Friday, 12 May 2006

I Am Become Plagiarism Bailiff: Do you swear to tell the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, so help you God? Scott: I do. (Assistant District Attorney John Wells strides forward and begins to question Kaufman.) Wells: Is it true that on the tenth of May you wrote a post on your blog called "What's the Word I'm Looking For? The Opposite of 'Disgruntled'"? Scott: I did. Wells: And did said post contain the sentence "Today, for some apparent reason, I had my first choate idea in weeks"? Scott: It did. Wells: Now refer to Government's Exhibit 643. Read the highlighted section. Scott: "But then, all at once, for some apparent reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could make heads and tails of." Wells: Notice any similarity? Scott: The phrase "some apparent reason" appears in both. Wells: It certainly does. Now could you read the next highlighted part? Scott: "The conversation become more and more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail." I know what you're thinking, but I'm no plagiarist! Wells: Will the court please instruct Mr. Kaufman to only answer the questions asked? Judge: Consider yourself warned. Wells: Thank you. Now please read the rest of the highlighted words. Scott: Gruntled, nomer, shevelled, kempt, godly. Wells: If I were to tell you all those words appeared in your blog post of 10 May, would I be correct? Scott: They're all there, but . . . Wells: You'll answer the questions I ask with a simple "Yes" or "No." Scott: Yes. Wells: The State enters Exhibit 644 into evidence. (hands an oddly shaped box to Scott) Mr. Kaufman, will you please tell the jury what you have in your hands? Scott: A copy of The Complete New Yorker. Wells: What would happen if I handed you a laptop and asked you to do a search for an article in the 25 July 1994 issue written be a man named Jack Winter? Scott: Nothing. Wells: Nothing? Scott: I stare at its outrageously complicated search interface for a couple of minutes. Then I'd type in his name and be taken to a screen which listed the articles he'd written. I'd try to access them, but would fail miserably. Wells: And why would you do that? Scott: Because it's designed so counterintuitive that you need a doctorate in Computer Science to navigate it. Wells: You want this court to believe that someone as technological proficient as you is unable to operate The Complete New Yorker's search function? Scott: It's true. Wells: (looking flustered) So what you expect this court to believe is that despite you teaching articles from The New Yorker on a regular basis, you had no idea of the existence of Jack Winter's "How I Met My Wife"? Scott: Yes sir. Wells: And that the numerous identical "words" in the two text appear through sheer coincidence? Scott: Not by coincidence. We—Mr. Winter and I—were both aiming for the same effect. There aren't...

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