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Category Archives: Language

Brotherhood of the Traveling Pants

I wonder, are “security breeches” similar to chastity belts? I may want security breeches myself if I’m asked to go through a backscatter X-ray next time I’m traveling by plane…

This Headline Contains No Puns

Here is the beginning of the New York Times stylebook’s entry for “puns.” puns have a place in the newspaper, but as a trace element rather than a staple. A pun should be a surprise encounter, evoking a sly smile rather than a groan and flattering the intelligence of a reader who gets the joke. […]

Shepherd, Shepard, Sheperd

It’s impressive, in a way, that Google Maps manages to spell this Oakland locale three different ways in about one square inch of map. Of course, some ‘Shephard Canyon’ partisans might argue that all three are incorrect. (Yahoo Maps follows general convention, and official City of Oakland terminology, by going with ‘Shepherd Canyon’ for all […]

Hearing Punctuation

A blogger at Crooked Timber, Eszter Hargittai, has a complaint: Too often I encounter the following kind of sentence: “I’m wondering if people could improve their grammar?” One of my pet peeves is when people put question marks at the end of sentences beginning with “I wonder if”. I’m always left wondering if the person […]

Not Much is Really Sacred

From Steven Pinker’s op-ed in Thursday’s NY Times: Though the ungrammaticality of split verbs is an urban legend, it found its way into The Texas Law Review Manual on Style, which is the arbiter of usage for many law review journals. James Lindgren, a critic of the manual, has found that many lawyers have “internalized […]