You Don't Say

You Don't Say John E. McIntyre writes about language, usage, journalism & arbitrarily chosen subjects.
Toss Strunk and White. Here is the little book about language you need

There is a book I have been craving for years, and now June Casagrande has written it.

I should explain.

I learned the traditional schoolroom English grammar back in the day in Kentucky, and later, despite studying English in college, made no acquaintance with linguistics.

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I hear what that dog whistle means

Last week I reposted on Facebook a short guide to code words: “globalist,” “Soros,” “New York values,” and others, all to be translated as “Jew.” How do I recognize such terms as dog whistles by bigots? Because it is not terribly difficult to go on to the internet and find them used in explicitly anti-Semitic posts.

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You know the type

I have tried since I was an undergraduate, without much success, to interest others in Randall Jarrell’s witty and epigrammatic academic novel, Pictures from an Institution. It gives me pleasure on every page.

Today let me tempt you with a tidbit, a single sentence (that hits a little close to home) about Dr.

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In a word: tu quoque

Your bonus word of the week is tu quoque. 

English, as someone remarked is a Germanic language trying to pass itself off as a Romance language. This identity dysphoria is a source of many of its confusions, as well as of its richness.

Sometimes its borrowings are wholesale appropriations, as with the Latin tu quoque, the term for a form of retort that accuses the accuser of doing the same thing.

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In a word: peruse

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:


By now, if you have been perusing these dispatches, you know, or know more clearly, that English, an unruly child, just does what it wants. And sometimes it wants contradictory things, as we see with peruse.

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Plus ca change …

A.J. Liebling, writing in 1947:

“I think that anybody who talks often with people about newspapers nowadays must be impressed by the growing distrust of the information they contain. There is less of a disposition to accept what they say than to try to estimate the probable truth on the basis of what they say, like aiming a rifle that you know has a deviation to the right.

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