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Because of course (NOT) PRO BE|DO

Ordan Buckley asked: I'm curious if you have any thoughts on the slangy headline trend "X because of course X". Some examples: World's largest Lamborghini dealer is in Dubai, because of course it is Rob Gronkowski crashes Sean Spicer's briefing because of course he did Seattle just broke a 122-year-old record for rain — because […]

Chekhov–Saunders Humanity Kit.

The Chekhov–Saunders Humanity Kit (assembled by Maria Bustillos) is a remarkable thing, a website representing George Saunders’s MFA classes at Syracuse, and specifically the Chekhov “About Love” trilogy – “usually the best class of the year.” The linked page is the intro: I’ve wrestled with how to write about the resulting experience in a way […]

Luv u

My wife had an aversion to the first person pronoun.  She would do practically anything to avoid saying "I".  She thought it was egotistical to make frequent, direct reference to herself, whether in speech or in writing.  Among traditional Chinese, she probably was not entirely unique in that regard, but she was extreme in her […]

Your gigantic crocodile!

One more piece of Google Translate poetry, contributed by Mackenzie Morris: I've been collecting screenshots of the best of these, because I'm assuming that soon, someone at Google will notice the hilarity and take the trivial steps required to stop it. It's easy to distinguish keyboard banging or nonsensical repetitions from sincere input — unless […]

With Interjected Finger.

My wife, after reading me numerous bits from Ford Madox Ford’s memoir Memories and Impressions: A Study in Atmospheres, told me I had to read it myself, and so I am doing, with immense pleasure (reading her in turn numerous bits, sometimes the same bits she had previously read to me). The following passage, from […]

Another thing (or think?) coming

Q: Which is correct: “If you think that, you have another thing/think coming”? I see “thing” more often, but “think” makes more sense to me. A: The two expressions, which are used to express disagreement, showed up in print within a couple of months of each other in the late 19th century. The editors at... ? Read More: Another thing (or think?) coming

New Mission: One Month Without English!

Have you ever reached a plateau in your language learning that you just couldn’t break through? I did. It didn’t matter how many German lessons I took. How many Skype calls I made. Or, how many grammar books I read. I just couldn’t get...Show More Summary

Secret bilingual language

My wife and I used to have a private language that was full of bilingual, cryptic references such as the following: Yáo Shùn Y? ??? (the names of three ancient, wise, Chinese rulers) || s?nmíngzhì ??? ("three wise rulers"), the Chinese transcription of English "sandwich". Thus, if we wished to ask each other, "Do you […]

The Last Bridge.

Working my way through Tsvetaeva’s collected poems, I’ve gotten to 1924 and the astonishing sequence ????? ????? [Poem of the end] she wrote for Konstantin Rodzevich, an unremarkable young man “with strikingly pink cheeks” (according to a fellow émigré). They had three passion-filled months together, then she broke it off — according to her biographer, […]

Nope.

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Those TED audiences expect to be entertained

And tickets are expensive, so they can be brutal if you offend them — "Pope warns powerful to act humbly or risk ruin in TED talk", ABC News, 4/26/2017:

Explosive semantics

"New images of MOAB denotation damage", Fox News 4/25/2016: The denotation damage has been estimated at nearly 20 kiloreferences. And the connotation damage, though not yet measured, is believed to be larger than from any explosion in recent decades. [h/t Glenn Bingham]

"I have gone into my own way"

In a series of recent posts we've explored the fun side of recursive weighted sums and point nonlinearities as a translation algorithm: "What a tangled web they weave", "A long short-term memory of Gertrude Stein", "Electric sheep", "The sphere of the sphere is the sphere of the sphere". But the featured translations have all involved […]

Reinventing the Canon for Free.

The newly published book Twentieth-Century Russian Poetry: Reinventing the Canon, edited by Katharine Hodgson, Joanne Shelton and Alexandra Smith, is an interesting-looking collection of essays available in paperback for £25.95, in hardback for £36.95, and as a pdf download for free! Just go to the Open Book Publishers book page and click the appropriate link […]

Dialect readers redux?

In a recent article Patriann Smith, a professor of Language, Diversity and Literacy Studies at Texas Tech, makes a bold proposal: that “nonstandard Englishes” such as African American English (AAE) and Hawai’i Creole English be used as the primary language of instruction in educating children who speak them. Show More Summary

E.B. White and quotative inversion

For some documentation and discussion of the New Yorker magazine's curious aversion to quotative inversion, see "Quotative inversion again", 10/29/2009. And against that background, consider this sentence from E.B. White's 1957 piece "Letter from the East", quoted in my earlier post: "Omit needless words!" cries the author on page 21, and into that imperative Will […]

Hello, Minnie!

Q: We saw Puccini’s La Fanciulla del West and noticed that the libretto makes generous use of “hello,” notably with shouts of “Hello, Minnie!” at the saloon. I don’t see anything about “hello” on your blog. Would you like to correct this oversight? A: We’ve discussed “goodbye” in several posts (most recently, in 2011), but... ? Read More: Hello, Minnie!

Omitting needless words

Yesterday I was skimmed randomly-selected sentences from a collection of English-language novels, and happened on this one from George Orwell's 1949 novel Nineteen Eighty-Four: "It's a beautiful thing, the destruction of words." This brought to mind two things I had never put together before, Orwell on Newspeak and Strunk on style. Here's Orwell: 'How is the […]

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