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401, 401V, 501V: English-Language Reading Diary

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Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Sarah Robb O'Hagan: "I Learned to Win By Failing" (with test link)

Газета 401: Зачёт; 401V, 501V

(Link to full article and accompanying video. Link to PDF document.)

Group 401: This is the text for our online test.

Some of these words and phrases may be on the test....

to breathe new life into
to bring to light
to be vulnerable
edge, at the edge
to suck
the lead part
to push, to keep pushing
grit (noun)
yeah, so
to get going
pear-shaped, to go pear-shaped
over one's skis
to do one's own thing
learning (noun)
to crush it
to be (stay) in front of
on me (it's on me)
grind (noun)
to trigger
to screw up (trans. and intrans.)
wrong turn
to hone
to be well rounded

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Good Grief for educators, part two

Warmest thanks to our colleagues for your great stories and dialogues, excellent questions, and helpful comments on the survey form. Here's a slide show based on the vocabulary presentation we gave at our last session:

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Roll Over Beethoven


(Click here for original article with links to music. Download PDF version.)

For discussion:
  1. Summarize this article—how does it go beyond a simple obituary?
  2. How did the author organize his material? How does he develop his theme(s)?
  3. For what audience is he writing?
  4. What will you remember about this article after you have forgotten the details?
  5. What should the author have included or left out?
Words and phrases:
iconic, iconically
scorched earth
to lay out the stakes
on deadline
to break through
to harness
mission statement
to double as
to reverberate
radio play (noun)
to fill in the blanks
to nag
precious few
tectonic shift
to dispense with
to cover
to relegate, be relegated
star was receding
dash (noun)

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Tiny family-run newspaper wins American journalism's most important award


(Link to full article on Guardian site. Link to PDF file.)

  1. Summarize this article in one or two sentences.
  2. How is the article organized? (What elements of “story” do you see in this article?)
  3. What will you remember from this article after you have forgotten the details?
  4. What do you wish the writer had included or left out?
  5. Who is the intended audience?
  6. What is the role of journalism prizes such as the Pulitzer Prize?
Useful words and phrases:
to take on
to challenge assumptions
to hang out
fueled by
crash (noun)
to pander
dogged (dogged coverage)
to covet, coveted
to draw
to disclose, undisclosed
gut (in his gut)
to vindicate, to feel vindicated

Monday, April 17, 2017

Good Grief for educators, part one

(Link to the excerpts in PDF format: part one, part two.)

Words and phrases drawn from today's workshop:

Judy compiled some of the errors from last week's homework and summarized them using this slideshow:

Finally, we watched this brief BBC Trending feature: Learn Jane Austen, 'thug' style.

Monday, April 10, 2017

Teaching respectful terms for others

This workshop was based on my article for the Institute's conference in 2013.

The Michele Berdy article mentioned in the presentation is posted here.

Some of the interesting words, phrases, and metaphors used in today's presentation:

to lose faith
bling (or bling-bling)
to make allowances (for)
to hunt down
to give offense
to make allowances
to stop to wonder
marginal, to marginalize
teachable moment
out of date
it’s up to us
faintly odd
to prescribe
patch (noun)
to rewrite around
fastidious, fastidiousness
not to mention

Thursday, April 6, 2017

Newspapers: More on the shifting fortunes of publishing


(Link to full text and podcast version of original program.)

  1. What type of article is this? How was it “published”? How does this affect the voice and register of the text?
  2. What is the main theme or argument of this text?
  3. What is the point made in the first paragraph by Brooke Gladstone and the following two paragraphs?
  4. What factor often determines a successful publishing season, according to Carolyn Kellogg?
  5. What contributes to the success of audio books? What does Kellogg mean by “crossover point”?
  6. Why should we ask Margaret Atwood where her books belong? (What point is Kellogg making here?)

Words and phrases:

something of a …
marked (as in “marked growth”)
to drive (sales, etc.)
to do in
to wheeze
not so fast
to air
to overturn
to level off
boost (noun)
to come out of nowhere
to tout
to ding
vinyl record
to hit a groove
profuse, profusely
to ramp up (transitive and intransitive)
make a (big) push for
to come on strong
to get (something) noticed

Tuesday, April 4, 2017

Newspapers: Remembering Yevtushenko

Газета 401, 401В, 501В

(Link to full article.)

For questions relating to the obituary of a famous person, take a look back at this article.

We will also look at this article: "Five reasons why Yevtushenko deserved a Nobel prize."

Words and phrases from the Associated Press article:

to acclaim, acclaimed
to denounce
to pass away
to undergo
to snowball
to gain notoriety
to pack, packed (audiences)
to rise to prominence
showpiece (noun and adjective)
perennial, perennially
to feature
pronounced (adjective)

Other obituaries include:

The New York Times:

The Guardian:

Monday, April 3, 2017

Let's get down to work (don't worry, it will work out)

We began today's class with this presentation:

More work with phrasal verbs, and reviewing the words and phrases from previous classes:

1. For each blank, choose a word from the list below. Some of the words are completions of phrasal verbs based on the verb work. Some words in the list might be used more than once; some might need to be changed to the correct tense:

“Detective Jose Chang here,” I heard myself say. It was my first day at work. I didn’t even have a contract yet. The sergeant had only said that “we’d work ____ the details later.” Like whether I’d be paid overtime or not… But it was a job, and I was happy to have it. I needed the ____, such as health insurance.

