How is Credibility decided?

Credibility occupies my mind these past few weeks. It started when someone I know posted a video where the speaker claimed to be an ‘expert’ and rattled off a fancy title to make him sound more credible. This “senior fellow” received his title at an “institute”, but when you look up the institute, you find out that the organization is a non-profit that specializes in research for policy change. In other words, they’re lobbyists. Due to this ‘expert’ making claims about the ‘fall of men’ that had everything to do with the attempts of women receiving equality, I found myself scoffing and readily dismissing this person’s expertise.

I love looking at definitions, so let’s look at the definition of credibility.

noun | cred·i·bil·i·ty ˌkre-də-ˈbi-lə-tē
1: the quality or power of inspiring belief
an account lacking in credibility
2: capacity for belief
Her account exceeds credibility.

Now let’s look at authority:

noun | au·thor·i·ty ə-ˈthȯr-ə-tē ȯ-, -ˈthär-
1 a: power to influence or command thought, opinion, or behavior
the president’s authority
b: freedom granted by one in authority : RIGHT
Who gave you the authority to do as you wish?
2 a: persons in command, specifically : GOVERNMENT
the local authorities of each state
b : a governmental agency or corporation to administer a revenue-producing public enterprise
the transit authority
the city’s housing authority
had excellent authority for believing the claim
b: convincing force
lent authority to the performance
4 a(1) : a citation (as from a book or file) used in defense or support
(2): the source from which the citation is drawn
He quoted extensively from the Bible, his sole authority.
b(1): a conclusive statement or set of statements (such as an official decision of a court)
(2): a decision taken as a precedent
C: an individual cited or appealed to as an expert
The prosecutor called the psychiatrist as an authority.

It’s important to point out that definitions are descriptive vs prescriptive; that is, dictionaries define words according to how the word is used or commonly understood (descriptive), rather than HOW IT MUST BE USED (prescriptive). Language changes all the time and so too will the definition of words. Having these definitions help me understand what it is that I’m trying to argue, or wrap my head around, etc.

My personal crusade involves an attempt to shift cultural attitudes towards police and prisons to eliminate the need for such institutions. I came upon this ideology through reading materials from a variety of what I consider to be credible sources – academics, scholars, journalists, historical figures. Through their analysis and citing of sources, and through my own understanding of what it means to be human, I concluded that the people I chose to listen to are not only credible but an authority on the subject. Most of the people I learned from have doctorates degrees or in the process of getting one.

And then there’s me: a self-described nobody. I have an undergraduate degree in Japanese language that is relatively useless. I hold no special titles. I’ve done little in the way of volunteer work. What little credibility I did have I squandered and am now trying to rebuild from the ground up. And yet I attend city council meetings and speak with an authority that I know I don’t truly have.

Why listen to me? Because I read non-fiction books? Because I engage with peer-reviewed academic literature? That perhaps one of these days I’ll go into even more debt to return to school to earn another degree that may lead to some sort of credibility and authority? I have said, and will continue to say, that I am not the one anyone should be listening to. I try my best – with fluctuating results – to amplify those who do have more credibility and authority than me. That is the best I can do at the moment. Yet I know I shouldn’t be so ready to dismiss myself just because I don’t have the white supremacist colonial ideal of holding a position of authority or earning a higher ed degree to have credibility. However, this is the reality and word I live in; this is how most people operate.

So what do I do? What should I do? I suppose we all got to start somewhere, and if right now I use my little space on the internet to analyze culture, books, scholarly work, etc., it may lead to something more grand.

My biggest question – being the little peon I feel that I am in this big huge world – is how and why do I try to gain credibility while at the same time feeling like I get to readily dismiss those who also do not have it. Mr. Senior Fellow at blahblah Institute claims to be credible expert, and yet I, a person who holds no titles, feel like I somehow have enough critical thinking skills to dismantle this person’s claims. I think about the people who hold opposing views, whose reality is different from mine, who use their power/authority/credibility to dehumanize entire groups of people who look/act differently from them. Am I “better” than them for having more compassion, more willingness to look past transgressions, in order to see people as full human beings? While I try to build a world that eliminates hierarchy, am I not engaging in the same type of building of hierarchy? “I am more credible than you! Therefore the words that come out of my mouth holds more weight than yours.” Sounds like hierarchy to me.

Is this all just another existential crisis? Of course it is. This is where I dwell. Until I somehow gain confidence and/or authority and/or credibility in this realm of building new worlds in order to destroy harmful institutions, I will continue to ponder my place in this grand ol’ universe.

