Rodricks: Stopping the violence contagion in Baltimore

You Don't Say

You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
Fading crotchets

Everyone understands that fashions come and go. We can live in hope that the menswear of the 1970s will never return. Those neckties as wide as lobster bibs. The plaid jackets. Leisure suits.

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In a word: chimera

Each week The Sun's John McIntyre presents a relatively obscure but evocative word with which you may not be familiar, another brick to add to the wall of your vocabulary. This week's word:


Last week I wrote that the search for absolute certainty about grammar and usage is a chimera—an illusion, an impossible fantasy.

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I do not feel their pain

“Like fingernails on a chalkboard” is the stock, if unimaginative, reaction to a nonstandard usage: “irregardless,” “literally” used figuratively, “laid” for “lay,” &c. (I did see something more original yesterday: “like chewing on aluminum foil.”

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The certainty chimera

I’ve been engaged in an online discussion with a woman who is looking for The Rules in grammar and usage. None of that milk-and-water descriptivism will do; she wants prescriptivism, and she takes it neat. Because grammar has Rules, and educated, literate people know them and follow them, all else dismissible as ignorant babble.

It fell to me to point out that there are no certainties, only judgments.

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Latin is not the boss of us

My daughter, Alice, I may have mentioned before, is a Latinist. She holds a degree in Latin and Greek from Swarthmore and has been a teacher of Latin for the past decade. And—this is the point for today—she understands that Latin is not English.

This was not an understanding shared by the Most Rev.

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Ask me if I care whether you capitalize "internet"

Patrick LaForge @palafo tweets, “We're finally doing the right thing with the internet,” as The New York Times announces that it, like the Associated Press, will no longer capitalize internet.

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