The interview had been tough. They had really worked me ____, especially on why I had been out of a job for six months. I had worked ____ a list of reasons for it, but at the end, I just tried to ____ it all over by mentioning that I needed time with my family. Except I hadn’t spoken to my family in five years. In our family, we all have a lot to work ____.

I hadn’t mentioned that I had been trying to work ____ my anxieties with booze. And then stopped. So, yes, I had tried to ____ the issue. It worked.

I do hope this job will work ____. What will I do if it doesn’t? I had ____ it badly in the homicide division in Chicago. It wasn’t just my own case I had destroyed; my mistake had nearly thrown a wrench ____ the works. I had really messed up. Even Mrs. Babsen, my sweet elderly neighbor with six cats, had told me I had ____ it all on myself.

I hoped moving home to Tucson would ____ my career, which it needed, badly. At least in Tucson they wouldn’t ask me about my name. Everyone would assume my father’s family came to work on the railroads, and my mother’s when the river still had water in it all year and the country was named New Spain.

You just knew I would work ____ that last bit, about how the U.S. stole a third of Mexico’s territory in the Mexican-American War, didn’t you? I can get really worked ____, thinking about it still.

over   bring   gloss   up   benefits   out   blow  into   in  through  evade   jump-start

2. Homework:

Please create a dialogue using 10 of the words/phrases in the list below or the phrasal verbs in the exercise above.

larger trends at work
punch line
over the top
To pull any/your punches
to overstate the case
bent [entrepreneurial bent]
to channel
to streamline
job security
word of mouth
the more the merrier
to jump-start
to make [the, a] case for
what they wanted out of life
to be struck by
to pull clear (of)
to settle (an argument, a question)
setting themselves up (for)
to face the risks
special interest groups
to plug in
dead-end job
to end up

(You can download a PDF version of these exercises from here.)

Friday, March 31, 2017

"Walking the Dog"

In class, we heard Hans Theessink performing his virtuoso version of the song, starting at about 1 minute, 10 seconds:

This classic was originally written and recorded by Rufus Thomas. In this great video from 1988, we see him performing with legendary musicians Steve Cropper (guitar), Matt "Guitar" Murphy, and Donald "Duck" Dunn (bass guitar):

Many other great musicians have recorded this song, including the Rolling Stones:

Here's how the original audience heard Rufus sing it in 1963:

Here are the words to that original song:

Mary Mack dressed in black
Silver buttons all down her back
Hello tipsy toes
She broke the needle and she can't sew

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on

I asked her mama for fifteen cents
To see the elephant jump over the fence
He jumped so high, he touched the sky
Never got back till the fourth of July

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on

Mary, Mary, quite contrary
Tell me, how does your garden grow?
You got silver bells and you got cockleshells
Pretty maids all in a row

Walking the dog
Just a walking the dog
If you don't know how to do it
Show you how to walk the dog
Come on now, come on, come on
Oh oh, just a just just a walking
just a just a just a walking
just a just a just a walking
oh, yeah, if you don't know how to do it
I'll show you how to walk the dog ... oh ...

Wednesday, March 29, 2017

Newspapers: Платье, которое проехало больше стран, чем вы


  (link to full article online)

  1. Summarize the theme and contents of this article in one or two sentences.
  2. Describe how this article is organized or structured.
  3. What is the voice and register of this article?
  4. What will you remember about (or from) this article in a week? A year?
  5. What additional information or context should the writer have provided?
  6. What changes does Prof. Rivoli hope to see in garment manufacture and trade?

Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Germany and Turkey exchange criticisms

Газета 401, 401В, 501В

(Link to full article.)
  1. Please summarize this article in one or two sentences.
  2. What do you know or believe about the countries involved in this situation that you did not know or believe before you read the article?
  3. What additional information should the writer have included?
  4. What audience does the writer have in mind?
  5. Is the article objective? Is there any apparent bias or favoritism on the part of the reporter or the publisher (BBC News)?
  6. How do the photos, captions, and subtitles (in the online version of the article) contribute to the effectiveness of the article?
Useful words and phrases:

no ifs, ands, or buts (and variations)
to woo
to reserve the right
to break a taboo
war of words
meddling in [another country's] internal affairs
to cross a line
to back
to seek asylum

Monday, March 27, 2017

The U.S. Civil War and its lingering effects

Here's the presentation we made today as background for discussing the effects of the Civil War on American English and the ways we teach it.

In 1864, Abraham Lincoln was re-elected president. On March 4, 1865, at the swearing-in ceremony marking the start of his second term as president, he gave the speech popularly known as the Second Inaugural Address, which included these famous lines:

On the occasion corresponding to this four years ago, all thoughts were anxiously directed to an impending civil war. All dreaded it--all sought to avert it.... Both parties deprecated war; but one of them would make war rather than let the nation survive; and the other would accept war rather than let it perish. And the war came.

