Thurber on Harold Ross of The New Yorker:

When I first met him he asked me if I knew English. I thought he meant French or a foreign language. But he repeated, “Do you know English?” When I said I did he replied, “Goddamn it, nobody knows English.” As Andy White mentioned in his obituary, Ross approached the English sentence as though it was an enemy, something that was going to throw him. He used to fuss for an hour over a comma.

Yes, I’m peeving

Screen Shot 2015-09-06 at 3.29.42 PM“Login” is a noun. Step 2 here should read “On the event date and time, log in and join…”

I see “workout” regularly misused in the same way (at my gym, for example).

And yes, it causes me that peever’s wince, brings out my inner 8th-grade-English teacher (which, as a side note, is not so much of a stretch, in that I now do, in fact, teach 8th-grade English.)

As Dictionary.com helpfully explains:

Many who are neither professionals in the computer field nor amateur tech enthusiasts condemn the use of the solid form login as a verb, and with reason. It doesn’t behave like a normal verb. You cannot say you have loginned, and you are never in the process of loginning. Moreover, you cannot even ask someone to login you; you must ask that person to log you in. Clearly, it is the two-word phrase log in that functions fully as an English verb and not the solid form. Normally, we would expect log in, the verb phrase and login, the noun to behave in the same way as similar pairs: blow out/blowout, crack down/crackdown, hang up/hangup, splash down/splashdown, turn off/turnoff, where the two-word phrase is a verb and the one-word form a noun.

‘And yet,’ concedes Dictionary.com, “this gluing together of terms like login, logon, backup, and setup as verbs is common, especially in writing about computers.”

This is the great conundrum (for me, at least) of descriptivism; how long do you hold the line and insist that “login” is a noun and “log in” is a verb phrase, before you give up (not giveup) and admit defeat?

Contrastive focus reduplication

Q: “Did you have dinner tonight?”

A: “Yeah, but not, like, dinner dinner.”


Google the term, and you’ll come across a lot of references to “The Salad-Salad Paper.”

As in this piece exploring the concept on Dictionary.com.

Also known as “lexical cloning.” (I think I like that term even better for sheer “eh what?”)

For the truly curious, a laundry list of examples from all manner of sources, from Steinbeck to The Simpsons,

And remember this ad?

While my students write, I browse Garner’s.

“benighted stab at correctness”

“ghastly example of hypercorrectness”

“The best writers match substance with form. They use language precisely, evocatively, even daringly.”