October 31, 2011, 7:05 pm
“Bookmark the permalink” says a link at the end of all posts on Chronicle blogs—an injunction absolutely nobody would have understood a few years ago. There is no sign of the word permalink existing from the origins of English down to the end of 2005. It was a word as yet uncoined for a notion all but inconceivable. Now it’s casually assumed to be meaningful to everyone. Lexical change in human languages can be fast.
The conceptual breakthrough that spawned the possibility of unidirectional hypertext links came around 1990. Unidirectional links don’t call for mutual agreement or action. I can link to a file in your possession without you having a role in the process. All I need is to know exactly where it is on the Web. You get no vote in the matter.
From the moment unidirectional hypertext links were available, it was possible in principle to conceive of a link that would…
October 30, 2011, 4:44 pm
Want to get a great job? Here’s what the experts say: Garnish your résumé with strong verbs.
LinkedIn, for example, declares: “Use strong verbs to make your résumé more vibrant.”
All right, let’s vibrate:
Stop! Look! Listen!
Paste verbs like those in your résumé, we’re told, and you’ll knock the socks off of a potential employer, with zingers like
* Disrupted schedules
* Insulted supervisors
* Laughed at urgent requests
* Created chaos in office
* Crushed hopes
* Exemplified idleness
We grammarians know better. Those verbs aren’t strong. They are weaklings, every one.
See the telltale sign? It’s the wimpy –ed ending for the past tense (Yesterday I laughed) and past participle (I have laughed).
Alas, most verbs in English, including favorites like accomplish, succeed, devise, …
October 27, 2011, 8:11 pm
courtesy of Zazzle Productions
We’re going to have a field day, in this blog, with the words so frequently and annoyingly confused in English—not just by spell check, but also by those who never grasped the differences between “flout” and “flaunt,” “effect” and “affect,” “further” and “farther,” and so on. Today I’m obsessed with just one of these teeth-grinding misuses, because I have a hard time getting my dander up about it. I refer to the difference between forego and forgo, which one online grammarian refers to as a “persistent problem.”
The alleged misuses of these two words offend those of us who are sensitive to the meanings of prefixes. We can tolerate the variant spellings of “advisor/adviser,” “theatre/theater,” “catalog/catalogue,” and even…
October 26, 2011, 7:27 pm
Sweet words to hear, when your book has been published and you’re looking for acclaim, not to mention sales.
Meet the author! Yes, that’s me—or better, It is I, Dr. Joke-all.
Pleased to meet you. Yes, happy to read to you from my book, happy to answer your softball questions: what the book says (didn’t read it? Never mind, as long as you bought a copy), where my brilliant ideas came from, how the world is different and better thanks to my little book.
Yes, I wrote a book and it made me an author. A year ago, for a little while.
OK, I’m just a “midlist” author, which is a polite way of saying I didn’t sell enough books to quit my day job and retire to Aruba. I’m not on anybody’s best-seller list, except Amazon’s list of top books on abbreviations invented in the 1830s. But it’s a happy time anyhow.
There’s nothing like the 15…
October 25, 2011, 7:18 pm
I have a true story for you, about a rare participle that brought two hearts together and sparked a romance. You may find a tear welling up as you read this, despite the material about inflectional morphology that you have to wade through first.
In 1977 my colleague Deirdre Wilson and I published a paper on English auxiliaries (“Autonomous syntax and the analysis of auxiliaries,” Language 53, 741-788). We defended the tradition of treating auxiliaries as verbs with quirks, and not as odd little indeclinable particles, which was how some linguists back then seemed to see them.
Certainly, some auxiliaries are a bit light on inflection: must, for example, lacks the plain form found in imperative or infinitival clauses, and has no participles, and doesn’t even exhibit a simple past tense (I had to has no parallel using must).
But, we pointed out in response, some uncontested verbs…
October 24, 2011, 7:55 pm
In my line of work, I hear a lot about the annoyances of typing on a computer. People hate it when MS Word* springs a pop-up in the middle of certain tasks, or vetoes perfectly good grammar, or automatically uses the Calibri font, or capitalizes words meant to be lowercased, or highlights a whole word when they want to highlight only part of it.
What many writers and editors don’t seem to understand is that computers do as they’re told but would be happy (so to speak) to do otherwise. We can tell them what to do!
What’s more, although detailed customizing takes a bit of time and trouble, there is a quick and easy shortcut to disciplining the most-used features of your word processor. In Word 2010, you can find it under the File → Options button. (In Word 2007, Options are found in the colorful Office button in the upper-left corner; in earlier versions of Word, look under…
October 23, 2011, 4:25 pm
Would this company have done as well if it had been called "TripAdviser"?
Quick quiz: What do you call a person whose job is to offer advice? Or, rather, how do you spell that job?
If you said advisor, you would be in accordance with 100 percent of my students; with the practice of my university and I believe most others in this country; with the popular Web site TripAdvisor; with Merrill Lynch, which sends to its customers a publication called Merrill Lynch Advisor; and, in fact, with the English-speaking world generally.
If you answered adviser, you would be right. Or, to be more precise, right from the perspective of The New York Times, the Associated Press, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and history. Adviser first appeared in 1611, according to the Oxford English Dictionary. It was formed by…
October 20, 2011, 7:07 pm
Ms., the magazine: 40 years old in December
With Ms. magazine about to celebrate its 40th anniversary in December (its first issue was a supplement to New York magazine), this seems a good time to tip Lingua Franca’s collective hat to the magazine’s and its allies’ remarkable success in deliberately insinuating a new word—Ms.—into the language. To appreciate the difficulty of that, consider the hundreds of unsuccessful attempts to come up with a gender-neutral third-person pronoun that Dennis Baron has tracked at his invaluable Web site.
One of the few other successes I can think of along this line is homophobic, which the OED reports as first being used in a general context in 1975. The word deftly psychologizes hostility toward homosexuals as springing from fear of them. Well played. However, Ms….
October 19, 2011, 7:27 pm
Fred Inglis is honorary professor of cultural history at the University of Warwick. Honorary professor means emeritus: He’s attached to the university but not drawing a salary or participating in its administration. Yet he recently published a furious article in Times Higher Education (“Economical with the actualité,” October 6, 2011), railing against “the farcical combination of phony science, flat obduracy and lethal money-grubbing that now passes for the language of academic policy.” After five paragraphs of abuse hurled at people he calls “the gangsters of propaganda and their hirelings in advertising,” he stops himself for a moment and begins a new paragraph with: “This is no mere abuse.”
He ought to leave us to be the judge of that, I think. When I see an article by the government minister for universities and science referred to as “a gobbling and hapless effusion,” I’d be …
October 18, 2011, 7:20 pm
Bartle Library, Binghamton University. Photo: bulibraries.
Chatting with a group of college and university librarians recently, I was struck by both their enthusiasm and their frustration: enthusiasm over the increasing power of technology to aid in scholarly research, and frustration that educating students and teachers is proving to be such a challenge.
The group unanimously perceived a lack of skills among its clientele: Students are routinely flummoxed as to how to search for or evaluate the sources they need in their work. But even as librarians are poised to teach information technology through classes, online tutorials, and one-on-one sessions, actually laying hold of student time and attention depends on faculty support—and that is not always easy to find.
The extent to which college…