One-eighth of the whole population were colored slaves, not distributed generally over the Union, but localized in the Southern part of it. These slaves constituted a peculiar and powerful interest. All knew that this interest was, somehow, the cause of the war. To strengthen perpetuate, and extend this interest was the object for which the insurgents would rend the Union, even by war; while the government claimed no right to do more than to restrict the territorial enlargement of it.

... Both [sides] read the same Bible, and pray to the same God; and each invokes his aid against the other. It may seem strange that any men should dare to ask a just God's assistance in wringing their bread from the sweat of other men's faces; but let us judge not, that we be not judged. The prayers of both could not be answered--that of neither has been answered fully.

The Almighty has his own purposes. "Woe unto the world because of offenses! for it must needs be that offenses come; but woe to that man by whom the offense cometh." If we shall suppose that American slavery is one of those offenses which, in the providence of God, must needs come, but which, having continued through his appointed time, he now wills to remove, and that he gives to both North and South this terrible war, as the woe due to those by whom the offense came, shall we discern therein any departure from those divine attributes which the believers in a living God always ascribe to him? Fondly do we hope--fervently do we pray--that this mighty scourge of war may speedily pass away. Yet, if God wills that it continue until all the wealth piled by the bondsman's two hundred and fifty years of unrequited toil shall be sunk, and until every drop of blood drawn by the lash shall be paid by another drawn with the sword, as was said three thousand years ago, so still it must be said, "The judgments of the Lord are true and righteous altogether."

With malice toward none; with charity for all; with firmness in the right, as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in; to bind up the nation's wounds; to care for him who shall have borne the battle, and for his widow, and his orphan--to do all which may achieve and cherish a just and lasting peace among ourselves, and with all nations.

(Full text.)

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Obituary: James Cotton, Blues Harmonica Legend, Dies at 81

Газета 401

(Link to full story on newspaper's Web site.)

In preparation for our class discussion, consider these questions:
  • What are the traditional elements of a newspaper obituary? Are those elements all included in this particular article?
  • What will you remember from this article?
  • What parts of the article were the most informative or interesting for you? What were the least interesting?
  • Were there any aspects of the story that you feel were insufficiently covered? What questions might you have for the reporter?
Useful words and phrases:

an integral part
call and response
curiously, curiously enough
to embark on/upon
bills, billing, sharing bills
act (noun)
under his/her/their own name
to take up
small change
in the employ of
to span, spanning
common parlance
to induct, to be inducted
survived by

Here is James Cotton playing with the Rolling Stones' Keith Richards a few years ago, during a rehearsal for a benefit concert for fellow blues musician Hubert Sumlin:

... And finally, a photo I took of Hubert Sumlin and James Cotton about ten years ago:

Monday, March 20, 2017

Our visitor this week: Shawn McConaughey

Shawn McConaughey during his last visit to our Institute.
We are happy to welcome our friend and colleague Shawn McConaughey (head of the Teaching Abroad program among other things) to our Institute this week. Most of our students will have a chance to talk with him in our Wednesday classes, and all students are invited to meet him on Friday at our (rescheduled) tea after the fourth pair.

Shawn first visited our Institute in the year 2000. He and his wife Katrina both have experience in international education and work with refugees.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Angry men gain influence and angry women lose influence

Газета 401

Scene from Twelve Angry Men. Source.  
A new study from Arizona State University focused on jury deliberation behaviors demonstrates a distinct gender bias when it comes to expressing anger and influencing people. The study found that men use anger to influence others, but women actually lose influence when they allow anger into an argument.

Here's a link to the full text of the article.
  • Who wrote this article, and who published it?
  • What event or occasion prompted this article?
  • In brief, what does the author want to tell you?
  • What case or argument does the author make? Is it the author's own viewpoint, or is the author telling you about someone else's viewpoint?
  • What new information or insight will you remember from this article?
  • What additional information or analysis do you wish the article had included?
  • What audience does the author have in mind? How do you know?
  • If you had been the editor of the article, what changes would you have made?
Useful words and phrases:

representative of ...
to exert influence
in a word
jury deliberation
out of the equation
to be tried for
opening statement, closing statement
to purport to, purportedly
to allege, alleged
to script, to be scripted
to hold out; holdout (noun)
to convict, to be convicted (note the untypical usage in this article)
gender gap
governing body

Thursday, March 16, 2017

Ebook sales continue to fall

Газета 501В

The full article is here.

Useful words and phrases:

driven, to drive
jump (noun)
a year that saw
general trade
high profile, high-profile
break, respite
to favor
to overtake
to plateau
to surge; surge (noun)
industry confidence

Monday, March 13, 2017

And now, a book review of "Лавр" in English

Газета 401

Follow this link for the full text of the New Yorker review.

This review, "Holy Foolery," considers the English translation of the book whose Russian-language review we will consider tomorrow.

