Category: Usage

December 19, 2013

Now on Visual Thesaurus: “Electrocution: A Shocking Misuse?”

I have a new post up on Visual Thesaurus about the use, misuse, and history of the word electrocute. Some usage commentators today insist that it be used only to refer to death by electric shock; that is, you can’t say you’ve been electrocuted if you lived to tell the tale. But the history, unsurprisingly, […]

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Usage, Words 2 Replies to “Now on Visual Thesaurus: “Electrocution: A Shocking Misuse?””
December 12, 2013

Yes, Irregardless Is a Word

My last post, “12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes about Grammar Mistakes Makes”, drew a lot of comments, some supportive and some critical. But no point drew as much ire as my claim that irregardless is a word. Some stated flatly, “Irregardless is not a word.” One ignorantly demanded, “Show me a dictionary that actually […]

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Sociolinguistics, Usage, Words 28 Replies to “Yes, Irregardless Is a Word”
November 18, 2013

12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes

There are a lot of bad grammar posts in the world. These days, anyone with a blog and a bunch of pet peeves can crank out a click-bait listicle of supposed grammar errors. There’s just one problem—these articles are often full of mistakes of one sort or another themselves. Once you’ve read a few, you […]

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Grammar, Prescriptivism, Usage 165 Replies to “12 Mistakes Nearly Everyone Who Writes About Grammar Mistakes Makes”
May 16, 2013

My Thesis

I’ve been putting this post off for a while for a couple of reasons: first, I was a little burned out and was enjoying not thinking about my thesis for a while, and second, I wasn’t sure how to tackle this post. My thesis is about eighty pages long all told, and I wasn’t sure […]

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Descriptivism, Editing, Prescriptivism, Usage 16 Replies to “My Thesis”
May 8, 2013

The Reason Why This Is Correct

There’s a long-running debate over whether the construction reason why is acceptable. Critics generally argue that why essentially means reason, so saying reason why is like saying reason twice. Saying something twice is redundant, and redundancy is bad; ergo, reason why is bad. This is really a rather bizarre argument. Reason is a noun; why […]

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Grammar, Usage 31 Replies to “The Reason Why This Is Correct”
December 24, 2012

Relative Pronoun Redux

A couple of weeks ago, Geoff Pullum wrote on Lingua Franca about the that/which rule, which he calls “a rule which will live in infamy”. (For my own previous posts on the subject, see here, here, and here.) He runs through the whole gamut of objections to the rule—that the rule is an invention, that […]

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Descriptivism, Grammar, Prescriptivism, Usage 16 Replies to “Relative Pronoun Redux”
November 23, 2012

Hanged and Hung

The distinction between hanged and hung is one of the odder ones in the language. I remember learning in high school that people are hanged, pictures are hung. There was never any explanation of why it was so; it simply was. It was years before I learned the strange and complicated history of these two […]

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Grammar, Historical linguistics, Semantics, Usage, Words 10 Replies to “Hanged and Hung
November 20, 2012

The Enormity of a Usage Problem

Recently on Twitter, Mark Allen wrote, “Despite once being synonyms, ‘enormity’ and ‘enormousness’ are different. Try to keep ‘enormity’ for something evil or outrageous.” I’ll admit right off that this usage problem interests me because I didn’t learn about the distinction until a few years ago. To me, they’re completely synonymous, and the idea of […]

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Semantics, Usage, Words 15 Replies to “The Enormity of a Usage Problem”
October 1, 2012

Funner Grammar

As I said in the addendum to my last post, maybe I’m not so ready to abandon the technical definition of grammar. In a recent post on Copyediting, Andrea Altenburg criticized the word funner in an ad for Chuck E. Cheese as “improper grammar”, and my first reaction was “That’s not grammar!” That’s not entirely […]

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Grammar, Usage, Words 22 Replies to “Funner Grammar”
September 25, 2012

It’s All Grammar—So What?

It’s a frequent complaint among linguists that laypeople use the term grammar in such a loose and unsystematic way that it’s more or less useless. They say that it’s overly broad, encompassing many different types of rules, and that it allows people to confuse things as different as syntax and spelling. They insist that spelling, […]

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Grammar, Semantics, Usage, Words 9 Replies to “It’s All Grammar—So What?”
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