Some catching up to do

In case any of you were in suspense, I can report that Alexandra Leigh Aaronson and John Paul Lucien McIntyre were married Saturday evening in a mildly unconventional and moving ceremony at the Engineers Club on Mount Vernon Square in Baltimore.

Now we're back to business.

Item: Responding to the post "What we talk about when we talk about grammar," Andrew Shields wrote that he understands the inadvisability of trying to force-feed the Huddleston-Pullum Student's Introduction to English Grammar in three weeks, but he suggests that a few sections of it might be profitably employed: 

"I'm thinking of those moments in the book when H and P include 'prescriptive grammar notes.' For example, the discussion of 'not ending sentences with a preposition' is very useful. And you can make the point that the shibboleth masks a set of points (in this case, about when prepositions have to be fronted or stranded and when they can be either fronted or stranded) that are much more interesting than the shibboleth itself. And for another example, you could point them to the discussion of 'who' and 'whom'. Again, the real usage is much more interesting than the prescriptive rule (and the idea that 'whom' is disappearing) would make you think."

Item: Further suggestions on teaching grammar include a recommendation from John Lawler: "McCawley's 1998 'The Syntactic Phenomena of English' (2nd edition) can actually be held in one hand, and contains all knowledge necessary for syntactic salvation. And uses traditional terminology, unlike P&H.; And contains good jokes."

And Michael Aubrey asks, "Have you considered Payne's /Understanding English Grammar/ for teaching? It's superior, I think, in pedagogical prowess."

I don't know either book but plan to have a look at both. 

Item: A sophisticated examination of the epicene they by our worthy colleague Mededitor is well worth a few minutes of your time. 

Item: The normally unflappable Jan Freeman recently gave vent at Throw Grammar From the Train to her irritation at a New York Times article on mattresses, the deficiencies of which she painstakingly enumerates. 

Here is a specimen paragraph: "The assigning editor accepted the piece; enough said. As for the author, given his innocence about mattresses, I’m wondering if he’s still in the bed Mom and Dad bought him. Buying is confusing, he tells us, because 'most major brand names inexplicably seem to begin with the letter "s".' And then there are all those hard words! 'Viscoelastic foam,' 'pocketed coil technology,' and worst of all, 'Talalay latex? C’mon, mattress people. Now it sounds as if you’re just making stuff up.' (Gee, if only there were an easy way to look up those obscure terms, so you could explain them to readers.)"

I quote, and applaud, Ms. Freeman's crankiness over this article because it is representative of the kind of feature that has multipled in both print and online publications: the kind in which a breezy jocularity is supposed to substitue for research and disguise from the reader the shallowness of the work. 

Item: Cranky McCrankypants (a term my wife used the other day as I grumbled about some other imposition on the reader's time and attention) returns to the news desk tomorrow afternoon. 




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