"Holy Foolery" is not an easy essay to read, even for native English speakers, and we don't expect you to master it overnight. For our first discussion, please take your paper copies and mark the words and phrases that are interesting or difficult. Here are some basic question we want to apply to both the Russian and English reviews of the novel over our next two or three classes:
  1. What are the special characteristics of a book review?
  2. Based on these reviews, what is the theme or plot of this novel? How is it organized?
  3. What are three unusual features of this novel?
  4. What important questions of life might be touched on by this novel?
  5. (If you have not already read it) ... Are you interested in reading this novel? Why or why not?

Friday, March 10, 2017

More space news: Илон Маск анонсировал полет двух туристов к Луне

Газета 401В

(Link to full article.)

Please be ready to discuss this article in English. Among the questions we might consider:

  • Briefly, what is the "news" in this news story?
  • What is the most memorable aspect or detail of this story?
  • What aspect of the story would you like to know in more detail?
  • Can you detect any enthusiasm or skepticism on the part of the writer?
  • Do you have any interest in becoming a space tourist?
  • What is the voice and register of this article?

Thursday, March 9, 2017

Book review: Лавр, Евгений Водолазкин


(Link to the full text of the review.) Be ready to summarize and evaluate this review in English. (Group 401 will discuss this text next Tuesday, but evening classes have a bit longer to think about the assignment.)

As you read this review, see if you can find phrases and terms that belong particularly to this genre of writing. How would you render them in English? If you're not sure, bring them to class and we'll discuss them.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

"When a Man Loves a Woman"

Remastered and remixed version:

Original recording:

Purchase link.

When a man loves a woman
Can't keep his mind on nothing else
He'll trade the world
For the good thing he's found
If she's bad he can't see it
She can do no wrong
Turn his back on his best friend
If he put her down

When a man loves a woman
Spend his very last dime
Trying to hold on to what he needs
He'd give up all his comfort
Sleep out in the rain
If she said that's the way it ought to be

Well, this man loves a woman
I gave you everything I had
Trying to hold on to your precious love
Baby, please don't treat me bad

When a man loves a woman
Down deep in his soul
She can bring him such misery
If she plays him for a fool
He's the last one to know
Loving eyes can't ever see

When a man loves a woman
He can do no wrong
He can never own some other girl
Yes when a man loves a woman
I know exactly how he feels
'Cause baby, baby, baby, you're my world

When a man loves a woman ...


Tuesday, March 7, 2017

"Emerging Adults" -- phrases and metaphors

Here is the presentation we made to the workshop this past Monday:

The text of the original article is here. The highlighted version we distributed in the workshop can be downloaded here (PDF file).

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Girls' Life and Boys Life--a fair comparison?


You can read the full story (with link to the Facebook post that started the debate) here. You can download our classroom version here (PDF format).

Snopes.com is an online service which many people use to check whether an urban legend, scandalous news story, or viral e-mail campaign is true, partly true, or false. You can read more about their philosophy and methods on their glossary and frequently asked questions pages. Group 401 will digest this article on March 7, and 401V and 501 at a later date.

Useful words and phrases in the article:

more to the story
to feature
disparity, disparate
to treat
side by side
to go viral
purported, to purport to
to convey
sample size
at the expense of
tacit, tacitly
body acceptance
to be tucked (plus preposition)
to dig deeper
to unearth
to boost
general interest (adj.)
trade magazine
to further
despite appearances
to navigate
to shame
gender binary

Monday, February 27, 2017

"U.S. presidential race goes down the drain" - presentation on phrases and metaphors

Here is the presentation Judy gave last week at the instructors' workshop:

The PDF file of the BBC article with these terms highlighted can be downloaded from here.

Saturday, February 25, 2017

Two space cargo ships arrive at the International Space Station


To follow up our Christmas Dinner at the ISS article and the story of the "hidden figure" Katherine Johnson, here's an up-to-date story on these past two busy days at the Space Station.

The full article is here. We'll discuss the article next week in group 401, and somewhat later in group 501 (evening).

Here are some useful words and phrases we'll discuss in class:

it's not quite ...
Amazon Prime
to abort (technology)
to pay off (intransitive)
to scuttle
to snag
to check in on
hot on smb/smth’s tail
count (noun)
to staff (vs to man)
to boast (transitive)
does not / doesn’t / do not / don’t come cheap
on the rise
makes it / doesn’t make it
to pay off
capture (noun)
to leap into action

Friday, February 24, 2017

"Hidden Figure" Catherine Johnson


Because of the new film, Hidden Figures, about three of the "computers with skirts" who worked for the U.S. space program in its earliest years, you can now find many articles online about mathematician Katherine Goble Johnson. For our classes, we chose an article written back in 2008, before all the current attention to those pioneers. You can find the rest of the article here.

