Archive for the ‘Peeving’ Category

McCosh on NomPred

February 5, 2015

From the Princeton Alumni Weekly on 2/4, an entertaining note from the 1/25/46 PAW:


Monday quartet

November 10, 2014

Four varied cartoons in this morning’s crop: a Zits on address terms; a Scenes From a Multiverse on ; a Rhymes With Orange on case-marking of pronouns with than; and a Zippy reviving Doggie Diner.





One by one …



October 19, 2014

As the dreadful story of the Ebola virus in Africa unfolds, and with it the parallel story of the panicked response to Ebola in the U.S., the word quarantine is much in the news. The stories explain that the quarantine for Ebola is 21 days. But now look at NOAD2 on the word:

quarantine noun  a state, period, or place of isolation in which people or animals that have arrived from elsewhere or been exposed to infectious or contagious disease are placed: many animals die in quarantine.

verb [with obj.] impose such isolation on (a person, animal, or place); put in quarantine.

ORIGIN mid 17th cent.: from Italian quarantina ‘forty days,’ from quaranta ‘forty.’

and note the origin, involving the Italian word for ‘forty’. We have here a straightforward case in which morphological material from the etymological source is still visible in the word, yet its current use no longer respects the semantics of the source. I’ll call such words decimators, after one famous English example that has led peevers to seethe in word rage at an offense to etymology.

If you take etymology dead seriously, then referring to a 21-day isolation period as a quarantine is just wrong.



December 31, 2013

On the Baltimore Sun blog on the 4th, a piece by John McIntyre on last and past, “Not, unfortunately, the last word”, beginning:

No sooner do I put up a post about copy editors’ preoccupation with dog-whistle distinctions than someone turns up commenting on a post from 2011 on the newspaper last/past crotchet

What’s at issue is the ambiguity of last.


English teachers

October 14, 2013

A Carla Ventresca cartoon that came to me via Mar Rojo on Facebook:


It turns out that Mark Liberman posted this one on Language Log back on 3/18/07, with a nice discussion of the teacher’s incorrection (of fast to quickly) in the last panel. There’s another incorrection in the first panel, of shrimps to shrimp; as Mark noted, both forms are standard plurals for shrimp. (The remaining three corrections concern spelling and punctuation and are appropriate.)

Searching for this posting of Mark’s led me to more cartoons with English teachers in them.


Grammar mugs

September 29, 2013

From Chris Ambidge on Facebook, an ad for the Literary Gift Company offering grammar mugs:

The full set of all six Grammar Grumbles mugs. An original design by The Literary Gift Company, this series is inspired by the 2013 publication A Mug’s Guide to Grammar.


Well, four spelling mugs and two on word use. Garmmra.

Why on Earth?

September 17, 2013

The title of a letter in the October Harper’s Magazine from Howard Passell (of the Earth Systems Analysis Department, Sandia National Laboratories
, Albuquerque NM):

Harper’s Magazine is one of the most progressive periodicals being published, yet it lingers in the dark ages when it comes to referring to the planet on which we live. In “Emptying the World’s Aquarium” [Letter from the Sea of Cortez, August], Erik Vance writes that “there is no better place on earth to look at the future of global fishing” than the Gulf of California. This is a story about what’s in the water, not in the soil, so the word “earth” is obviously incorrect. Referring to Earth as “earth” is a vestige of the Judeo-Christian legacy. You can’t have dominion over our planet or pillage it quite so easily if linguistically you put it on the same level as all the sacred words we capitalize. Please change your style. This is an egregious philosophical error in an otherwise excellent story on the decline of our Earth.

Yes, it’s a rant about capitalization. And it presumes that earth (so spelled) can have only one meaning (‘land’, as opposed to sea and sky) — this despite the fact that every dictionary and style sheet I’ve looked at treats the word as ambiguous between this ‘land’ sense and reference to our planet.


Like, uptalk, and Miami

September 10, 2013

I’ll start with a three-strip series from One Big Happy:




The two features at issue here — the discourse particle like and “uptalk” (a high rising intonation at the end of declaratives) — have been much discussed in the linguistic literature. The popular, but inaccurate, perception is that both are characteristic of young people, especially teenagers, especially girls, and both features are the object of much popular complaint.


Rebranding and mustiness

March 7, 2013

News reports before and after the Academy Awards ceremonies this year made much of the rebranding of the event — as The Oscars, with no mention of Academy Awards during the show or in its promotional materials. The problem with Academy Awards? It sounds “musty”.


laughing out loudly

February 4, 2013

The German correspondent of “Another invented rule” writes with another teacher-inspired query, going back to when he was a senior in high school. His story (lightly edited):

I had an English teacher back then, who abhorred (still abhors) AmE, and preferred BrE. He is neither American nor is he British. He’s German. According to him, Americans cannot speak English.

One day, we were asked to write a letter. We had to create a story of two people who are pen pals and who love sharing each other’s everyday stories.

I made up a story, wrote it down, and in one line I had written.. I was laughing out loud….

After a few days we got our homework back. What struck me the most was that he had marked laughing out loud as a mistake. Above, he he had written laughing out loudly.

Now that I’ve checked on the Corpus of Contemporary American English, there is no entry with an -ly ending. But when I type laugh out loud, I get many results.

My question for you is : Was my teacher correct? If not, why is it wrong to say “laughing out loudly”?

High marks to my correspondent for checking COCA, rather than relying on raw googling, since web searches will yield a respectable number of instances of laughing out loudly (and even a few of laughing aloudly), though these are wildly outnumbered by the standard English (Br or Am) laughing out loud.



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