When I taught linguistics-for-teachers courses, I spent a significant portion of my class time trying to get students to question their assumptions about language, assumptions that, whether they learned them in school or by general osmosis, are based on premises that linguists know to be incorrect. It always distressed me, therefore, when certain students would make it to the end of the course and drop some comment that made it clear they had internalized little of what I was trying to communicate.
I'm contemplating changing polysyllabic's tag-line to "commentary by a licensed grammarian." Oh, wait! I don't have a license. There's no license required to set yourself up as a grammarian. And it shows in the quality of material that supposedly will teach you grammar. I'm not actually a fan of requiring paper credentials for every field, but the complete lack of quality control in writing about grammar irritates me so much that I fear I'm in danger of becoming just as cranky as Goold Brown:
If you are a high school student studying for one of the big standardized tests (the SAT or the ACT), or if you are the parent of such a student, I have one important piece of advice for you: don't waste your money on commercial test prep books, especially when it comes to the material for writing.
Today, the Supreme Court is scheduled to hear the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case, which involves a teenager who was suspended after unfurling a banner reading "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" at a school-sanctioned event.
I am something of a creature of habit, and therefore will stick to the same blogs for a long time. Lately though, I've been trying to expand my reading, and so I've been following links from the sites I frequent to language-oriented sites that I haven't visited before. In the process, I have discovered 1) Language Log really needs to update their links. At least half the sites on their sidebar are defunct.
Creative Commons has just released version 3.0 of their license, and I have relicensed everything on this site (apart from the out-of-copyright stuff, which remains public domain) with this latest license. Unless you're planning to reuse my material, that will be of no interest to you, but it does give me a chance to praise the good folks at Creative Commons for their invaluable work promoting the ideals of free culture.
Almost everyone was taught in school to avoid using the passive voice. Fewer know how to identify the passive voice, but I'm going to assume for the moment that you are part of the elite who can and ask you to do a little grammatical analysis with me.
This discussion of Grammar Taliban reminds me of a mondegreen that I heard a young cousin of my wife utter last summer when we were visiting Malaysia. Said cousin had heard us singing Harry Belafonte's Banana Boat Song to our son by way of a lullaby, and so whenever he would start fussing, she would pipe up with "Come, Mr. Taliban, tally me bananas"
Sally Thomason has been championing a kind of humane prescriptivism, which is surely a bit unusual for the crew at Language Log, but I have a great deal of sympathy.
In the context of language-arts education, a certain prescriptivism is unavoidable. There is a written standard, like it or not, and there are social consequences to violating the standard in certain contexts.