Archive for the ‘Usage attitudes’ Category

Comedic NomConjObj

November 12, 2019

Tell it to Kim. Tell it to me. Tell it to Kim and I.

The new paradigm for case-marking of pronouns, including the nominative conjoined object (NomConjObj) in to Kim and I — now judged to be the correct form by a large population of young, educated American speakers, as against the judgments of older speakers, who use instead accusative conjoined objects (AccConjObj), as in to Kim and me.

Entertainingly, the new paradigm is evidenced in tv comedies in which grammatically fastidious characters freely use NomConjObj and even admonish those who use AccConjObj.

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Hard Tundra

March 4, 2019

Adventures in cross-dialect understanding in the One Big Happy strips of 2/1 and 2/2, both featuring Ruthie and Joe’s playmate James:

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Grammar pirate

February 25, 2019

The title of this cartoon, which turned up yesterday in FB’s Our Bastard Language group:

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The captain is both a pirate and (as it turns out, once you figure out what the man intends to say) a grammar nazi, bent on correcting his crew’s inferior (as he sees it) English — hence the portmanteau grammar pirate. So the cartoon is, primarily, about (stereotypical) pirate talk (which will take us to the West Country of England), but also about peeving.

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In the land of supertitles

February 22, 2019

Revived on Facebook recently, this 2/20/12 Cyanide and Happiness cartoon by Jay A.:

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The first three panels are routine (but annoying): Character 1 produces an example of AccConjSubj (the non-standard Accusative Conjoined Subject me and Steve) and Character 2 reacts with hysterical peeving, becoming physically sick from experiencing the AccConjSubj.

But then we discover that we’re not in anything like the real world, where someone speaks and someone else hears what they say, but instead in the Land of Supertitles, where someone produces a banner with writing on it and someone else reads it. That has to be what’s going on — since otherwise how could Chr2 know how Chr1 was spelling what they said? YOUR instead of YOU’RE, ALLERGYS insead of ALLERGIES, AFFECT instead of EFFECT, THEIR instead of THEY’RE, ITS instead of IT’S — they’re all homophones, so how could Chr2 know that Chr1 was spelling them wrong? UNLESS CHR2 COULD READ WHAT CHR1 WAS SAYING.

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The crusty old editor speaks

February 2, 2019

The author of the little — 67-page — guidebook The Old Editor Says: Maxims for Writing and Editing (first published in 2013), the old-school newspaper editor John E. McIntyre, writing as a curmudgeonly, sometimes imperious, character of the same name, as seen on the book’s front cover:


(#1) The name of this image file is McIntyreOldEdtor.jpg; that fact will eventually become significant

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Notes on PSP = PST

December 11, 2018

Follow-ups to my posting “A vernacular construction?” yesterday, about expressions like had went and had ran, non-standard counterparts to standard had gone and had run, respectively — which Ben Yagoda has characterized, misleadingly, as exemplifying vernacular constructions involving the inflectional category PST rather than the standard category PSP. Instead, I maintained, the constructions in question call for the PSP, period, but in some vernacular varieties, the PSP forms of some verbs are pronounced the same as the corresponding PST forms (while in the standard language these forms are phonologically distinct).

My posting noted that the vernaculars here extended an already very strong generalization, PSP = PST — that the PSP form is pronounced the same as the PST — so that it applies to almost all verbs, and a Facebook commenter emphasized the greater regularity of the resulting system vis-a-vis the standard array of forms. All true, but critics of non-standard varieties still manage to use these facts to disparage speakers of these varieties.

And then it occurred to me that Ben was viewing expressions like had went and had ran as if he had produced them himself, in which case they’d be inadvertent errors, substitutions of one inflectional category (PST) for another (PSP). But the expressions need to be seen from the viewpoint of the varieties they occur in — and there, they simply involve phonological realizations of the inflectional category PSP.

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A vernacular construction?

December 10, 2018

Ben Yagoda on the Chronicle of Higher Education‘s Lingua Franca blog on 12/5/18, “Why Do I Really, Really Want to Say ‘Had Went’?”

… You see what [actor and director Jonah] Hill and [director Bryan] Fogel were doing, grammatically. They were using the preterite (ran, went) instead of the past participle (run, gone). This is by no means a new thing. Writing in 1781, John Witherspoon decried the “vulgarisms” had fell, had rose, had broke, had threw, and had drew.

Such constructions have long flourished in the American vernacular.

Standard English uses the PSP (past participle) form of a verb in the perfect construction and the passive construction (among other places). Ben says that some speakers and writers have different (syntactic) constructions here, using the PST (past, aka preterite — nothing hinges on the name) form instead of the PSP.

I maintain that Ben has seriously misunderstood the phenomenon here, and that Vern, the vernacular variety, doesn’t differ syntactically from Stan, the standard variety, with respect to the forms used in the perfect and the passive; it’s the PSP for both. It’s just that for some verbs, Vern pronounces the PSP differently from Stan; for Vern, the PSP form for these verbs is pronounced the same as their PST.

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Books of the year

December 9, 2018

… in the Economist‘s 12/1 issue,”Books of the year: The big read”, (p. 76), in the Culture category: 6 books selected, including:

The Prodigal Tongue. By Lynne Murphy. Penguin Books; 368 pages; $17. Oneworld, £16.99.

The first and perhaps only book on the merits of American and British English that is dominated by facts and analysis rather than nationalistic prejudice. For all its scholarship, this is also a funny and rollicking read.

And in “The Economist’s journalists unbound: A short hstory of moonlighting: Here are the books our writers published in 2008” (p. 77):

Talk on the Wild Side: The Untameable Nature of Language. By Lane Greene. Economist Books/Hachette; 240 pages; $26. Profile Books: £14.99.

Our Johnson columnist argues that English is a living organism; language rules are often preferences in disguise. “He is open-minded and discerning,” the Spectator said; “no zealot and no snob.”

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Three bulletins

September 6, 2018

From the annals of naming, a probably inevitable name for a wine blend. From the cartoon files, a recent SMBC with a classic grammar peeve that is newly relevant. And from the news for penises, the image of a bicycle turned into a penis.

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Fantasy originalism

August 25, 2018

A SMBC “Gif” from sometime in August 2017:

Yes, a stupid discussion, on several fronts.

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