6 Mar 2010


Submitted by Karl Hagen
I just got a new laptop (oh frabjuous day!) to replace my 4-year-old antique, which was on its last legs. It's a very slick Asus model and so far I'm very happy with it, but while creating a recovery DVD, I encountered a very interesting usage of predictably to mean "it is predicted that": "Predictably, four blank writable DVDs are needed to create the recovery DVD." When I first saw this, I did a double-take, since as a sentence adverb, I take "predictably" to mean "as could be/have been predicted." It sounded like the computer was expressing frustration: I should have known!
16 Feb 2010
Many people are deeply insecure about the difference between who and whom, resulting in hypercorrect insertions of whom where it doesn't belong. So it's interesting to find a writer using whom in the correct case while simultaneously falling into a different error, one that my intuition tells me should be much easier for native speakers to spot.
19 Sep 2009


Submitted by Karl Hagen
Arrrh, me hearies! Today be Talk Like A Pirate Day, on which day I be wantin' to answer a question that gentlemen o' fortune all o'er the briny blue ha' been askin' theyselves: what be the part of speech of avast?
30 Jul 2009


Submitted by Karl Hagen
So the Top 100 Language Blog list done by Lexiophiles and bab.la came out today. Alas, I didn't make the cut, but there were some more surprising omissions, especially Language Log. Who in their right mind leaves Language Log off a list of 100 top language blogs? Or even a list of the top 10. Give me a break! Did everyone think that LL was a sure bet and so gave their vote elsewhere?
9 Jul 2009
I've written before about how preparation material for the SAT writing section sometimes presents an over-simplified view of grammar that can get you into linguistic trouble. Here's another case in point: The following question appears in a Kaplan practice SAT (12 Practice Tests for the SAT 2009 Edition, p. 589):
Although talent may be a crucial element on the road to fame, it is difficult to succeed without a highly developed work ethic.
8 Jul 2009

That's so fail

Submitted by Karl Hagen
While adults are just starting to notice, usually with disapproval, "fail" used as a noun (as in "That's an epic fail."), my students are already racing ahead and converting it to an adjective.

We can tell that "fail" has become an adjective because it can be preceded by the quantifying adverb so, as in "I'm so fail." [Cf. I'm so happy (adj.), but *I'm so student (n.)].

26 Jun 2009

Those crazy biologists

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Anyone who thinks scientists don't have a sense of humor only knows scientists through their movie stereotypes. Still, it takes a certain daring to get this into the title of a major peer-reviewed journal: Campos-Arceiz, A. 2009. Shit happens (to be useful)! Use of elephant dung as habitat by amphibians. Biotropica doi:10.1111/j.1744-7429.2009.00525.x And no, this is not a spoof. Here's the abstract.


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