All posts by Lucy Ferriss


Parenting, 1 and 2

1439911231007-300x169I hadn’t given Parent 1 and Parent 2 a thought before I saw the headline on Tennessee’s “reversal” of its “ban on ‘mother’ and ‘father.’” Huh, I thought. How had I missed news of a state’s banning mothers?

In terms of language, there’s a small, esoterically interesting story here that I’ll claim as part of what’s become sort of my bailiwick, writing about gender-neutral language. But the larger story has to do with the venues in which something becomes, or fails to become, news.

Here’s the dea…


From A to Z

imagesFolk etymologies are not unique to the age of Snopes. I discovered this amusing truth just after I’d signed my fellow writer Doug Preston’s letter to the Justice Department encouraging that arm of government to press forward with an investigation of possible monopolistic practices by Inc. First, I was curious about the opposition to Preston’s initiative, which turns out to comprise a small army of self-publishing authors. Their beneficent view of Jeff Bezos’ giant corporation, diametr…


Be a Lover

haters31Elie Wiesel said that the opposite of love is not hate but indifference. What, then, is the opposite of hate? The answer, it seems to me, changes when we accuse the person rather than the hate or the hating. In today’s parlance, a hater is not simply someone who hates — or rather, the variety of hate has become narrower and more specific. In politics, there are Hillary haters. Tom Brady recently called an ESPN commentator a “Patriot hater.” Anyone who writes in a forum, like this one, that i…


Diagramming Trump

According to “steveknows,” commenting on the Slate article “Help Us Diagram This Sentence by Donald Trump!” I have been punked. I don’t care. Gertrude Stein said there was nothing more exciting than diagramming sentences, and she wasn’t all that far from the truth. As with the claim that Molly Bloom’s soliloquy is the longest sentence in the English language, calling Donald Trump’s explosion of language a sentence stretches the meaning of the word sentence. Verbal speech contains no punctuation,…


What Kind of Fiction Do You Write?

popularfictionpublishingcompany-weird_tales_193207This is the question I get most often when people learn I have a new novel out. I understand the context of the question. If you walk into a Barnes & Noble, or go browsing on Amazon, you will see real or virtual shelves devoted to Mystery, Romance, Thrillers, Historical, Sci-Fi, Fantasy, Young Adult. My books, and the books of most writers I happen to know, don’t belong on any of them.

Recently, at a book festival, I was invited to lunch with a couple of the other authors who were presenting. Th…


Love, Blog Me Do. (You Know I Blog You.)

0dd3b-bloglovinMy husband teases me for skipping past much of the bulk of newspaper editorials to get to the comments. He’s a social scientist, interested in government policies and the social order; I’m a fiction writer, interested in how personalities respond to rhetorical maneuvers. It hasn’t been lost on me that the majority of highly rated comments in newspapers like The New York Times come from a handful of commenters, who seem to make a full-time job out of logging on to major journals and Internet sour…


Secondhand Emotion

388772-ba3bc018-b54b-11e3-961d-5192f6c25a65Not being a big user of emoticons or emoji, I usually have to pause to arrive at the difference between them. So I hadn’t given any thought to their function in the sentence until I came across Gretchen McCullough’s post querying how these little gremlins infesting our written language ought to be punctuated. She combines the two, as do most people who write about them. Emoji, after all, began as a colorful and labor-saving alternative to stacking up pieces of punctuation in order to create an i…


Derp and ‘tude

Mr. Derp

Paul Krugman’s attempts at being hip end up landing, I suppose, like hipness attempted by any of us blogging here: midway between cute and cringeworthy. A few weeks ago, his column noted an increase in what he called derpitude, “useful shorthand for an all-too-obvious feature of the modern intellectual landscape: people who keep saying the same thing no matter how much evidence accumulates that it’s completely wrong.”

Derp had a familiar ring to it, which grew louder as Krugman referenc…


Koo-Koo-Ka-Chu, Mx. Robinson

fig,white,mens,ffffff.u2Just when you thought it was safe to go out and play in the fields of gender, along comes Mx. The online version of the Oxford English Dictionary is considering adding this new honorific for those who are uncomfortable with assignment to one or another gender. Comparisons with Ms., another invented “abbreviation” that doesn’t really abbreviate anything, are inevitable. Commenting in The New York Times, Alice H. Eagly, a professor of psychology at Northwestern, suggested that unlike Ms., which wa…


Phoning Home

4502132-mdThe summer I was 20, I hatched the insane plan of riding the moped I’d purchased at my job in France through England and Scotland and over to my mother’s ancestral home in Ireland. Various near-disasters ensued, not the least of them occasioned by my ignorance of a war that was then raging directly along my path through Northern Ireland. But the daily challenge was the rain. My moped ran well through a light mist, but stopped dead in the frequent downpours that anyone with a grain of sense w…