Is it who or whom?

From The Chronicle of Higher Education:

[The] one thing that the nitpicking grammar Nazis hate most: diversity. Variation within Standard English. There seems to be no agreed unitary rule governing the inflection of who where it functions as subject of a clause to which it is not adjacent.

And why should there be? Nobody ordained or guaranteed that English would be uniquely fixed at all points. I’m sorry if you wanted it to be otherwise, but no Dark Lord has dominion over English grammar, with one rule to ring them all, and in the darkness bind them.


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Thoughts on the semicolon

One of my favorite authors, Elmore Leonard, doesn’t use semicolons in dialog. Kurt Vonnegut doesn’t like them at all. Paul G. Allen, cofounder of Microsoft, apparently likes to use them in a manner opposite of their purpose, which is to join related clauses. Kind of weird—from Throw Grammar From the Train.

Read the short piece to see what joining unrelated clauses looks like.

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Writers’ Favorite Punctuation Marks

From the Atlantic Wire—Goodness, am I supposed to have “favorite” punctuation marks? Sorry, I just write and try to use the correct punctuation to convey the exact meaning I want.

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The Politically Incorrect Etymologies of 11 Words and Phrases

From Mental Floss:

At various moments in its life, a word will hop languages, change meanings, travel through sinister moments and land in pleasant ones. But no matter how many times it’s superimposed, and how far it gets from its original source, a word doesn’t let go of its memories easily. Here are 11 modern English words with socially insensitive origins.


Read the list at the above link.

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Despicable Words

From The Atlantic Wire, by Jen Doll:

First, let it be said that words are not terrible. Often, word-hate is not the fault of the word itself; it’s due to the meanings humans have attributed to the poor word. It’s us, not them. Now that we’ve gotten that out of the way, let’s just say that the public has many opinions about which of our frequently or occasionally used English words are “bad” or “good.” On Friday I’d argued, in response to Sarah Miller’s nomination of literally as the worst word on the planet, that the dubious achievement actually belongs to actually. As it turns out this is a topic a lot of people have feelings about, so many feelings that we could practically create an entire dictionary of words you hate. So we did. The following A to Z list is culled from your comments, emails, tweets, and occasionally from our own strong opinions.


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The Most Comma Mistakes, from The New York Times; and Some Comma Questions, a follow-up article.

Plus, 11 Most Common Grammar Gaffes on Social Media from the brainyard.


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89 Business Cliches

From Forbes (Hat tip: Ann Althouse)

I retired from corporate management a few years ago, but reading through these cliches brought back memories, and reminded me how “with it” we all were at the company where I worked. It also made me want to laugh at our perceived self-importance!

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I’ve Often Wondered What “Metrosexual” Meant…

From neo-neocon, Metrosexuals of the world unite, helps explain it. Summary: think of the term dandy, “a guy you can take to the opera…If you happen to want to go there.”

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Arguing About Language

From The New York Times—an excerpt:

…there will always be a tension between sticking to and violating linguistic rules.  We can, however, often fruitfully discuss emerging linguistic innovations if we keep in mind three main goals of language use: effective communication, pleasing expression and moral solidarity.

Language is, first of all, a tool for saying as well as possible what we intend to say. (Bold mine)

Unless you’re a member of the political class whose primary objective is to obfuscate.

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On Linguistics

Angry words—Will one researcher’s discovery deep in the Amazon destroy the foundation of modern linguistics? Taking aim at Noam Chomsky…Hmmmm. The beginning of the article from The Chronicle of Higher Education:

A Christian missionary sets out to convert a remote Amazonian tribe. He lives with them for years in primitive conditions, learns their extremely difficult language, risks his life battling malaria, giant anacondas, and sometimes the tribe itself. In a plot twist, instead of converting them he loses his faith, morphing from an evangelist trying to translate the Bible into an academic determined to understand the people he’s come to respect and love.

Along the way, the former missionary discovers that the language these people speak doesn’t follow one of the fundamental tenets of linguistics, a finding that would seem to turn the field on its head, undermine basic assumptions about how children learn to communicate, and dethrone the discipline’s long-reigning king, who also happens to be among the most well-known and influential intellectuals of the 20th century.

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