Saturday, February 26, 2011

Garden Path Newspaper Heading

Newspapers are well-known for potentially vague and ambiguous headings for stories, but the following heading, for me, was really just confusing:

Police: Crying toddler 4 hours in shut bank vault

I had to read that several times before my brain made sense of it.

I don't normally think of newspaper headings as garden path sentences, but I think this might qualify as one--the problem for me is the "4 hours" bit. If it had come after "in the bank vault", some weirdness could have been avoided: "crying toddler in shut bank vault 4 hours". That kind of sounds better, but it leaves me wondering what advantage that has over putting in the preposition 'for' in front of "4 hours". And was the 'crying' necessary? Why not cut out 'crying' in favor of words that would help in understanding the heading? After all, I can't imagine a toddler being stuck in a vault for 4 hours without some crying involved.

In reading the article, though, some of the sentences inside the article were also a bit, uh, interesting in their structures:

Authorities say police and firefighters couldn't free the toddler and feverishly summoned the locksmith after the child apparently strayed into the open vault as the bank was closing Friday — before an employee shut the vault door for the day.

My issue is with the "after the child apparently strayed into the open vault as the bank was closing Friday" clause--it comes in an odd place to logically follow the flow of the story. If police and firefighters summed a locksmith, then it would have to be after the child had already gotten stuck in the vault. My thought is that the story would have been more clear if the bit about how the toddler got stuck in the vault in the first place had been placed before the police and firefighters summoning a locksmith.

Here's the real question: Am I just being picky? Or do other readers find the piece a bit jilted because it jumps back and forth in the telling?

Friday, February 25, 2011

Best Blend Ever?

I have mentioned the linguistic genius of the writers of Modern Family before. Well, they've done it again with creative blending.

In this week's episode, Phil couldn't figure out why Claire (his wife) is upset with him. So as she leaves the house, he shouts, "Happy Valenbirthiversary!"

I dare you to come up with a better blend.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

For All Ye Old English Fans

Last year, several of my HEL students fell in love with the letter thorn (þ) and wanted to reinstate it in our modern English alphabet. They must not be alone because Michael Everson has recently started a blog: þ

I dare you to not love (or at least appreciate) a blog whose first post starts with these words:

For many years I have been a devotee of the noble letter þorn and its history. This blog will celebrate the letter þorn and will, from time to time, be updated with þorny þings of interest.

I must say, it's quite refreshing to know I'm not alone in feeling outright joy for (or 'obsession with'?) language. And now I have to figure out how many ways I can insert 'þorny þings' into my lexicon.

Wednesday, February 23, 2011

Latin American Studies Speaker Series

For anyone interested, Dr. Heather Olson Beal is giving a presentation today for the Latin American Studies Speaker Series; her presentation is "Education and Language Immersion":

What happens when educational policymakers mix second language acquisition and
mandatory school desegregation? Come find out more about a unique Spanish/French
immersion program in Louisiana that has been successful in raising student achievement,
helping students develop target language proficiency, and attracting a diverse student body.

The presentation will be held at 4:00 p.m. today in LAN 102 (the presentation is 30 minutes and will be followed by 30 minutes of Q&A).

Anyone interested in language acquisition, education, and/or applied linguistics should attend the presentation!

Interesting LingLinks

I've been meaning to write a post for a while now that provides some interesting links to linguistic-y articles. My original intention was to do a post on each, but since I waited so long, I'm going to provide them all in one post. The first three are all English-specific:

1. "Acquitted by heavy NP shift?" on the Language Log is an article about how dangerous it is to drop function words out of sentences--especially when that sentence is a part of a law. You be the jury: Should the driver have been acquitted for sloppy legal writing?

2. "Cannot Be Underestimated" by Ben Zimmer (for the New York Times 'On Language' column) focuses on that very phrase in English and its misuse. It's similar to the debate on how "couldn't care less" should actually be used--many American speakers say "I could care less" to mean they actually couldn't care less about something (because if they could care less, then they care at least a little bit, which isn't what they meant to say in the first place). On the flip side, you might say this article is about how English idiomizes entire phrases so that they mean something different as a whole from what they should logically mean if you add up the meaning of the parts. (Yes, I do believe I just made up a word--should it have been 'idiomify'? 'Idiomaticize'? 'Idiomaticalize'?)

3. "The Passive in English" by Mark Lieberman (on the Language Log) provides a description of the English passive--a construction that is often misunderstood.

And, finally, the last article is not so language-specific:

4. "Typing vs. Longhand: Does it affect your writing?" by Livia Blackburne investigates the possibilities that writing something out longhand will leave you with a different product than if you had typed the same thing from the get-go. As a person who loves to write things out longhand (at least in note form) before typing, it's an interesting question. I often find it difficult to go straight to the computer to type, especially if it's near the beginning stages of the writing process. My brain almost requires the connection of pen and paper to be able to get things going. Once they're going, I can often move to a keyboard and type away. I now want to experiment on my writing to test it for any differences that might result from relying on each writing process. If you know there is a difference when you use one or the other when you write, I'd be interested in hearing it (and I'm sure Livia would, too).

Have a "ling-tastic" time reading through those articles!

Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Ling Club: First Meeting

The SFA Linguistics Club (SFALC) will have its first meeting on Wednesday, March 9, at 4:00 p.m. in the English Conference room (LAN 208).

Come join us for linguistics fun and free food!

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

Hilarious Correction, as posted by The Media Blog

Just when you think you are so tired that nothing could make you take the energy to giggle, you come across something as hilarious as this (which was originally posted on The Media Blog):

Thank you to The Media Blog for posting this, and thank you to the person who sent me the link about this article. I didn't just giggle--I chuckled out loud as I repeated "30 sows and pigs!" several times to my computer screen. While my computer doesn't seem to get the joke, I sure am glad I do.