Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Don’t shade your eyes

May 18, 2015

Today’s Zits:

Has Jeremy been involved in “the practice of taking someone else’s work or ideas and passing them off as one’s own” (NOAD2)? Well, he’s certainly passed off as his own work something that was not. His defense appears to be that there is no person whose work this was; he wasn’t stealing from anyone. A bold move, but one that’s not flying with his teacher.


Words to eliminate

May 15, 2015

“15 words you should eliminate from your vocabulary to sound smarter”, by Jennie Haskamp for The Muse on Mashable, 5/3/15 (hat tip to Paul Armstrong). The list is a mixed bag, though many are criticized for being vague or overused.


More detection

April 26, 2015

Follow-ups to my posting on Ronald Knox and his ten “rules” for detective fiction (enjoining writers to play fair with their readers): the origin of the rules; floutings of the rules; and attacks on detective fiction as a genre.


“Cosseted like rare orchids”

April 24, 2015

Very briefly noted: in a book review by Christine Smallwood in the May Harper’s,

Reality wasn’t directly relevant,” one character thinks, all too relevantly, in Nell Zink’s manic new novel MISLAID … The fun begins in the hazy 1960s at the all-female Stillwater College, a former plantation decked out with Virginia creeper: “A mecca for lesbians, with girls in shorts standing in the reeds to smoke, popping little black leeches with their fingers, risking expulsion for cigarettes and going in the lake.” One of these lesbians is a would-be playwright named Peggy, and before you can say “freshman orientation,” she’s shacked up with the resident campus queen, a gay male poet and professor named Lee Fleming who lives down the lake and paddles to class in a canoe. Their eventual marriage isn’t exactly a sham — “vestiges of heterosexuality . . . cosseted like rare orchids” produce two children — but neither does it provide what you might term fulfillment.

A wonderful turn of phrase.


December 29, 2014

Today’s Calvin and Hobbes, in which Calvin embarks on writing a book:

Extended discussion (with examples) of two types of fiction/biography crosses in “Memory and fictobiography” of 6/26/10:

(auto)biographical fiction, fiction with an (auto)biographical cast: biofiction for short

fictionalized (auto)biography, (auto)biography with a fictional cast: fictobiography for short

Calvin’s project is fictobiography, heavy on the ficto-.

Paper vs. screens: handwriting

November 12, 2014

Briefly noted.

In the latest NewScientist (for11/1/14), a piece by Tiffany O’Callaghan, “Goodbye, paper: What we miss when we read on screen”, subtitled “Digital technology is transforming the way we read and write. Is it changing our minds too – and if so, for better or worse?”. A report on reading and writing on paper vs. on-screen. O’Callaghan observes that, for the most part, there’s been plenty of speculation, but very little conclusive research. We don’t really know much. One notable exception, in a box on the work of neuroscientist Karin James of Indiana Univ.:

Writing freehand, then, seems to be an important part of learning to read – but does the type of handwriting make a difference? Some schools have stopped teaching cursive or joined-up writing. In the US, for instance, it is not part of the national curriculum adopted by 46 states, though it has been reinstated by some states in response to a public outcry. When it comes to learning to read, though, James has found that writing in cursive doesn’t seem to add anything to the mix. “It seems like it’s any kind of creation of a letter by hand that makes the difference,” she says.

That is, the physical action of writing, in whatever style, facilitates learning to read.


October 30, 2014

My postings on this blog range over a number of topics, and they also take a number of forms. Many of them are relatively short responses to things I’ve overheard, examples I’ve come across in my reading, or linguistic phenomena in the comics. Often light in tone, but with serious linguistic content. What to call this sort of posting?

The New Yorker used to call similar columns casuals; now they appear as items in the “Talk of the Town” section of the magazine. Another label recently came to my attention: the feuilleton. Not entirely perfect, but close. In any case, that would make me a feuilletonist.


Musical talent decomposed

May 7, 2014

A cartoon from New Yorker artist Tom Cheney decomposing musical talent into an assortment of distinct abilities, much as style books decompose writing style:

The band has a lot of work to do.



April 1, 2014

In the NYT of March 29th, this piece, “In an Era of Squiggles, You Can’t Tell the Players Without a Handwriting Analyst”  by Tyler Kepner, about signatures from baseball players.


Another three for the weekend

March 22, 2014

Three more cartoons, on varied topics: a Zippy, a Zits, and a Pearls Before Swine:



Get every new post delivered to your Inbox.

Join 851 other followers