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.
An interesting article in today's Los Angeles Times about the 'Democrat majority,' a phrase that has apparently been used for years, albeit intermittently, by certain Republicans. The story's author, Maura Reynolds, has apparently done her homework. She even cites a 1957 article from American Speech on its use in the 1950s.
This is a word that deserves more attention. Two different senses show up in different on-line dictionaries. The Urban Dictionary defines it as a small piece of excrement floating alone in a toilet bowl. That's a fairly prosaic instance of derivation, just the dimminutive -let tacked on to crap.
A colleague passed on a three-way e-mail exchange discussing the difference between hang and hung. By itself, that isn't all that interesting. The usage guides all give more or less the same instructions. This explanation from The American Heritage Dictionary is typical:
For Christmas, Sherina (uxorum optima!) gave me a book that has been on my wish list for a while now: Error and the Academic Self by Seth Lerer (who was my undergraduate advisor years ago at Princeton). Of course I immediately sat down and read the first two chapters, and probably would have finished the book if I hadn't had to cook Christmas dinner. Lerer writes about the connection between error and errancy among scholars, and although I have left academia, I certainly have been errant (in the sense of intellectually wandering). I've been spending my free time working on some behind-the-scenes architecture for this site. I hope to roll out the results in a week or two, once I've managed to debug everything.
Grammar teachers (and I mean those who are actually teaching grammar, not grammar-school teachers) could pick up a few pointers from math teachers. Thanks to a recent post on The Quick and the Ed, I learned about a great book by Liping Ma on teaching elementary mathematics. I've just ordered the book from Amazon, so all I've had a chance to read is the snippet available on the search-inside pages, but I immediately ran across some very interesting remarks that seem directly relevant to grammar pedagogy.