Good Stuff: 7/31/08
Thursday, July 31, 2008
I've been really busy at work lately, so I'll be the first to admit that I didn't pay much attention to Internet language stuff this month. That said, here are two links you might enjoy:
Wikipedia - Walla "In American radio, film, and television, walla is a sound effect imitating the murmur of a crowd in the background." There's a nice mention of the use of "rabble rabble rabble" on South Park.
Hi Dan, This has nothing to do with the last post but I thought you'd be interested in the comments regarding today's Star Tribune article: http://www.startribune.com/lifestyle/family/20598114.html?page=1&c=y
For those of you new to Notes from the Copy Editor, the sidebar has a little blog-within-a-blog of language stuff I've del.icio.us-ed. Every month or so, I highlight my very favorite links. The good stuff.
So here's my favorite language-related stuff for April:
H&FJ - Pilcrow & Capitulum Typographer Jonathan Hoefler explains the origin of the paragraph mark and the choices you can make while designing it. He followed up this post with a similar introduction to the ampersand. via wordworker.
Wikipedia - Mopery I thought this was just a synonym of the gerund moping, but Wikipedia introduced me to two interesting alternative definitions: "walking down the street with no clear destination or purpose" and "exposing oneself to a statue or blind person."
Wisconsin Englishes Podcast A defunct podcast covering the various Wisconsin dialects. If you've ever been to Wisconsin, then you'll find the first three or four episodes especially interesting. The first episode ("Yah Hey!") has a great song about the Fox River Valley at the 11:40 mark. I just discovered this, but Mr. Verb was blogging about it years ago.
speaking of "the uselessness of the uselessness of [grammar/punctuation rule here] online," I have discovered, as I do much more writing in forums, etc., and composing as I type, that I am *very* likely to close my quote, and then decide I want to continue or end my sentence.
Which leads me to spontaneously use the British style of periods or commas outside quotes.
It has amazed me, how often I do this sort of thing:
Just say "cheese", and I'll take the picture.
I end up doing the same thing, and it irks me to no end because I much prefer the American system, the pro-British advocacy of Language Log notwithstanding.
Good Stuff: 1/05/08
Saturday, January 5, 2008
There've been an unusual amount of real estate marketing materials to proofread lately — my job for the past few weeks has essentially been removing anything that references the ADS Word of the Year — and so I haven't gotten around to making one of these linky lists.
Until now! Here's some especially good stuff from this past month:
Good Stuff: 12/01/07
Saturday, December 1, 2007
It's been more than a month, but that's mostly intentional this time. Here's some especially good stuff I've found since the last installment. I could call this the November edition if I hadn't procrastinated.
Motivated Grammar This blog won me over instantly: the subtitle is "Prescriptivism Must Die!" and there's a whole series of posts on how to use the apostrophe! It's also far more articulate on these subjects than I am. via Bradshaw of the Future.
Anyone who knows me shouldn't be too surprised to learn that it was the chapter's invention/use of a precise technical vocabulary to describe punctuation concepts that intrigued me the most. Below: some highlights.
Here's an early, crucial distinction between segmental and non-segmental punctuation.
The punctuation marks are all segmental units of writing — i.e. they fully occupy a position in the linear sequence of written symbols. There are, however, various non-segmental features which can serve the same kind of purpose as the punctuation marks. For example, titles of literary or other works may be italicised as an alternative to being enclosed in quotation marks.
Note that the Cambridge Grammar classes accents and umlauts as spelling, not punctuation — I don't have my own copy (yet), so I'm curious to see how they classify the New Yorker's use of diereses. That looks like non-segmental punctuation to me.
Before they get into the nitty-gritty of punctuation, the authors make a distinction between signifier and signified that would make Saussure proud:
In virtually all written material the apostrophe is physically — or, as we shall say, graphically — identical with a single quotation mark. We need, therefore, to distinguish between two kinds of concept which we will call indicators and characters. The characters are the graphical shapes, or symbols, that realise the indicators. Apostrophe and single quotation mark are then distinct indicators that may be realised by the same character.
