Friday, June 11, 2004


(Arkanoid logo)

I caught myself pulling an Arkanow a couple days ago, and I almost said it out loud, "Hey, wait, I'm pulling an Arkanow." Saying it out loud would have been weird and pointless, insofar as it's a phrase that I invented and use only inside my head.

Where it comes from: In the late 80s there was this popular video game called Arkanoid (it's basically a souped up version of Breakout). My freshman year in college, there was a general conversation about video games among several people in my dorm room. My roommate brought up this game called Arkenow that he had much liked in the arcade of his small hometown. He described the game, and it was plain he was talking about Arkanoid. Someone tried to correct him on this, but my roommate insisted the game was called Arkanow. Ever the font-aware and conflict-averse peacemaker, I tried to give him a friendly out by noting that the design of the logo on the Arkanoid machine and screen (see above) did make the I and D look a lot like a W, so one could see how a person could easily look at it and think the game was called Arkanow.* My roommate, however, would have none of this, and he would up insisting that in his hometown there must be a lone, strange, Arkanoid clone game called Arkenow that no one else--and by this point we were pulling passersby in the hallway into the discussion--had ever heard of.**

Every once in a while, since, when I am talking to someone and it is clear that they have dug in their heels on some point in an argument and will insist on whatever implausible scenario would save them from having to confess that they had likely been mistaken, the word Arkanow will begin as a kind of murmured chant in my mind. And, sometimes, the Arkanow-Arkanow-Arkanow chant will start up in situations where I am the one who is pulling an Arkanow, which has helped me--some--to just cut that out and skip to: "You're right, I'm wrong."

Incidentally, as far as the phrases of the form "pulling a [proper noun]" goes, there are two phrases I use where the surnames of fellow sociologists serve as the [proper noun] (neither of whom I've ever actually met, which makes catty things like this much easier. One, "pulling a [surname #1]" I use to refer to instances where one party in an academic debate seems to be willfully and disingenuously misrepresenting the work of another person for the purposes of ringing up the kind of rhetorical points you can ring up when people aren't firsthandly familiar with the work being criticized. The other, "pulling a [surname #2]" I use to refer to instances where an established academic is involved in a quantitative project but seems like they may have delegated way too much of the actual analytic work to students who may or may not really grasp what they are doing, such that one can readily imagine scenarios where erroneous findings are published under the established academic's name as a result of their lack of conscientious or competent oversight. At least with these phrases, I can say them out loud--when I am in a catty mood--with the possibility that another sociologist will have some idea what the reference means.

* Look, at least one website seems to have made the same mistake, unless it is run by someone who bought the machine in my roommate's hometown.

** Holding out on matters like this was likely easier in those days because of their being no ability to call in the Great Google Argument Adjudication Cavalry. Google entries for Arkanoid video game > 80,000, Google entries for Arkanow video game = 8.

Update, 3pm: A reader noted that I misspelled Arkanoid as Arkenoid several times throughout the post. I did not respond by arguing that in my hometown arcade the game was spelled Arkenoid. Following up on footnote 2, Arkanoid video game has 109 entries in Google.

No comments: