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Little green prescriptivists

Today's SMBC starts with this panel:

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Maybe the prescriptivists are right

… at least about the use of  "summative that" in certain contexts. Thus one of Paul Brians' Common Errors in English Usage is "Vague Reference": Vague reference is a common problem in sentences where “this,” “it,” “which” or other such words don’t refer back to any one specific word or phrase, but a whole situation. […]

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George Fox, Prescriptivist

Jen wrote to inform me that today, being William Penn's birthday, is International Talk Like a Quaker Day. Jen explains that I like to combine it with my pirate talk from International Talk Like a Pirate Day.  "Arrr, thee must give us all thy money to donate to the Friends Service Committee, or we will […]

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Prescriptivist pain

9 Chickweed Lane, for June 15, illustrates something about prescriptivist pain:

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Prescriptivist Science

Is there any "prescriptivist science"? Could there be any? The reaction of some linguists will be that "prescriptivist science" is as much as a contradiction in terms as "creation science" is. But I disagree.

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Courtesy and personal pronoun choice

My most recent post started out as a very minor note of approval about the continuing spread of singular they in journalism. Then the person who sent me the quote realized that Phillip Garcia, named in the cited newspaper story, had a preference for being referred to with the pronoun they, which nullified the point. […]

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Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. ("A Distinctly American Opportunity: Exploring Non-Standardized English(es) […]

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The craven feminine pronoun

The Times Literary Supplement diarist who hides behind the initials "J.C." makes this catty remark (issue of January 6, 2017, page 36) about Sidney E. Berger's The Dictionary of the Book: A Glossary of Book Collectors: "Predictions were that the Internet would do away with dealers' catalogs and it is true that many a dealer […]

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Asshat(t)ery

From Jenny Chu, on November 9: I am a long-time follower of Language Log but usually comment on the Chinese and Vietnamese related topics by Prof. Mair. Yet I thought you might be amused by the attached conversation. It shows some nice examples of the playfulness and creativity of the human language faculty, as well […]

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Strictly correct plurals of flower names

It has come to my attention that many laypeople, even Language Log readers, are using incorrect plurals for flower names. "Geraniums" indeed! "Crocuses", for heaven's sake! Please get these right. There follows a list of 30 count nouns naming flowers, together with their approved grammatically correct plurals. Don't use incorrect plurals any more. Shape up.

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Mad

I'm in San Francisco for InterSpeech 2016, where I'm involved in four papers over three days, so blogging will probably be a bit light. But I have a few minutes before the morning starts, so let me continue the discussion of Gabriel Roth's feelings ("Paper cut to the heart", 9/8/2016) by quoting from Bill S's comment: Some of […]

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That false and senseless Way of Speaking

Some eloquent 17th-century Quaker peeving, from The history of the life of Thomas Ellwood: Or, an account of his birth, education, &c. with divers observations on his life and manners when a youth: … Also several other remarkable passages and occurrences. Written by his own hand. To which is added, a supplement by J. W., […]

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Scientific prescriptivism: Garner Pullumizes?

The publisher's blurb for the fourth edition of Garner's Modern English Usage introduces a new feature: With more than a thousand new entries and more than 2,300 word-frequency ratios, the magisterial fourth edition of this book — now renamed Garner's Modern English Usage (GMEU)-reflects usage lexicography at its finest. […] The judgments here are backed up […]

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