Ruminations on grammar, philology, standardized testing, and anything else that strikes my fancy


Contain your righteous indignation for a moment and consider the much-maligned word irregardless. There are two arguments typically advanced against it, usually together: first, that it is "not a word," and second, that it is a kind of double negative. The first claim is simply stupid. By any reasonable definition of what a word is, of course it's a word. Just because a word irritates you does not demote the utterance from wordhood.

Those pesky pronouns

Your high school English teacher always warned you about those ambiguous pronouns, but many of the examples she gave you probably weren't really ambiguous in a practical context. Here's one that is demonstrably ambiguous, but not, I think, for the reasons usually offered in high school textbooks. Language Hat grouses about an explanation offered by Dear Abby about the distinction between "burn down" and "burn up."
DEAR ABBY: Does a house "burn up" or "burn down"?

Yep, I'm a computer nerd

As evidence of which, I read Geoff Pullum's example in this Language Log post without initially twigging to its strangeness in terms of ordinary English:
Please select a valid pick up date (DD/MM/YYYY) greater than today.

Captchas should be fixed

I've apparently been having problems with the captchas that protect the comment and contact forms, but I don't see them when I'm logged into the site, so it took me a while to notice. Sorry for that. They should be working now.

The Predictive Validity of the SAT

A few days ago, the New York times carried an article about the SAT with the headline "Study Finds Little Benefit in New SAT."

Here's the lede:

The revamped SAT, expanded three years ago to include a writing test, predicts college success no better than the old test, and not quite as well as a student’s high school grades

The Law of Prescriptive Retaliation Strikes Again

I think we need a new subtype of the law of prescriptive retaliation.. The woman holding this sign isn't trying to correct a specific point of grammar or usage, but she is advocating a general sort of prescription: English as the official, or as she puts it, the "offical" language of the U.S. [Link via Digg]

Transliteration for dummies

Note to the College Board: the correct transliteration for 'þ' is 'th', not 'p'. I've finally started to go back to analyzing the SAT writing material to infer the College Board's views on grammar, and while flipping through the January 2008 SAT, my eye came upon this bit from a passage in a reading section about Ezra Pound's translation of the Old English poem "The Seafarer":
Moreover, there are unfortunately some mistakes, as when Pound misreads purh ("through") as pruh ("coffin").

New Service Provider

I've been neglecting my blog lately, partly because I've been busy, but also because my former service provider was giving increasingly spotty service, and I didn't have the energy to deal with it. However, I've now switched to a new provider that I trust will give much better service. (The site already feels much snappier). I can also finally upgrade Drupal.

Google News is pissing me off

My browser's home page is Google news, and when I am signed in, it gives me a list of "personalized" news stories that are supposedly based on my previous searches and news. Yet it continually serves up stories that I have absolutely no interest in (most recently the Britney Spears tragicomedy), and there seems to be no way to override what Google thinks is good for me. Why, oh why, don't they have a "not interested" button like Amazon? For the time being, I've given up on their personalization and will go to Google news without signing in.

Let's call it 19th century

I'm now in England for Christmas, after spending a week in Ireland. We stayed in a lovely rural area in Claire, and one of the spots we stopped was Bunratty castle, a fifteenth-century structure that has been quite well restored. Like many other castles, it is cramped and has lots of narrow staircases, not at all like the Hollywood image of spacious luxury. You can understand why so many aristocratic families tended to abandon their castles for more comfortable dwellings.


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