At the end of my last post I left E. M. Forster somewhat defensively trying to find a definition of the category “novel”. But novels don’t really fit the kind of classic definition he was looking for. A classic definition of a category has a firm boundary; everything inside the boundary belongs to the category … Continue reading How Many Roads?
In my last post (“Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs”) I began to talk about what a noun is and what a verb is, and I started with a couple of definitions: a verb is “a word expressing an action or a state of being”, while nouns are “used to name persons, places, things, animals, qualities, … Continue reading “Girl Twenty, define a horse.”
In my last post I discussed English words that can be used either as nouns or verbs. There are lots—farm, hammer, nail, spoon, dog, silence, light, cost, and so on and so on and so on. (I will call these bivalent words, just to have a term for them.) And that got me to thinking … Continue reading Verbish Nouns and Nounish Verbs
In this post I am pleased to present a guest column, “Trauma and Reading Homer”, by Joel Christensen. Joel is Associate Professor and Chair of Classical Studies at Brandeis University. He is the author/editor of one of my favorite blogs, sententiae antiquae (see the blogroll on the side for a link). He has recently published … Continue reading Guest Column: Trauma and Reading Homer, by Joel Christensen.
The title for this post comes from one of the great works of art of the twentieth century. I mean, of course, Bill Waterson’s Calvin and Hobbes. “I take nouns and adjectives”, Calvin says to Hobbes, “and use them as verbs. Remember when ‘access’ was a thing? Now it’s something you do. It got verbed.” … Continue reading Verbing Weirds Language
Not long ago I was reading Ovid’s Metamorphoses, and I got to Book VII, which begins with a great monologue as Medea debates with herself whether or not she should desert her father and homeland and run off with Jason. As I was reading, I came across a very famous line, (Ov. Met.VII.20-21): “video meliora … Continue reading Video Meliora Proboque, Deteriora Sequor
In my last post I talked about correctness and about dialects of English and in this post I will continue that discussion and end with some examples of dialect in English language literature. Dialects are not inferior forms of language. Every form of language is a dialect: the standard, if there is a standard, is … Continue reading More on Dialects
I ended my last post with some comments on correctness. I get asked questions about correctness all the time, but it’s not a topic that interests me very much. There’s a lot of “correct” writing which is really dull, and a lot of writing that is not “correct” that’s really interesting. I would rather be … Continue reading I Can’t Get No Satisfaction
This is just a quick question for those who have posted replies to any of the essays. A friend was trying to post a reply and he couldn't do it unless he opened an account. Is that the way it works? You can't just go to the reply box and post? Or can you? Any … Continue reading This is not an essay
One way to study language is to take what amounts to a snapshot of a language at a particular moment and write down a description of the language at that moment. (One can argue that there is no such thing as “a language at a particular moment”, because there will always be different dialects and … Continue reading Synchronic and Diachronic