As we discovered to our delight last week, we all use a grammar rule — a fairly complicated one involving the ordering of adjectives by property — without even realizing it. If you were hiding under a rock and missed the memo, you can see it explained in Matthew Anderson’s tweet, the viral post that was responsible for lighting up our inner grammatical souls. But what might delight you even more is to learn that there is in fact a big bad exception to this awesome astronomical rule, and you know that rule too … Continue reading
In usage and grammar news this past month: how and why we curse (or swear, if you’re a profane Brit); a new app for grammar snobs; a celebrity scolds Siri for mispronouncing her name; names that parents regret giving their babies; the true nature of the word gypsy; and a grammar rule that we all use without knowing it. Continue reading
TGIF … In language and usage news this month (and it’s been a good one), we have a Presidential hopeful having some trouble abroad — in pronouncing the name of that place he’s never been to; some landmark capitalization rules (or make that “DEcap” rules) at the AP; how personality is behind grammar nazis; does the name “Jim Wilson” mean anything to you (especially if you’re in the aviation world)?; find out which words were born in the same year as yours truly; the difference between anti-Semitism and anti-Zionism; some words made famous on an iconic TV show; and some dope on pugs … Continue reading
Anyone who has seen Carol — or read The Price of Salt on which the movie is based — will remember how often our heroine lights up during the story. And by that I mean she lights a cigarette, although most will agree that she also lights up the room — and simply lights up — when she’s portrayed by the great Cate Blanchett on the big screen. But here’s a question: we’re back in the ’50s here, very much in the past tense, so is it correct to say that she “lighted” cigarettes, or that she “lit” them? What would you say? Continue reading
That Gerund Is Funky — Feb issue. Recently in grammar and language news: a Palin portmanteau that NPR’s Ari Shapiro can’t let go of; Oxford Dictionaries faces an accusation of sexism; a grammar quiz from The Independent; how to pronounce the name of a Dutch musician with a Swedish-sounding surname; the new legitimacy of the singular ‘they’; and the end of the road for a punctuation mark? Continue reading
Speaking at his televised town hall meeting on gun control this evening, President Obama caught himself making a classic linguistic gaffe involving the past tense of the verb “to shrink”. I shrink, I shrank, I have shrunk; it shrinks, it shrank, it has been shrunk. But as Obama talked about the ATF budget in the past passive, he picked the wrong participle — as many people tend to do with the verb these days. “It is absolutely true that the ATF budget has been shrank,” our President said, with a slightly faltering voice that hinted he knew he’d messed up. And sure enough, after skipping just a couple of beats, he provided one of the few moments of levity in the evening’s otherwise deadly serious discussion, when he corrected himself with a smile and an apology for his tardy self-edit: “Has been shrunk. It is a little late,” he said, realizing that he fessed up a bit too long after he made his gaffe, and eliciting the one and only peal of laughter from his audience, “but you knew what I meant.” We know what you meant, Barack. But we’re glad you realized and pointed out your mistake. Even you can be fallible.
See Glossophilia’s earlier post on the shrunk/shrank confusion that gets even the most articulate and eloquent speakers.
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Talking of “verbing”, as Glossophilia was doing yesterday, we had a lovely example of it coming from the U.S.’s favorite presidential wannabe a couple of days ago, as Dana Milbank reported colorfully in the Washington Post today: Continue reading
Yes, that’s a real headline: it appeared in USA Today last month. Glosso is a little behind the curve here, having missed this important political news when it first broke at the beginning of October — but hey: it’s never too late to help educate the electorate, especially in the all-important matter of grammatical competence. If you’re still on the fence about which party or presidential candidate you’re going to support over the coming 12 months (but do hurry up, because you’ve only got a year left to decide), and grammar happens to be an important voting issue for you, we have some useful inside info, courtesy Grammarly. Here’s the scoop. Continue reading