Showing posts with label grammar/spelling/vocabulary. Show all posts
Showing posts with label grammar/spelling/vocabulary. Show all posts

Monday, June 23, 2008

George Carlin

The first thing I read this morning was the news about George Carlin, who, for as long as I can remember, was my favorite comic. And not just because he was in Bill and Ted's Excellent Adventure -- one of my favorite movies -- but because he was, at heart, a grammarian. He is one of the first people who got me thinking about words -- sometimes the dirty ones -- in a deeper way.

Here's a story: In 11th grade, some friends and I made a movie. It started out as a bunch of planned out sketches, but eventually broke down into us roaming around the halls, videotaping whatever amused us at the time. And in a tribute to Heathers, we decided to take lunchtime polls. This was right after I discovered George Carlin. So my contribution to the poll questions was first to steal "Why do you park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?" and later, continuing down the linguistic path, to open to random pages of the dictionary and to ask people to come up with definitions of the more unusual words.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Oxford Comma

Yesterday, Stuff White People Like noted that white people really like grammar.

Guess that makes me white, because I'm guilty as charged.

But you know what's better than grammar? Songs about punctuation. Specifically, the serial comma:

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Guns and commas

I stumbled across a New York Times op-ed piece parsing the grammar of the Second Amendment -- a comma, in particular -- in relation to the case overturning DC's gun ban.

According to the court, the second comma divides the amendment into two clauses: one “prefatory” and the other “operative.” On this reading, the bit about a well-regulated militia is just preliminary throat clearing; the framers don’t really get down to business until they start talking about “the right of the people ... shall not be infringed.”

The circuit court’s opinion is only the latest volley in a long-simmering comma war. In a 2001 Fifth Circuit case, a group of anti-gun academics submitted an amicus curiae (friend of the court) brief arguing that the “unusual” commas of the Second Amendment support the collective rights interpretation. According to these amici, the founders’ use of commas reveals that what they really meant to say was “a well-regulated militia ... shall not be infringed.”

This is like porn for lawyers and grammarians.

Monday, November 26, 2007

Test your knowledge

It's been a busy night and I still have to fold laundry. So here are two links that will either frustrate you or make you smarter: Free Rice and The Almost-Impossible Rock & Roll Quiz.

Tuesday, January 02, 2007


Maybe this is me being hypercritical, but would it have killed the folks in my leasing office to use spellcheck?

Seriously, though -- if it was just on the one sign, it could have been dismissed as a typo, but the fact that it shows up on two different signs means that someone can't spell January. (Which is not even as hard as "February." Or "Wednesday.")

Thursday, October 26, 2006

Why is grammar so very important?

Time to grab your copy of Strunk & White and ponder this for a bit:

A contract dispute in Canada centers on what's being called a million-dollar comma. Canada's telecommunications regulator has decided that a misplaced comma in a contract concerning telephone poles will allow a company to save an estimated 2 million dollars (Canadian).


The contract between cable company Rogers Communications and telephone company Bell Aliant allowed Rogers to use Bell Aliant's telephone polls. Bell Aliant sought to get out of the deal.

Canada's telecommunications regulator said the case hinged on the placement of the second comma in this clause:

"This agreement shall be effective from the date it is made and shall continue in force for a period of five (5) years from the date it is made, and thereafter for successive five (5) year terms, unless and until terminated by one year prior notice in writing by either party."

Rogers had insisted the contract was good for at least five years; Aliant said the comma denotes that the deal can be terminated at five years -- or before, as long as one year's notice is given.

The devil is always in the details.

Many thanks to Nicole for sending me the link.