Mar 25 2008

If a breach like this happens again I’m gonna have to take steps

I have just discovered Language Log. And I have to say, I’m flabbergasted on many levels. What’s the matter with all of you? Why have you been keeping this from me for the last six years? Is it because of my views on the ellipsis? Is it because I’m against tiny handbags? Do you hate me because I’m beautiful? Why? Why?

Behold an excerpt from a recent Language Log post. The author, Geoffrey K. Pullum, responds to one academic’s deep concern for the fate of the colon (“I note,” [writes the academic], “that in his work on the use of colons [”Colonic information,” 28 February], James Hartley has adopted the appalling American practice of following a colon by a capital letter.“). Quoth Pullum:

Some people really do have the threshold on their appallingness meter set to the wrong value, don’t they? If we are going to use up the word “appalling” on a tiny variation in orthographic conventions, what kind of adjective will be left to describe the taste of fermented soy beans in methylated spirits, or the sound of a cat being electrocuted during a child’s violin lesson?

It turns out that Language Log is featured in that book Ultimate Blogs, which anthology also showcases my own trenchant remarks on blow jobs (I am the world’s leading authority on blow jobs). I still haven’t seen a copy of this book, and was beginning to doubt its existence, but this guy breathes new life into its legend by linking to a New York Times review that pans it (the reviewer condescends to mention me as one of the book’s “calculatedly histrionic vituperators”), and then by reviewing it himself, a bit more gently. The “rants” at I Blame the Patriarchy are, he says “Edna’esque,” which I realized was a generous compliment after I reassured myself he didn’t mean Dame Edna.

Anyhow, this is how I found out about Language Log, no thanks to you useless blamers. Thanks, SimplisticArt guy!


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  1. Orange

    Well, sheesh. I’ve had Language Log bookmarked for ages and link to it from time to time. It’s hardly my fault you haven’t been reading my blog.

    I love those linguists for their descriptivist nature and their occasional debunking of Strunk & White crapola. So many of the “rules” we were all taught are bunkum and were invented by curmudgeons who liked Latin in the 1800s. “They” with a singular verb in lieu of “he,” “she,” or “one”? Has a proud history dating back centuries and is easily understood to boot. I like it, and the Language Loggers support it.

    Never end a sentence with a preposition? And never split an infinitive? Why? Because Latin doesn’t allow for split infinitives? Big fuckity fuck. This is English, not Latin, and I’ll split an infinitive if unsplitting it makes for an ugly sentence.

    One of the Language Loggers friended me on Facebook. I nearly swooned. Sure, he’s the one who went to college with someone I know, but still. You’re jealous, aren’t you?

  2. Panic

    Because Google Reader hasn’t sucked enough of my day…
    *adds feed*

  3. Chocolate Tort

    Orange captured it perfectly. Plus – the kerfluffle about feminists totally destroying the English language? PWN3D by our friends at Language Log. Dudes claiming that wimmin jabber nonstop, compared to the strong and silent menfolks? PWN3D multiple times at Language Log. The list goes on. We love us some Language Log.

  4. Pinko Punko

    I have discovered and forgotten Langy Labbo a bunch of times. I was wondering why I never saw you at all the parties. I find it is better to not bookmark such things so that once malaisical inexuberance increases to such a level, there is always something interesting to rediscover. They did go to town on Strunk and White, did they ever.

  5. panoptical

    I want to jump on the Language Log love bandwagon. You know, if you had a blogroll, everyone could know what you read and what you’re missing. Just sayin’. Anyhow, you have probably seen this but just in case you haven’t there’s this great little webcomic you might like called xkcd that contains this gem. And for some healthy slacktivism, there’s always Free Rice, a site that donates rice to the UN when you play their really addictive vocabulary game.

  6. mabisa

    Lord, how I love Language Log. They do a great job dissecting “the growing influence of pseudo-scientific neuro-biologism in American public discourse about sex roles” by thoroughly debunking much of the women’s-brains-are-like-this-but-men’s-brains-are-like-THIS bullshit that keeps making its way into the mainstream. I have several linguistics blogs in my feed reader, but LL is the only one I read on a regular basis.

  7. dr.sue

    Wow. I didn’t know about Language Log (and Orange, I read your blog nearly as obsessively as I read Twisty’s, so I can only assume that the universe has been protecting me from tossing away the daily 5 minutes I still have left to do actual work by temporarily disabling my link recognition mechanism). Thanks. I think.

  8. Lauredhel

    Well, sheesh. I’ve had Language Log bookmarked for ages and link to it from time to time. It’s hardly my fault you haven’t been reading my blog.

    I know, right? It’s been RIGHT THERE in our blogroll, Spiffy Smartarses division, all along.

    *huffs petulantly*

  9. The Hedonistic Pleasureseeker

    My personal fave:

    Torn Wings and Faux Pas: A Flashbook of Style, a Beastly Guide Through the Writer’s Labyrinth (Hardcover)
    by Karen Elizabeth Gordon (Author)

    The author of The Deluxe Transitive Vampire and The New Well-Tempered Sentence returns with a styleguide for the gothic set, featuring a cast of feathered duchesses, baby dragons, and lascivious banditti. As always, Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s sample sentences are beguiling enough to distract even the staunchest logophile from the matter at hand. Nonetheless, she manages to tidily dispose of some of the English language’s most ancient and troublesome dilemmas, from the difference between “affect” and “effect” to the intricacies of the split-infinitive debate. Enhanced by the tiny, whimsical line drawings of Rikki Ducornet, this is one styleguide you just might read like a novel.

