Tuesday, December 30, 2014

ALOTT5MA FRIDAY GRAMMAR RODEO TUESDAY YEAR-END CHRIS TRAEGER FAREWELL EDITION:  Notable smart person Steven Pinker talks a lot about grammar with The Atlantic:
Porch: What do you think about the flagrant misuse of the word “literally”? Does it literally make your head explode? 
Pinker: [Laughs.] It’s understandable why people do it. We are always in search of superlatives, of ways of impressing upon our hearer that something that happened is noteworthy or even extraordinary. And the words we use to signal that eventually lose their meaning. 
Porch: Like “awesome.” 
Pinker: “Awesome” is a recent example. In the UK, “brilliant” is used for the most banal observations. Before that, words like “terrific,” meaning inspiring terror, “wonderful,” inspiring wonder, “fabulous,” worthy of fable. We see the fossils of dead superlatives that our ancestors overused the way we overuse “awesome.” “Literally” is a victim of a similar type of inflation. The figurative use doesn’t mean the language is deteriorating. Hyperbole has probably been around as long as language has been around.... 
Porch: Does the comma go inside the closed quotation mark or outside?
Pinker: If I ruled the world, it would go outside.


  1. Marsha12:43 PM

    I was with him right up until the comma thing.

  2. Jordan12:47 PM

    On the subject of words losing the force behind their meaning, I learned the original sense of "scumbag" yesterday.

  3. bellawilfer1:14 PM

    Yes. This.

  4. Indeed. "The comma," I say, "belongs inside the closed quotation mark."

  5. Marsha3:18 PM

    Later in the piece he votes in favor of the Oxford comma, so I like him a bit better now.

  6. "Hyperbole has probably been around as long as language has been around"

    This is my favorite sentence of the day.
    Strike that- my favorite sentence of ALL TIME.

  7. Adam B.3:59 PM

    I would make an exception when the quotation marks aren't being used to denote a quote but rather for other purposes, such as:

    He wrestled under the name "El Dandy", and sauntered to the ring wearing a top hat and jodhpurs.

  8. But hasn't it been conclusively established that everything is awesome? That everything is cool when you're part of a team!

  9. The Pathetic Earthling6:52 PM

    I'm a gonna let you finish, but this was the BEST COMMENT of ALL TIME. of ALL TIME

  10. But what you said is "The comma belongs inside the closed quotation mark." You're obviously wrong, because where does the comma go in that sentence?