Jul 202013

This Freakonomics Radio podcast:Our latest podcast is called “What Do Medieval Nuns and Bo Jackson Have in Common?” (You can download/subscribe at iTunes, get the RSS feed, or listen via the media player above. You can also read the transcript; it includes credits for the music you’ll hear in the episode.)

The episode is about spite. As in “cutting off your nose to spite your face” spite. That’s where the nuns come in. Lisi Oliver of Louisiana State University tells us about the probable origin of this phrase.

You’ll also hear Bo Jackson talk about a very costly decision he once made that most people would certainly think of as spiteful — and from Dave O’Connor, executive producer of the documentary film You Don’t Know Bo.

The economist Benedikt Herrmann tries to measure spite in the lab (papers are here, here and here), while another economist (Steve Levitt) warns that the real world is more complicated than any lab — and wonders, therefore, if pure spite even exists.


Lisi OLIVER: It probably was pretty darn painful because you’re not living in a world with good razors. The chances are what they’re using is kitchen cutlery I would imagine. And that is not necessarily all that sharp. I can’t imagine how painful it was.

[MUSIC: Jaquemin de Senleches, “En attendant esperance conforte, ballade” (from Ce Diabolic Chant)]

Stephen DUBNER: That’s Lisi Oliver. She studies medieval law at Louisiana State University. What do you think she’s talking about that was so “darn painful”?

OLIVER: Between the 5th and the 12th century in Early Modern Europe, barbarity swept through the continent and also the island of England. And often the targets of these attacks were monasteries and nunneries. But nunneries you had the added incentive of rape to add to sort of pillage and destruction.


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Source: Freakonomics

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