Introduction to

What IS this?


My name is Tom Veatch. May I introduce myself and to you?


Want me in a box? Sure: 60 year old, "white", American, male, former Stanford (visiting assistant) professor, linguist and cognitive scientist, with many interests and four careers: academics, tech, plumbing, and real estate. Many writings. Choose for yourself! Click the logo and enjoy! Boom, done.


Introductions are fraught. My Christian family members, I am afraid to tell them I'm a Hindu. My Hindu friends, I'm afraid to tell them I'm an atheist. Who will support me if I say I have a Guru? Then there's academia. Linguist friends, I'm afraid to tell them I do Humor Theory. My Humor Theory friends, I have a hard time getting acceptance for working on bliss theory. My academic friends, I'm afraid to tell them I'm a plumber. My plumber friends, I'm afraid to tell them I'm an academic.

Where does it stop? Everyone kind of likes to be in their box, and it seems easiest to relate to people as something like what they are. Of course, everyone thinks they are the center of the universe, everyone is ready to be offended by difference, yet everyone is also delighted by a sympathetic capacity to include difference, if you start from their own perspective.

So, indeed, the phonologists do think I'm a phonologist; the syntacticians consider me a syntactician, the semanticists talk to me like I'm a semanticist, the sociolinguists think I'm a sociolinguist, and the phoneticians think I'm a phonetician -- and they are the ones that are right, although "sociophonetics", I think I coined the term, and now it's a subfield of linguistics. I'm just a f***ing pleaser.

On the other hand, when I do tell them some aspect of this, it's often a little sparkling bit of wonderfulness. Everyone is happy to meet a plumber. Church ladies actually like to hear about the Theory of Bliss, and I've had Mormon missionaries high-fiving me because of our coalignment on psychological issues. Whoever it is, once you're established as like them or with them -- sympathetic -- then people tend to be curious and a little excited about the travels you've been on, and what you can bring back for them to enjoy vicariously. So being in a box is a milder kind of problem, unless used to ignore or dismiss.

Here, without context, I find myself going on at length, like this, about nothing. Maybe you are, maybe you aren't, interested in all the things I've been interested in. If not, it's best if you would give me some clues, some context, where you're coming from, then I can best share something with you. (That's called, Clicking "All Subjects", then clicking on a Subject, then picking out something in that area. Rinse, repeat, enjoy!)

My Writings, Motivation, History, Audience

So I want to introduce you to my opus here at, which is mostly written ideas. I'm probably best known for A Theory of Humor (Veatch 1998), which has >500 citations on Google Scholar. Lately I'm most excited about generalizing that to cover bliss and irrational emotion, but that is a neverending thread, pulled on, it drags out logic, then cognitive science, then this deep stack of conceptual dependencies. There's a lot there, and I'm just finishing the groundwork, there's a whole edifice to build on it still to go, though the outline is here. I invite you to poke around, poke at it, and kibitz; please do!

Temperament. In Myers Briggs I'm ENTP, Inventor, and in Big 5 I'm OCEAN, all five, including N for Neurotic, as I'm a bit sensitive to negative emotion, or you might say, high strung, intellectually speaking. Perhaps due to a metabolic sugar response I've had a lifetime of nightmares and what can only be called generalized anxiety since there is NOTHING to be anxious about. But I do find it a bit miserable to be in this skin, and the redeeming joy for me has been the anesthetic quality of dopamine: when I'm chasing something with interest and curiosity, with serious intent, I feel no pain, am unaware of hunger or sleeplessness, and I'm excited by my quest. So this has been a great driver of thought for me, and the result is what you see before you.

Motivation. My motivations are truth and significance. I'm really curious to know what's true; unfortunately, I'm not always so good at proving or explaining it to others. I want the intuition, the right idea. And my north star is about what's important: Mostly people and their feelings but not exclusively. I tend to get excited in queer corners where things are not what they seem, because it is there that the right ideas have greatest significance. A few times I have danced and cried for the amazing mountaintop I find myself on, with a new vista, a new idea that will change this world.

Trajectory. Mine (as author) went like this. An academic career ending as a sociophonetician ("English Vowels"). I applied to every job in the English-speaking world for which I was remotely qualified, as a world expert in Vowels, three years in a row, all 17 of them, and stopped after Stanford decided not to hire me for a full-time job out of my postdoc there, close but no cigar. Later, after I was out selling modems I published the N+V Theory of Humor.

