Friday, October 31, 2008

when enough is enuf

Click here to see Cullen Murphy's write-up about Righting the Mother Tongue in the Wall Street Journal.


Wednesday, October 29, 2008

hope. why not?

A good photo, plus two worthy videos that recently came across my desk.

YouTube - Generation WE : The Movement Begins...

YouTube - Charles Meets Barack


Friday, October 24, 2008

on tap this week

Click here to see me, talking a little too fast, on a local talk show this morning. Tonight I will be reading at Powell's, which is of course the best bookstore in the solar system.

Meanwhile, my story about Facebooking dissidents in Egypt is just out in the new issue of Wired. Read it here and let me know what you think.

On the spelling front, the conversations just get better and better. Today an interviewer at a progressive talk-radio station demonstrated the kind of neocon-style attitude toward language policing that makes this whole subject so amusing.
And here are a few foibles, courtesy of a friend of a friend. University students in Wisconsin recently included the following on term papers:

"asses" instead of "assess."
"memorandom"
And a misspelling of the company name, Deloitte & Touche. The student wrote "Deloitte & Touché"

Meanwhile, check out this word-geek piece in Smithsonian, and, although it's completely unrelated except for the fact that it too is text made out of words, check out this Vancouver Island kayaking story, written by my friend Frederick.


Lastly, here's one of the more tangled sentences of this campaign season. Tell me: What is a columnist without clarity?

"As if McCain's risky and unsuccessful but in no way irrational attempt to tactically maneuver his way through the economic tsunami that came crashing down a month ago renders unfit for office a man who demonstrated the most admirable equanimity and courage in the face of unimaginable pressures as a prisoner of war, and who later steadily navigated innumerable challenges and setbacks, not the least of which was the collapse of his campaign just a year ago."
-- Charles Krauthammer.

Thursday, October 9, 2008

south on US highway 26

Just another day on the road in central Oregon.

And tomorrow? Flying to New Jersey.

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

book launch!

Introducing Righting the Mother Tongue, available at bookstores everywhere.

Sunday, October 5, 2008

who decides?

Steven Pinker begins the preface to The Language Instinct with the sentence: "I have never met a person who is not interested in language."

I agree, and have for a while now. Yet I never really appreciated the full extent of that interest until writing a book about the English spelling system. And let me tell you: People care. At a party last night, a woman was dying to know whether, as part of my "research," I went to--or maybe it was went after--the people at Toys 'R Us, because of their role in further vandalizing the language with that scandalous backwards r. I told her I had not. Other party-goers were all too eager to don their language police uniforms and go after anyone who messed up an apostrophe, dangled a modifier or spelled through, thru. Then there was Palin's down-home turns of phrase. No one was short on words when it came to that topic.

And a few days ago, a radio interviewer in Missouri was telling me about her Catholic school teachers, and how strict they were about language rules that often didn't make sense. As we discussed the torturous experience of trying to learn grammar, speech and spelling, she raised what is really one of the quintessential questions of Righting the Mother Tongue: Who decides what is right or wrong? I hope my book does a decent job answering, or at least exploring, that question. It's out this coming Tuesday. From language mavens to anything-goes descriptivists--I want to hear from you. Who do you think should decide?