Grammatical Hell in a Handbasket

The Washington Post has started the apocalypse. Yes, they have. And the whole world is about to go to hell in the proverbial handbasket because of it. The maw of Hell has opened… The Post has decided after decades – centuries? – of editors, writers and grammarians arguing about the lack of gender-neutral singular pronouns in English, to accept “they” as the stand-in. Can you see the … (more–>)

Moved by myself…

After watching Collingwood council meetings on Rogers again, I felt I should re-post a link to a piece I first wrote several years ago, then again in 2014, then re-wrote in April of this year: Me, myself and I Every time I watched the meetings, I also watched councillors say the same thing: “move by myself.” The incorrect use of the reflexive is like nails on a blackboard. We … (more–>)

A Sense of Pinker’s Style

I share one of Steven Pinker’s passions: I like to read style books, grammar books, language books. To me, they’re like literary chemistry sets. When I was young, getting a chemistry set for Christmas or a birthday opened a whole world to me. I’d explore all sorts of interactions and experiments until I had run out of chemicals to do them with. Used litmus paper littered my … (more–>)

Nope, That’s Not by Marcus Aurelius

An image appeared on my Facebook feed one day purporting to be a quotation taken from the Roman emperor and philosopher, Marcus Aurelius. Having read his Meditations more than once in multiple translations, I was baffled because it didn’t look at all familiar or even sound like him. But was it a new translation? The quote is: Everything we hear is a opinion, not a fact. … (more–>)

Where Have The Real Heroes Gone?

Heroes, it sometimes seems, have been relegated to legend and myth. There are none left, none of the sort I used to associate with the name. Not in the media, anyway. The word has been so abused in the media over the last century, tossed about in such a cavalier manner that it has lost its former credit; it has become debased language, its pith cored … (more–>)

The Venereal Game

The Venereal Game is the provocative subtitle of James Lipton’s 1968 classic, An Exaltation of Larks (reprinted in 1977, and later expanded in the 1993 “ultimate” edition). Venereal, in this sense, comes from venery which in turn comes from the Latin venari, to hunt or pursue, rather from the sexual connotation.* The collective nouns in much of Lipton’s book come mainly from hunting terms (terms of venery), many originating … (more–>)

Another Archy Poem

Most of Don Marquis’ Archy pieces were written in lowercase. The literate cockroach, we learned, would stand on the typewriter and dive, head first, onto the keys. But this way, he couldn’t use the shift key to get capital letters or punctuation (he did get capital letters, once, when Marquis left the shift-lock on the machine one night; Archy wrote about it in a 1933 piece … (more–>)

Prenzie Scamels

Four hundred years after he wrote them, we still use in everyday speech the many words and phrases Shakespeare coined. He gave us so many, it would be difficult, if not impossible, to list them all here. But two words he wrote have stopped us dead: prenzie and scamels. What do they mean? Were they more of his 1,700-plus famous neologisms like accommodation, castigate, frugal, inauspicious, premeditated and … (more–>)

Bad Designs

I’m not a graphic designer. I was not formally educated in that art. However, over the years, my jobs in editing and writing for books, newspapers, magazines and publishers have required me to learn the rudiments of layout, typography and design. I am the first to admit my design talent is merely adequate. Despite that, I did absorb enough to be able to recognize egregiously bad … (more–>)

Not Getting It

In a recent opinion piece in the Enterprise Bulletin titled “Swayze overused by council?” EB reporter/editor Paul Brian comments, I think the overuse of Swayze is outlandish and it is not congruent with the tough financial situation of the town.* Like much of the EB’s increasingly vague reporting since former editor Ian Adams left, the paper’s current editorial staff doesn’t seem to understand municipal politics. The reporting on many … (more–>)

Me, Myself and I Redux

At Collingwood Council meetings, you will always hear someone say “Moved by myself…” when presenting a motion at the table.* Argh! Where did these people go to school? Clearly our education system has failed us if people were raised to say that. And this is in the public record, too. To me it’s like nails on a blackboard. It’s like saying “I seen…” and “yous.” The grammatically … (more–>)

Defining Classical Music

[youtube=] I listen to classical music a lot, even more than before since the arrival of the new classical FM station in Collingwood. But while my listening at home is through a selected collection of CDs, the content played on radio – internet radio included – is more eclectic. Airplay often includes soundtracks, music from musicals, even some modern pieces (the other day I heard a well-known … (more–>)

Thurber’s Writings & Drawings

Books of James Thurber‘s cartoons and writing were always on the shelves at my grandparents’ home, as well as on my parents’ bookshelves. I read them, as I did everything else on those shelves, when I was quite young. I still remember his odd, eccentric cartoons with their primitive lines but sharp and bizarre wit, although I can’t recall much if any what stories I read of his back … (more–>)

The Responsibility of Free Speech

In January, 2015, Marie Snyder, on her blog, A Puff of Absurdity, raised the question of how free should speech be. I share her concerns about the apparent limitlessness of our rights: our right to free speech is not matched to any inherent responsibilities, civic or moral, to behave in a mature manner, nor does it require anyone to speak the truth. And we are not … (more–>)

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