Attention-Span Blues

Posted on Tuesday, October 11, 2016, at 11:50 pm

Fewer and fewer of us curl up with a good book anymore. Who can read nonstop for more than an hour, if that? I won’t bore you with my deep thoughts on why this is—not when I can bore you with so much other nerdy stuff. But I will say this: American attention spans started …

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Pop Gets It Wrong

Posted on Monday, October 3, 2016, at 8:15 pm

Misinformation spreads like bedbugs. For centuries, humans have clung to articles of faith gleaned from parents and grandparents, brothers and sisters, authority figures, community leaders, and other notoriously unreliable sources. These rumors, superstitions, misinterpretations, urban legends, and baseless theories are often nothing more than quaint, harmless nonsense. Then again, try telling that to those who …

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Pop Tunes and Grammar

Posted on Monday, September 26, 2016, at 5:55 pm

For many years I’ve had a framed drawing sitting on my bookshelf. It’s from the New Yorker magazine, and it’s by the brilliant cartoonist Roz Chast. It depicts a record album titled Miss Ilene Krenshaw Sings 100% Grammatically Correct Popular Tunes. Songs include “You Aren’t Anything but a Hound Dog,” “It Doesn’t Mean a Thing …

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You Can’t Coin What’s Already Coined

Posted on Tuesday, September 20, 2016, at 12:24 pm

Sometimes you hear statements like this: They threw him under the bus, to coin a phrase or To coin a phrase, he’s not the sharpest knife in the drawer. Those who say such things do not understand coin a phrase. You cannot coin a phrase that other people have already used. When you use phrases …

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What Is-Is Is, Is Exasperating

Posted on Wednesday, September 14, 2016, at 1:15 pm

Leave it to academia to invent lofty labels for obnoxious habits. You might not know the term nonstandard reduplicative copula, but you probably know what it refers to, and chances are it drives you crazy. We call it “the is-is hiccup”: the addition of a redundant second is in sentences like The truth is is …

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