Linguistics is Where the Heart is.

It’s easy to be discouraged about hopes and aspirations. Following academic twitter is both a blessing and a curse, for you get to see first hand how people are fucked over in multiple ways. But then you also see awesome comradery (comraderie?) and people geeking out over geeky things, and it reminds you why you want to become an expert.

I keep having internal tug-a-wars over whether I want to pursue higher ed. I know who I am as a person – I am weak, I struggle with finding and holding to a routine, I have mental illness that doesn’t take a lot to trigger. I know that higher ed is demanding and hard and requires an almost herculean effort.

I also know what I want, what I really really want. (So tell me what you want, what you really really want.) I want to be an expert in linguistics. I want to have that knowledge, because _I_ want to have that knowledge. And I know that I can utilize that knowledge in a way that could be beneficial to other people. But mostly it’s because it’s something I – me, myself and I – want. Is there really any other reason needed to pursue a thing beyond that strong internal desire?

While I keep getting distracted and allow myself to slip back into lazy mode, I keep coming back to This: Linguistics. I have had other careers in mind during my lifetime – astronomer, Japanese translator, writer – but this one is all encompassing. I still want to be a writer and plan to work on that as I can. And, since I need to learn another language anyway, my Japanese will come to a point of fluency that will fulfill part of that other yearning. But I feel, in my heart of hearts, linguistics is what will keep me afloat during those tough times.

I’m super lucky too because my husband is just as geeked out about linguistics as I am. We love to talk about it, theorize and babble and make jokes. It fuels us, and his interest in it will help me when I am feeling the pressure.

And so, next week, hubs is wrapping up his school year and summer vacation will start. I will spend a few weeks dumping as much time as I can into self study. I will find a way to save $200 to take the GRE. And I will get a job to save the money needed to go to LSA Summer 2019 conference/camp.

I have been taking a winding road for a while, but it’s starting to straighten out a bit. The focus is becoming clearer, nearing tangibility.

A New Path to Linguistics

A week ago I emailed my number one grad school choice to ask about their program requirements. Although I was afraid I was asking a stupid question, I received a very encouraging response.

Admission requirements include four classes, only one of which I have successfully completed. The others are not readily offered, and while there are two nearby universities that offer the classes, one is ridiculously hard to get into and the other is at an inconvenient distances. Not to mention costs involved.

I had spent the last two weeks pondering ways to get these classes I needed under my belt. I was (and maybe still am?) planning to attend a local state college (60 miles away) for three quarters to get five classes under me (one is a prereq for the classes I need and would be useful, the other is just a class I’m interested in). The costs involved is kind of ridiculous though, especially in terms of childcare. Altogether it would cost me about $20,000 to go that route.

The response from the grad school offered an additional option: attending Linguistic Society of America‘s (LSA) summer institute. It’s four week program that offers a variety of linguistics courses to help further develop linguistic knowledge. To my luck, they offer introduction classes.

With this new alternative presented to me, I can get the requirements I need for a fraction of the price. Added bonus is that the hubs and the girls would be able to go visit Grandma and Grandpa who live in CA. If I can spend the next year saving up the money we need for the summer institute / mini vacation, I can plan to apply to grad school in fall of 2019, attending fall 2020.

I’m currently reading a book about creating habits so I can better manage my time at home. I highly recommend no one ever take four years off of work if you have depression, no social life, and poor time management skills. I tell you what, it is a sure fire way to make you feel terrible about everything. I feel lucky that social media exist since I have received quite a bit of encouragement there.

As I work toward building better habits, I will most likely blog about that in an attempt to reinforce them. I’m really awesome at making plans and really terrible at following through. Hoping I can change that about me.

Finally Getting Started

You know how when you first get into something, you look like such a noob by how you talk about it?

Yeah, last post. But, I guess that’s how you learn and grow, right?

I’ve been talk talk talking about what I want to do, and haven’t been do do doing. Over the last few days I’ve narrowed down my starting points on how I’m going to jump into the linguistic side of my studying. I’m already fairly involved in the race/racism side while recognizing that I still have much to learn. But I feel like I have a fairly solid foundation on which to continue building. Tomorrow I’ll be checking out Ijeoma Oluo’s newest book, So You Wanna Talk About Race, from the library. I look forward to reading it.