    Los Angeles Times Sunday Book Review, Martha Barnette
    … surely the steamiest stylebook ever to sit on a reference shelf… Gordon’s advice about grammar and usage is sound, and just look at the fun she has righting misplaced modifiers, dispelling confusion about spelling and, most important, showing how syntactical precision makes for better writing…. The real problem with this sensuous yet sensible stylebook is the happy risk that readers who consult it may be lured into the labyrinth of Gordon’s witty imagination and forget what they were looking up in the first place.

  10. Lieutenant Rev. B. Dagger Lee

    Language Lab told us it wanted to see how long it took you to find it, and it complained endlessly (though elegantly) about how long you were taking. How does this work? Do you hide from Language Lab now?

    To forestall any more of these “why didn’t you tell me?” complaints, I’ve been authorized to reveal to you the existence of Bad Girls, an English drama series set in a woman’s prison, full of great actors, toothsome dyke drama, and which–like all women’s prison dramas–reveals the system of dominance and submission which enflames all eros in the patriarchy, with special emphasis on its warping effects on lesbian characters and viewers! Bad Girls is on the Logo channel, though you can order the DVDs from Logo Online, and it mustn’t be confused with the no doubt shitty American show of the same name.

    I never set foot in Her Majesty’s prison service, but I have spent some time as a teacher in Uncle Sam’s big house, and if you set aside some of the more outlandish plotlines necessary for drama, most of the details seem pretty realistic. It beats the shit out of The L-Word, which we watch purely because Miss Patsy enjoys criticizing it endlessly.

    Also, in case there’s another gap in your otherwise doubtlessly omniscient consciousness, I have to reveal to you that raisins DO NOT grow on “raisin bushes”–they are dried grapes, just as prunes are dried plums. Also, bats don’t lay eggs.

  11. Carol

    Did he mean Edna Turnblad-esque?

  12. Liberality

    I saw the book about blogs at my library. I was thumbing through it when I saw your writing. I then snapped it shut and took it to the counter to check it out. If that book has you in there it has got to be good.

  13. susanw

    Perhaps I should mention Recipes of the Damned, a site devoted to horrible concoctions from the 1950s. I happened on it while wondering if anybody, anywhere would make something from Spam, Miracle Whip, Jello, and canned fruit cocktail. Someone had.

  14. invisible

    I can’t apologize for it but I have an everlasting love for E.B. White. I will love him to my dying day, and thereafter—if possible.

  15. Ollie

    I, too, happily rediscover Language Log on occasion. Geoffrey Pullum is hilarious in person, as well (I was fortunate enough to take one of his linguistics classes in college). He complained about being hard of hearing because of his career as a rock superstar, but then gleefully subjected us to the singular pain that is a phonetics exam. Wonderful teacher.

  16. rootlesscosmo

    Besides Recipes of the Damned, I can recommend the Gallery of Regrettable Food


    And there’s a Twistological lesson here too, I think: these are the recipes the agro-food-media conglomerates thought up for all those women who were ordered back into the house, with the more-than-replacement-rate offspring, after WW2. Jello molds? Cottage cheese-raisin salads?


  17. LS

    I e-mailed you a link to Language Log just last week!

  18. Twisty

    “I e-mailed you a link to Language Log just last week!”

    What, now I’m supposed to read my email?

  19. Ann Bartow

    Mark Liberman, another author at The Language Log, does excellent take downs of Patriarchy apologists, see e.g.:




    There really are thousands of great blogs, which is yet another reason why y’all should avoid the toxic pseudo-feminist ones.

  20. thebewilderness

    I do so humbly beg your pardon. I just naturally thought, what with you being omniscient and all, and living in Texas, that you know all about the lovely Language Log.
    Then again, that whole ellipsis business did scrunch my nose a bit.

  21. Older

    Gosh, Twisty, I assumed you knew about Language Log all along.

  22. Foilwoman

    Of course, you, Twisty, all-knowing spinster aunt and gentleman farmer, have led me to the joy that is the Language Log and the new universes that open up in the world of linguistic blogging (can we say geeks?). I am so happy. Why haven’t I heard of these fine resources before? Obviously, I blame the patriarchy.

  23. magpie

    I want to be called a vituperator. I think I need to step up my crankiness.

  24. the Omphaloskeptic

    If you haven’t already run across it, I must especially recommend this post on The Most Pernicious Science Narrative of the Decade, which for fear of messing up my html tags I’m just going to leave as plaintext: http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/005448.html

  25. the Omphaloskeptic

    Ah. Auto-linking.


  26. invisible

    E.B. White—genderless, raceless:

    I discovered a long time ago that writing of the small things of the day, the trivial matters of the hearth, the inconsequential but near things of this living, was the only kind of creative work which I could accomplish with any sincerity or grace.”

  27. Helen

    Omphaloskeptic – that post is especially pertinent now that “Expelled” has come out (with P.Z Myers expelled from the preview, LOL)

  28. invisible

    Another penis…I know. (ellipsis-be-gone). Still, just because one has a penis doesn’t mean he’s ALL bad, right? Hormones? That argument makes me angry.

    Either which/way…

  29. invisible

    Piercings and tatoos:


    Don’t be fooled.

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