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When you call me Miss or Mrs.
You invade my private life,
For it’s not the public’s business
If I am, or was, a wife.
(Anon, quoted in Miller & Swift’s Handbook of Non-Sexist Writing.)
More at Sentence first: Ms., Mrs., and Missing options
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Quotative like can set up a whole miniature drama, with visual content contributing to a richer vocabulary than words alone could license.
Sentence first: “And I’m like, Quotative ‘like’ isn’t just for quoting”
[T]he story of English includes not only the change in its sounds and grammar that transformed Old English into the language I am writing in, but at the same time rampant vocabulary mixture with other languages. Writers often attribute this to English being particularly “flexible,” but this is a post hoc misconception. Any language can incorporate boatloads of foreign words, and most have. All it takes is contact between cultures, and of course there is no culture on earth that does not have, or has not in the past had, significant contact with other peoples.
John McWhorter, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language
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Sentence first: The dramatic grammatic evolution of LOL; or, how LOL has become grammaticalised into a pragmatic particle.
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Is perky really the word we would apply to someone with, as a dictionary might say, “a buoyant or self-confident air; briskly cheerful”? Michael Richards’ Seinfeld character Cosmo Kramer was buoyant, self-confident, and briskly cheerful, but one would not call him “perky.” On the contrary, perky in American English is a word that one cannot use without quotation marks — it has taken on a deeply ironic tone, is largely restricted in regard to gender (referring usually to women), and carries a faint whiff of disapproval in implying a certain shallowness. Many words in a real language are like this; you kind of have to “be there” to fully grasp their arbitrarily particular meanings.
John McWhorter, The Power of Babel: A Natural History of Language (Arrow Books, 2003)
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Language-related books recently added to the shelf. A few were gifts, the rest were second-hand bookshop finds.
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Black hole, the long falling
Darkness peering, portable darkness –
Tidal dreams, grotesque dreams,
The holy door on Green Dolphin street.
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Frequency of letters in the English language, compiled by Peter Norvig based on Google Books corpus data (over 743 billion words).
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