And here is the brief chronology of space exploration that Judy prepared as background for our discussion of this article:

“Firsts in Space”― a timeline for this article

Oct 4, 1957 - Sputnik (USSR) launched
Jan 1, 1958 – Explorer 1 – the first US satellite - launched
Jan 1, 1959 – Luna 1 (USSR) launched, then orbits the sun
Sept. 12, 1959 – Luna 2 (USSR) launched, then impacts the moon
April 12, 1961 – Yuri Gagarin (USSR) orbits earth
May 5, 1961 – Alan Shepard (US) sent into (sub-orbital) space
Feb. 20, 1962 – John Glenn (US) orbits earth

Group 401 will discuss this article next week; group 501 (evening) the following week. In the meantime, here is the video we showed as a preview in our 401 class last Wednesday.

Wednesday, February 22, 2017

Eva Cassidy, "Time After Time"

Here is one of my favorite songs. As I said today in the Group 401 class, its performer became world-famous only after her death. (Read here about Eva Cassidy; here in Russian.) Here is an amateur video of her performing the song at Washington, DC's Blues Alley club, later broadcast on television in several countries (Norwegian television capture below). Below the video and the audio track are the words to the song.

Eva Cassidy - Time After Time silvere_vlc

Listen or download Eva Cassidy Time After Time for free on Pleer

“Time After Time” (Rob Hyman, Cyndi Lauper)
performed by Eva Cassidy, 1963-1996 (1995)

Lying in my bed I hear the clock tick,
And think of you
Turning in circles, confusion—Is nothing new
Flashback to warm nights—Almost left behind
Suitcases of memories,
Time after—

Sometimes you picture me—
I'm walking too far ahead
You're calling to me, I can't hear
What you've said—

Then you say—go slow—I fall behind—
The second hand unwinds

Chorus: If you're lost you can look—and you will find me
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you—I'll be waiting
Time after time
If you fall I will catch you—I'll be waiting
Time after time
Time after time

After your picture fades and darkness has
turned to gray
Watching through windows—I'm wondering
if you're OK
And you say—go slow, I fall behind.
The drum beats out of time—
Time after time
Time after time

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

"Enemy of the People": a history of the term


The full article and video are here.

  1. Among the topics we might discuss:
  2. Subjectivity/objectivity: Can you detect what political or national point of view predominates in this article? What clues can you point to?
  3. What ideas in the article seem to you to be useful analytical tools? Which ideas or generalizations seem unhelpful?
  4. What argument is the author making? Do you agree?
  5. If you had to boil the article down to three or four points, what would they be?

Useful words and phrases:

to call out; called out
to castigate
-speak (as a functional suffix)
to boot
political class
didn't do oneself any favors
to pop up
to run smb out of town
to bash
brush with infamy (brush with ...)
Victorian morality
to weave ... into
to deploy
to leave in the lurch
to stigmatize (-ise)
to ostracize (-ise)
to brand
dictate (noun)
old dog, new tricks

Monday, February 20, 2017

How to spot a narcissist, part two

(part one)


First, some useful words and phrases to discuss:

compelling (adv)
in equal measure
mixed bag
therein lies
cross section (literal and figurative)
from person to person
think (peremptory, used in parenthetical explanations; usually used without prepositions such as "of" or "about")
to suffer the consequences
to peak
dark charm
downward (upward) trajectory
gambit, opening gambit
thrilled to hear, to see, to learn
impeccably groomed
to preen
to stand out
to sport
icebreaker; to break the ice
to glaze over
deal, a better deal
to cheat
to eschew
bent (noun)
to network
positive reinforcement
fix (noun)
fragile, fragility
true colors
craving (noun)
coping mechanisms
to reframe
on first meeting
callous, callousness
sour, to go sour
fling (noun)
to derogate, derogation
empathic (cf. empathetic)
arm candy
to pique
assertive, assertiveness
stealth, stealthy
prone to
to put down
to name-drop
to put stock in
to frequent
on the prowl
need (noun), needs

Questions for reflection and discussion:
  1. Give the name, author, and source of this article.
  2. Briefly, what is this article about?
  3. How is the article organized? What are its major divisions or subthemes?
  4. Who is the intended audience? (How do you know?)
  5. What will you remember in a week from this article? In a year?
  6. What is the strongest feature or aspect of this article? What is its weakest feature or aspect?
  7. What new information did you learn? (Just an example or two is enough.) Do you trust this information? How would you check to see it is trustworthy?

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Our tea and conversation hours are starting again

We plan to meet Tuesdays after the 4th pair, in Zhanna Grigorievna's room. (Check bulletin board for last-minute changes.)

If you are also interested in an evening meeting, please contact us! (Facebook, VKontakte, or e-mail.)

No homework, no grades, just conversation. Come when you can, leave when you must.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

How to spot a narcissist, part one


(part two)

How to Spot a Narcissist
Welcome to the contradictory universe of narcissism.

By Scott Barry Kaufman, Ph.D., published in Psychology Today on July 5, 2011

[As Tucker Max tells it, he] was a 21-year-old on break from college and eager to try something new with his girlfriend. Well, technically she was not his girlfriend because "she thought we were dating. I knew better, but she was way too hot to bother correcting."

[It went terribly wrong, and the woman was humiliated. He wrote about it in detail on his Web site. Even the short summary in the article is too gross to include here.]

