Unpopular grammar rules

Language is a fluid, living social construct. The rules of grammar were not carved on stone tablets and handed down by God. They were created by human beings who had observations about how language works, and opinions about how it should work. “Subject pronoun,” “predicate nominative,” and the like are almost insider terms, ones that many people forget shortly after learning them in school. As we say, knowing why those…

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NYT: G.W. Bush is “super-overexposed” and “so far to our right” — so they omitted his presence from “Bloody Sunday” coverage

The quotes in my headline are accurate, but completely misleading. Saving this for an example in my journalism class, demonstrating the obligation that journalists have to avoid the perception of bias in their reporting. A photographer for The New York Times says the publication did not crop former President George W. Bush and first lady Laura Bush from a photo featuring President Barack Obama, Rep. John Lewis (D-Ga.) and others…


Vandal scratches Poe phrase into car at dealership

Language nerds will appreciate this news story about a Latin vandal. The scratching on one of the cars spelled out “Nemo me inpune lacessit.” The phrase means “No one attacks me with impunity.” The quotation, in fact, comes from Edgar Allan Poes classic horror story “The Cask of Amontillado.” It is the family crest of Fortunato, the unfortunate victim of revenge by his neighbor, Montressor. The narrator lures the drunken…


Associate Dean of What?

The idea of students as customers relies on models of customer service that are not what experts in the field actually teach (as explicated in this letter to The Chronicle by Clara Burke). We develop crude quantitative evaluative tools while businesses use more and more complex qualitative focus groups and sophisticated assessments. And we apply buzzwords. For example, we now “benchmark” our top administrative jobs in ways that feed salary…

A Novel is a Fictional Story Told by a Narrator (Poems, Plays & Reports are not Novels)

I’m Asking My Students to Be Deliberate about the Word “Novel”

In the past few years, I have noticed more students are applying the word “novel” to any text they might be asked to study in class, whether that text is a book-length fictional narrative, a play, a poem, a political manifesto, or a collection of academic essays. I wrote up this lecture to introduce the concept of literary genre, in the hopes of communicating why it’s important that we recognize…