Are you a dreamer? I've had a few myself. That one where my pet lizard Ronnie convinced me to betray humanity to the alien lizards who control all governments was a doozy. Betraying Earth is one thing, but I would never have a pet lizard! But that's not the kind of dreamer that made a few recent headlines. Rather, a dreamer is an undocumented immigrant, usually a young person, who may have been brought to the U.S. as a child.  Continue reading...
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Zero derivation—that is, the ability of a word to perform different grammatical functions without a change in form—is a celebrated feature of English. A sideshow of zero derivation is the fact that English has no barrier to using a principal verb form—the past participle—as an adjective. What's not to love, you may think, about the simplicity of using a single form to do so many jobs? I have no argument with this fantastic and flexible feature of English, only with the license it gives speakers and writers to use it in a weaselly way.  Continue reading...
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We're coming up on the 240th anniversary of the signing of the chief founding document of the United States, the one we call the Declaration of Independence—now its official title, even though that wording doesn't appear on the document itself. When written, the document called itself "the unanimous Declaration of the thirteen united States of America," admittedly less catchy than the name that now prevails.  Continue reading...
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Last month I mentioned the odd new nonsense-clature lingerie company Neon Moon is using for their clothes: preposterously, numbered sizes are being replaced by lovely, beautiful, and gorgeous.That reminded me of the Arrested Development episode in which a new-age school gave Maeby Funke a crocodile rather than a C, in hopes of sparing her fragile, flower-like self-esteem. Somehow I forgot an even battier euphemism from the same episode.  Continue reading...
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This month marks the 50th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court's decision in Miranda v. Arizona. The decision, handed down on June 13, 1966, ushered vocabulary into American English that is in nearly everyone's lexicon today, including Miranda Rights, Miranda Warnings, and even the verb mirandize, which means "recite the Miranda warnings (to a person under arrest)". Nearly 10 years after Miranda, philosopher of language Paul Grice began to develop his theory of conversational implicature and the Gricean Maxims that are part and parcel of it.  Continue reading...
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Garner's Modern English Usage, which just released its fourth edition, is potentially a damn useful thing to me. And after looking through Bryan A. Garner's latest, I can report that the potential is realized: this is an extremely useful and sensible guide. I don't know if I would sleep with it under my pillow, but I won't keep it far from my desk.  Continue reading...
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Sarah Palin, the former Alaska governor and 2008 vice-presidential candidate, briefly made headlines last month when it was announced that she'd signed a production deal for a TV "reality" show set in a courtroom. "She'll preside over the courtroom of common sense," according to Larry Lyttle, the man behind the deal. If the show materializes, it won't be the first time a politician has claimed "common sense" as a preeminent virtue.  Continue reading...
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