Blog Profile / Literal Minded

Filed Under:Academics / Linguistics
Posts on Regator:195
Posts / Week:0.5
Archived Since:February 24, 2008

Blog Post Archive

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 […]

Changing History

So, about that news-related idea for a post that my mother had last week… Another of the reporters talking about the Kennedy assassination said something along the lines of: Fifty years ago today, Lee Harvey Oswald changed history. Mom’s observation (eagerly seconded by Dad): No, he didn’t. You can’t change history unless you have a […]

A Handful of Language Links

Learn to read Korean in 15 minutes, in comic form, by Ryan Estrada. (Hat tip to All Things Linguistic.) Written by psycholinguist Jessica Love, Psycho-Babble is the Thursday flavor of the Daily Scholar column, which is part of Phi Beta Kappa’s online magazine American Scholar. In what I take to be a misguided attempt to […]

Adverbial Nouns in the News

Listening to the various news stories observing the 50th anniversary of the assassination of John F. Kennedy, I heard one reporter talking about a commemoration going on in Dallas. She said, The ceremonies will take place at the very location he was killed. In my grammar, location doesn’t work this way. I can say either […]

Conditional Imperfection

“Rocco was doing it again today,” Adam told Doug at supper one night. His classmate Rocco has a habit of making contrarian claims, seemingly just for the purpose of arguing about them. “He was saying that Jews can be atheists.” Maybe Rocco had some kind of idea that an atheist Jew would be something like […]

All of Which

Last week was the last football game of the season for Doug’s high school. As such, it was “senior night,” when the seniors on the football team received a pre-game recognition. As I looked on, I heard the announcer say …our senior players, all of which are donning their uniform for the final time tonight. […]

Trick or Trunk or Treat

Two years ago, I wrote about the history of the phrase trick or treat. This year, I’ve become aware of a new variant on trick-or-treating. The online version of the Philadelphia Inquirer summed up the concept in an article last week: Trunk-or-treat — the All Hallows’ Eve version of tailgating — appears to be increasing […]


One day in August, I picked up Doug and a couple of his friends from band rehearsal (remember Ken and Holt?). It was a special day, because after a couple of weeks of anticipation, the band members’ bibbers had come in. Doug, Holt, and Ken were each carrying a plastic bag with a folded black […]

We and They

I was asking Doug about his classes a couple of weeks ago, and a little tingle of anticipation went up my spine when he told me that in English class that day, his teacher had been talking about grammar. Yes! It was about time for some grammar, after all that business with their summer reading […]

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