As for the linguistics, I’m going to start by learning Phonology. After putting out a tweet asking about the intro book I have, I realized that I already have enough intro knowledge that it would be a huge waste of time to continue down that path. I need to jump into these intermediate “classes.” Also, I purchased Raciolinguistics but it’ll be a while before it gets here. I currently have sixteen different papers/articles lined up for reading, most from the same author, but I’m dipping my toes in and will plan to expand my point of view as I look at the citations.

Anyway, the purpose of this post was mostly to ramble my not-yet achievements so I can get the previous post pushed down. My kids still suck at sleeping, so I don’t get much time to myself to work on these things. Plus sometimes just don’t want to work on it while those cute little people demand an enormous amount of my time. These are the privileges awarded to me as a stay at home mom — read when I want with no deadlines. But it also means I rarely get shit done.

So, off I go to get shit done.

There’s a field for that: Raciolinguistics

After writing the previous post, it was as if the universe decided to answer my questions through the announcement of a new academic book: Looking like a Language, Sounding like a Race by Jonathan Rosa. I found exactly what I was looking for through Nelson Flores’s tweet,

Raciolinguistics? It seems so obvious now.

I’ve been doing as much research as I can, time allowing with two sick little people and a raging bout of depression. Raciolinguistics is such a new field of study that there is relatively little to be found about it. According to WikipediaDr. Flores and Dr. Rosa coined the term in the 2015 academic paper, “Undoing Appropriateness: Raciolinguistic Ideologies and Language Diversity in Education“, which I am currently in the process of reading. H. Samy Alim, John R. Rickford, and Arnetha F. Ball edited a book called “Raciolinguistics: How Language Shapes Our Ideas about Race“; I plan to purchase when there is some extra cash to be had. Once Rosa’s book comes out, I will be purchasing that as well.

I’m supplementing my studies by following Dr. Adrienne Keene’s wonderfully free course on Critical Race Theory. I’m actually starting there, since I’m forever broke, and so far I think it’s a fantastic place to build on.


I really think this is the niche I’ve been looking for. This whole summer has been spent learning about systematic racism and white supremacy, and I’ve been interested in Linguistics and Rhetoric since the last year of my undergrad program in 2011. I definitely would have not found the intersection of these two topic until this point in my life, but I’m glad to have found it. I will be dedicating any time my brain isn’t feeling like exhausted mush on learning as much as I can about CRT, Linguistics, and Raciolinguistics.


If you wanna take pity on my poor ass and give me a Christmas/Birthday gift (my birthday is December 30th), would you consider getting me one of these books? I ain’t holding my breath, but it would be a nice surprise. 🙂

Using Linguistics to Eradicate Racism

That’s what I want to do.

Been spending an enormous amount of time on Twitter. I’m getting inspired left and right by the POC community and the Linguistics community. But then I run into articles like this (‘I don’t think there’s anything darker than doing a PhD’), and I’m forced to stop and reflect.

The most important question to myself is

What do I want to dedicate a chunk of my life to?

On my POC twitter feed, where a majority of the people I follow are academic/intellectual black women, I constantly see disdain and derision toward so-called “allies” who do nothing more than type behind a computer screen about how much they hate racism, but won’t do the difficult and uncomfortable part of actually challenging people’s racism. And they have every fucking right to feel that way. When was the last time you remember a white person calling out another white person for their racism? You don’t.

If you have, go give that person a high five. If it was you, you’re awesome.

But not enough white people DO anything to combat systematic racism.

I don’t want to be that person.


I am super geeky about rhetoric. Thinking about it excites me. I think learning about language linguistically will give me another angle, a fuller angle, to examine rhetoric in a way that an English degree would not give. Semantics, pragmatics, and a sociolinguistic examination of rhetoric would be the foundation I start building my skills.

I recognize, and am not all that interested in, the linguistic deconstruction of racist rhetoric has already been examined by multiple researchers. And while that research will be prevalent in the crusade I want to embark on, it’s not enough to deconstruct. I want to reconstruct. Or, perhaps even destroy and rebuild anew.

Essentially I want to see how – and at what scale and at what point in one’s life – we can use rhetoric to decrease the likelihood of becoming a racist. Or I want to know if we can train teachers/police/general populace to actively rework their speech patterns to lessen subconscious racism/colonialism.

Something along those lines. Most likely there is a flaw in my thinking somewhere, but the end goal is to use linguistic techniques to eliminate racist thinking.


Is it possible? Has it been done? Is someone working on these things now? What do I need to do to find these things out? What type of schooling/training do I need? Which university would best the path I want to take?


