Thursday, May 04, 2006

All the language columns you can stand

Just in time for the Kentucky Derby, Nathan Bierma's latest language column in the Chicago Tribune covers familiar phrases that have a horsey background: across the board, hands down, shoo-in and many others.

William Safire's On Language column gives a history of heck and damn -- and complaints that the president is overusing both of them.
We have a language anomaly here: the euphemism is taken to be offensive, while the harsh word being avoided -- in Bush's case, and with apologies to the sensitive or reverent reader, hell -- is presumably more acceptable.
Why all this dancing around the swear words? Does it have anything to do with the rise of the religious right? "As lefties would say, damn right," writes Safire.

John McIntyre has a post at You Don't Say about prescriptivists and descriptivists. There are bow ties involved.

And I just love Jan Freeman's column this week, on usage points in transition. She includes a survey to find out what readers would prefer (not what's necessarily considered "right"), and when you're done you can see the results. Thousands have taken it so far. (I was usually in the minority with my answers. Most of these I'm willing to let go, but No. 8? What's up with that?)

From James J. Kilpatrick, you can find a few examples of flowery writing that may deserve to be left alone. (Would your finger hover over the delete key on bentness? Totally in the dark?)


At 10:34 AM, May 05, 2006, Anonymous ThorLoki70 said...

I enjoyed the horse racing language column. But ... am I the only person who's sick of having to register every time I go to a new site? I want to read an article, not fill out a job application.


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