Archive for the ‘Usage attitudes’ Category

Mind-Blowing Theories

April 21, 2021

Tom Gauld cartoons from New Scientist magazine, in a 2020 collection:

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— with three cartoons that especially caught my interest. One  on science vs. journalism over de-extinction (already posted on this blog); one on the agony of Science Hell, the scene of eternal scientific mansplaining; and one on the adverbial literally understood literally (which then provides the title for the 2020 book).

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Briefly: the mouse that peeved

March 18, 2021

A Tom Gauld cartoon, originally from the Guardian of 8/23/14, then in his collection Baking with Kafka (2017):

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Some peeve to feel superior, some say they peeve to shame others into learning the “correct” variants (it’s for their own good), some say they peeve to relieve the physical distress of hearing variants they’ve been taught to view as incorrect (just make it go away).

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Treading down the thorny path

March 16, 2021

Two evergreen topics in grammar and usage: so-called “split infinitives”, where some usage critics have insisted that they must always be avoided, however unnatural the results of this avoidance are; and modifier attachment, where jokes are often made about one of the potential attachments, however preposterous the interpretation associated with this attachment is.

The two topics are connected through their unthinking devotion to dogmas of grammatical correctness: avoid split infinitives, avoid potential ambiguity. A devotion that leads adherents down the thorny path of usage rectitude to using unnatural syntax and entertaining preposterous interpretations.

But first, the thorny path. The (tough) counterpart to the (easy) primrose path.

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lookit, looky

March 15, 2021

My morning names a few days ago: surprising places the verb look has gone.

To come: the story of these items, from the OED. The related stories of some uses of say and like. All having moved from relatively concrete to much more abstract uses, serving discourse functions of various kinds.

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The Grammar Police and the Corrections Officer

February 18, 2021

An alert on Facebook by John Gintell on 2/15, to this Reality Check cartoon by Dave Whamond from 10/14/16:

But wait! Just what is being policed and corrected here?

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Happy Memorial Day

May 27, 2020

From two friends on Facebook (lightly edited) on Tuesday (US Memorial Day having been on Monday):

1: What is up with “Happy Memorial Day?” It’s a day to remember the dead … I feel like people have no idea what Memorial Day is!

2: I’ve seen a lot of “happy” Memorial Day comments too. Unfathomable.

For them, such well-wishings are akin to “Happy Yom Kippur” (the Day of Atonement in Judaism) or “Merry Good Friday” (Crucifixion Day in Christianity) as expressions of goodwill — deeply at odds with the solemnity of the occasions.

Their reactions have been shared by many others. There’s a simple response, which I gave on Facebook and repeat below. Then there’s a more complex, messy response. (The topic will eventually lead, given my inclinations, to discussions of homowear and gay porn for the holiday — definitely racy, but not, I think, quite over the line into Not Safe For Minors territory.)

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Title bout

May 17, 2020

“Title bout”: Wayno’s title for yesterday’s Wayno/Piraro Bizarro:


(#1) Irresolvable stylistic choices? You could just punt, and avoid having to make any choice (if you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 4 in this strip — see this Page.)

Actually, it’s worse that this; between panels 2 and 3, there should be 2.5:

Based off true events

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Stanko Day?

April 2, 2020

Yesterday was, as always on 4/1, April Fool’s Day, and just for this year, Census Day; but also Leonard Bloomfield’s birthday, an occasion with meaning for linguists. Yesterday was the 123rd anniversary of his birth.

On Facebook, I said of the occasion, “That ought to be some specially named anniversary” — and got two different proposals: one for naming a 123rd anniversary, one for re-naming Bloomfield’s birthday.

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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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