baltimoresun.com

« The way we tilt now | Main | It suffices »

The old mailbag

Friday is a day on which I sometimes try, vainly, to catch up with accumulated messages and tweets.


Correct grammar can kill you: We all learned that with joint possession we make the last noun possessive, and with separate possession we make all the nouns possessive, right? “John and Mary’s house” is the one John and Mary own jointly, “John’s and Mary’s houses” the ones where they live after the divorce. But ponder this sentence forwarded by one of my spies in Wichita: Dozens of people line-up to give money at Norwich High after a tornado destroyed Don Hall, his wife, and two daughters' house.


Not apposite: One reader invites me to write about the false appositive. A true appositive is one in which a noun is in apposition, positioned next to, another noun to amplify or extend its meaning: “He appealed vainly to McIntyre, a sluggard, for a quick response.” A false appositive does not refer to the immediately preceding noun, but to a previous phrase or clause: “He framed his questions precisely and provided supporting detail to McIntyre, a futile attempt to get a prompt response.”

I have no samples in stock at the moment. You coming across this sort of thing much?


“Git” is more compact: Some time back there was a mild sensation in Baltimore — it doesn’t take much — when b, a publication of the Baltimore Sun Media Group aimed at the young, published an issue blaring the headline DOUCHEBAG for an article on how to identify someone as a douchebag (No need to write in; I already knew.) Now Jan Freeman has written a short article at Throw Grammar from the Train, her worthy blog, on how the word came to be an all-purpose pejorative.


It’s not the Internet; it’s you: Steven Pinker has a refreshing essay in The New York Times debunking the glib alarmism that using the electronic media is making us shallower and dumber than we were before. (Hard to imagine the possibility.) Not so, he says, and he finds no scientific support for the idea.

Here’s the part, though, that you really need to keep in mind:

And to encourage intellectual depth, don’t rail at PowerPoint or Google. It’s not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities, and maintained with constant upkeep, which we call analysis, criticism and debate. They are not granted by propping a heavy encyclopedia on your lap, nor are they taken away by efficient access to information on the Internet.

Posted by John McIntyre at 11:39 AM | | Comments (14)
        

Comments

"It’s not as if habits of deep reflection, thorough research and rigorous reasoning ever came naturally to people. They must be acquired in special institutions, which we call universities"

Yes, that certainly explains why I'm the only one in the entire history of my family with any sense.

Either that or Pinker is a fool.

The grammatical structure of the first example is horrific. Although this has nothing to do with anything regarding your blog, Don Hall was my high school U.S. history teacher. Don probably would also have taken the reporter to task, had said reporter been a student of his class.

How does this work?

Dozens of people line-up to give money at Norwich High after a tornado destroyed The house of Don Hall, his wife, and their two daughters.

"...appositive is one in which a noun is in apposition, positioned next to, another noun to amplify..." In this excerpt, is the comma after "next to" required?

"...appositive is one in which a noun is in apposition, positioned next to, another noun to amplify..." Is the comma after "next to" required?

"...appositive is one in which a noun is in apposition, positioned next to, another noun to amplify..." Is the comma after "next to" required?

so sorry for the repeat comments - some problem with my machine.

So sorry for the repeat comments - some problem with my machine.

The last time I heard the term "nouns in apposition" was in a readings course in Medieval Latin. I suspect the Greeks may have used it first, although I have no evidence to support that theory. As physicists can't prove "string theory" either, I don't worry about my lack of proof.

My inclination for research was encouraged by my parents and by my own curiosity, so I'm not convinced a university education is a guarantee of intellectual rigor.

In one case, I had a professor tell me I should not be researching anything for his course, particularly when I was working on an English paper for him.

If only every university could inspire every student to research facts and use them logically and diligently.

Oh, Patricia the Terse--you studied Medieval Latin, too? Maybe we should form a (very exclusive) club--?

The WORST was legal Latin: if you want to understand how lawyers think - I use the term advisedly - I refer you to Grosstest: repitition beyond all necessity.

"line-up"?

Patricia the Terse, I think not!

Post a comment

(If you haven't left a comment here before, you may need to be approved by the site owner before your comment will appear. Until then, it won't appear on the entry. Thanks for waiting.)

Verification (needed to reduce spam):

About John McIntyre
John McIntyre, mild-mannered editor for a great metropolitan newspaper, has fussed over writers’ work, to sporadic expressions of gratitude, for thirty years. He is The Sun’s night content production manager and former head of its copy desk. He also teaches editing at Loyola University Maryland. A former president of the American Copy Editors Society, a native of Kentucky, a graduate of Michigan State and Syracuse, and a moderate prescriptivist, he writes about language, journalism, and arbitrarily chosen topics. If you are inspired by a spirit of contradiction, comment on the posts or write to him at john.mcintyre@baltsun.com.
Baltimore Sun Facebook page
-- ADVERTISEMENT --

Most Recent Comments
Sign up for FREE local news alerts
Get free Sun alerts sent to your mobile phone.*
Get free Baltimore Sun mobile alerts
Sign up for local news text alerts

Returning user? Update preferences.
Sign up for more Sun text alerts
*Standard message and data rates apply. Click here for Frequently Asked Questions.
Stay connected