Max... boasts that he gets about five sexual offers a day via email, Facebook, and Twitter alone. "This is the norm for pretty much any male celeb," says Max. "I'm just the first guy who ever wrote stuff down in a really funny, really honest, really compelling way. I'm famous for this sh*t."

Tucker Max and his ilk stoke our attention and our ire —sometimes in equal measure. They are a decidedly mixed bag; therein lies one of the many paradoxes of narcissism and the primary reason narcissists are so difficult to identify and understand. If narcissists were just jerks, they would be easy to avoid. The fact that they are entertaining and exciting as well as aggressive and manipulative makes them compelling in the real world and as subjects of psychological scrutiny.

A cross section of the narcissist's ego will reveal high levels of self-esteem, grandiosity, self-focus, and self-importance. They think they are more physically attractive and intelligent than just about everyone, and would rather be admired than liked. They are enraged when told they aren't beautiful or brilliant but aren't affected much if told they are jerks.

Odious as these qualities may be, we've all got a narcissistic streak within. Narcissism is a stable trait that varies in degree from person to person. Some aspects, including confidence and self-sufficiency, are healthy and adaptive. It is only at the extreme end of the spectrum that narcissism becomes a disorder, often because toxic levels of vanity, entitlement, and exploitativeness are on display. The idea that narcissism is a constellation of traits that exists on a continuum, rather than a single, dichotomous label (you are or are not narcissistic), is reflected in plans to jettison the diagnosis of narcissistic personality disorder in the forthcoming DSM-V, the diagnostic manual for clinicians.

Narcissists thrive in big, anonymous cities, entertainment-related fields (think reality TV), and leadership situations where they can dazzle and dominate others without having to cooperate or suffer the consequences of a bad reputation. "A narcissist monk would not be good, but to be Kanye West and a narcissist is fantastic," notes University of South Alabama psychologist Peter Jonason, an expert on mating psychology and the darker side of human nature.

Narcissism tends to peak in adolescence and decline with age. Psychologist Frederick Stinson and his colleagues conducted face-to-face interviews with 34,653 adults and found that men are more narcissistic than women across the lifespan. Male and female narcissists both share a marked need for attention, the propensity to manipulate, and a keen interest in charming the other sex. This bent is so strong that some psychologists, including Jonason and graduate student Nicholas Holtzman of Washington University in St. Louis, argue that narcissism may have evolved as a strategy to secure sexual partners in the short-term. The ways in which narcissists of both genders pursue their quarry reinforces this possibility.Women who score high on tests of narcissism consistently dress more provocatively than their more modest counterparts; male narcissists resort to displays of wit and braggadocio —in other words, both narcissistic men and women engage in time-tested sexual strategies. They also report more short-term hook-ups and a greater desire for this type of union. This relentless short-term focus is a key to both their dark charm and to the predictable downward trajectory of their relationships.

Beware the Opening Gambit

Narcissists will be thrilled to hear that as a group they are rated as more attractive and likable than everyone else at first appearance. Simine Vazire of Washington University and her colleagues found that narcissists have a distinct physical signature. They're considered more stylishly clad, cheerful, and physically appealing at first sight than are those who score lower in narcissism. In Vazire's study, the narcissistic women were impeccably groomed and the men were more chiseled than their non-preening peers. Indeed, a range of studies find a robust link between narcissism and physical attractiveness, and narcissists' tactics for standing out are well-documented, often by themselves. Case in point: the VH-1 self-declared pickup artist Mystery, who sports platform shoes, black fingernails, and just enough odd accessories (goggles/velvet hat) to give shy women a built-in icebreaker.

While narcissists often love the sound of their own voice, they don't always sound pretty to others. Nicholas Holtzman and Michael Strube found that subjects who scored higher in narcissism engaged in more disagreeable verbal behaviors, arguing and cursing more—and using more sexual language than their more modest counterparts.

Narcissists' language and demeanor is often geared toward one objective: to maintain power in an interaction. Psychologist Anita Vangelisti of the University of Texas at Austin found that tactics in the narcissists' toolbox include bragging, refocusing the topic of conversation, making exaggerated hand movements, talking loudly, and showing disinterest by "glazing over" when others speak.

In the sexual realm, promiscuity is a key strategy that allows narcissists to maintain control. Think the "principle of least interest," in which the partner with the least interest in a relationship has the greatest power. "I allow a woman to feel the gift of really wanting me whenever I feel she needs to feel that," notes Mystery in The Pickup Artist: The New and Improved Art of Seduction. "Every three weeks or so I remind her that I continue to have options, and continue to choose her."

Promiscuity is a key behavioral ingredient also, because narcissists are always searching for a better deal. Psychologists Joshua Foster at the University of South Alabama and W. Keith Campbell of the University of Georgia found that when narcissists think their partner is committed, they are even more willing to cheat, presumably because they feel that they are more likely to get away with it. And narcissists get a rush out of convincing partners to do things or engage in sexual acts that they would normally eschew.

Because control is so important to narcissists, they can abruptly lose their charm if destabilized or threatened. This two-faced behavior is often the first clue to their true character. They get angry when rejected, overreacting to small slights and punishing those who do not support their grandiose image of themselves. One study even found that when spurned, highly narcissistic individuals "punished" other research participants who had nothing to do with the rejection itself.

