Episode 218: Leggo my Et in Arcadia Ego

The Overthinkers tackle the limitations of being right.

Peter Fenzel and Matthew Wrather overthink the burden and limitations of correctness in life and in language.


→ Download Episode 218 (MP3)

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23 Comments on “Episode 218: Leggo my Et in Arcadia Ego”

  1. cat #

    First! Sorry, but it’s been too long since I’ve claimed my rightful position.


    • Pasteur #

      But from where do your rights come?


      • cat #

        I could back myself up with a lot of patriotic or emotional sentiment, but instead I will admit the truth… opportunity and fortunate circumstances. (If I’m awake, I usually listen to the podcast as soon as it is posted.)


  2. Chris #

    Considering this was, in part, a podcast about being right, I feel it is my duty to point out that Dan Harmon did not leave Community. His contract ran out, and nobody wanted to give him a new one, so he was, in essence, fired.

    Here’s what I feel I know about Uatu the Watcher, but bear in mind I have gleaned all of this from listening to Paul F. Tompkins talk about him. He’s some sort of alien, I’m pretty sure he’s green. I think what he does is stand on the Moon, or some planet or something, and watches the Earth. He observes the planet but, and this is key, he is FORBIDDEN to interfere. He must only watch and, I presume, he reports to somebody or something. That’s about all I know.


  3. Amanda #

    I haven’t finished listening to the podcast yet, but I have to say this:
    Really? You guys think English is a hard language to learn? I don’t know if this is actually true, but I have always heard that one of the reasons English is the common language to most of the world’s population is precisely how easy it is. Of course, America’s cultural hegemony, economic power and all those things play a big part, but if it were as hard as Chinese, or even German, would this many people around the world really be required to speak it?

    Tim, as a German speaker yourself, back me up here! Compared to German, learning English feels like a vacation!

    Also, Tim, I’m just gonna go ahead and comment on the latest Psycomedia ep here. Loved all the Portuguese and I gotta say, I think my mom and I (yes, I got her listening) might account for a lot of those Brazilian page views… :)


    • Chris #

      It is actually very often said that English is a hard language to learn, and the reason usually given is for the various grammar rules that don’t seem to have much correlation to one another. Granted, you most often here this in, say, a Spanish class, as they discuss verb conjugation in such languages. So, at the very least, it seems that the general consensus in many circles is that English is harder to learn that at least some of the more notable languages. Like Korean, which I’ve heard is fairly easy, all things considered.


      • Lee OTI Staff #

        Like Korean, which I’ve heard is fairly easy, all things considered.

        To clarify: it is relatively easy for anyone to learn the phonetic alphabet, Hangul, that Korean is written is in. It is extraordinarily difficult for native speakers of Western languages due to the sentence structure and lack of familiar vocabulary.

        The US Foreign Services calls Korean “super-hard.” I assume that’s a technical term.


        Japanese speakers probably have the easiest time learning Korean due to their similar grammar structures and the large number of vocabulary words in Korean and Japanese that come from Chinese.


        • Chris #

          Yeah, that is what I was referencing, and I only brought it up because of a website I found via Mental Floss that said you could “Learn Korean in 15 minutes.” I admittedly only gave it about five minutes, but it seemed fairly straightforward, but it was seemingly mostly based on the alphabet and piecing basic stuff together.

          I have also heard, by which I mean I read in Malcolm Gladwell’s outliers, that the numbers system in parts of Asia, although I believe he was mostly discussing China, and I presume then Mandarin Chinese, making learning math much easier. However, aside from being able to count to 99 in Japanese, I can’t really speak to that.


          • Timothy J Swann #

            I certainly hear that Chinese is a lot more rational in its number to language transfer, and thus it’s easier to learn and do maths in that language. Can’t remember the source (I only know that it’s harder in Welsh because the words are longer, but the structure is similar to English with twelve and other silliness).

