Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Three Off-Blog Pieces

Posted by Neal on August 31, 2013

In this post from January, I mentioned a secret project in which I had been called upon to distinguish adjective-participles from verb-participles. That same project also inspired my next post, in which I explained how to distinguish adjectives, present participles, and gerunds. Well, the secret project isn’t secret anymore. It was some part-of-speech consultation work for Grammar Girl, who was working on her just-released Grammar Pop app for the iPad. I was so into it, I even wrote a script for her about participles and gerunds, which she saved to run when the app finally went live.

Affect and effect are the spelling problem that won’t go away. How did we end up with this situation, with a verb (affect) whose noun form doesn’t involve a suffix, stress shift, or even zero-conversion? I guess you could call it a kind of suppletion… for more details, see my piece in TheWeek.

And finally, by subscription, my column for Visual Thesaurus, in which I trace the history of the word concierge from a word meaning “doorman” to an adjective describing personalized service, as in concierge healthcare. An excerpt:

even as the idea of a hotel concierge was spreading during the Me Decade, it was already escaping the confines of hotel lobbies. In 1980, a Boston Globe article reported that the Pittsburgh Hyatt had invented a concierge floor, which modern hotel guests will recognize as that one floor that the elevator won’t take you to unless you insert your special VIP card into the slot by the button. Mid-decade, the concept of the concierge broke free of hotels entirely, as office concierges made their appearance. In 1986, a company calling itself The Executive Concierge liberated concierges entirely from buildings. As a 1987 article described it, the company:

will do just about anything to help those who don’t have the time to help themselves. The company’s services range from basic personal chores such as grocery shopping, gift shopping, and housecleaning to organizing events of all sizes, including wedding receptions.

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