Archive for the ‘Quotations’ Category

Jane Austen with nothing to say

April 5, 2014

Another quotation from Jane Austen, in a letter of 1/21/1801:


(Thanks again to C hris Ambidge.)

The advantage of having nothing to say.

It was the best of sentences …

March 29, 2014

On NPR on the 26th, a piece about memorable sentences, from The American Scholar:

Have you ever had a sentence stop you in your tracks? Editors at The American Scholar magazine have put out their list of the “Ten Best Sentences” in fiction and nonfiction. Associate editor Margaret Foster says the inspiration came from water cooler talk around the office.

Examples from F. Scott Fitzgerald, Joan Didion, James Joyce, Jane Austen, and Truman Capote, plus an interesting collection of suggestions by commenters.

Two Bizarros and two New Yorkers

March 26, 2014

Fropm the recent comics crop, two Bizarros (one old, one new) and (via Arne Adolfsen) two recent New Yorker cartoons, a Roz Chast and a Tom Cheney,


Another from Jane

March 22, 2014

(Not really about language, but yet another quotation from Jane Austen, this time from a letter of March 23, 1817. Thanks to Chris Ambidge.)


The repetition of /ɪ/ in sick and wicked is nice.

Another from Jane

March 11, 2014

(Not really about language, but another fine quote from Jane Austen, via Chris Ambidge.)

Faint damns, faint praises

March 6, 2014

On Facebook on the 4th, this charming story from Sally Thomason:

Back in about 1964, when I was in graduate school at Yale, I was moaning and groaning during one of our regular tea-time gatherings about a test I thought I’d blown in Warren Cowgill’s Indo-European class. Warren listened fairly patiently for a bit and then starting saying almost inaudibly, “damn damn damn damn damn damn.” I stopped complaining and asked him what on earth he was doing. “I’m praising you with faint damns,” he said. — Fast forward to today: Rich [Thomason, Sally's husband] just showed me p. 206 of a fantasy novel he’s reading, Point of Hopes, by Melissa Scott & Lisa A. Barnett: “That Rathe seemed to think well of him, or at least to praise him with faint damns, was something of a reassurance…”. Probably the authors weren’t plagiarizing from Warren, because I know they weren’t in the Linguistics tea room on the third floor of the Hall of Graduate Studies in 1964. (Probably Warren wasn’t the first person to have said this either, of course. But this is only the second time I’ve heard it.)

I noted this an inversion of damning with faint praise and suggested that it was older that Warren Cowgill’s use. (I also missed Warren, who died in 1985.) Now some details. (more…)

Another cultural allusion

March 6, 2014

A recent Joe Dator New Yorker cartoon:

What does it take to comprehend (and then enjoy) this cartoon? A Martian would need to know about  texting and the language conventions available to texters. My 10-year-old grand-daughter would get that much, but would still be baffled by the cultural allusion.



March 5, 2014

Today’s goofy Zippy:



A grab-bag of stuff here, beyond the 60s clothes: the playful coolth (which has been around for some time) and Clauditude (certainly special to Zippy); the punning allusion to John Donne’s “Ask not for whom the bells toll; they toll for thee”; and the extra language play in the title, on polyester.

Eleganza Fashions (aka African Eleganza Fashions) is still in business, but in much reduced form; its Facebook page says it’s located at

2045 University Blvd #4 (BEHIND DUNKIN DONUTS), Hyattsville, Maryland

The Monday morning pun

March 3, 2014

Today’s Mother Goose and Grimm:



On carpe diem, see my posting “Seize the day”, here.

Another allusive pun

February 20, 2014

Yesterday’s Mother Goose and Grimm with an outrageous pun:



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