          • Lee OTI Staff #

            1) “Learn Korean in 15 Minutes” is such a great/terrible example of a misleading click-bait article title, the type that we should use more of on Overthinking It. (“Learn Foucaultian Analysis in 15 minutes, and Learn How To Use It To Sleep With Hot Chicks.”)

            2) I’ve heard that this language-math connection applies to Korean and Japanese in addition to Chinese, due to their common vocabularies.

            Here’s how this works in Korean: you have words that make the numbers 1-10, then 100 and 1,000, and 10,000 (can’t . If I want to say 11, I simply say the words for “10” and “1,” as opposed to a separate word that has no (obvious) linguistic connection to the words “10” and “1.” Likewise, if I want to say 42, I simply say the words for “4,” “10,” and “2.” The math is implied in the language in a way that’s not present in Western languages.

          • Ben Adams OTI Staff #

            My understanding is that the syllable count and length of the numbers in languages like Japanese and Chinese are considerably shorter as well (i.e. there’s no “seven”), so the average Japanese or Chinese person can store more numbers in their head at the same time than a similarly educated Westerner. Short term memory is pretty tightly tied to the length of time it takes to “say” whatever you’re trying to remember in your head, and since English numbers take longer to say, you can’t fit as many in your head.

          • MomentEye #

            There are different ways of counting in your head.
            In “It’s as simple as One, Two, Three…” Richard Feynmann describes his explorations of this and what tasks can be achieved simultaneously depending on your style.


    • Timothy J Swann #

      I’m sure our pronunciation was awful.

      German is more rational than English – it has certain deviations (more so, say, than Latin, my other language) and that’s what usually makes it easier to learn.

      I can’t remember exactly why but Japanese is considered a language with a very low level of Dyslexia (at least at the Kanji level) because of the relationship between phonology and graphology. Bilingual dyslexics show much greater disability in English than Japanese. English, if you recall the famous Ough pronunciation set http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Ough_(orthography)#Full_list_of_pronunciations has very poor graphology to phonology mapping. Thus, I’d predict that even with complex (though rational) grammar Serbo-Croat, which has consistent graphology to phonology in the Roman alphabet (at least mostly, it can use Cyrillic too), would be easier to pick up. I believe Spanish is similar in that regard. Not sure about Portuguese.


      • Amanda #

        I don’t speak Dutch, but I could actually make out some words that sounded like German, so hooray for Tim! Ben’s pronunciation was not that good however. As a native speaker I couldn’t understand most words, but hooray for the effort and for featuring my mother tongue in, well, anything! It _was_ really sweet and funny, so Yipee! (or should I say, VTEE!)

        And that’s your back feeding for the day. (yes, I realize I’m filling the OTI comment section with all kinds of Psycomedia in-jokes, and I WILL NOT APOLOGIZE)


  4. Hazbaz #

    Uatu the Watcher is to the Marvel Universe as Ron Howard is to Arrested development. Except angstier.


  5. MomentEye #

    “Prefer the germanic to the romance” is better advice for prose than for porn.


  6. Lee OTI Staff #

    This is a small “well, actually,” but towards the end you guys talk about “Raiders of the Lost Ark” and the line “it belongs in a museum. I don’t think that line is actually in this movie. At one point they talk about putting the Ark in the museum once they find it, and at the end Indy complains about the army holding onto the ark and not given over for “research,” but that’s it.

    “It belongs in a museum” is, of course, said several time in “Last Crusade.” But the sentiment is shared in both movies.


  7. Gab #

    Alright, on the subject of being an asshole.

    There’s a difference between being an asshole and acting like an asshole. Or, to use your terms, playing the part of an asshole doesn’t make one an actual asshole. Even Hobbes says that good people do bad things sometimes. So I beg your pardon, and I hope this doesn’t sound too… weird… But I highly doubt you’re an asshole, per se, Matt. Rather, you may just sometimes do things that are less-than-kind. I imagine it’s (usually) all in good fun, though.

    Interesting you brought up stewardship after discussing democracy- stewardship is one of the “types” of representation discussed in democratic theory/ representation literature a lot.


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