Interactive Guide to Ambiguous Grammar

If you’re not familiar with McSweeney’s Internet Tendency, you should be. This particular column takes on the passive voice and other modes of ambiguous grammar.

I particularly like the “past exonerative tense.”

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[Tip o’ the hat to Matt Sergi for pointing this one out to me.]

I Could Care Less

xkcd does it again:

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When Not to Correct People’s English

No comment necessary…

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Internet Quotes: Langland on the Decline of English

I’ve come across the following quotation in a number of places, such as this article from The Economist:

There is not a single modern schoolboy who can compose verses or write a decent letter.

The quotation is attributed to William Langland, author of Piers Plowman, who died in 1386. The problem is that I could only find the quotation in modern translation and it sounds distinctly un-Middle Englishy, so I doubted that it was authentic. Because I could only find it in translation, tracking it down was difficult—it’s hard to search for a Middle English quotation if you don’t have the Middle English diction. It turns out that the quote is genuine, but it is a rather free translation.

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Publishing By the Numbers

Fivethirtyeight.com, Nate Silver’s website on polling, data, and statistics, has a podcast called What’s the Point? that recently delved into the use of data by book publishers. It’s a neat discussion about the industry and how publishers make decisions about whether or not to publish a book and how to market it if they do.

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