Tag Archives: linguistics

A Lighter Shade of Pale (#WordUse Series)

We’ve got exciting times goin’ on here in the good ol’ US of A, with one political party making some pretty interesting claims and the opposing party reacting with outrage. (See how I did that?) My Irish immigrant husband has spent hours watching debates and newscasts and commentaries on the television. He also follows the […]

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#WordUse Series:
May the Blessing of the Rain Be on You

We’ve had a drought here in the American South. It stopped raining in early August and didn’t start again until early December, after the irrigation system had been turned off for some weeks. So it seemed only appropriate to republish this post from 2012—a sort of written rain dance. Let me know how it works […]

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What’s In a Name?

One of the fundamental principles of structuralism is “the arbitrariness of the sign,” the idea that there is no necessary, existential connection between a word and its referent. Not “rightly is they called pigs,” as the man said, but by linguistic chance. Other words serve the same purpose in other languages. As Shakespeare observed, anticipating […]

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Short Saturday: Yes. This. (Hyperbole.)

I love slang but am less enamored of hyperbole, especially the kind that makes you sound like a thirteen-year-old (unless you’re writing fictional dialogue for young teens, in which instance go for it). In fact, I’m on record when it comes to the use of amazing, the patron saint of hyperbole, which is so overused […]

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Short Saturday: Voices of the Earth

I don’t know where I happened to stumble upon the Terralingua website— Terralingua works to sustain the biocultural diversity of life—the world’s precious heritage of biological, cultural, and linguistic diversity—through an innovative program of research, education, policy-relevant work, and on-the-ground action. —but I was impressed with their Voices of the Earth project, which documents the […]

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Short Saturday: True Confessions of a Reformed Pedant

Not long ago I wrote a (pedantic) post about two common usage errors that often come up when I am editing. One of them is the phrase begs the question. And yes, the actual meaning is difficult to grasp; I confess I have to sit very still and concentrate very hard. :) (It’s a term […]

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Short Saturday: More Military Slang

I wrote my post on the language of military men and their families some time ago, and had been saving it for an appropriate moment—like Memorial Day. (When I was younger, my birthday—30 May—was always Memorial Day, and Memorial Day was always the day the neighborhood pool opened: a great time for a California kid’s […]

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Begging the Penultimate Question

I have some bad news for you. You’ve been using that phrase wrong. I’ve had friends and colleagues use it wrong—in writing—and I have bitten my tongue, because, as you know, I am not a corrector unless I’ve been asked to be one. But I recently read it in Roxane Gay’s excellent (and moving) collection […]

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Short Saturday: The Joy of Editing

I just sent back a first pass edit on a well-researched novel set in the Middle Ages. I can tell you this only because it rang true; the few facts I know about medieval life could dance on the head of a pin with room to spare for several angels. But I knew enough to […]

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Don’t Be Trolling: “A Typo Is Just a Typo”

Every so often I read something one of my friends has written and think, Man, I wish I’d written that! Which is exactly how I felt when I read this one from writer/editor Beth Bates. :) And with the Read Play Edit Blog Recovery Plan still in effect, I had the perfect excuse to borrow […]

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