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In 2009, we had the pleasure of speaking with Roy Blount, Jr. on the occasion of the publication of Alphabet Juice
, a compilation of his linguistic musings presented in dictionary style. Now he's back with the sequel, titled, naturally, Alphabetter Juice
. Blount's wit is just as sharp in this followup, which he subtitles "The Joy of Text." Here are a few choice excerpts from the letter A.
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When people talk about whether a word is "in the dictionary," have you stopped to think about what "the dictionary" actually means? In the following excerpt from her new book How to Read a Word
, Elizabeth Knowles takes readers on a brief tour of the dictionary and its historical authority, informed by the likes of Voltaire and Samuel Johnson.
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The BBC Magazine ran a piece by Matthew Engel last week entitled, "Why do some Americanisms irritate people?" The Beeb then asked its readers to single out the American expressions they most despise, and in a followup gathered the top 50 peeves. The reader query generated a huge response -- 1,295 comments were posted before the BBC closed down the comment section -- but the most entertaining and incisive reactions came from language bloggers.
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I used to be a personal journal person. Every January I would buy one of those 6x9 inch spiral wildlife calendars, the kind where you can see a week at a glance and have lots of space to write. At the end of each day, before I turned off my light, I'd scrawl in very tiny handwriting all my thoughts for the day. Sometimes I didn't say much. Other times I went into the margins or the white space below the pictures.
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"Chicago stretches along the shore of Lake Michigan, which makes a beautiful shore drive possible." This sentence has a problem with pronoun-antecedent agreement: which
is vague; its antecedent (the noun the pronoun stands for) is unclear. Today, we'll review some basics of pronoun-antecedent agreement and find out why agreement is so important.
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With the final Harry Potter movie opening this weekend, many are reflecting on the last legacy of J.K. Rowling's oeuvre. In print and on screen, the Harry Potter franchise has been incredibly successful, and it's only natural that such a mass phenomenon would leave its imprint on popular culture, including the popular lexicon. Rowling's inventive use of language has been a key to conjuring the fantasy world of the Potterverse, and that language has seeped into real-world usage as well.