All posts by Lucy Ferriss

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Apostrophe Where Is Thy Comma?

pyramus-and-thisbeMy hunch is that the case of the missing comma began with email. In an earlier post, I talked about a friend’s dilemma over email salutations, wherein the preferred casual “Hi” at the beginning is followed by a person’s name and then a comma, rendering the grammatically standard vocative comma (“Hi, Jane,”) perhaps superfluous and at least funny-looking. I’ve been counting, and of the hundreds of emails I’ve received from students since that post appeared, none — and I mean zer…

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Here’s My Truth

5870-i-feel-safe-to-speak-and-live-my-truthI know a guy who wakes up in the night and scrawls candidates for his WBM list. These things don’t necessarily make the cut the next morning. They have to be scrawled night after night, or linger in his head through the day, and eventually they’re added. WBM stands for What’s Bugging Me. If you don’t write “Susy shoes front hall” more than once or twice, Susy’s habit of leaving her galoshes in the middle of the hallway doesn’t really bug you, and you should get over it.

My truth has been making …

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Funiculi, Funicula

Ngram antennaI woke up this morning thinking of larvae. Not the actual creatures, but the word. I moved on from there to hippopatomi and stigmata.

All of these, of course, are Latinate plurals adopted into English. Some are used more than others. What my waking brain was trying to discover was a pattern. Why do we tend to Anglicize some of these plural forms and let others be? And has anyone settled on the pronunciation of ae, and does it disappear at the same rate and the same time as the ligature, æ?

I’m…

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It Ain’t We, Babe

BBXPtI7CQAEQVqYReasons abound for why I’m glad I don’t have a teenager prepping for the SAT at the moment. But the latest word, from the pop star Taylor Swift, on the Princeton Review’s practice test tripled my relief at having passed that hurdle. The test introduces a section titled Grammar in Real Life with the following prompt: “Pop lyrics are a great source of bad grammar. See if you can find the error in each of the following.” The lyrics that follow are by Swift, Katy Perry, Whitney Houston, and Lady…

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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…

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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…

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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…

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‘History Is Happening’

HAMILTON

“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…

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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…

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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 …