Archive for June, 2011

Another pundit who can't (or won't) count

… and is careless with grammatical terminology. Thomas Lifson, "Obama's troop withdrawal speech: when politics trumps victory", 6/23/2011:

Notably absent from the speech was any mention of General Petraeus or any of his other military advisors. The reasonable inference is that his military advice counseled against the withdrawal. Notably present was the personal pronoun, which was used about 3 dozen times. Obama is now openly mocked as "President Me, Myself, and I."

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I learned this morning (from Adam Nagourney and Ian Lovett, "Whitey Bulger is arrested in California", NYT 6/23/2011) that

James (Whitey) Bulger, a legendary Boston crime boss indicted in 19 murders and who is on the F.B.I.’s 10 Most Wanted list, was arrested by federal authorities Wednesday night in Santa Monica, ending an international manhunt that had gone on since Mr. Bulger disappeared nearly 16 years ago, the F.B.I. announced.

This made me think, not of crime and punishment, but of euphony and usefulness.

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A reading comprehension test

Or maybe it's a writing comprehension test. Anyhow, it's past the jump.

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Don't know much about history psychometrics

Sam Dillon, "U.S. Students Remain Poor at History, Tests Show", NYT 6/14/2011

American students are less proficient in their nation’s history than in any other subject, according to results of a nationwide test released on Tuesday, with most fourth graders unable to say why Abraham Lincoln was an important figure and few high school seniors able to identify China as the North Korean ally that fought American troops during the Korean War.

Over all, 20 percent of fourth graders, 17 percent of eighth graders and 12 percent of high school seniors demonstrated proficiency on the exam, the National Assessment of Educational Progress. Federal officials said they were encouraged by a slight increase in eighth-grade scores since the last history test, in 2006. But even those gains offered little to celebrate because, for example, fewer than a third of eighth graders could answer even a “seemingly easy question” asking them to identify an important advantage American forces had over the British during the Revolution, the government’s statement on the results said.

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Two more pundits who don't count

Craig Shirley & Bill Pascoe don't like Jon Huntsman Jr., and in particular they didn't like the speech (CSPAN video, transcript) in which he announced his presidential candidacy ("Jon Huntsman is no Ronald Reagan", The Daily Caller 6/21/2011):

Most Americans are on the right side of the spectrum. They are knowledgeable and far more sophisticated about politics and government than the commentariat gives them credit for.

They are awash in personalities, and are sick of them. They don’t want Kim Kardashian as their president. They want someone of substance and depth and content who uses the personal pronouns “we” and “us” more than he uses “I” and “me,” and who understands what it is about America that makes it great — and will do everything in his power to restore that greatness.

The segment that I've put in bold face is yet another replication of the First-Person-Singular Pronoun trope — but unlike most versions of this complaint, which can only be checked by comparing the relative frequency of FPSPs in comparable speeches of different politicians, this one makes a within-politician claim, and thus can easily be checked by taking a quick look at the particular speech these two political experts are complaining about.

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"Speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Hokkien… whatever that is."

Jon Huntsman, formerly the governor of Utah and ambassador to China, announced he was running for the Republican presidential nomination at a campaign kickoff event today at Liberty State Park in fair Jersey City. Before his announcement, the assembled crowd was treated to an introductory video. Among Huntsman's exceptional qualities listed by the folksy voiceover narrator was this: "Speaks Mandarin Chinese, and Hokkien… whatever that is."

(The relevant bit occurs at about 2:15 in the above video. You can catch the audio on C-SPAN as well.)

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Whatpocalypse now?

Today's Tank McNamara:

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Endowed by their Creator with certain WHAT?

Reader SG wrote in to express a concern about how we should fill in the blank:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain _________ Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.

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Trammeling on the Constitution

Andrew Rotherham, "A looming shadow over No Child Left Behind", Time Magazine, 6/16/2011:

The chattering class was even sourer. American Enterprise Institute scholar and pundit Rick Hess accused Duncan of trammeling on the Constitution.

Typo for trampling? Maybe, but this word-confusion  is commoner than I would have expected.

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Doing the same

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English V3.31

We're a bit behind the curve on this one — Verity Stob, "Verity Stob and the super subjunction", The Register, 6/1/2011:

Just downloaded the beta version of English V3.31, and I have to say I am very excited about it. This is definitely going to be a feather in the cap of Anglophones everywhere, and way better than the notorious V2.99 release of French (or the 'deux point neufty-neuf' as it has become known). There's a ton of new features to talk about, so let me dive in right away with some toothsome details.

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Distant Drums

Jim Reeves' classic country song "Distant Drums" (written by Cindy Walker) expresses a marriage proposal by a young man who wants his true love to marry him right now, before the drums and bugles that he already imagines he hears in the distance arrive and he is conscripted and forced to go off to war. The main part of the young man's argument is expressed in the chorus thus:

So Mary marry me, let's not wait
Let's share all the time we can before it's too late
Love me now, for now is all the time there may be
If you love me Mary, Mary marry me.

I have a question about the underlined part, addressed primarily to professional semanticists. Some of our posts get a bit nerdy on Language Log, and this is one. Skip it if you hate to see a capital A written upside down.

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Ask Language Log: Lengthly

Reader CL writes:

I've been using "lengthly" all this time; my mother used it; I believe her mother, an English teacher at a high school in Brooklyn, used it. Today, at almost 33, I saw a wiggly line from a word processor that was my first clue it's not actually a word. Wiktionary says "misspelled form of lengthy."

How did this happen? Is it widespread though (prescriptively) wrong?

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