National Grammar Day

March 4, 2009

Not to have the blog taken over by short announcements of amusing geek holidays, but again, this one was too good to pass up. Today, March 4, is National Grammar Day! Here are some suggestions from the organizers on how to celebrate:

Speak well! Write well! And on March 4, march forth and spread the word. We want people to think about language and how it can be used best.

Some of our members are planning Good-Grammar Potlucks at their offices. What do you serve at good-grammar potlucks? High-fiber foods, of course. They’re good for the colon. Afterward, at happy hour, we recommend the Grammartini. (Recipes are here.)

Visit their website for good grammar tips and the bad grammar hall of fame.

Feel free to leave a comment with any particularly heinous examples of bad grammar you notice today!


Twilight turns to dusk

August 1, 2008

Hmmm, I’m not sure I’m going to have time to write up a full-blown book review today, but instead, here’s a passage from the book I was reading earlier today that caught my attention:

Sixty minutes later the sky in the east was a dark navy blue, almost black. Visibility was fading fast. Years before, a pedantic schoolteacher in the Pacific somewhere had explained to Reacher that first comes twilight, and then comes dusk, and then comes night. She had insisted that twilight and dusk were not the same thing. If he needed a generic word for evening darkness, he was to use gloaming.

Gloaming was what he had right then. Plenty of it, but not quite as much as he would have liked.

-Child, 407, Bad Luck and Trouble

Assignment for the weekend: Find a way to work gloaming into conversation naturally.


Basque Gastronomy and History

July 11, 2008

I seem to have stored up a backlog of book reviews that I’ve been meaning to post, so I’ll start trying to clear them out of my head and onto the internet now. This first one is somewhat unusual, in that it’s actually non-fiction, which I haven’t been reading much of lately.

This book actually has to be paired with a radio story. Back in May, before I had to leave for my 3-week business trip to Asia (I’m chronicling that over on my personal blog), I heard this piece from the Kitchen Sisters on NPR, from their Hidden Kitchens series: The Sheepherder’s Ball: Hidden Basque Kitchens. While my own cooking skills are notably underdeveloped, I find this series fascinating for the way it explores history and culture through the initial touchstone of recipes and food. In this case, they revealed the existence of a sizable Basque community in the US that I had never heard about before.

Francisco and Joaquin Lasarte came to America in 1964 from Basque country in northern Spain. Francisco Franco, the Spanish dictator who repressively ruled the country for nearly 40 years, made life miserable for the Basque people, suppressing their language, culture and possibilities.

The result was a massive exodus, and the only way to come to the United States for many Basque was to contract as sheepherders. There was a shortage of shepherds in the American West, and Sen. Patrick McCarren of Nevada helped craft legislation in 1950 that allowed Basque men to take up this lonely and difficult job.

Neither Lasarte brother had any sheepherding experience when they arrived in America.

Read the rest of this entry »

How should the media cover Barack’s blackness?

June 10, 2008

A typo (I think that’s what it is) in today’s lead NYT campaign story caught my eye:

Mr. Obama also has sought to tie Mr. McCain to the country’s current economic woes, charging that the Bush administration has been “the most fiscally irresponsible administration in history.”
“And now John McCain want to give us another,” he said.

Read the rest of this entry »

Stop saying “recession”

January 31, 2008

This is a plea to anyone who currently holds a position in news broadcasting. You could be a news anchor, a writer, or even a person likely to be interviewed on economic issues. I am begging you, please, please stop saying the word “recession.” After everyone involved has taken five minutes out of their lives to carefully consider the meaning of the word, you may resume using it, on the sole condition that you do so correctly.

So, to be clear, let me take a moment to share the correct definition here. In the United States, the Bureau of Economic Analysis is responsible for tracking and officially measuring and reporting on the gross domestic product (GDP). This Bureau, one of a number of them under the auspices of the Commerce Department, defines the term as follows:

“A recession is a decline in a country’s gross domestic product, or negative real economic growth, for two or more successive quarters of a year”

Now then. Now that we all are working with the definition, as defined by the organization empowered by law in this country to handle these matters and widely accepted by macro economists, let us consider for a moment how this term might apply to an issue near and dear to my heart and likely to yours: the current status of the United States economy.

Read the rest of this entry »

Revisiting Language Death

January 24, 2008

In hearing the news today, from a variety of sources, that the last native speaker of the Native Alaskan language of Eyak has died, I had some time to ponder where my previous explanation of my feelings about language death stories had broken down. One of the stories spoke of a person who had been working to “preserve” the language, and it hit me that what I really object to, aside from the usual melodrama from reporters who only superficially understand the issue, is the terminology that so often gets used, because it is misleading.

What the person in the news story had been working to do was not “preserve” the language, as I see it, but to “record” it. There’s perhaps only a slight difference here, and maybe it’s just in the way I’m defining the words for myself in this context, but I’ll explain why they seem different to me.

Read the rest of this entry »

Blogroll Additions: Language Geeks and Truckers

January 11, 2008

I found a couple new blogs to add to the blogroll, and thought you fine people should be alerted to these fabulous new options for entertainment and procrastination.

First, the Cognition and Language Lab blog, which is highly interesting to me, and will presumably be so to all my fellow linguistics geeks as well.

Second, another blog by a Grinnell alumnus, On the Road (again), in which Mark Bourne chronicles his experiences as a trucker. We Grinnellians know how to put our liberal arts education to work, yes we do! He is also keeping a blog about the progress on building his bread oven, which is what the trucking money is going towards with the end goal of having a bread baking business. Mmmm, bread.