Thursday, February 03, 2005

Pop grammarians

Right now, I am listening to Geoff Nunberg's essay (aired Tuesday on NPR's "Fresh Air") about Lynne Truss' "Eats, Shoots & Leaves." (This book is still floating around best-seller lists.)

It's about five minutes long.

There's not so much there that hasn't already been brought up here. However, he did mention the harsh reviews from Louis Menand and Edmund Morris. And he does some criticizing himself: He calls Truss' own punctuation "alarmingly insouciant." And he says she uses semicolons like he scatters fennel seed while cooking -- "in the vague hope it will somehow pull the other ingredients together."


UPDATE: The essay can be found on Nunberg's site here. Be sure to check out the notes section, where he breaks down some semicolon misuse.


At 1:55 PM, February 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I suppose that since it was a radio essay, "died-in-the wool grammar buffs" is somewhat excusable, but still ...


At 3:28 PM, February 03, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Homophones aren't mistakes until you write them down. But even though "died-in-the-wool" started out on the radio correct doesn't excuse the mistake once it's written. (It should be "dyed-in-the-wool.")

(And a note on that phrase: It comes from centuries ago, when it was discovered that dying the wool before it was spun produced a more steadfast color than dying the fabric. Before that, dyes seldom held after the fabric was washed.)

Good eye!

At 3:35 PM, February 03, 2005, Blogger PKD said...

Falling for you was,
Never quite like bleeding,
Your mother said it was,
A new form of weed eating

At 5:23 PM, February 03, 2005, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed -- I must have been wool-gathering. Thanks for spotting it. Geoff Nunberg

At 6:51 PM, February 03, 2005, Blogger Bill said...

Eerie. While on the phone with someone who was talking about Geoff's essay, I idly clicked around my bookmarks file and there was this entry!

At 1:21 AM, February 04, 2005, Blogger Rich said...

This all, of course, prompts the question: When will Geoff be reviewing Bill's books on NPR?

At 9:21 AM, February 04, 2005, Blogger baj said...

enjoyable essay. just wondering, is it "fennel seed" or "fennel seeds" that one would sprinkle about?

At 3:10 PM, February 04, 2005, Blogger Nicole said...

Interesting, Baj, I wondered the same thing when I was transcribing that part. I had initially typed "seeds" but realized that Nunberg said "seed."

Merriam-Webster says either is an accepted plural.

At 10:09 AM, December 30, 2005, Anonymous Greg said...

I learned that "died in the wool" was actually an antique military term referring to a soldier killed in battle (as the uniforms were made of linen and wool for some time), and that the expression had nothing to do with the colouring of woolens until it was misunderstood in rather recently history.


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