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Strunk and Ptah

Today's Non Sequitur:

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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:

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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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 […]

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Was Strunk imitating Quintilian?

Bill Walderman asked Is it possible that the "rule" requiring the placement of "however" as the second element of a sentence (or at least not the first element) … originated as an attempt to impose Latin and Greek syntax or word order on English? In Latin, there are a number of particles such as "autem" […]

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However: retraction of a defense of Strunk

Back in 2005, Mark Liberman and I (here and here and here) both took a look at certain issues relating to placement of clause adjuncts, and we touched on William Strunk's prejudice against sentence-initial however as an adjunct, as set forth in The Elements of Style. I suggested in "Fossilized prejudices about however" that Strunk […]

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The Passivator reborn

I've been resisting topics like "words for coup" and "the meaning of insurrection" — we'll see how long that resolve lasts — but this morning's distraction is the rebirth of something I wrote about many years ago, namely an online service for identifying instances of passive-voice verbs. In my review of 'The Passivator" (4/6/2004), I […]

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Again, however

Looking through the Penn Parsed Corpus of Modern British English (PPCMBE2), I saw that one of its sources is Chapter 10 of Volume 2 of Jane Austen's Emma. I've been using seven or eight different audiobook versions of that novel as a source of examples and exercises in ling521 over the past few years, so I […]

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They triumphs?

Farhad Manjoo, "Call Me 'They'", NYT 7/10/2019: The singular “they” is inclusive and flexible, and it breaks the stifling prison of gender expectations. Let’s all use it. I am your stereotypical, cisgender, middle-aged suburban dad. I dabble in woodworking, I take out the garbage, and I covet my neighbor’s Porsche. Though I do think men […]

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Passive aggressive

Anne Henochowicz, "Passive-Aggressive: Expressing misfortune, and resistance, in Mandarin", LA Review of Books, 10/23/2018: Strunk and White’s classic textbook Elements of Style taught us to avoid the passive voice in our writing. Our verbs should take action, not a back seat, whenever possible. (This advice is not universally accepted.) In Mandarin, however, the passive voice […]

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Prescriptivist statutory interpretation?

The title of this post combines two topics that are popular with the Language Log audience, and that are not usually discussed together. It is also the title of a LAWnLinguistics post from 2012, shortly after the publication of Reading Law, a book about legal interpretation that was co-authored by Justice Scalia and Bryan Garner. […]

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