Tag Archives: language


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.


Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

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.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

Why Swear Words?

The blog, Barking up the wrong tree asks, Is there any real need for swear words? And then answers it:

If you’re trying to emotionally affect the listener and make them remember what you say, yes.

Swear words don’t have magic powers but our brains do react to them differently and the effects can be measured.


See the link for an explanation plus related links.

I occasionally swear, but one couldn’t say that I am marked by the practice. I use it sparingly, and usually for the effect intended. Teenagers who write on blogs seem to be the most prolific users…or people like Al Swearengen whose character made liberal use of it on the HBO series Deadwood.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

‘They’re, Like, Way Ahead of the Linguistic Currrrve’

The New York Times just published an article with the above title that tries to convince the reader how young women are trendsetters in vocal patterns, pioneers in stylistic trends. How sad—we can now all speak like a valley girl.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

Henry Hitchings on Language

From The Browser, FiveBook Interviews:

The wordsmith and cultural historian debunks common myths about English, recommends the smartest writing about words, and says apostrophes are “orthographic squiggles” not worth fighting for

Read the whole thing at the link.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

So Why Read Anymore?

An article by Victor Davis Hanson, which asks the question:

So what are the reasons, in this age of the iPhone, Xbox, and PlayStation — or Fox News blondes and HBO — to sit down and read old stuff for an hour or two each week?

And then answers it.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2012 James Ament

Flapdoodle, Doublespeak, Soft Language, and Gobbledygook

From Richard Nordquist, clear definitions and a little history in plain language.

Flapdoodle is one of many English words (some more fashionable than others) that refer to speech or writing that doesn’t make a lot of sense:

balderdash, baloney, bilge, blather, bull, bullshit, bunk, bunkum, claptrap, cobblers, crap, drivel, eyewash, flapdoodle, foolishness, garbage, guff, hogwash, hokum, hooey, hot air, malarkey, moonshine, nonsense, piffle, poppycock, prattle, rubbish, slipslop, tommyrot, tosh, trash, tripe, twaddle

Three related terms, all coined in the 20th century, deserve special attention: doublespeak, soft language and gobbledygook. Though not exactly synonymous, these three expressions refer to language that’s almost always deliberately used to baffle, bamboozle, befog, beguile, bluff, buffalo, confuse, deceive, dupe, hoodwink, mystify, obfuscate, and perplex.

Read the whole thing and then consider your “automobile relationship consultant” (car sales ‘person’) and your standard politician.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament

Words We Don’t Say

A list of annoying words could get very long, if you work at it… From ZMKC, “the words on this list should be avoided.” I liked comment number 23 from the referenced NYT article—a lesson in clarity:

When I was starting out as a reporter, my editor corrected a sentence of mine that began “The mayor was pleased with the outcome…” to “The major *says* he was pleased with the outcome.” It taught me a valuable lesson about distinguishing appearances from reality.

Digiprove sealCopyright secured by Digiprove © 2011 James Ament