Search Results

Sometimes Strunk and White are right

Here is Sandy Brindley, of Rape Crisis Scotland, quoted (in the Metro newspaper, 29 June 2010), talking about an advertisement her organization has published: The advert has been designed to shake out ingrained prejudices many Scots have towards women who have been raped. Even though people believe they wouldn't judge a rape victim by what […]

Comments (59)

Sotomayor loves Strunk and White

People have begun to ask why Language Log hasn't yet commented on the remarks of Sonia Sotomayor about the sterling value of (you guessed it) Strunk & White. One recent commenter (here) actually seems to imply that we have jumped all over Charles Krauthammer solely because he is conservative, and shielded Sotomayor from criticism because […]

Comments off

Room For Debate on Strunk and White

When The New York Times asked me to contribute to the discussion of The Elements of Style on their "Room for Debate" blog, I figured they would dredge up a bunch of aged worthies of the New York literati who would pother on about the virtues of the little book, and I would be alone […]

Comments (13)

SCOTUS cites CGEL (Props to Justice Gorsuch and the Supreme Court library)

(Cross-posted from LAWnLinguistics.) When grammatical questions come up in legal cases, the lawyers and judges will want to support their arguments and analyses with citations to books about grammar. Most of the time, they cite books intended for a general audience, such as the McGraw-Hill Handbook of English Grammar and Usage, The Elements of Grammar, […]

Comments (14)

E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post: "Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will […]

Comments (1)

Which-hunting — and relative decline?

In "A quantitative history of which-hunting", I reproduced a plot due to (an anonymous colleague of) Jonathan Owen, showing that texts from the last half of the 20th century saw a decrease in the relative frequency of NOUN which VERB, and an increase in the relative frequency of NOUN that VERB. Jonathan took this to indicate the […]

Comments (12)

Helen Sword: E.B. White's writing is "Flabby"

A post by Joe Fruehwald ("To take "Zombie Nouns" seriously, you must've had your brains eaten", Val Systems 11/27/2012) motivated me to take a second look at Helen Sword's ideas about style, which I discussed earlier in "The Redemption of Zombie Nouns", 7/26/2012. In particular, I decided to take her "Writer's Diet Test" out for […]

Comments (27)

BBC: Geoff Nunberg snaps and quivers

According to Cordelia Hebblethwaite, "Britishisms and the Britishisation of American English", BBC News 9/26/2012: There is little that irks British defenders of the English language more than Americanisms, which they see creeping insidiously into newspaper columns and everyday conversation. But bit by bit British English is invading America too. "Spot on – it's just ludicrous!" […]

Comments (41)

One thousand Language Log posts

With this post I reach my thousandth Language Log contribution. I wrote 676 posts for the old series, before the original server died in agony in April 2008. Those were written from Santa Cruz, California (between 2003 and 2005 and in 2006-2007), from the Radcliffe Institute at Harvard (2005-2006), and from Edinburgh, Scotland (2007-2008) The […]

Comments (71)

Retitling Strunk & White

From Ben Zimmer, who got it from Mike Klaas, who found it on the Wonder-Tonic site ("Written, Graphical, and Interactive Sundries by Mike Lacher") of 3/31/10, here:

Comments off

Civilization, Congress, and punctuation

Thanks to reader DS, following up on this morning's post on the Philadelphia Newspapers' bankruptcy case ("The indubitable equivalent of such claims"), I now know which commas were at stake, and why.  The critical commas were these, in 1129(b)(2)(A)(ii) of Chapter 11, subchapter II, of U.S. Code Title 11: (ii) for the sale, subject to […]

Comments (15)

The President and the pronoun

A nice example of the way singular they works was overlooked (like health care, the economy, and everything else in the past week of "racial politics") during the brouhaha over President Obama's press conference remarks about the arrest in Cambridge, Massachusetts of Professor Henry Louis Gates. Obama said: . . . the Cambridge police acted stupidly in arresting […]

Comments off

Drinking the Strunkian Kool-Aid: victims of page 18

"My toothbrush is one of four standing upright in a cup on the bathroom sink," wrote Ada Brunstein in ‘The House of No Personal Pronouns’, a 2007 piece in the New York Times Fashion & Style section. "These toothbrushes belong to me, my boyfriend, his wife and her lover." Brunstein often stays at the house […]

Comments (46)