Archive for the ‘Writing’ Category


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:


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:


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:


From 3/14/86, on literary rejection:


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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