- Website: http://ling.upenn.edu/~myl
Posts by Mark Liberman:
Yesterday a journalist asked me about the background of the term "affirmative action". I turned up a few things like this, from a (2006 reprint of a) 1954 book French Administrative Law and the Common-Law World:
Brad Plumer, "Two Degrees: How the World Failed on Climate Change", Vox 4/22/2014:
"If you’re serious about 2°C, the rates of change are so significant that it begs the way we see the world. That’s what people aren’t prepared to embrace," says Kevin Anderson, a climate scientist at the Tyndall Centre for Climate Research. "Essentially you’d have to start asking questions about our current society and how we develop and grow."
In response to "What would a "return to philology" be a return to?", Omri Ceren proposes a simple explanation for Paul de Man's assertion that literary "theory" was just a return to philology:
You might be overthinking the de Man thing.
Either the NYT has changed its policies, or some editor was asleep at the beeper and let this through by mistake — "Raptors Drop Expletive and Game to Nets in Playoff Opener", NYT 4/19/2014:
Sparked by a stinging expletive the NBA playoffs got off to an explosive start as the Brooklyn Nets landed the first blow in a suddenly bitter Eastern Conference first round match-up with a 94-87 win over the Toronto Raptors on Saturday. Out of the playoffs since 2008, Toronto's return to the postseason was both eventful and controversial, upping the ante in the best-of-seven series.
With A list celebrities, including rappers Drake, Jay-Z and Beyonce, occupying courtside seats, an embarrassing technical malfunction and a jaw-dropping expletive delivered by Raptors general manager Masai Ujiri to thousands of frenzied supporters at a pre-game pep rally, the first game of the NBA postseason offered a little bit over everything.
Despite topping the Atlantic Division and setting a franchise record with 48 victories, the Raptors have had a harder time winning respect than games. Meanwhile the Nets dropped four of their last five contests, including a 29-point loss to the Cleveland Cavaliers in their season finale, to cement a Toronto match-up.
The Nets denied any suggestion of subterfuge but Ujiri made his position crystal clear, shouting "Fuck Brooklyn!" at a fan rally outside Air Canada Center prior to the start of Game One.
I recently read Peter Brooks' "The Strange Case of Paul de Man", NYRB 4/3/2014, which is a review of The Double Life of Paul de Man by Evelyn Barish. Brooks' central argument seems to be that it's unfair to call de Man a fascist thief, because he was really just a charismatic sociopath. But the thing that caught my eye was a reference to an essay by de Man that I hadn't read:
He began teaching Reuben Brower’s famous course in Harvard’s General Education program, “Humanities 6: Introduction to Literature,” which had a transformative effect on his own approach to literature, as he noted in one of his last published essays, “The Return to Philology.”
Aaron sent in a question about a usage that he first noticed at the age of nine, learning Allan Sherman's "hello mudda hello fadda" for an elementary school assembly:
Now I don't want / this should scare ya,
But my bunk mate / has malaria.
He has also seen a similar use of irrealis should from time to time in old jokes:
Q: Mom! You haven't eaten in three weeks? Why not?
A: I didn't want my mouth to be full you should call.
Glenn's diagnosis is that these examples arise by way of an attempt to "sound erudite" by adding an extra preposition at the start of a relative clause, thus yielding a formal-sounding collocation like "in which" without any valid grammatical license. He sees this as a hypercorrection along the lines satirized by James Thurber in his "Ladies' and Gentlemen's Guide to Modern English Usage":
The number of people who use "whom" and "who" wrongly is appalling. The problem is a difficult one and it is complicated by the importance of tone, or taste. Take the common expression, "Whom are you, anyways?" That is of course, strictly speaking, correct – and yet how formal, how stilted! The usage to be preferred in ordinary speech and writing is "Who are you, anyways?" "Whom" should be used in the nominative case only when a note of dignity or austerity is desired.
As discussed in "Back to the future, redundant preposition department" (5/4/2007) and "A phenomenon in which I'm starting to believe in" (5/14/2007), I'm not entirely sure that the extra-preposition examples are all errors, hypercorrect or otherwise — but Glenn's rational catalogue, drawn mostly from assignments submitted by his students, is a valuable step.
