30 Mar 2017
Yesterday, I picked up a recent edition of the Kaplan SAT Subject Test Literature guide (the 2015-2016 edition, which I gather is actually identical to the more recent edition) and went through the diagnostic test in it. Unfortunately, this mock test had so many flaws and outright errors, was so unrepresentative of the actual Literature Test, that it's hard to see how it could diagnose much of anything. Just how terrible was it? Here's just one example:
1 Mar 2017
The question of whether—or to what extent—the SAT is "coachable" is a perennial controversy. When the recent overhaul to the SAT was announced, College Board CEO David Coleman made a big deal about how the changes would orient the test so that it more closely measured the skills needed for college success. One intended consequence of those changes was that the test would be less susceptible to coaching. Eliminating sentence-completion questions, for example, was meant to discourage students from memorizing long lists of "SAT" words that they would never need again.
15 Jun 2016

The Wake

Submitted by Karl Hagen
There's an excellent discussion of the fake Old English in Paul Kingsworth's novel The Wake on The Toast.

Against the recommendation of medievalists I trust, I bought this novel and read about 100 pages before giving up on it. It wasn't that I found the pseudo-Old English incomprehensible. Once upon a time, Old English was my primary field of study, and I got what Kingsworth was trying to do.

18 Oct 2015

Before Diagrams

Submitted by Karl Hagen
The earliest work to feature sentence diagrams is normally conceded to be S. W. Clark's Practical Grammar (1847). A decade before Clark, however, Frederick A. P. Barnard, who would go on to become president of Columbia College, and for whom Barnard College was named, wrote a very interesting work that is the earliest significant use of graphical symbols to annotate grammatical analysis that I'm aware of.
4 Mar 2015

Lord Reginald and Proper Grammar

Submitted by Karl Hagen
In "honor" of grammar day (an event which profoundly annoys me because it always brings out people's pet peeves about grammar, I present the following Punch cartoon (cited in Richard Bailey's Nineteenth-Century English, showing that middle-class insecurity about language has been around for a long time. It's the governess, not the rich kid, who cares about "proper" speech. She's the one who is socially insecure, after all.
4 Jan 2015

A Real Grammar Quiz

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I hate Internet grammar quizzes. Most of them are heavy on matters of punctuation (e.g., its vs. it's), spelling (e.g., there vs. their), and word choice (e.g., less vs. fewer) but light on measuring one's explicit knowledge of grammatical structure. And what grammatical assertions they do make are often wrong, or at least highly debatable. Their primary function seems to be to stroke the egos of those who want to be assured that they are part of the educated elite.
Backwards navigationAllowed


Subscribe to Polysyllabic RSS