Tag Archives: language


“There are less people here today than yesterday.” It’s fewer, people! Fewer people!* It’s an easy rule. I think you can handle it, my friends. If you’re talking about a bunch of things (multiple objects), you use fewer, fewest. Example: “I’ll order fewer pancakes next time.” If you say “less pancakes,” sorry, but I may […]

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Our poor little language gets pranked again. It’s Thursday, and if you happen to be in Arlington, Virginia, and if you like oysters, you can eat raw ones at a certain restaurant, from 4:00 p.m. “til supplies last.” (I’ll wait while you squint at the photo to see for yourself. Or until you do.) Now, seeing […]

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two yard sculptures

One hopes the neighbors have found a common language even if their yard sculptures have not.

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You may think this is about a linguistic nicety, the bit that comes before the main part and imparts a nice twist—something came before, or after (pre-, post-); or the word sort of applies (pseudo-); or the action is being done again (re-); and so on. No. It’s about a dinner that come before another dinner, apparently—a […]

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Some guy at Slate went to a lot of effort to let us know the ten worst catchphrases of 2011. I confess that the only reason I looked at it was to see if it included an annoying tic I see a lot, especially in online comments. It almost always closes the anonymous burst of […]

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To kick off the new year, here’s a story by a Russian writer with a very Polish name: Sigismund Krzhizhanovsky. I’m just starting to explore his works, only a few of which have appeared in English. I thought I’d add to that little pile by translating a short piece called “The Land of the Nots” […]

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Encoding (aka code pages)? No one gives a damn about encoding! True enough. It’s so deeply geeky, it’s hard to imagine any normal person knowing the difference between CP1251 and KOI8-R, for instance. Windows had code pages coming out the wazoo. And then there was ASCII … Anyway, it was a big pain to some […]

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I lost interest in the Great Snowfall of 2010 (February 5–6)* when it became clear we were not going to break any records. Snow, and then more snow, and snow yet again … yeah, we’re having an unusually snowy winter, big deal. Then the “blizzard conditions” arrived, on top of the snow that had fallen […]

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Seen on the rump of a car last week: O’BAMA 2008 ♣ Vote Irish ♣ And today: Jeff Greenfield on the American preference for presidents with unchallenging (i.e., bland, preferably mono- or bisyllabic Anglo-Saxon) last names. Could a George W. Dukakis ever have been elected? George W. Kucinich (or Voinovich)? George W. Deukmejian? A “nation […]

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The other day my friend Thomas (aka The Newsrack Blogger) got into a fistfight at a local bookstore over the question of impeachment. Okay, it wasn’t a fistfight—he had shouting match with Eric Alterman, author of Why We’re Liberals: A Political Handbook for Post-Bush America, during the Q&A at a book signing. Okay, okay, the […]

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  • Proverbs for Paranoids, 3: If they can get you asking the wrong questions, they don't have to worry about answers.
    Gravity’s Rainbow

    ‘Is it about a bicycle?’ he asked.
    The Third Policeman