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Blog Profile / Literal Minded


URL :http://literalminded.wordpress.com/
Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:440
Posts / Week:1.3
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

Willing and Able

Nine years ago, I was inspired to write a post after hearing a flight attendant give the pre-flight safety presentation, and say, “Please move from the exit rows if you are unwilling or unable to perform the necessary actions without injury.” On my most recent flight, instead of listening to the attendant, I tried to […]

Seldom Is Heard a Discouraging Word

The wife has spent numerous hours planning the itinerary for a trip we’re going to take out west later this summer. She has tricks up her sleeve that I never would have thought of for finding the best prices for airfare, car rentals, and hotels, so I bow to her travel-savvy. But all our discussions […]

Open Conditionals with the Past Perfect

When Glen and I were kids, for a couple of years our family would read aloud from novels after supper. I remember we did a few that you’ve probably never heard of, plus a Hardy Boys mystery and Johnny Tremain. But by the time we hit junior high school, the habit had kind of fizzled […]

How to Create a Metaphor with Like

Doug and Adam are happy to be out of school for the summer, but one of the last things Doug did during the school year was to miss the morning bus one day, and I had to drive him in. As he settled into the passenger seat, I noticed that he was wearing shorts and […]

Sleep Like Death, Death Like Sleep

The boys, the wife and I watched the latest episode of the rebooted Cosmos last night. About 10 minutes in, Neil deGrasse Tyson began talking about the idea that life on Earth may have begun by arriving on meteorites. It’s known that rocks from Mars, for example, have ended up on Earth this way. It’s […]

Chemicals, Castro, and Last Year’s Jeans

Here are a few items I recorded some time ago, and just found lying in my stash of draft posts. Doug and Adam each spontaneously uttered a double passive within a day or two of each other sometime in the past year. Here’s Doug’s: … standing in front of a chemical plant that‘s threatened to […]

Ceramic Tins

A couple of years ago, we would sometimes order take-out pizza from Boston’s in the Columbus Arena District. It was very good, but even so, since learning last year that the best pizza in Columbus is Natalie’s Coal-Fired Pizza, and we haven’t been back to Boston’s since. But we still have a few reminders of […]

U-Nine-Ed States

Glen emailed me a week or so ago: Do you sometimes feel like people pronounce “united” to sound like “unined”? (Three syllables, but replacing the t sound with an n sound.) If so, is there some principle that would explain it? In fact, I have heard this. It’s particularly noticeable in the Stuff They Don’t […]

Thoughts on Just Because X Doesn’t Mean Y

On her Grammar Girl podcast this week, Mignon Fogarty is running a guest script that I wrote on the just because X doesn’t mean Y construction, a thriving piece of English syntax that has come into its own in the last 50 years or so. My favorite example of JBX-DMY is Just because you’re paranoid […]

Unexpected Glottal Stops

It began a couple of months ago, as I would listen to the morning news on the radio. Whenever this one guy from the Ohio Statehouse News Bureau signs off, he says, “Andy Chow, Statehouse News Bureau,” but he pronounces Statehouse as [ste??h?us], realizing the /t/ as a glottal stop, instead of turning it into […]

Nae Nae, Nini, No-No, Noo-Noo

Soon after Mercer College’s amazing upset of Duke University in the NCAA March Madness tournament, both Slate and the New York Times published articles about a dance that the Bears’ team member Kevin Canevari was doing on live national TV while his teammates cheered. The dance, Slate explained, was the Nae Nae, a dance created […]

What She Cooks Like

One day last month, Doug and his classmates watched part of a Disney movie during one of the many wasted class periods he’s had this year (thanks to the busiest, most pointless, and most disruptive standardized-test schedule I’ve ever seen). He liked it, he said, and he’d figured out that the person who voiced a […]

Sara Squint

In an issue of Entertainment Weekly a few weeks ago, I read an article about Sara Bareilles, a name I recognized from a music video that used to play on the overhead TVs at the gym, back when I used to go to the gym. The song was called “King of Anything,” and aside from […]

Don’t Follow to Unfollow

“Don’t follow to unfollow,” said the last line in the Instagram profile. What did that mean? It seemed to be saying, “To unfollow me, simply don’t follow me!” But that interpretation didn’t make sense! Morphologically and semantically, the prefix un- doesn’t work that way. When you attach it to a verb, it refers to reversing […]

Getting Away Without It

When the previous blast of arctic air passed through last week, it put enough snow on our driveway and sidewalk that I really should have shoveled it, but it wasn’t enough to force me to do it in order to get the car from the garage to the street. And, you know, I was in […]

How to Talk to Drug-Free Kids

I was listening to Terry Gross interview Gabriel Sherman, the author of a book on the history of Fox News founder Roger Ailes. Sherman was talking about TVN, a precursor to Fox News that ran for a time in the 1970s. Its producers wanted to provide a counterweight to the liberal media, and consulted extensively […]

Stop Creating!

You know, I really liked the first film I saw Shia LaBeouf in, and the second one wasn’t too bad. I was always a bit bugged by the clear misspelling of his last name, which I knew from high school French II should have been LaBoeuf, but I wouldn’t let a petty thing like that […]

Gerund Movie Titles Revisited

We had a few friends over near the beginning of Doug and Adam’s winter break. The conversation turned to movies, and my wife said that two movies she really hoped to see over the holidays were American Hustle and Saving Mr. Banks. “I don’t want to see that,” I said. “It’s already got a couple […]

Interdental L for Emphasis

“Who put Blackfish on our Netflix queue?” my wife asked. “Oh, that was me. Entertainment Weekly recommended it.” She didn’t want to watch it, though, so I ended up watching the documentary on killer whales in captivity myself, while I wrapped Christmas presents last week. It was a well-done film, and it was short enough […]

Blue Christmas Cannibalism

Looking through the community newspaper, I saw an announcement of the various Christmas-related services that a local church was having. One of them caught my eye: I liked the creative use of the song title “Blue Christmas” to name a service for, I assumed, people grieving for departed loved ones or maybe with serious health […]

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