Posts Tagged ‘grammar’
February 27, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
Pop Chart Lab, whose laudable ambition is “to render all of human experience in chart form,” is offering a print consisting of twenty-nine first sentences from novels, including one of my favorites, from David Markson’s Wittgenstein’s Mistress: “In the beginning, sometimes I left messages in the street.” Of course, a print comprised of nothing but text would be not much of a print at all, so Pop Chart Lab has done us the favor of diagramming every sentence according to the Reed-Kellogg System, color coded and all. Plotting out the beginning of Don Quixote is, as you can see, complicated.
As a pedagogical device, sentence diagrams have fallen out of fashion; I never had to draw them (if that’s even the right verb) in school, nor was I made to study any grammar beyond the rudimentary parts of speech. This makes me feel like a fraud whenever I pretend to be a grammarian, as I often do. In fact, before today, I’d never heard of the Reed-Kellogg System; it sounds to me like a proprietary method for processing and packaging cornflakes.
Actually, it dates back to 1877, when it was invented by two men with great names, Alonzo Reed and Brainerd Kellogg. Though the Don Quixote sample is intimidating, diagramming sentences turns out to be fairly intuitive. (“And fun!” adds a sad, sorry voice in my head.) You begin with the base, a horizontal line; write the subject on the left and the predicate on the right, separated by a vertical bar. Then separate the verb and its object with another mark—if you have a direct object, use a vertical line, and if you have a predicate noun (had to look that up) or an adjective (that one I knew), use a backslash. Modifiers of the subject, predicate, or object “dangle below the base.” Read More »
February 4, 2014 | by Dan Piepenbring
- A strange but urgent side effect of LA’s switch from sodium-vapor to LED streetlights: in night shots, the city will look strikingly different on film.
- One last item about the Super Bowl, before it goes graciously into the night—the art of Super Bowl ticket design.
- As a postscript to yesterday’s Tulipomania post: Dennis O’Driscoll’s “Tulipomania,” a poem from the April 2002 edition of Poetry.
- Relatedly: “Each day we are faced with sound bites and catchphrases deadening and trivializing our language … poetry is the corrective.” In defense of poetry’s cultural sway.
- Against grammar, or its ruthless enforcers: “Blind adherence and conformity … pave the way for fascism.” Now everybody get out there and split some infinitives.
- To the literary bachelors of New York: Housing Works’ Literary Speed Dating event needs more gentlemen seeking ladies. (Ladies’ tickets are sold out. They’re waiting for you, you, you!) The event is on February 10; use the discount code QUEEQUEG for three dollars off the fifteen-dollar admission.
August 12, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
June 14, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
June 7, 2013 | by Sadie Stein
- The British comic novelist Tom Sharpe has died at 85.
- Protesters have erected a makeshift library in Istanbul. “The books, arranged on shelves laid on breeze blocks below a tarpaulin, range from left-wing philosophy to author Dan Brown. With contributions from individuals and bookstores, the number of books has swelled to more than 5,000.”
- Author John Green makes a passionate appeal to “strike down the insidious lie that a book is the creation of an individual soul laboring in isolation … because it threatens the overall quality and breadth of American literature.”
- Narrowing this list down to only ten misbehaving literary rogues must have been a challenge. (And we are offended on Bukowski’s behalf.)
- And without further ado: a dog who allegedly has a “grasp of the basic elements of grammar.”
March 27, 2013 | by Spencer Woodman
Earlier this month, after it was reported that several prominent dictionaries had expanded their definitions of literally to include “figuratively” as an informal usage, grammar-sensitive commentators launched into another wave of condemnation of the word’s expansive use.
“The dictionaries have begrudgingly bowed to the will of the grammar-averse public,” wrote The Week. “As anyone who paid attention in grade school knows, ‘literally’ means ‘in a literal or strict sense, as opposed to a non-literal or exaggerated sense,’ and is the opposite of ‘figuratively,’ which means ‘in a metaphorical sense.’”
Criticisms of the word’s unorthodox use are, strictly speaking, accurate. They reflect well-founded fears that society is coming to care less about clear and beautiful linguistic expression. So I often worry that I might be alone in my enjoyment of the nonsensical images created when the word is misapplied. For me, the usage can introduce gratifying little flashes of surrealism into everyday conversation.
Just think of Joe Biden’s remark last September: “We now find ourselves at the hinge of history, and the direction we turn is not figuratively, it’s literally in your hands.” Here Biden is ambitiously making two metaphors concrete: both that history can have an actual hinge and that this can be in someone’s hands. This remark conjures, for me, an image of the vice president heroically grappling, both hands (perhaps amid a howling thunderstorm), with a mighty vaulted door glowing iridescent with the sum of human destiny. It gives me a tickling look at the vice president’s imagination and his sense of the palpability of something as abstract as world history. Read More »