Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

April Links

Posted by Neal on April 16, 2011

Let’s start this collection of links with a couple of new additions to the blogroll. First of all, a big welcome to a Ben Trawick-Smith’s Dialect Blog, which debuted in January and every couple of days (or less) has up a new post on some aspect of some dialect of English. At this writing, the latest post is on the affirmative ayuh, which Stephen King fans may recognize. Next, there’s Benjamin Bruening’s Linguistics Commentary, which geared up last May. He posts about once a month, on syntactic topics. They’re a bit like the syntactic discussions here, but Bruening has a more serious tone, with citations of and responses to academic articles in most posts.

Via Erin Brenner, an article in the Utne Reader on “The Art of the Police Report”. This snippet from the author got me hooked:

Crime reports are written in neutral diction, and in the dispassionate uni-voice that’s testament to the academy’s ability to standardize writing. They feel generated rather than authored, the work of a single law enforcement consciousness rather than a specific human being.

So how can I identify Martinez from a single sentence? Why do his reports make me feel pity, terror, or despair? Make me want to put a bullet in someone’s brain—preferably a wife beater’s or a pedophile’s, but occasionally my own? How does he use words on paper to hammer at my heart? Like all great cops, Sergeant Martinez is a sneaky fucker. He’s also a master of inflection and narrative voice.

On Slate, an article by Coco Krumme on what the hell it means when a wine reviewer says a wine “contains “notes of graphite, black currant liqueur, incense, and camphor.” Quoting Krumme:

Graphite. Black currant. Incense. And camphor? It sounds like something out of a Bollywood take on Hansel and Gretel. Never mind that graphite contains no aromatics, or that incense could mean any of a dozen flavors. Can a simple Bordeaux let loose such a witches’ brew of fragrant notions?

Be sure to follow her link to an article by Richard Quandt called “On Wine Bullshit”.

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One Response to “April Links”

  1. EP said

    Military speak is a lot like that “uni-voice” style he mentions. It feels generated too. And there’s this obsession with the passive voice. It’s as if not sounding like everybody else sounds is somehow out of line, which I guess it is.

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