Tuesday, October 31, 2006

Sunday, October 29, 2006

Friday, October 27, 2006

Why the mother-loving internet exists

Positively literal

Usage pet peeve: people who use "literally" to modify something figurative. For example, from a marketing book I recently read: "People are literally bombarded with advertisements in their mailbox every day." Unless the writer is describing Iraq, I don't think that's a literal bombardment.

But in reading a book about Abraham Lincoln's depression, Lincoln's Melancholy, I came across the following description of the raucous reception Lincoln received one week before the 1860 Republican National Convention in Chicago:

"The crowd went wild. Delegates and onlookers threw hats, books, and canes into the air. The wigwam shook so much that its canvas exterior became detached from the wood beams. 'The roof was literally cheered off the building,' declared an early account of the maelstrom."

Now the pleasure of a sentence like the one from the early account is diminished because people don't care enough to know the distinction between literal and figurative. Nuts.

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Teachers, my gift to you

Those of you who've ever taught understand the frustration of a student who's done little work, trying to scrape by on some misguided notion of "charm" and the slack standards of public school (NB: the slack standards of public school made my hellish teenage years slightly smoother than they would have been otherwise), coming to you and complaining about his or her grade. "But I deserve [to pass] [an A] [a B] etc."

Well, teachers, here's the balm for your scabbed hearts, a phrase you can use in the office to complain. Or if you're the brutal sort, you can use it with your students. My gift to you: revisionist bitchery. Use it wisely, use it often, use it well.

Tuesday, October 24, 2006

Saturday, October 21, 2006

Wednesday, October 11, 2006

An unexpected pleasure

I'm not a Fiona Apple fan, but she and Elvis Costello do an incredible job here of one of my favorite E.C. songs. Enjoy.

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Somewhere, off in the distance, a blog barked

The first time I heard the term "flame war," it gurgled from the mouth of an anxious English teacher and fantasy geek. He wasn't sure whether he should post a response to another fantasy geek looking for the only kind of fight he could win, a curse-laden, unproofread discussion board screed about D&D or World of Warcraft. "I don't want to start a flame war," he said. I probably left to use the bathroom.