A few days ago, (someone using the initials) C D C commented:
I get so annoyed when I hear sloppy English on the news.
Today I heard that one of the killers of that soldier in London was going to "appeal his sentence" instead of "appeal against his sentence"!
This was a free-floating peeve, completely unrelated to the content of the post ("The case of the persevering pedestrian", 4/7/2014) or to any of the previous comments — C D C apparently mis-interpreted our discussion of grammatical analysis as one of those articles meant to stir up "Angry linguistic mobs with torches" that the media, especially in Britain, features from time to time.
And as usual for peevers, C D C was not at all curious about the nature and history of the usage in question, and was therefore soon exposed as ignorant as well as intolerant.
Bina Shah, "Trying to Dam a Digital Sea", NYT 4/10/2014:
In September 2012, the Pakistani government expanded a ban on some YouTube contributors to a blockage of the whole video-sharing site, because the anti-Muslim film “Innocence of Muslims” had appeared on it. Eighteen months later, the ban remains, exposing a simmering struggle within Pakistan over the basic issue of freedom of expression and information that could be decided in court next month. [...]
Alongside the legal battle, an irreverent social media campaign called #KholoBC has also emerged. Engineered by the Pakistan for All movement, a collective of young Pakistani tech enthusiasts, it features a song released by the Pakistani musician Talal Qureshi, the rapper Adil Omar and the comedian Ali Gul Pir with lyrics too rude to print in this newspaper. (So is a translation of the campaign’s name.)
This squeamishness is familiar: See "The Gray Lady gets coy again", 4/21/2013, and the links therein.
Yesterday I got an email from airbnb.com, under the heading "We're updating our Terms of Service". It starts this way:
A.C. sends in this opening sentence from a story in his local (NZ) paper:
The former lover of a murdered British jeweler was in his bed when he and his new girlfriend arrived at his villa on the Costa del Sol.
Analytics is all the rage. Thus Keith Pompey, "Sixers aide immerses Brown in analytics", Philadelphia Inquirer 4/7/2014
Brett Brown is inherently curious.
The first-year 76ers coach was eager to learn as much as possible about the data that tell us where every player is during every possession of an NBA game. It's called analytics, and the Sixers are among the NBA franchises that are shifting toward basing major decisions on data and model-driven analysis.
"There's always the thing that they call unintended consequences," said Brown, who was introduced to analytics this season. "That's where my curiosity combined with, yeah, you know, there's a bit of defiance in me that I don't believe it. Prove it. And what about this? What about that?
"And if you can get through all those type of layers, I say, 'Wow.' And I feel like I've improved."
So much so that the 53-year-old is fond of Lance Pearson, who deals with advanced analytics and statistical scouting for the Sixers. Pearson was hired away from Lindsey Wilson College in Columbia, Ky., where he was an assistant coach and special assistant in analytics. He has a Ph.D. in computational neuroscience from Boston University. Pearson also has bachelor's degrees in computer science, mathematics and philosophy from Kentucky.
Calvin Men, "Police investigate Santa Cruz pedestrian's death", Santa Cruz Sentinel 4/4/2014:
A 49-year-old Santa Cruz man died late Thursday night while crossing Mission Street after being struck by a car.
G.A., who sent me the link, added "Pretty plucky of him to cross the street after he had been hit, I thought".
Under the heading Freedom 2014, "Whether it’s freedom from surveillance or freedom to be single, this spring the BBC is investigating what freedom means in the modern world". One of the BBC's own contributions to #Freedom2014 is a lovely addition to our No Word For X archive:
— BBC World Service (@bbcworldservice) April 1, 2014
I'll leave it to better-informed commenters to tell us how to express various concepts of freedom in Inuit — but my guess is that "not caught" is one of a number of perfectly reasonable Inuit phrases for various senses of English free. Certainly as hunter-gatherers in marginal terrain the Inuit must have experienced many kinds of freedom in their history — though perhaps they would echo what Matthew Arnold said about philistinism: "We have not the expression in English. Perhaps we have not the word because we have so much of the thing."