Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

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How Bad Girls Get

Posted on June 25, 2013

Last night I got to meet Bill Walsh, the Washington Post copy editor and book author, whom I’ve mentioned in several blog posts. He was in town promoting his latest book, Yes, I Could Care Less, and had a reading and Q&A session at the home of his colleague Mark Allen. During the talk, Walsh […]

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Posted in Ambiguous song lyrics, Attachment ambiguity, Music | 5 Comments »

Between Me and the Pawn Shop, Not My Daughter and I

Posted on October 5, 2011

Doug has gotten into watching the reality TV show Pawn Stars in the past year. Yes, he and Adam are well aware of the word play in the title, which reminds me of a tweet from Bill Walsh that I retweeted a few months ago, to the effect that porn is more egalitarian than the […]

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Posted in Prescriptive grammar, Pronouns, TV | 8 Comments »

From Seattle to Shanghai

Posted on September 22, 2011

Bill Walsh, who can be pretty literal-minded himself, wrote this about a journalistic cliche known as the false range: A Scripps Howard story on actor John Leguizamo mentions that he “has starred in films and TV projects ranging from ‘Moulin Rouge’ to ‘Arabian Nights.’ ” Let’s see, how does that continuum go again? Oh, yes, […]

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Posted in Semantics, You're so literal! | 3 Comments »

Coordination and Quotation Fronting in the 1800s

Posted on January 21, 2011

Last week, Grammar Girl ran a guest script I wrote on one of the topics I’ve written about here on occasion: when coordination and quotation fronting clash. This is what happens in sentences like “No,” he said, and turned away. As you know if you’ve read some of my other posts on the topic, this […]

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Posted in Coordination and quotation fronting, Prescriptive grammar | 36 Comments »

Worth Reading

Posted on September 5, 2008

Some links I’ve been accumulating and meaning to post: Bill Walsh on (what linguists know as) backformation. (Hat tip to ADS mailing list.) Randy Alexander, guest-blogging on Beijing Sounds on the sounds of Chinglish. This one was an eye opener. Be sure to follow his links, too. Two from Arnold Zwicky: One on the backformation […]

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Posted in Linkfests | 7 Comments »

Don’t Do Me Any Favorites

Posted on July 10, 2007

Hey, if you think I take things literally, check out this post from Bill Walsh. OK, I have to come clean. Although I didn’t actually say in that last sentence that Bill Walsh takes things more literally than I do, I am aware that it’s just possible that readers might get that idea from my […]

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Posted in You're so literal! | 2 Comments »

Syntactic Gems from Jared Diamond

Posted on September 20, 2006

The Language Guy mentions Jared Diamond’s Guns, Germs, and Steel in this post. Funny he should mention this book. I’ve never read it, but it recently made it onto my mental reading list because I’m finding another book by Jared Diamond so interesting. The book is Collapse: How Societies Choose to Fail or Succeed. Aside […]

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Posted in Multiple-level coordination, Non-ATB coordinations, Reviews, Right-node wrapping ("Friends in Low Places" coordinations) | 3 Comments »

More Bad Whether

Posted on August 22, 2006

At the beginning of the month, I read a column by Gwynne Dyer on the Israel-Hezbollah war. Near the end, he wrote: [Hezbollah] may have foreseen the likelihood of a massive Israeli overreaction, and calculated that it could ride it out and win from it. Nothing grammatically weird there. But the next paragraph began like […]

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Posted in Prescriptive grammar | 2 Comments »

Coordination Meets Quotative Inversion

Posted on June 7, 2006

Last summer, I added to my list of Friends in Low Places coordinations a couple that I got from a posting on Blogslot, written by Bill Walsh, a copyeditor for The Washington Post. Walsh read my post quoting him, and had this to say in a comment: I have a similar problem with a common […]

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Posted in Coordination and quotation fronting, Gapping, Kids' entertainment, Semantics | 13 Comments »

Further FLoPs

Posted on August 24, 2005

A few more Friends in Low Places coordinations to add to the collection: In response to a previous post, commentator Chris linked me a post on Blogslot with some more unusual coordinations, which turned out to be FLoP coordinations–that is, it was of form [A and B] C D where only the C had been […]

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Posted in Right-node wrapping ("Friends in Low Places" coordinations), Semantics | 7 Comments »