1. n. The love of language

For the Fallen, by Laurence Binyon

by Louise


Marking the 100th anniversary of the outbreak of the First World War.

28 July, 2014


For the Fallen

With proud thanksgiving, a mother for her children,
England mourns for her dead across the sea.
Flesh of her flesh they were, spirit of her spirit,
Fallen in the cause of the free.

Solemn the drums thrill: Death august and royal
Sings sorrow up into immortal spheres.
There is a music in the midst of desolation
And a glory that shines upon our tears.

They went with songs to the battle, they were young,
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncountered:
They fell with their faces to the foe.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables at home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam.

But where our desires are and our hopes profound,
Felt as a well-spring that is hidden from sight,
To the innermost heart of their own land they are known
As the stars are known to the Night;

As the stars that shall be bright when we are dust,
Moving in marches upon the heavenly plain;
As the stars are starry in the time of our darkness,
To the end, to the end they remain.

– Laurence Binyon

Jolly hockey sticks, and other jolly posh stuff

by Louise

Catherine, Duchess of Cambridge Visits St Andrew's School

Do you ever have the urge to talk like a posh git Brit? When the need to sound like an overgrown English public schoolboy overwhelms you, just pepper your language with some of the following words and expressions – most of which are horribly outdated and only uttered nowadays by non-Brits pretending to be posh Brits — and you’ll be  well on your way to becoming a toff, a pompous twit, or a good old-fashioned Hooray Henry in no time at all. Jeeves and Wooster would be proud. Bottoms up, old boy!

By George! By golly! By ginger! By gosh!: Basically a posh old version of OMG! The mild oath or exclamation dates from the early 1600s, when “George” and the other g-words were used as substitutes for God to avoid blasphemy. The expression started off as “for George” or “before George,” according to the Oxford English Dictionary. The OED’s earliest example is from Ben Jonson’s 1598 play Every Man in His Humor: “I, Well! he knowes what to trust to, for George.” Here’s Henry Higgins, in one of the expression’s more famous examples:

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TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (July 25)

by Louise


An appropriate name for this type of doctor ... (seen on Manhattan’s Upper West Side)

TGIF. Language and usage in the news this week: a missing comma in a tweet; how to pronounce a footballer’s name; Zach Braff’s bad grammar; and a different typ(o) of freedom …

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AP sent the Twittersphere into a frenzy when it left an important comma out of one its tweets:


Yes, we do need commas. Even when we’re tweeting …

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Zach Braff used bad grammar on purpose in the title of his new movie, Wish I Was Here. Read the rest of this entry »

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (July 18)

by Louise


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky …

In language and grammar news this past fortnight: a fight over the name Duke (which doesn’t include Bo, Luke or Daisy); the grammar of police shootings; a possible typo in the Declaration of Independence; the effect of bad spelling on sales – but how it can also save you a fortune; and a treasure-trove of lists from mental_floss — which include ancient slang for sex and origins of nursery rhymes and state names.


John Wayne’s heirs are duking it out in court with Duke University (in North Carolina) to use his longstanding nickname — “Duke” — to market a line of bourbon. The BBC has the report. 

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Orange Is the New Grammar Nerd

by Louise

Spoiler Entitlement

Is Piper Chapman — the most famous of Litchfield Federal Penitentiary’s inmates — a grammatical descriptivist or prescriptionist? Well, we got to find out recently during the second season of the Netflix runaway hit, Orange Is the New Black. Who would ever have guessed that we would discover something as important as Piper’s stance on grammar and usage?

Halfway through the seventh episode, during a meeting of Piper’s newly formed newsletter committee, a heated discussion about language usage unfolds (weirdly covering some of the same ground that Weird Al did in his Word Crimes video yesterday).

Flaca starts the nit-picking, identifying Lorna’s phrase “I could care less” in her newsletter contribution as being a grammar fail. “If you could care less, that means you still care. You know what I’m saying? Cause, like, it is possible for you to care less.”

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Weird Al gets it

by Louise


It’s weird but true: “Weird Al” Yankovic actually gets grammar.

To promote his new album, Mandatory Fun, Weird Al is releasing a new video every day for each of the tracks on the CD. Today’s video is the song “Word Crimes” — a take-off of Robin Thicke’s “Blurred Lines”. It’s music to the ears of us grammar nerds.

“I hate these word crimes / Like ‘I could care less’ / That means you DO care”

“I don’t want your drama / If you really wanna / Leave out that Oxford comma”

And if you can’t stop committing these word crimes, then Al suggests that “you should hire / some cunning linguist / who can help you distinguish / what’s proper English …”

Anyone who understands the difference between less and fewer and that irony is not coincidence (yes, he manages to slip both those words crimes in) is a man after my own heart.

Knock yourself out, Glossophiles, and sing along with Al …

Hat-tip to Lil …

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (July 11)

by Louise


TGIF. In the world of Glosso news this week: singular soccer grammar; rude Somali nicknames; a “Strunk and White for Spies”; and what makes American literature American?

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9Gag makes a gag about World Cup teams (or lack thereof) — but the comments underneath the soccer meme address a much more serious issue: football grammar. Germany have a team? Since when is a singular country a plural subject? Since when it comes to footie, it seems. (An earlier Glossophilia post also walked us through this strange anomaly found in soccer language, at least on one side of the pond …)

*   *   * Read the rest of this entry »

The Schwalbe – a dishonest dive

by Louise

dive2   dive1


In football (and I don’t mean American football), certain tricky players try to gain an unfair advantage by deliberately diving to the ground — sometimes feigning injury during the dramatic tumble — to make it look like a foul by the opponent. A dive* is what that tactic is commonly called; or a Schwalbe, if you’re German, Dutch, or just very hip to soccer lingo. I’m not any of those, but my Dutch friend is …

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To be twee, or not to be twee

by Louise


On June 3, Marc Spitz’s new book, Twee: The Gentle Revolution in Music, Books, Television, Fashion and Film was published by IT Books/Harper Collins.

But hang on a minute: what does twee actually mean? An adjective with slightly onomatopoeic and diminutive implications  – originally thought to represent a childish pronunciation of sweet, its straightforward meaning according to the OED is sweet, dainty or chic; but this British colloquialism has a distinctively derogatory flavor — one that smacks of more affectedly and repellently quaint: precious or overly saccharine, rather than simply sweet.

The Telegraph in summing up Philippe Le Guay’s movie Cycling with Moliere declares that “twee groanishness abounds”. An English reader gets exactly what that means, even if we haven’t seen the film in question: we’re unlikely to pay the cost of admission and candied popcorn if we’re in for an evening of groanish twee. But have Americans taken that quaint 4-letter word and taken it too far — or gone slightly off course in their understanding of it? Read the rest of this entry »

TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky (July 4)

by Louise


TGIF: That Gerund Is Funky … In the news this fortnight: a tweety faux pas from a shadow chancellor; an English invasion (linguistically) of India; a renowned school’s embarrassing spelling error; the Irish roots of American slang; Kelsey Grammer talks grammar on Twitter; learning languages in your sleep; and just what language did Jesus speak?

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British shadow chancellor Ed Balls ballsed up recently when he tweeted a picture of himself in Edinburgh with Scottish Labour leader Johann Lamont and deputy leader Anas Sarwar. Sharing the image with his 125,000 Twitter followers, he captioned it: “Good pic from @AnusSarwar.” Ooops!


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