for whatever reason - the discussion of some topics just don't enter into conversation).

So what are the "mainstream" postnatal "truths" that govern the lives of roughly 1/7th of the women of the world whenever they have a child (and which almost no one outside of China has ever heard of)?

Well, looking around online, I found a few different sites that seemed to converge on a list of things that new mothers should and (mostly) should not do during the first month after giving birth:
  • Don't drink cold/plain/any water.
  • Consume alcohol/Chinese wine/evaporated wine.
  • Don't shower or wash hair.
  • Cook with "hot" and/or red foods/ingredients. ("Hot" here is in relation to Chinese herbal medicine, not actual temperature.)
  • Wear warm clothes/completely insulate yourself with clothing.
  • No air conditioning.
  • No contact with cold water/any cold thing.
  • Do not leave the house.
  • No reading.
  • No crying.
  • No cellphones.
  • No salt/soy sauce.
Additional proscriptions may include:
  • No hydroponic vegetables.
  • Eat chicken.
  • No TV.
  • No computers.
  • No sex.
The perspectives in the article from China Simplified are pretty good, indicating that it's heavily based on a reaaaally old set of norms:
The first mention of Chinese postnatal confinement in China’s recorded history dates back 2000 years to the Han Dynasty. In the past two millenniums, society has abandoned countless traditions due to disconnects with or irrelevance to the so-called modern world. Yet somehow this specific one stubbornly survives.

How popular is the topic today? A search for 坐月子 the book section of Amazon.cn displays over 200 published titles providing a bounty of advice and guidance on confinement. Dianping.com, China’s version of Yelp, lists over 100 confinement service centers in Shanghai alone, with the highest rate of RMB 300,000 (USD 50,000) for the one-month premium “mommy care” array of services.
Additional perspectives from Rachel Lu on ChinaFile provide complementary ideas:
The confinement tradition is so full of elaborate—sometimes contradictory—injunctions and taboos that many new mothers hire live-in professionals to help them navigate the process. An industry that’s both rooted in tradition and tailor-made for modern China has become big business: the yuesao, or “confinement ladies,” who spend a month or two living in the home of a new mother and her baby. Traditionally, a new mom could look to her own mother or mother-in-law to provide vital support during the confinement period. But many young mothers now eschew that arrangement. Having a separate apartment, after all, is now de rigueur among China’s urban newlyweds. And frequent depictions of visceral generational clashes in soap operas, popular novels, and online discussion forums have also instilled a fear of mothers-in-law into younger women.

Historically, the month has been sacrosanct in Chinese culture. Overexertion and blood loss during birth weakens a woman’s chi, the theory goes, while exercising, exposure to anything cold, or negative emotions during the recuperation period can cause long-term damage to the new mother’s energy flow. The list of potentially offending activities can be long and confusing. Some traditions forbid leaving the house altogether. Others recommend drinking liquids from evaporated rice wine instead of water for an entire month. Still others advise against adding salt and soy sauce to any food. Even articles that purport to debunk confinement myths often give their own bewildering suggestions—it’s an old wives’ tale that eating raw fruits after birth would harm one’s pancreas, according to one article on Mama.cn, a site popular with new mothers. But the article also insists new mothers dunk fruits in hot water first to prevent “blood congestion” in their stomachs and intestines.
Basically, "Sitting the Month" is based around the traditional Chinese idea of chi... and all the messed up conclusions that are associated with such a system. It is an analogue of using the Four Humours method of medicine to assist in getting pregnant:
The ones who have cold stiff wombs, will not become pregnant. And those with excessively wet wombs will not become pregnant; for the offspring is extinguished. Also, the ones with dry and excessively heated wombs will not become pregnant, for the seed perishes due to lack of nourishment. But as for the ones with a well-proportioned mixture of both wetness and dryness, they will become pregnant.
Yeah... from this perspective, the mysteries of Eastern Medicine can be seen to be about as mysterious and applicable as the mysteries of Medieval European Medicine. (Sure, leeching can have curative effects, but not because of the reasoning given by the four humors approach to medicine.)

Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Responses to: 12 Mainstream Baby Lies You Likely Believe

I always find these sorts of things fun, since I likely grew up outside of (and currently reside outside of) the cultural norms of those authors that come up with these lists. In that light, I often read these lists to see how "in tune" I am with the cultural norms of the author.

This list of cultural norms about how to raise babies came across my Facebook feed, and so I was tempted to see how many of them I:
  1. knew
  2. currently believe
  3. used to believe.
So, in a bout of mid-day procrastination, let's see this list of one dozen baby lies!

1. “Let your newborn cry it out or he’ll never learn to sleep.”

Never heard this while I was growing up. I only learned about it when I was living in the States during grad school, and thought that it was rather silly nonsense that likely was a rationalization for leaving your baby alone in the crib while you try to sleep in your bed. (I don't know if that is the origin of this lie, and it sounds a bit like a just-so story, but it seems to be used in that sense among those new parents that I did know.)

Next!

2. “Your newborn is manipulating you/getting spoiled when you answer her cries.”

Yeah, I heard this one, and it makes a sort of sense, but it requires that you have a very different understanding of "manipulating you" and also understand that getting comfort and nutrition is not the same thing as getting spoiled. But more on that first part: for a new mother, it is not necessarily an ingrained habit to take care of a helpless being, and so the crying can help as a reminder to let you get to know your baby's needs better. Also, from the baby's perspective, it is the way to communicate needs and wants, since human babies are born at such a far younger stage of development than every single other placental mammal on earth. Hell, all other placental infants can at least crawl on their own at birth, and many (especially herd animals) are able to walk within a couple hours. Heck, in some ways, human infants are even less physically capable than marsupial newborns (which can at least climb their way into the maternal pouch).

So, yeah, I heard this one, but not in this rather... twisted and culturally embedded sense.

Next!

3. “Add rice cereal to his bottle so he’ll sleep longer.”

Nope. Never heard this specific one before. It likely did seem to work for some babies, but there's also likely a large amount of confirmation bias associated with whatever successes that did happen, or it was the only viable source of supplemental nutrition for the baby (i.e., it was advice that predated powedered milk or among people where the equivalent of a wet nurse wasn't available).

Next!

4. “Limit breastfeeding to ___ minutes per side so she doesn’t make you sore or eat too much.”

Never heard this one. Yes, I am a man, but what I did hear was about as diametrically opposite to this as potentially possible. I learned that a mother should allow her baby to breastfeed for as long as the baby suckles and then to change sides. After all, the amount of breastmilk that any one mother produces is somewhere along a spectrum that runs from no/effectively no breast milk in either breast to far more than a newborn can consume in each breast. To give advice that one should only breastfeed for X minutes per side makes no sense, given this spectrum of breastmilk production that is possible among humans. This, much like #1, sounds like a rationalization for the adult's comfort.

Next!

5. “Your newborn has to be supplemented with formula because _____.”

I primarily heard this in commercials. The only time I heard this coming from actual adults was in a discussion about whether there was actually enough breastmilk being produced for the baby. In the case of my daughter, my wife and I decided to give supplement her diet with formula for exactly this reason. I am usually not one to use the "people have been doing X for thousands of years, and there hasn't been a problem before" line of (poor) reasoning, but in this case, the general framework does make sense (and in those cases where there were problems, yes, supplementing with additional milk - or formula - does help, but it ought to be the exception and not the rule).

Next!

6. “Jaundice is not normal and requires aggressive treatment.”

I learned that newborns normally get jaundice, and not to be too worried about it. (Seriously, people, newborns do not have the same physiology as an adult!)

Next!

7. “Co-sleeping is dangerous, your baby needs to sleep alone.”

I never heard this until I moved to the UK to start my undergraduate studies. And then I was skeptical of the validity of this advice. Sure, if your entire population of newborns are co-sleeping with their parents, then some of them will die as a result of that, but what percent is that? TINY! If one wishes to save the lives of infants, better advice would be to never let infants into a moving vehicle.

