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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Till Supplies Last

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