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Of quants and crackers

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"How quants have led us astray," the headline said, and I thought, "What have those Dionne girls been up to now?"

But it turns out the article was not about the Canadian sisters at all. Here's an excerpt:

"Over the past three decades, many fields and institutions have witnessed the rise of the quants — that is, the ascent to power of people whose native tongue is numbers and algorithms and systems rather than personal relationships or human intuition. ... Just look at the financial world, where the rise of quantification could concentrate decision-making — and money-making — within a relatively small group of people at a bank's headquarters."

Huh. I'm still wrestling with quarks and now they're throwing quants at me.

 

"The cast is small, mainly keeping to a family of three crackers in the Florida scrub in the early 1870s."

Various authorities say that cracker is a derogatory term for white people, especially for poor, rural whites in the South — and even more especially for poor rural whites in Georgia and Florida. But the characters in Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings's "The Yearling," the novel under discussion, are sympathetic. Wikipedia says that while cracker is generally pejorative, "In reference to a native of Florida or Georgia it is sometimes used in a neutral or positive context and is sometimes used self-descriptively with pride." Much like redneck, which means about the same thing. Most of us know other words that are considered negative unless used by an insider.

Lauren Groff writes in Harper's magazine that "Nobody knows how the name [cracker] arose — perhaps as a bastardization of 'Quaker,' or as a reference to the bullwhips they cracked when herding cattle or the corn they cracked to make cereal, or from some name the Seminoles bestowed on them. ..." I hope Jimmy had something to do with it. He so loved cracking corn. I was largely indifferent.

Old-timers can remember when Atlanta did not have a major-league baseball team. Instead, it had a minor-league team, a member of the old Southern Association, where it competed against the Little Rock Travelers (now known as the Arkansas Travelers). For more than half a century, Atlanta's baseball team was called the Atlanta Crackers.

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