Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category

Squiggles

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.

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Another three for the weekend

March 22, 2014

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

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Three for Pi Day

March 14, 2014

Three cartoons this morning: A Dilbert on writing conventions, a Pearls Before Swine with yet another word avalanche (a repeated theme in this strip), and a Zits on reading and listening:

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Two Peanuts

February 25, 2014

(Or maybe Peanutses.) On Facebook, Jeff Bowles has been posting old Peanuts cartoons. Here are two with some linguistic interest, having to do with writing.

From 3/13/86, on narrative:

(#1)

From 3/14/86, on literary rejection:

(#2)

An earlier, gentler, rejection strip here.

Annals of phraseology

September 12, 2013

From the NYT on the 10th, an obit by William Grimes, “Cal Worthington, Car Dealer With Manic Ads, Dies at 92″, beginning:

Cal Worthington, a car dealer whose off-the-wall commercials, first broadcast in the 1950s, bombarded California television viewers for more than half a century and made him a pop culture legend, died on Sunday at his ranch in Orland, Calif.

The ads involved elaborate stunts; and

In the background, a chorus of male voices and frantic banjo pickers sang a jingle to the tune of “If You’re Happy and You Know It,” each of its many verses ending with the tag line: “Go see Cal, go see Cal, go see Cal.”

Hard to get it out of your head.

Grimes goes on:

The exuberant cheesiness of Mr. Worthington’s ads made him a folk hero, as much a part of California popular culture as Woodies with surfboards on the roof or Orange Julius stands.

I admire the phrasing “exuberant cheesiness”.

(For another posting on relentless pitchmen, see here.)

 

 

Two stylists

August 23, 2013

Recent deaths: writer Elmore Leonard and pianist Marian McPartland, great stylists in their respective fields.

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Snoopy on editing

September 9, 2012

A Peanuts cartoon from 1972, in which Snoopy struggles with his writing:

Novice writers often get fixed on one turn of phrase and, unable to move on to a fresh idea, repeat that material in several versions. Sometimes they simply don’t have a lot to say.

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Calvin on how to write

August 30, 2012

In searching for the Calvin and Hobbes “verbing weirds language” strip, I came across this entertaining piece of advice from Calvin:

It’s only too easy to make fun of academic writing, especially when it strikes the outsider as jargon-filled, and sometimes (as here) the mockery is amply justified. But the trick is to figure out when insider vocabulary has a point and when it’s mostly walling off things from the outsiders and showing off for the insiders.

 

Fascinated with the history of English

August 5, 2012

A recent Zippy, in which Griffy is fascinated:

Don’t know about carving words into animal bones in England, but sheep’s knuckle bones were used as paving stones, devices for divination, and dice-like pieces in games.

 

The sound in your head

July 21, 2012

Reported in the Sic! (errors) section of Michael Quinion’s World Wide Words #794 this morning:

A health report of 18 July on the BBC site about the risks of not taking physical exercise was spotted by Martin Wynne: “The public needed to be warned about the dangers of inactivity rather than just reminded of the benefits of it.”

Here, it at first appears to refer in inactivity, but a bit of thought will convince you that the writer intended it to refer to activity; but activity is inside the word inactivity, and so would (on many accounts) be unavailable as an antecedent for it. The relevant putative generalization is known as the Anaphoric Island Constraint (AIC): words are “islands” for anaphora; anaphora can’t “reach inside” words. (Brief discussion here; examples of AIC violations here and here.)

But things aren’t that simple.

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