Narcissists get away with these unsavory antics because, at least initially, they are so charming. Psychologist Mitja D. Back of Johannes Gutenberg-University in Mainz, Germany, and his colleagues deconstructed the "charismatic air" that many narcissists exude: attractiveness, competence, interpersonal warmth, and humor. Among a pool of college students, those reporting higher levels of entitlement tended to be the most popular students in the class. In a separate study, Back and his colleagues found that while students expected charming individuals to like others more, people with "self-centered values" actually dislike others more.

Clearly, narcissists are easily misread. The picture is further complicated by the fact that, as Back and his colleagues demonstrate, both extraverts and narcissists have an interpersonal style that endears them to others. So to conclude that a person may be narcissistic based on energetic and self-assured body movements, friendly facial expressions, and original introductions would be to dismiss many non-narcissists.

Narcissists' manipulative bent can be a lever for social influence as much as for exploitation. This is why narcissism and leadership often go hand in hand. The fun-loving narcissist may enjoy widespread networking and dominating a social group not because they want to exploit every person in their path, but simply because they desire the positive reinforcement of others. More intentionally exploitative behavior is considered Machiavellian and, at the extreme, psychopathic.

Together with narcissism, Machiavellianism and psychopathy form a cluster of distinct but related traits known as the "dark triad." In this disagreeable constellation, narcissism is the gentlest star. Narcissism is linked much more tightly to extraversion than are the other two, suggesting that narcissism may be the most positive, social, and outgoing component of this triad. And when narcissists do behave negatively and aggressively, they tend to do so in response to social exclusion. Machiavellian and psychopathic types are more hostile to physical provocation.

Solving Core Narcissistic Riddles

In 1984, psychologist Robert Emmons posed the original narcissistic paradox: He noted that narcissists simultaneously devalue others even as they need others' admiration. Back's research on narcissism now allows psychologists to resolve this long-standing paradox. It appears that narcissists seek out people who maintain their high positive self-image, at the same time intentionally avoiding and putting down people who may give them a harsh dose of realism. "Seeking admiration is like a drug for narcissists," notes Back. "In the long run it becomes difficult because others won't applaud them, so they always have to search for new acquaintances from whom they get the next fix." This could explain why narcissists so frequently change their social contexts and maintain only weak ties to others.

Another long-standing mystery concerns the developmental pathway to narcissism. Is narcissism the result of indiscriminate parental praise, or of coldness and rejection? Freudbelieved narcissism resulted from some combination of the two. Recent research by Lorna Otway and Vivian Vignoles suggests that Freud may have been right: The whiplash combination of parental coldness and excessive parental admiration is more strongly related to maladaptive narcissism than is either attitude alone.

The researchers argue that this "combination of childhood experiences may help to explain the paradoxical combination of grandiosity and fragility that is so characteristic of adult narcissists." The narcissist who receives indiscriminate praise from his or her caregiver as well as signals of coldness and rejection may come to distrust the praise and exist in a perpetual state of insecurity. Back argues that peers also contribute to this dynamic, in that their positive first impressions fade: "Narcissists are popular so they get positive feedback, but are then devalued in the long term," when people learn their true colors.

Inconsistent feedback can breed a deep craving for admiration in a person with narcissistic tendencies —hence the quest for fleeting ego boosts. In the sexual realm, a narcissist may be satisfied just knowing a person finds him or her attractive. "I feel so much better about myself when I know that a girl likes me enough to sleep with me," notes Mystery in his book.

Even the narcissist's awareness that they are narcissistic is paradoxical. Graduate student Erica Carlson and her colleagues found that college students scoring high in narcissism rated themselves more intelligent, physically attractive, likable, and funny than others, as well as more power-oriented, impulsive, arrogant, and prone to exaggerate their abilities! In other words, they knew exactly how others viewed them. The study found that narcissists were even aware that their reputations worsened over time. They just didn't care.

How can narcissists maintain their inflated self-image even though they know how they are perceived by others? Carlson argues that such people "might think arrogance is a positive trait, like extraversion." Narcissists may also have unique coping mechanisms that allow them to reframe negative reactions. "They know that in certain situations [such as on first meeting] they are better than others and they use this positive information to generally reinterpret other experiences," notes Back. Narcissists may conclude that others are just jealous ("haters!"), or just not smart enough to realize how "bitchin'" they really are.

Proceed with Caution: The Narcissist as Romantic Partner

The narcissistic blend of flash and callousness, light and dark—coupled with a relentless focus on short-term objectives—ensures no shortage of sexual and romantic partners at the outset, many of whom will leave the relationship hurt and baffled. Once again, first impressions quickly go sour. Campbell and his colleagues found that people who date narcissists are highly satisfied for about four months, at which point they report a rapid decline in relations. Ironically, the four-month mark is when people start to reach peak satisfaction when dating non-narcissists. Yet the initial excitement and charm offered by the narcissist is hard to resist. "When I eat chocolate cake, 20 minutes later I'm under my desk wanting to die," jokes Campbell. "When I eat broccoli, in 20 minutes I feel good. But given the choice I always eat the cake."