Next!

8. “Start your baby on newborn enrichment classes now so he’ll be smarter.”

I heard this about 10 years ago and thought it was a joke. This is a misapplication of social science and psychological studies that show that a rich social environment is associated with relative greater intelligence. However, this doesn't mean that your newborn baby needs to be go to friggin' enrichment classes! Furthermore, there is no evidence that absolute increases in intelligence are associated with enriched environments. In other words, if Albert Einstein had grown up in a highly intellectually stimulating environment, it's likely that he would have been relatively more intelligent than the historical Albert Einstein. However, if Forrest Gump grew up in a highly intellectually stimulating environment, he would never be an Albert Einstein.

Next!

9. “If your newborn boy is intact, you should retract his penis to clean under it.”

What the what? Seriously, this is just a reaaaaally friggin' poor understanding of physiology. Likely due to a general lack of understanding in the US about how to maintain cleanliness with babies with foreskins, since so many US males have historically had circumcisions. Such a lack of understanding is then mixed with the mistake of assuming adult physiology (and care) directly maps on to babies. Again: babies are not simply small adult humans! The "advice" provided in #9 is just reaaaally bad. (Might as well just circumcise the boy.)

Next!

10. “Feedings should be scheduled every 3 or 4 hours so baby learns to eat when it’s the ‘right’ time.”

Yeah, I learned this. And then when I got to learn babies, I figured out that this piece of advice - for newborns - is b.s. For older babies, yeah, maybe. But for newborns? You gotta be kidding me.

Next!

11. “It’s safe to put the car seat on top of a shopping cart at the grocery store.”

I have never heard this silly piece of "advice." Seriously, if you look at this in any sort of light, the engineering is just WAAAY off.

Next!

12. “It’s safe/beneficial to start solids at 2 weeks/2 months/3 months/etc.”

I did learn that there was a safe time to start a baby on solid foods. But all the numbers I heard were WAAAY beyond 2 weeks, 2 months, and 3 months. My idea was closer to 6 months, and my baby's pediatrician basically gave her the green light for a very limited set of solid foods when she was 8 months old (given her delicate digestion). She loves to eat bread, sliced turkey, and olives. She also likes to suck on lemons. Still, most of her food remains liquid or only semi-solid, even though she's well over 1 year old.


So, looking back, I only really learned one of the twelve, and even that one I figured out on my own was almost certainly rubbish. True, some of the advice on this list is implicitly geared toward women and new mothers (and not non-mothers), but my mother did talk to me about parenting tips, since she had no daughters to impart such wisdom to. The majority of her parenting advice - as related to newborns - was let them sleep when they need sleep, feed them when they need feeding, burp them after feeding (because babies don't learn how to burp until much later), change their diapers (perhaps more often than you think they need to be changed), and don't drop them. (I suppose that last piece of advice is given to most men about babies, though.)

I'm somewhat surprised that these were 12 "mainstream" baby lies, though. Especially #11; advice about how car seats can fit onto shopping carts is not something that really could have been passed down through several generations (which I could see with most of the other ones), so if this really is a "mainstream" lie, then it had to have been disseminated through popular culture.

But I'm not surprised that most of these "mainstream" lies were completely (or mostly) unknown to me. I've encountered many cultural norms about babies and being a new mother, with almost all of them being completely foreign to me. It is, on the one hand, refreshing to know that there are new myths forming around motherhood and children that may be foreign to many people outside the US (or maybe even certain parts of the US). It is, on the other hand, frustrating that people who might readily believe in these myths and lies are not aware of the plethora of other myths and lies surrounding motherhood and babies that permeate the globe.

Monday, July 20, 2015

Rambling thoughts about linguistic prescriptivism sparked by thoughts over "au jus"

A friend of mine posted the following on his Facebook page (links to Wikipedia added by me):
I'm really trying to be okay with everyone calling this beef dip "au jus" (as in "you forgot the au jus" or, even worse, "served with au jus"!) but... I'm struggling to overcome my own prescriptivism...
Well, in a fit of procrastination, this made me start to think about what sorts of mangled uses of borrowed words and phrases that native English speakers blithely use without batting an eye. I mean, I understand the thought process that my friend is having, since I sometimes have similar fits of, "You just can't... That's grammatically wrong!" for something that is becoming linguistically commonplace and - by consensus - correct.

