Item: If you are among those who bemoan our degenerate times and mourn the passing of strict teaching of grammar in the schools, here’s a description from 1903 by H.G. Wells of the old school of grammar teaching, quoted by Henry Hitchings in The Language Wars:
At present our method in English is a foolish caricature of the Latin methid; we spend a certain amount of time teaching children classificatory bosh about the eight sorts of Nominative Case, a certain amount of time teaching them the ‘derivation’ of words they do not understand, glance shyly at Anglo-Saxon and at Grimm’s Law, indulge in a specific reminiscence of the Latin method called parsing, supplement with a more modern development called the analysis of sentences, give a course in exercises in paraphrasing (for the most part the conversion of good English into bad), and wind up with lessons in ‘Composition’ that must be seen to be believed.
Item: Kansas learns about the First Amendment: A high school student, Emma Sullivan, tweets a rude remark about Governor Sam Brownback of Kansas. Brownback’s office gets in touch with Karl R. Krawitz, the principal of Ms. Sullivan’s high school, who calls her into the office and instructs her to write a letter of apology to the governor. Ms. Sulllivan, bless her stout heart, has refused.
Ms. Sullivan appears to have learned that Americans have a First Amendment right to free expression, even when it is, in the words of Governor Brownback’s spokesperson, “disrespectful.” Whether her principal has learned anything about the First Amendment rights of his charges, or whether the governor has learned that it is best not to be thin-skinned in public life, remains unclear.
Item: Tom Guadagno tweets as @DailyEngHelp: “Newsday headline - JETS GETS LAST LAUGH - Would the Baltimore Sun print the same?” Ewww, no. The Sun treats plural team names—the Orioles come to mind—as plurals.
Item: At Sentence First, Stan Carey writes about a fading but durable language superstition, that words from Latin and Greek should retain etymological purity, and that hybrid compounds of the two languages, such as television, should be shunned. This pedantic insistence on some imagined classical purity ignores that English is inherently a mongrel language, haphazardly stewing Germanic, Danish, Norman French, and Latin, with seasonings from a number of others as well. It also ignores—pace, Alice—that there is not enough Latin and Greek learned nowadays to make such a position tenable.
Item: Another superstition gets a good slap from Jan Freeman at Throw Grammar From the Train: the finicky placement of only in sentences. This was a hobbyhorse of the late James J. Kilpatrick, and it appears to survive in nearly all the journalism textbooks, with quaint illustrations of how the meaning of a sentence can be subtly altered by rendering it with only in different locations. The problem, as Ms. Freeman observes, is that there is almost never any ambiguity of meaning in sentences outside journalism textbooks.
There, now you have two pieces of surplus baggage you can safely heave over the side.