In terms of specific punctuation, I enjoyed the lengthy discussion of How Commas Work, but it's much too long to quote here in any meaningful way.
However, there's a great part about the three types of hyphen.
At the first level we can distinguish three uses of the (ordinary) hyphen:
i. To join grammatical components in complex words: the hard hyphen
ii. To mark a break within a word at the end of a line: the soft hyphen
iii. To represent in direct speech either stuttering ('When c-c-can I come?') or exaggeratedly slow and careful pronunciation ('Speak c-l-e-a-r-l-y!')
The terms 'hard' and 'soft' are taken from word-processing: a hard hyphen is introduced into a document by a keystroke, while a soft one is inserted by the word-processing program.
Why — why? — did they not name that third hyphen type? The English geekery gods can be so cruel.
There's also a section on the en dash, which they call the long hyphen. I keep promising myself that I'll start using this consistently, but it's clearly the forgotten punctuation mark:
This is used instead of an ordinary syntactic hyphen with adjuncts consisting of nouns or proper names where the semantic relation is "between X and Y" or "from X to Y":
It can be used with more than two components, as in the London–Paris–Bonn axis. It is also found with adjectives derived from proper names: French–German relations. There is potentially a semantic contrast between the two hyphens, as in the Llewelyn–Jones Company (a partnership) vs the Llewelyn-Jones Company (with a single compound proper name). This hyphen is also used in giving spans of page numbers, dates or the like: pages 23–64, Franz Schubert (1797–1828).
Finally, there's a brief hat-tip to the separation apostrophe. This indicator category presumably includes the common-but-nonstandard greengrocer's apostrophe, but their examples mention only the form I've taken to calling the special-assignment plural apostrophe-S, the style choice that launched a thousand incorrections:
iii. separation: A's PhD's if's 1960's
A minor use of the apostrophe is to separate the plural suffix from the base, as in [7iii]; this occurs when the base consists of a letter (She got three A's in philosophy), certain kinds of abbreviation, a word used metalinguistically, or a numeral.
Good Stuff: 9/10/07
Monday, September 10, 2007
As you've probably noticed, the del.icio.us blog in the sidebar has prettymuch replaced my regular "Good Stuff" feature. But since so many people found it useful, I might keep x-posting "Good Stuff" on the main blog anyways. Or just go back to my usual system of one-offs disguised as fake "regular" features.
In the online edition of the St. Galler Tageblatt, there's a very nice interview with the Swiss writer and literature professor Urs Widmer. Here's an excerpt:
The language we use is full of Anglicisms. How far are you willing to accommodate Denglish?
Widmer: You know, my relationship to the language isn't a moralizing one. The language does what it does. And I watch what it does, and deploy that sometimes directly and straightforwardly, and sometimes with critical irony. But the language is always right. I'm against language wars, against complaints that too many English words are being used, too few French words, that we need to protect our dialect. I'm one of those people who floats upon the language like a cork, with a clear head.
stationary vs. stationery Fight homonym confusion! I found two of these yesterday, and after double-checking at Bartleby, I wrote back to the writer in question with the advice that "stationAry is the Adjective."
(Re McCarthy post) There were a fair number of imaginary grammatical errors, too (the list on Language Log looked depressingly familiar) but one doesn't like to break the 5,000-word barrier in a post...
Good Stuff: 8/07/07
Thursday, August 9, 2007
Language Log - Pails and flounders I'm calling it now: Language Log post of the year. What editor could resist a taxonomy of errors with four new category labels? Also, Zwicky deserves kudos for attempting to halt the semantic (over)generalization of eggcorn. It turns out that old-fashioned malapropisms can still exist after all.
When Socialites Write Books I was amused by the lede to this scathing review, in which The Hater focuses her disregard on manny, and similar words that "can actually produce an adverse physical reaction in people."