My particular pet peeves come with words that have been uncountable while I have grown up, but which have - increasingly - become countable. Things like "jeans" and "pants" and "trousers." As adjectives, "pants" and "trousers" - like most noun-adjectives in American English - lose their "-s":
  • pant-suit
  • trouser-leg
However the "jeans" remains with the "-s":
  • jeans-jacket
Why? Because of social conventions in the form of American English that I grew up hearing. However, the trend of transforming "pants," "trousers," and "jeans"from uncountable (if plural-looking) nouns into countable nouns is really ... annoying to me. For example, the sentence, "This is a really good-looking pant," doesn't make me think of an article of clothing, but of someone, somehow, managing to make panting look good.

But these uses are (for some reason) becoming more commonplace. At least in retail in Arizona. And to these young women who are talking about a "good-looking pant," it is likely that they don't see anything wrong with their use of the word, despite historical norms. Why? Because the historical English is not the one they grew up speaking.

Which then leads me to the question of how much our linguistic prescriptivism is determined by the fact that we are prejudiced to prefer the type of English that we are most comfortable with, and all the hand-wringing done by previous generations of linguistic prescritivists amount to less than a hill of beans.

For example, I use "kudos" as plural, despite it originally being a singular noun derived from a singular Greek noun.

I also use pluralize the many nouns borrowed from Japanese (like "samurai" and "katana"), despite Japanese having no general grammatical concept of plural vs. singular (and only making things explicitly plural when needing or wanting to emphasize the plurality or collectiveness of that thing). Similarly, I tend to think that people who really try to hold to not using plural forms for any Japanese words to be really pretentious, since - in English - the only real alternative is to make the nouns uncountable, which doesn't make grammatical sense when speaking in English, except when those nouns fit into general categories of uncountable nouns (e.g., "sushi," "sake," or "jujistu").

So I'm not really that lingustically presciptivist when it comes to grammar of borrowed words. However, it does irk me with words whose meanings get twisted too much when brought into English. For example, the word "geisha," which describes a female entertainer of traditional training in traditional Japanese performace art. However, the social implications surrounding women putting on performances for men comes from very different historical contexts when comparing American and Japanese understandings of the term. And in some way, this term - like many others that are embedded in and grow out from an embedded social understanding - is like any one of those terms that make the lists of "words that exist in other languages but not in English" that sometimes get passed around the interwebs.

But to return to the question of whether it is more "correct" to use "jus" or "au jus" (or even just asking for your "meat juice"):

There are many cases of knee-jerk reactions to linguistic change, but - unlike languages that have a "language academy" that exist as the "ultimate authorities" on all questions about a language's grammar and lexicon, the appropriate use of a term in English is basically up to a free-form, tacit democratic decision-making process. People get hung up on the changes to the implicit truths about English that they grew up hearing and using (and getting corrected over by people in authority over them, such as parents or teachers), while never coming into contact with the massive heaps of changes that occurred to the English language in previous generations (and over which prior generations likely had their worries over).

So, if "au jus" is becoming the implicitly understood term for "meat juice" (and eventually becomes rewritten as "oh-joo"), then that's okay. American English has done this a lot. One good example is how Americans have reimagined the etymology of "hamburger" to make the etymologically incorrect words "cheeseburger" and "cheeseburger" (and even going to such an extent of back-forming a term as to make the word "beef burger" to describe what was originally meant by "Hamburg steak").

We all have our hang-ups about what English "ought" to be. However, what looking into how English is used across the globe and has been changed over time has shown me is that English is constantly evolving, and - short of crossing the socially accepted boundaries of appropriate English usage in the group and setting and timeframe in which you are trying to set yourself - the linguistic hang-ups you have are totally your own.