I’d like to tell you something about what it’s like to have a training in linguistics, if I may.
The cheap pine boxes used for shipping bottles of wine from vineyards in France, Italy, and Spain make nice storage boxes when cleaned up and oiled. Several are in use in my home. (I am getting to my point; trust me.) One box bears the name MONTRESOR™, together with some lines in Italian:
Egli me riprese il braccio,
e continuammo il cammino.
- Queste cantine – osservò – sono molto estese.
- I Montres…
When I first tried EssayTyper, for just a moment it chilled my blood. Of course, it’s just a little joke; but I hope students everywhere will be sophisticated enough to see that, because a person who was unusually naive, lazy, and ignorant just might mistake it for a computer program that will enable you to type out custom-designed essays on selected academic topics, even topics you know nothing about, even if you can’t type. The EssayTyper home page presents a box saying:
Oh, no! It’s finals we…
The Beatles during the filming of Help!
(image via flickr)
I heard a Brazilian iron-ore magnate speaking on a BBC news program about how he had become so rich, and he said that at one point “the price of iron ore came from $10 a ton to $180 a ton.” I realized that there was a subtle mistake in English usage here: Even if the price is still $180 now, we do not say that the price came from $10 to $180; we say the price went from $10 to $180. But why?
Come is standardly used for motion (including me…
by revolution cycle via Wikimedia Commons
Early one weekday morning you are at work in your study when the front doorbell interrupts you. On the doorstep you find a total stranger who hands you two dog leashes, a small container of kibble, and some keys. He states brusquely that you’ll need these later. You stare blankly as he walks away.
Five minutes later the phone rings, and someone from down the street whom you barely know explains that her dog-walker has canceled at short notice. …
Nemanja Vidic playing for Manchester United
(via Wikimedia Commons)
The sports section of the The Guardian last week carried an article by Jamie Jackson about developments in the Manchester United soccer team, where a number of players are apparently not sure they will stay. The article cited the opinions of one player who is probably not coming back from Fiorentina, where he is currently on loan; and then it continued with this shockingly uninformative sentence:
The futures of several senior pla…
Game of Cricket
(by Dave Pearson via flickr)
It is a slow and tedious game of men slowly walking about in long white trousers, and a metaphor for British fair play. As a spectator sport, cricket seems to me about as interesting as watching paint dry, only without the same sense of achievement. Yet Lynne Truss is a smart and funny writer even on that unpromising subject. Some of her essays on the game have had me not just chuckling aloud but actually grasping a few things about the sport.
“Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses,” says Alexandra Petri in a Washington Post blog. My attention was captured not so much by the weird vulture comparison (she really hasn’t thought that through), but by the question of whether she had correctly diagnosed the “passive constructions” to which she refers. I’ll answer that question shortly. (In the meantime you might like to guess.) But first, some context.
Petri is commenting on a New York Times ar…
At the end of the English-syntax course I co-taught last semester, my colleague and I set a number of examination questions designed to test students ability to argue points about syntactic structure. This one will serve as an example:
|Although the following two sentences exhibit a superficial similarity, they contrast sharply in syntactic terms:
 I saw Jane with her new boyfriend in the bar.
 I saw Jane and her new boyfriend in the bar.
Show that these two sentences have radically dif…
The game at lolmythesis.com is to reduce the main message of your thesis or dissertation down to a single line, ideally one short candid sentence. Much self-deprecating humor can be found on the site, along with occasional signs of cynicism or desperation.
Not many theses in my discipline show up, for linguistics is a minority pursuit. But I did find this one, from the University of Colorado:
“It appears, based on experimental evidence, that vowel perception is pretty much magic.”
I can well bel…
For three-quarters of an hour one afternoon a week ago, the British House of Lords was entirely occupied with a discussion of pronoun grammar. The discussion had been requested by a former judge, Lord Scott of Foscote, and the impetus was a promise by the previous government that future laws would be framed in gender-neutral language, at least “so far as it is practicable, at no more than a reasonable cost to brevity or intelligibility.”
Predictably, Lord Scott defended what The Cambridge Gramma…