18 Nov 2007

The Scop's Oration

Submitted by Karl Hagen
In the movie Beowulf, The scop's oration during the "Beowulf Day" celebration is a bastardized version of Beowulf's fight with Grendel from the poem. It's a snippet of what we originally recorded, which managed to tell the whole fight, from Grendel coming off the moor to Beowulf raising Grendel's arm in victory in about 90 seconds.
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11 Nov 2007

Oh Frabjous Day!

Submitted by Karl Hagen
While poking around in Google Books, I have just discovered that the wonderful Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage is available in full text mode. As far as I'm concerned, this is one of the few really worthwhile usage guides. Unlike most of the bozos who opine about how you should or should not write, the Merriam-Webster's folks actually look to see how reputable writers actually use language instead of just spouting off based on their personal whims, and they show a deep knowledge about the variety of opinion on various points of usage.
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8 Nov 2007
In high school my favorite English teacher was Mrs. Stephens. She was strict, demanded quality writing, and rarely gave A's. And I still remember many of the little usage rules that she insisted on. In my maturity, however, I realize that she taught us many arbitrary rules that have little foundation in reality.
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24 Oct 2007

Another College Board Error

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I haven't written more installments in my series lambasting the College Board recently, but the following may prompt me to continue sooner rather than later. (I have a lot more to say about useless explanations.) I have discovered what appears to be an error on an operational test question. In other words, this question counted towards the scores of all students who took this particular test.

The May 2007 SAT. Section 6, question 24 has the following question:

After the uprising of October 10, 1911, that has led to the establishment of a Chinese republic, many Chinese Americans decided to return to China in hopes of a bright future there. No error

Do you see the problem?

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4 Oct 2007

The diagram as an aesthetic object

Submitted by Karl Hagen
Here are my answers to the question I set in this post.

The constituency problem, as Jangari correctly noted, concerns the prepositional phrase "with the solemn precision of scientists articulating chemical equations." The original diagramming indicates that the "we" of the sentence are learning with precision, but it seems much more natural to assume that it is the diagramming that occurs with precision. In other words, the PP modifies diagram, not learned.

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2 Oct 2007

What's wrong with this diagram?

Submitted by Karl Hagen
I just finished reading Sister Bernadette's Barking Dog by Kitty Burns Florey, a book that purports to tell the history of sentence diagramming. It's not as bad as I had imagined it would be. I had braced myself for an old-fashioned paean to the virtues of diagramming, but in fact Florey is honest about the limitations of diagrams and skeptical about claims that diagramming helps improve one's writing.

That said, there are irritating errors in the book.

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