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effenheimer

Linguistics makes me wet

by effenheimer at 12:25 PM on October 08, 2003

Steve Martin said he studied just enough philosophy to mess him up for the rest of his life, well, linguistics will do the same thing. It breaks language down into its smallest components by describing phonemes, such as an unvoiced bilabial aspirated oral plosive, like the “p” in “peanut” or a voiced labiodental fricative like the “v” in “Venus.”

Linguists do this to understand the basics of language as well as to understand language in the broadest possible way: by acknowledging that language is a living, evolving entity that adapts and changes to meet the organic needs of speakers.

“Language” has certain elemental traits, but in the end, there really aren’t many “rules.”

This is something they don’t teach in junior high, I’m afraid,m but tell that to the hordes of local language arts hacks who like pretend I'm the devil for knowing more about language than them. I mean, c'mon! I went to college with people who trainED to be English teachers, man, I wasn't impressed.

To say that “ain’t” is not a word is like saying that Twinkies aren’t food. It just ain’t so. To say that one must never split their infinitives is like saying one must never break the speed limit while driving a Mustang convertible on a lone desert highway. You got-TA, baby, ya just got-ta do it!

So what IS important? To me, it’s communication. What is language if not the means to get what is in my head into yours? If I can do that, if you can understand me, if I can understand you, then we are communicating. I’ve known a great many people who thought that never using double negatives or dangling their participles made them masters of the English language. Tell that to Mark Twain, William Faulkner or Zora Neale Hurston.

comments (13)

Admirable post, Gay Cowboy. Our language is a topic that's near and dear to my heart. I do have to point out thought that this sentence is retarded:

"I went to college with people who TRAINING to be English teachers, man, I wasn't impressed."

Well, they probably weren't impressed with you either!

But I am totally with you onthe split infinitives. If we couldn't split infinitives, we would have never had "To boldy go where no man has gone before." What a shame that would be.

Lastly, you should use a comma before the "or" in a series. The Brits don't do it, but we're Americans and we really should:

"Mark Twain, William Faulkner, or Zora Neale Hurston"

by Eviltom at October 8, 2003 1:34 PM


The comma before 'or' or 'and' in a list can be left in or out depending on your editorial style. Eff works for a news paper and according to AP style the comma is left out. I prefer to leave it in for clarity, but my office uses AP so I conform.

What bugs me are the really obvious type-os like this: … I’m afraid,m but tell that to …

by MrBlank at October 8, 2003 4:06 PM


The only thing I love more than someone pointing out one of my stupid typos in a post about how foolish it is to point out people's stupid typos is when the person doing the pointing types BOLDY instead of BOLDLY, THOUGHT instead of THOUGH and ONTHE? That isn't a word, is it?

It's like you did all this on purpose just to amuse us and further my point. Do you feel the entire weight of your lifetime of intellectual achievement undermined by a typo? Neither do I. Now if one actually does these things ON PURPOSE because they don't know any better, then yes, they might have a problem.

by eff at October 9, 2003 12:11 PM


Woo hoo! I'm smarter than your average bear, aren't I? Go me!

by Eviltom at October 9, 2003 1:51 PM


haha. i just clicked on your link eff, to nonpareilonline, and saw this great headline:

"Man arrested on drug charge"

i love small town living.

by lajoie ono at October 9, 2003 2:51 PM


Okay, maybe Curious Cowboy. What link? I am typing this in total darkness on a computer hooked to an extension cord which is connected to an outlet outdoors. 'Splain later.

by anna at October 10, 2003 6:39 AM


i clicked on the "eff". takes you right to iowa.

by lajoie at October 10, 2003 11:09 AM


Love that headline, Lajoie.

by jean at October 10, 2003 6:27 PM


you should have seen the one last week:

mayor reports seeing "black people" in Des Moines

I couldnt believe it, said Mayor Tom Hanafan who added he had always thought that "black people" were a myth, something they showed on TV like Klingons or cartoons.

by eff at October 10, 2003 7:38 PM


Eff, you're my hero :)

by Mariafry at October 10, 2003 11:25 PM


Hah!! (Note to self: apparently I should never visit Des Moines)

by jean at October 13, 2003 9:50 PM


Oh no, go to DM, it has "just the right amount" of everybody.

by eff at October 14, 2003 6:16 PM


Ok, I'll take Des Moines off the blacklist. ;) I'll be getting to the ol' Midwest soon... should be visiting a friend in Chicago in the spring, and may take a side trip down to Decatur to visit someone else.

by jean at October 17, 2003 4:06 AM



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