In the long term, both men and women get frustrated with narcissistic partners, but since more men are interested in short-term flings, narcissistic women don't tend to bother men as much as narcissistic men frustrate women.

Narcissistic men tend to attract women who crave drama. Empathic women who are "caretakers" may also be drawn to narcissistic men, thinking erroneously that they will be able to alter negative traits.

Women's attraction to narcissistic traits may also depend, in part, on where she is in her ovulatory cycle. In a study conducted by Steven Gangestad at the University of New Mexico, 237 women watched videotapes of men compete for a lunch date. On days when women were at high fertility, they were much more attracted to displays of social presence (e.g., composure, eye contact) and competitiveness (e.g., derogation of competitors), both of which signal the confidence that is the narcissist's hallmark.

Men with narcissistic tendencies place much more emphasis on physical appearance than on an empathic partner, and not merely for the arm-candy factor one might expect. Narcissists are interested in "tens" [gorgeous women] in part because they believe such women may be most susceptible to their manipulative tactics! "Players" like Mystery argue that the interest of a great-looking woman is piqued by playful yet ambiguous comments ("negs") because such a woman is so used to being approached through flattery and to being in control of an interaction. "Not so fast! It's too early in the relationship for you to touch me like that," or "You have interesting eyes" are two such lines. "A neg is not an insult, just a judgment call on your part," argues Mystery in The Pickup Artist: The New and Improved Art of Seduction. "The better-looking the girl, the more aggressive you must be."

Narcissistic men walk an especially fine line when it comes to attracting women, because assertiveness is sexy, whereas dominance, often laced with aggression, is not. The key may be where the narcissist's boldness is directed. Psychologist Lauri Jensen-Campbell found that dominance alone isn't sexually appealing, but the interaction of dominance and prosocial behaviors is very attractive. Psychologist Jeffrey Snyder found that male dominance was attractive (for both a short-term and long-term affair) in the context of an athletic competition, but not when men used force or threat of force in informal decision-making among peers. Women appear to be very attuned to cues that men may direct their aggression toward a female.

In the realm of friendship, Jonason and his colleagues find that narcissistic women seek out higher-status opposite-sex friends whereas narcissistic men tend to have other male friends, sometimes called "wingmen," who also have a short-term mating strategy and can help each other exploit women. "Women are looking to get something from the guys, and guys are looking for a teammate to take advantage of the world," notes Jonason.

Perhaps the greatest paradox of all is that narcissism is neither absolutely good nor bad. Narcissism can be adaptive or maladaptive, appealing or appalling, depending on how charm and cunning are deployed. Anyone can mix and match narcissistic traits —including confidence, self-sufficiency, and assertiveness —with more communal traits such as cooperation and empathy, to be effective in any situation.

Still, you may be wondering whether you are are a full-fledged card-carrying narcissist. You could always go online and take the Narcissistic Personality Inventory (NPI) to find out if this is the case. But if you truly are a narcissist, you probably already know it —and you don't care!

Read Scott Barry Kaufman's PT blog: "Beautiful Minds."

5 Signs of a Stealth Narcissist

Flashy clothing and sky-high confidence are the "public" face of narcissism. Here are a few additional cues, some contradictory, in keeping with the narcissist's paradoxical nature.

  1. Bragging about one's perfect family (no one's family is perfect).
  2. Hypergenerosity in public to demonstrate that one has power, but coldness once the camera is off.
  3. Hypersensitive and insecure. This includes imagining criticism where it doesn't exist and getting depressed by perceived criticism."Vulnerable" narcissists are self-centered and overly defensive.
  4. Prone to a vast array of negative emotions including depression, anxiety, self-consciousness, and shame owing to not being given their "due." Such feelings can be an indication of egocentricity and self-absorption.
  5. Repeatedly puts down other people, especially inferiors and strangers. Loves to talk about him or herself and mentions others mainly to name-drop.

Are You in Love With a Narcissist?

    If you find yourself repeatedly pursuing people who need to be the center of attention, consider how to de-narcissify your encounters:
    • Slow down. Don't put so much stock in your initial attraction. Be open-minded to non-flashy people.
    • Observe a variety of settings. Extraverts can be very hard to distinguish from narcissists. Assess a person in multiple contexts before getting in too deep, and solicit honest input from friends.
    • Consider the venue. If you frequent bars and clubs, you are more likely to encounter narcissists on the prowl.
    • Examine why you may be attracted to narcissists. If you are searching for an ambitious person who is not "too nice," you are likely drawn to narcissists. What needs of yours do narcissists exploit?
    • Get out as soon as you can. Don't try to change him or her. Remember, this person enjoys being a narcissist. The more emotionally attached you get, the easier it will be for the narcissist to manipulate you.
    • Take control of the situation. "The situation you are in does not necessarily reflect your personality," says W. Keith Campell in When You Love a Man Who Loves Himself. "Responsibility is the ability to respond."

    (part two)