But around that time, I decided my audience wasn't the academic audience that reviews drafts for publication or CVs for promotion. How could it be? They weren't paying my salary; they were, shall we say, weakly supportive, with the dyspeptic (and weak) objections to N+V, or the weak ass lack of even reading my whole dissertation, come on folks. I mean I love my dissertation, I go back and read it, and I rarely see possible improvements, and I find the whole thing an exciting journey. But the total number of pages that were read by my entire thesis committee was probably less than the total number of pages in the thesis. So that's not my audience.

My audience had to be the general intellectual and curious audience of people like you, academic or not, who might want to know some things that are surprising, true, and important. The interest, controversy, and excitement of the ideas themselves had to govern and carry my presentation, not its list of references and the IRB. So I've been writing what I like, when I get a chance, ever since. I'm only sort of an academic. Really, I'm just curious.

Why so late?

Starting in 1993 as the web arrived I registered and learned HTML, which is my native document-writing form (yes, I use emacs) and over time the LAMP stack, Javascript of course, whatever is needed.

I'm all in with this new model of, have website, self-publish without restriction.

My post-academic tech career was honest and mildly fruitful but ended around 2005. By then I had a few web services and language related software type things, like Teachionary or my Literacy (on a sheet of paper) project. I rarely worked for others, even though (I'd like to think) I do play well with others. But when I couldn't bring home the bacon as an independent speech geek I switched horses, or horse races, from the tech business to the real (estate) world, to increase the probability of success. The third career started with a union plumbing apprenticeship and 8,000 hours of on-the-job training, then a one man shop, which pretty soon paid off my house and suddenly converted me from plumber into landlord (fourth career).

If I did it, anyone can do it.

But decades of keeping my eye on the ball financially diverted me from writing essays here, which is the legacy and the important part of my life. Don't you, too, feel deeply responsible for having your financial house in order? My model is to start with health insurance when I'm 90, and work back from there. With two or three houses paid for, that's covered. So now I can finally spare the time to write, and tighten up and share all the things I was thinking about while carrying pipes across job sites, or after the meditation program ends and there is a moment to draw some conclusions.


So here is Tom, arrived before you, Ecce Homo, no more or less than anyone. I do believe in honest and thorough intellectual engagement. A wide range of acquaintance makes me aim for broad readability. A wide education supports a sense of current assumptions and therefore of what might contradict accepted views in various areas. Hopefully my thoughts are not just shiny, new, accessible, and useful, but actually different.

No, I'm not Jordan Peterson, I'm not telling you how to organize your life or become responsible. I'm more of a kibitzer on the right way to think about things, just certain things. And no, there are no limits to what things. And no, you shouldn't acknowledge limits to yours either. Maybe if all someone can do is barely remember the rules and follow them religiously, then that's the best they can do. If the conventional rules capture some useful knowledge, it could be worse. But rules originally came from someone's fresh idea of how things are and ought to be, and they actually have no value outside that fresh idea; today's fresh reconsideration might result in something different, and hooray for progress. Or at least would result in a deeper appreciation for the value of valid old ideas, as more than mere conventions to box us in, but with a living spirit in them, appropriate to current circumstances as well as old ones. Maybe you can think about things fresh yourself, and come to your own conclusions, like I've done. That's what I'm encouraging, exemplifying, thrilled about.

One of the deep truths about human nature is that people emotionally synchronize to each other. So an angry, in-your-face person will find others to be angry and in his or her face, whereas a curious, sympathetic listener will find others to be curious and sympathetic listeners. So all this wandering (on my part) is by way of saying, maybe, that you can wander and explore too. It's okay, the water is warm here, in the wandering pool of life. If you have your house in order, you are free to come out and wade, or swim! You can do it.

If I did it, anyone can do it.

With introductions complete, please go back to Click on my logo, the logoslogo, The Logos
Logo[tm] in the corner, which always takes you to the top level home page. Then click on All Subjects, pick out any subject you like, browse away. I promise you I enjoyed writing it, and I tried to make it controversial, surprising, and true, all at once. Worst case, you will have an even better idea. So enjoy!

And if you don't mind, please give me feedback. Things could always be better.

Your thoughts?
                                          Feedback is welcome.
Copyright © 2021, Thomas C. Veatch. All rights reserved.
Modified: December 27, 2021.