Tuesday, November 29, 2005

Language Log

Via nominations for the 2005 Weblog Awards I found Language Log, where they are currently musing over our president's "growing disfluency."

I liked two posts on the awful prose of Dan Brown - it astonishes me how many people happily plowed through The Da Vinci Code. I found it unreadable, infuriatingly so.

(Which just goes to show, yet again, that I can't keep up. As an opinionated slip of a lass visiting MacDonald's for the first time, I confidently exclaimed: "Oh, this is a stupid idea, and these hamburgers are bad. This will never succeed.")

I also liked a post called Dave Barry, linguist. It reminded me how, even in dark times, Barry used to make Zed and me laugh ourselves silly.

Ask Mr. Language Person...

QPlease explain the correct usage of the phrase "all things being equal."
AIt is used to make sentences longer.
WRONG: "Earl and myself prefer the Cheez Whiz."
RIGHT: "All things being equal, Earl and myself prefer the Cheez Whiz."
QPlease explain the expression: "This does not bode well."
AIt means that something is not boding the way it should. It could be boding better.

WRITING TIP FOR PROFESSIONALS: To make your writing more appealing to the reader, avoid "writing negatively." Use positive expressions instead.
WRONG: "Do not use this appliance in the bathtub."
RIGHT: "Go ahead and use this appliance in the bathtub."

TODAY'S BUSINESS WRITING TIP: In writing proposals to prospective clients, be sure to clearly state the benefits they will receive:
WRONG: "I sincerely believe that it is to your advantage to accept this proposal."
RIGHT: "I have photographs of you naked with a squirrel."


The critical question now facing the scientific community is: WHY do herring break wind? Scientists quoted in the article speculate that the herring might be using these sounds -- which they make mainly at night -- to communicate with each other.

This raises another question: What, exactly, would a herring need to communicate? I mean, we're talking about creatures with roughly the same IQ as a Tic-Tac. They are not down there discussing Marcel Proust. My guess is they're probably breaking wind to convey extremely simple messages such as: "Hey, it's dark!" "I know! The same thing happened last night!" "Who said that?" "Me!" "Who are you?" "A herring!" "Wow, that's amazing! I'm also a herring!"

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At 10:00 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Thanks for a wonderful morning laugh - I'm sending these to my son, a college freshman. Maybe he can incorporate some of the writing skills in his papers.


At 12:34 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

My favorite misused phrase, often uttered by sportscasters when a record is broken, is "That was the fastest/longest/biggest/etc. of all time".

I get it when it is the fastest/longest/biggest of history, but always wonder how they know about 'all time'.

Mark (your old lunch buddy)

At 10:33 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...


that's so good! I love the "all things being equal one" (proper use: making sentences longer)

i also love the stuff about perplexingly bad writing finding undeserved popularity. another good example is Harry Potter, i'd love to see that guy critique those stinkers


At 12:10 AM, Blogger Badaunt said...

I should have pointed out Language Log to you before - I have them on my sidebar. They are the reason I have never bothered to read 'Da Vinci Codes' - the snippets in their critique made it obvious I'd not get much further than the first chapter. That sort of writing irritates me too much.


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