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Get a running start on the week

It’s Monday, people, but that’s no reason to be lachrymose.

Lachrymose is the word of the week at I’ve given you a sentence with it; now see if you can top mine.

Another reason not to be lachrymose: Geoffrey Pullum is putting out a hit on two categories of stranded-preposition bores: “One type says ‘I think a preposition is a fine thing to end a sentence with!’, or words very much to that effect (unaware that instances of this lame ‘look-I'm-violating-the-rule’ joke have been going on since at least the 1700s). The other type says, ‘This is nonsense up with which I shall not put!’ (invariably thinking that they are quoting Sir Winston Churchill, though Ben Zimmer definitively refuted that misattribution years ago. ...”

He goes on: “Unable to bear any longer the tedious work of seeking out all the instances of these two dopey comment types and deleting them, I have decided that from now on I will hunt down the relevant commenters and kill them.”

He concedes that “it is unusual for a popular science blog to launch upon a policy of killing its own readers,” but if Luca and Enzo wind up at your door, you’ve only yourself to blame.

It is possible that Professor Pullum is a trifle excessive. I myself favor a graduated schedule of punishments, much like the ones I recommended for violations of English when Taneytown, Maryland was considering making English its official language. If the pillory suffices, there’s no need to resort to the gallows.

Also today, you still have a little time to submit a sentence using a stereotype or set of stereotypes to match your city with my colleague Erik Maza’s description of Baltimore as a “blowsy broad with a million stories.”

Go ahead. Embiggen your week.



Posted by John McIntyre at 9:00 AM | | Comments (6)


  You and the good professor seem now to be in a sort of blogging symbiosis, which is weird given that you proclaim your prescriptivism and he thinks prescriptivists are ranting stupid dangerous ill-informed loonies. How does this come about, I wonder.

Pullum et al bring this pain upon themselves by having a commenting policy in they strive to keep things relevant and informational, i.e., they have painted themselves into a commenting policy in which they do not suffer fools. This is probably a mistake, as the policing of comments becomes more work than creating posts in the first place. If people want to make inane comments, why stop them? The savvier readers will recognize those comments for what they are. I mean, look at me -- I leave dumb comments everywhere all the time, in spite of blog authors' best efforts at discouraging me. :-)

The problem with not policing comments, and letting people make inane comments, is the risk that the inane comments will take over. There are thoughtful commenters on news sites and blogs who advance the conversation and point out holes in stories or other angles to consider. But if they're vastly outnumbered by the loonies of all political persuasions, off-topic ranters and people who are just spoiling for a fight, I tire of sorting through their comments to find the occasional nuggets of gold.

@Picky: I have noticed this as well, but I object to your characterization of Professor Pullum. He only thinks that ranting stupid dangerous ill-informed loonies are ranting stupid dangerous ill-informed loonies, and laments when they turn their ill-informed stupid dangerous ranting to the topic of language, for then their prescriptivist stance takes over and they make stupid dangerous ill-informed comments. Which he corrects.

Geoff Pullum said, toward the end of a very long comment thread on preposition stranding (and, as it happens, about 40 minutes after Picky posted the first comment here):

[First: I'm not opposed to prescriptivism as such, but to stupid prescriptivism. Second, while I have done very little that could be called pedagogically oriented, I did work for several years at Hewlett-Packard Laboratories on a natural language processing project, so I know the kind of problem you're talking about. —GKP]

Yes, Linda; although I think Professor Pullum sometimes doesn't make that distinction totally absolutely perfectly 100pc clear.

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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
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