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September 17, 2008

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Wait, wait, you're going too fast! I can't write it all down! Thanks for this good stuff!

I think it's significant that Wallace's essay/review of Garner's usage book is titled "Tense Present," coz holy cow, is usage ever a fraught subject. But what a writer. A sad loss indeed. BTW, the essays you mention, plus some others, are collected in the book "Consider the Lobster."

re: Punctuation Day, National. I sigh when I read this as their manifesto: "because of declining standards of literacy". Here's a thought from Tom McAruthur:

"It appears from the evidence that there was never a golden age in which the rules for the use of the possessive apostrophe in English were clear-cut and known, understood, and followed by most educated people."

I think that the perception that people are losing (somtimes spelled "loosing," of course) the ability to punctuate is something of a Recency Illusion, fostered in particular because the writing of people who have a shaky grasp of punctuation conventions is way, way more visible than it would have been in, say, 1950. (Thank you, WWW.)

I'm all for having people learn the _important_ conventions for using our jots and tittles, but I'm saddened that people feel that this requires the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments that characterizes the Conservative notion that things were so, so wonderful in our golden past, and Things Are Going To Hell Today.

They weren't, and they're not.

On the plus side, the folks behind this -- I hesitate to use this word -- "celebration" are keeping punctuation and grammar distinct, yay.

PS Someone throw Lynn Truss in a dungeon for this day, so that we don't have to hear her tedious whinging (as we undoubtedly will) about, like, greengrocers['] apostrophe[']s. :-) (<-- CMoS shudders at this, BTW.)

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