18.178 metaphors of hard, soft and wet

From: Humanist Discussion Group (by way of Willard McCarty willard.mccarty_at_kcl.ac.uk>
Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 07:34:25 +0100

               Humanist Discussion Group, Vol. 18, No. 178.
       Centre for Computing in the Humanities, King's College London
                     Submit to: humanist_at_princeton.edu

         Date: Sat, 28 Aug 2004 07:23:31 +0100
         From: "pjmoran" <noci_at_COX.NET>
         Subject: Fw: 18.172 metaphors of hard and soft -- and wet sciences

Regarding the idea of hard/soft/wet sciences: (1) Isn't there a direct
linguistic tie between the "wet work" (killing) from the battlefield and the
television or movie versions of that killing. Rather than
microscope/physics/astronomy being the norm, I'd see it as the Other in this
dichotomy. Either blood (life) is involved or the activity is not wet work.
This terminology either sprang out of the Vietnam War Era or just became
more publicized as a result of those military personnel and reporters who
dealt with the term. I believe it signals the same language
acquisition/growth process that gave North Americans "We're in deep "kim
shee" (kimchi) during the Korean Conflict and hundreds of baby girls named
"Kim." (2) I started UN-L (NE) in 1960 and there were no not really "hard
sciences" discussed in the Teachers' College then. A military wife, I
didn't get back to school until six years later. The Hard Sciences term was
hegemonic by then. After a year, I was out of college again (military
wife). When I went back, "hard" and "soft" were common. My experience
seems to mirror Michael Hart's. (3) The military wife side of my existence
makes me particularly aware of the growing power and increasingly casual use
of "wet work" in common parlance. (4) On a different note: as long as we are
examining arbitrary and fluid barriers between disciplines, we should be
alert for students and academics assigning the term "dry." (5) Last, we
can't escape the feminist lens here--hard sciences were stereotypically
masculine. Sociology and other of its ilk were soft sciences.
Received on Sat Aug 28 2004 - 02:43:14 EDT

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