Category Archives: Language

Stupid, pedantic formalism fetishists are turning however into a conjunction that is replacing mid-sentence but

The more I hear people speak and read their writing in all kinds of situations, in real life or in TV/movies, in blog posts, essays, or informal discussion threads, in scripted dialogue or narration or while ad-libbing, the more often … Continue reading

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Scientific terms list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries

[UPDATE: This post is out of date. Please see my static page Scientific word list for spell-checkers/spelling dictionaries for up-to-date information about these scientific word lists. I mean, the links to the files custom_scientific_US.txt and custom_scientific_UK.txt below will take you … Continue reading

Posted in Career, Language, Science, Writing | 11 Comments

Sub rosa

There is a fairly strange episode of Star Trek: The Next Generation, from the last season, called “Sub Rosa”, that I only saw for the first time sometime in college, in which Beverly Crusher is basically seduced by this spirit … Continue reading

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Stop suggesting rewording or rearranging when word order is not the problem

A recent comment on my post about en dashes, in which the commenter offered one very helpful fix but otherwise tried and failed to improve the clarity of several phrases by rewriting the phrases altogether, is only the latest example … Continue reading

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Wise thoughts on “literally” vs. “figuratively”

In the Salon article by Mary Elizabeth Williams, which I’ve already written two posts about but I promise this is the last one, this comment by machineghost struck me as entirely reasonable and wise: So the problem with literally becoming … Continue reading

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Anti-Hopefully crusaders are hopeless

Some of the comments to the (in)famous Mary Elizabeth Williams column that I blagged about yesterday are so stupid they practically drool. It’s a shame I didn’t read this column (or, actually, its comments) earlier, because I could have ranted … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Language, Morans | 3 Comments

Any writer who rails against sentential Hopefully and the passive voice in general is not worth listening to

Look. I sympathize with Mary Elizabeth Williams. I really do. I hate it when people misuse a word, and I hate the idea of English speakers separated by time and space meaning different things when they use the same words … Continue reading

Posted in Language, Morans, Writing | 2 Comments

Bryan Garner interview in VICE magazine

I liked several passages of this interview of Bryan A. Garner in VICE magazine: As we saw the rise of literacy over the next few hundred years, especially in the beginning of the 18th century, the language became relatively more … Continue reading

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Quote of the day

It’s not as musical as Spanish, or Italian, or French, or as ornamental as Arabic, or as vibrant as some of your native languages. But I’m hopelessly in love with English because it’s plain and it’s strong. William Zinsser, Writing … Continue reading

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Superstitions and fetishes make for bad writing and editing

Scientific editors are a difficult group to deal with. Most of them are either bad writers or not experts on the topic they’re editing at a given time, or both. Either shortcoming often leads them to make unnecessary, unwise, or … Continue reading

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No, in fact, languages don’t want that

Because they are incapable of wanting anything. Earlier I remarked that Geoffrey Pullum, Ph.D., professional linguist, ardent descriptivist, and language blagger extraordinaire surely didn’t really think this but wrote it in Language Log posts for rhetorical effect: that languages want … Continue reading

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On correctness, ambiguity, and precision in language

In the linguistics blagosphere last week, prescriptivists got all indignant because some British company I’d never heard of, Waterstone’s, dropped the apostrophe from its name, and descriptivists got all agitated at the prescriptivists for making undue proclamations about correctness, rules, … Continue reading

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“Times” and “folds”

[This post has been updated from its original form to make it better organized, clearer, and more direct and succinct.] Bill Walsh is absolutely, completely, 100%, unequivocally, and in all other ways right in his position on the meanings of … Continue reading

Posted in Grammar, Language | 5 Comments

Young American female vowel shift

In a recent post about a different topic, Bill Walsh mentions some annoying vowel shifts exhibited by young-ish American females. These mainly involve changing the short e to the short u sound, so that “desk”, “test”, and “better” become “dusk”, … Continue reading

Posted in Language | 4 Comments

Sure vs. certain

Without reading the title of this post, if you were asked to give a synonym of “sure”, wouldn’t your answer most likely be “certain”? And vice versa? In most cases, these words are identical and interchangeable. But these cases are … Continue reading

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