All posts by Lucy Ferriss


Whose Monday? Your Monday!

7206615_GA concerned Lingua Franca reader writes:

Perhaps it is just here in Gainesville, but I find that the radio reporters, especially those reporting weather, use the possessive pronoun when referring to time periods: “Your Friday will be sunny.” “It will be below freezing on your Monday night.” Is this modern usage? Does it happen in other places as well? Is it acceptable?

I’d noticed this particularly in robocalls and fund appeals from local arts charities—Support your Hartford Symphony! Support yo…


To Space or Not to Space

two_spaces_badMy friend Robb Forman Dew, who won the National Book Award for her first novel, Dale Loves Sophie to Death, recently received more than 50 comments on her Facebook post:

I’m weary of the sudden and peculiar crowing about not being so old that you would be ignorant enough to double space after a marking the end of a sentence with a period. And now people are complaining about “double periods.” If you’ve been composing prose since the moment you could hold a crayon, and then you used a pencil to p…


Ineluctable Modality of the Visible

54447829I’m always coming late to the party. Over the weekend, traveling through Arizona with a clogged computer, I stopped in at the Apple store, 12 minutes late for my appointment at the Genius Bar. They hold the appointments for 10 minutes, after which you go into the queue. There were about 300 people in the store. Standing in line, I asked a roaming Apple person how long she thought the wait might be for those of us who had trouble making our way through the desert to this oasis.

“You need to tal…


‘History Is Happening’


“Hamilton,” a grammatically creative musical

The first line of the third paragraph of Ben Brantley’s review of the new hit Broadway play Hamilton delighted and shocked me. Following up on a line from the play, “History is happening in Manhattan,” he writes: “’Happening’ qualifies as both an adjective and a verb in this instance.”

Wow. Just wow.

For those who don’t get Brantley’s observation or my reaction, a quick lesson. The verb to be, followed by a present participle, often means some form of…


Yolo, Try to Be on Fleek

on-fleek2They drop into our In boxes like mad, twitching flies, these contests apparently designed to make us feel either startlingly young or hopelessly old and out of it. It’s either “How many of these ancient pieces of technology did you use?” or “How well do you know 2014 Pop Culture?” I pass on most of them, but when our editor sent me The New York Times’s Language Quiz, I took the bait.

Designed to test “how linguistically en vogue you are,” the quiz provides multiple-choice definitions for var…


Girls, Girls, Grrrls

gone-girl-screencapHere she comes again. She’s been interrupted. She’s been left behind. She’s worn a pearl earring and had a dragon tattoo. She’s played with fire and kicked the hornet’s nest. When she’s not the other Boleyn, or working in the shop, she may be your #Boss. She’s not that kind, and she’s been gone. Only not far enough gone, because here she comes again, on the train.

You know who I mean. The Girl. The Title Girl.

Of the hundreds of books listed on Goodreads with the word Girl in the title, several …



7-Biggest_Burger_2I belong to a generation that ate in restaurants only on special occasions. You know: Mom’s birthday. Or after visiting Grandma in the hospital. Or maybe in the airport restaurant, the one with the white linen tablecloths, when we went to fetch someone who was actually flying into town to visit us. So there wasn’t a foodie culture, much less a running dialogue on the language of menus or waiter-speak.

Today, while I find much of the observations about the language of restaurants fascinating—I …


Setting a Watchman on the Language of the Past

Anglo-Boer-War-in-St.-LouisI heard the news of Harper Lee’s new novel—or, to be precise, of the planned release of the companion novel to To Kill a Mockingbird that she penned many decades ago—while I was doing research at the Missouri Historical Library and Research Center. My own subject, still vaguely outlined, is the Louisiana Purchase Exposition of 1904, now more than a century in the past. Lee’s subject, of course, was the Jim Crow racism that prevailed in the mid-20th century American South. In terms of language, t…


Me and Chris Jones, We Got a Thing Goin’ On

MS-MRGender neutrality, however loudly announced in official pronouncements or in the news, creeps into our own set of norms on little cat feet. In my case, I realized it had made another inroad when I was settling in at a symphony performance and heard the voice over the loudspeaker: Ladies and Gentlemen, please silence your cellphones and other electronic devices.

Why Ladies and Gentlemen? I thought. Why can’t he simply say, Symphony Patrons? Must he remind us at the outset of our socially assigned…


The Campus Culture Industry

PrimantiBros_SkylarYuenI’m sure I’m not the only Lingua Franca reader who received a communication just before the start of the spring term thanking the committee who had worked hard over break on the institutional goal of Strengthening Campus Culture. Those of us whose campus cultures were weak will see them shored up; those whose campus cultures were already strong will see them buttressed for the future.

Only I’m not certain what a campus culture is, exactly. I know: It’s marketing-speak. But we’re talking abou…