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shameless pleading





June 2012 Issue

Semper Ubi Sub Ubi


And you may ask yourself What happened to the month of May?

And you may say, This is not my beautiful May Issue of The Word Detective!

And you may say, No, seriously, this is supposed to be a monthly deal! I’m paying to read this on my Kindle!

And I say, Mea culpa. You really wanna know what happened? OK, but after the jump.

Meanwhile, I did finally finish reading the 10,000-page opus 1Q84 by Haruki Murakami (on my little Nook, with the font jacked up to 72 points). My one-word review: incompetent. Boy howdy, what a waste. A real shame. And I’m still annoyed at this dead goat of a book. Then again, I’m not alone. I just really wish I’d read this (major spoilers) before I wasted my time and retinas. Ho, ho, ho.

What else? Well, Google+ is pretty definitively kaput as far as I can tell. Frankly, they made it so difficult for non-heavy-hitters to play that I’m not gonna miss ’em. Keep your dumb old API read-only, see if I care.

On the bright side, I’m here to say that I was wrong about Twitter. Someone recently tweeted (still hate that verb) that signing up for the service was like seeing “mastheads come to life,” which is a good way of putting it. I follow mostly writers, editors and  journalists, and often see pointers to great stuff to read online that I otherwise would have missed. I’m also a fan of accounts like @pourmecoffee, @kenjennings and the late, all too  brief @NotTildaSwinton. I know it was actually just two guys without jobs, but … maybe it really was Tilda. Come back, Tilda. Your Tildren miss you, and we miss your wisdom:

A mission for you. Go outside, hold an animal to your breast. That is real warmth, not the glow of your screen. I typed this on a rabbit.

Or maybe not. I guess wherever you are they don’t have biting flies.

Speaking of biting flies, I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the recent brouhaha occasioned by the decision by The New Yorker to commission a review of Henry Hitchings’ new book “The Language Wars: A History of Proper English” (Farrar, Straus & Giroux) by their, um, dance critic, Joan Acocella (who may be a fine dance critic but, in this case, has literally no grasp whatsoever of the subject she’s writing about). What, as they say on the internet, could possibly go wrong? A lot, in fact, and Steven Pinker summed it up nicely thus:

Not since Saturday Night Live’s Emily Litella thundered against conserving natural racehorses and protecting endangered feces has a polemicist been so incensed by her own misunderstandings.

Language Log was, of course, there for the ensuing dustup, and a good place to start, for those with lots of spare time and a desire to understand the ruckus, would be here. By the way, my father, William Morris, is mentioned early on in Ms. Aocella’s jeremiad. I’m fairly certain that he would not have been amused by her hallucinations.

So here’s the June Issue, which contains 18 columns (rather than the usual 12 or so) to make up for my tardiness. And thanks to all the folks who have contributed by subscribing lately. It would be awesome if more of you folks did. But it would also be great if you’d just send in some questions, since they are, after all, the raw material I need to run this circus, and the more I have the easier it is.

And now a depressing explanation of where the May Issue went:

So, I had the May issue almost set to go last month when everything went to the damnation bowwows. The car (singular, 1997 vintage) died. The dogs (plural, elderly) both got sick. The temperature went into the low 90s, and then things got really depressing, because my ms decided to prove that they don’t call it “progressive” for the hell of it, specifically by making it damn near impossible for me to walk across the room. I tell my legs to work, but they don’t listen. The foot drop (inability to flex your ankle, a skill fairly central to walking) I’d been dealing with in my left foot for five years has now developed in my right as well, which makes walking at all a real adventure. Your feet just sort of flop around loosely and you clomp along like a marionette. And if I do manage to hold something in my left hand, I now find that I can’t make my hand let go (which really creeps me out).

More importantly, for purposes of this web site, I discovered that even brief (like, five minutes) exposure to the heat is enough to make my vision blur to the point that I cannot see much of anything. It’s like looking through a lens when someone is racking it in and out of focus. And it’s qualitatively worse than it was a year ago. And yadda yadda yadda.

So that happened. I’m still a lot luckier than a lot of people with ms, and way luckier than folks with worse things. But everything takes much longer than it used to, and so that’s what happened to May.

And now, on with the show…

2 comments to June 2012 Issue

  • Anders Lotsson

    ” literally no grasp whatsoever” – literally??

    • admin

      Given that she misunderstood the basic categories she was employing (conflating the two kinds of rules) and consequently mis-characterizing the views of people she was criticizing, yes. She was not merely missing some finer points; she was confusing the Lone Ranger with Tonto. Her review was delusional; she was writing while laboring under a fundamental misunderstanding of “who, what, when, where and why.” So, using “grasp” in the established metaphorical sense of “general understanding,” I think “literally” is appropriate.

      updated: Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage on “literally” (click the first result shown)

      plus this post from Language Log

      and, of course, the classic xkcd. (not to be taken personally, of course).

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