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Gwynne again

John McIntyre, "What to say to peevers", Baltimore Sun 9/3/2014: A recent article in the Boston Globe by Britt Peterson, "Why we love the language police," along with comments it has prompted on Facebook and other venues, shows that some people have become dangerously overstimulated by the publication of N.M. Gwynne's Gwynne's Grammar.

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Everything he was in he raised the quality

According to Metro, the UK free newspaper that I pick up each morning from a stack just inside the door as I get on a double-decker bus, Steve Coogan said this about the excellent film actor Philip Seymour Hoffman, who sadly was found dead with a hypodermic in his arm yesterday: Everything he was in […]

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Bryan Fischer corrects The New Yorker's punctuation

In the latest issue of The New Yorker, Jane Mayer has a profile of Bryan Fischer ("BULLY PULPIT: An evangelist talk-show host’s campaign to control the Republican Party", The New Yorker, 6/18/2012), which starts this way: Tupelo, Mississippi, is best known as the birthplace of Elvis Presley, and his childhood home remains the town’s top […]

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Don't get your kilt in a bundle

I can't say I share Mark and Geoff's agitation about the Jeremiad about the disappearance of the apostrophe in the Daily Mail. True, the tone of these things is enormously tiresome, with the outrage camped up just enough so the writer can deter the charge of taking himself too seriously. (It's like karaoke singers who […]

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BBC in diner truck apostrophe scandal

The BBC is doing a day or two of filming on the roof terrace of the building that houses my department, and the parking lot below our windows is thick with dressing room trailers and wardrobe trailers and generator trucks. Plus there is one other vehicle: parked directly below the windows of the room where […]

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The forgotten letter

Probably one of the very worst things about the English writing system (and it has a huge long list of bad things about it) is that it very clearly employs 27 letters in the spelling of words but there is a huge and long-standing conspiracy to market it as having only 26. Insane, but that's […]

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Safire on Sunday

That's what I called my own piece on William Safire, which runs today on "Fresh Air" and is online here. I cover some of the same ground that Ben does in his pitch-perfect Times magazine piece, mentioning his generosity to his critics and his willingness to acknowledge his mistakes. A very different tenor from his […]

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Fry on the pleasure of language

After I saw a Youtube clip of British comedian and quiz show host Stephen Fry pedantically insisting that none requires a singular verb, I was sincerely disappointed that this intelligent man evinced exactly the kind of "linguistic martyrdom" that Thomas Lounsbury ridiculed a century ago in The Standard of Usage in English. My spirits lifted […]

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Shattering the illusions of texting

In my capacity as executive producer of the Visual Thesaurus, I recently had the opportunity to interview David Crystal about his new book, Txtng: The Gr8 Db8, a careful demolition of the myths surrounding text messaging. You can read the first part of my interview on the Visual Thesaurus website here, with parts two and […]

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Their heads

At the How Appealing blawg, on June 25, Howard Bashman posted a passage from Judge Richard A. Posner's opinion in the Conrad Black case, including these sentences: The reference of course is to the legend that ostriches when frightened bury their head in the sand. It is pure legend and a canard on a very […]

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"Grammar vigilantes" brought to justice

According to Dennis Wagner, "Typo vigilantes answer to letter of the law", The Arizona Republic, 8/22/2008: Two self-anointed "grammar vigilantes" who toured the nation removing typos from public signs have been banned from national parks after vandalizing a historic marker at the Grand Canyon. Jeff Michael Deck, 28, of Somerville, Mass., and Benjamin Douglas Herson, […]

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