Online Linguistic Courses

Things are starting to come together, but the night time lack of sleep is hindering things.

My husband is back to work (teaching), which leaves me with the kids during the day. I’m fine with that. It’s only been a few days, but I’ve been savoring some alone time in the late night when the husband is in bed and the kids are finally settled. (K is wailing right now as a type this).

I decided to search for syllabuses (syllabi?) that uses the Language Files textbook I own. I’ve found several, and I think I’m going to pick one or two and see if I can also do some assignments as well.

I also searched for online courses, stumbling upon an Intro Course being taught through Coursera and an MIT OpenCourseWare treasure trove of Linguistic courses. I am drooling over here.

I want to get into the MIT courses, but those textbooks aren’t cheap, and I can’t spare the cash right now. Once I’m working again, it won’t be a problem. In the meantime, I’ll stick to my plan of following a syllabus or two and doing the Coursera course.

I’m hoping I can change my habits (and the girls’) in that I can wake up when hubs gets up (5:45), spend a few hours waking up and getting shit done, and get the girls up earlier to flip their schedules. O isn’t a problem, but K sure is. Anyway, if I can have some time to myself in the morning, I might be more productive and more fulfilled as the day progresses. I’m not a morning person though, so I won’t hold my breath on that.

She won’t stop crying, so I guess I’ll go be a slave to my child. Think what you want, that wailing goes right up my spine.

Setting Great Standards

I tend to keep my doomsday feelings to another blog that is hosted on a foreign site, but I will say this: I really hope the world stays around long enough for me to get my Ph.D. Ha!

On the subject of which, All Things Linguistics posted a long resource page for the newbie Linguist, like myself. It has links to readings and videos and courses. It is going to be my go-to guide for self study.

The textbooks are hard to read without guidance. I’ve taken an into class before, so a lot of it is review for me, so I’m not sure how to take notes on it. I had planned to just notate everything, but honestly it’s tedious. I suppose I should get used to since I plan to enter academia. Derp.

Another interesting thing is following a variety of linguists on Twitter. I’m learning so much and also feeling hopelessly lost. I’m find the feeling endearing as I know that one day I will be just as knowledgeable as those I follow. It’s all just jargon. I just need to have the background knowledge.

One of the Linguists I follow posted tonight about a Linguistic citation interest group. I hadn’t known it didn’t have a standard, and I find it very interesting how early in its creative state it is. I’m not a scientist yet, but I wonder why a different established system doesn’t work or can’t be borrowed. I guess I’ll be finding out.

ETA: She wrote all about why it isn’t working. Gosh I should read more carefully.* I’ll post the first part of the thread.


I sent her a response, and she responded back.


It totally made my night.


*How ironic that I wrote this after titling my post. Meeting mediocre standards more like… 😛

Sleepless Nights = No Studying

Studying has ground to a near stop. I haven’t spent any time recently on flash cards or reading mostly due to children who refuse to sleep. First it was teething, now it is illness. Though I do think most of it has to do with habit as well. Up late, sleep in late, can’t seem to get myself or the kids on a better schedule. Lately K is up until 1am or later. Feeling very drained over here.

There was a small moment in which I had a few minutes to putz around on the internet last night. I follow Gretch McCulloch’s blog “All Things Linguistics“, though I really haven’t had much of a chance to thoroughly read her posts. During my brief reprieve, I started reading “#LingComm day 1“, which led me to “A Linguist Explains the Grammar of Doge. Wow.“. The latter post makes me salivate. These are the silly things that really turn my brain on.

Right now my brain is turning off. It’s supposed to be nap time for the littlest one, and of course she isn’t napping. Probably because I’m trying to take some time to myself. I don’t know what I did in past lives to deserve this sort of special hell. If I had the opportunity, I would lie in bed all day long, slipping in and out of consciousness. I’d probably sleep more often than not. Perhaps my gluttonous consumption of sleep pre-kids is the main cause for the suffering I must endure now.

Going back to the idea of studying, after reading the above posted links, it confirmed my desire to pursue that Ph.D. I know I will continue to run into roadblocks that impede my progress, such as kid issues, but I’ll get over them and continue forward as planned. I do wonder if my initial plan to take the test in February will work out considering the lack of time and energy I have now. Plus a majority of the time, any plan I make tends to not work out at all as I had intended.

Wah wah wah. I’ll stop whining now and get to work. Or maybe I’ll take a nap.