The Linguists

February 21, 2009

I must remember that I need to see The Linguists when it airs on PBS this Thursday (2/26). David Harrison was my Phonetics/Phonology professor back my Junior year of college so I should really do it just for that, but also because it sounds Interesting.

If I can manage to remember to watch it, I will try to post a review here.

(I should go dig out my VCR and actually record it, but it’s a pain in the ass to hook up in my current setup and I don’t think I have tapes anyway).


Actually, shouldn’t it be called being a Grammar Fascist anyway?

February 3, 2009

So courtesy of Fark, I was pointed to this MSNBC article: Is stress pushing spelling snobs over edge?

(I just noticed as I was typing the title that the headline of the article seems to be missing a ‘the’.)

The article starts off with

Some people avoid Krispy Kreme because of the calories. Angela Nickerson won’t go there because of the Ks.

When you deprive yourself of the tastiest donuts on the planet because you don’t like how they had to spell a trademark qualifying name, you need to start reevaluating how far your Grammar Naziism has gone. It’s much harder to keep a unique trademark when you use words exactly as they appear in the dictionary, which is why there are other Junk Food offenders (Tastykake comes to mind as a Philadelphia resident) and failing to realize that just makes you look beyond pedantic.

The article goes on to suggest that being in these high stress times triggers this kind of fastidious grammar correction. Why not then also write an article about how stressful economic times increases OCD triggered house cleaning? Obsessive behavior is obsessive behavior, but if you have OCD, you’re sick whereas if you’re a Grammar Nazi, you’re just a bitch and therefore less guilt-inducing to write about.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t mind some people mentioned in the article. For instance, I also have an issue with the inappropriate use of quotation marks to indicate emphasis. Mostly it’s because I find it hilarious. I’ve been in stores claiming Our Bathrooms Are “Clean”, or asking me to Try Our “Fresh” Sandwiches. I don’t think this is so much an issue with grammatical rules as it is a failure to understand what quotations indicate when you’re not directly quoting someone. I find it particularly silly when the signs are typed, as it is not hard to turn words into italics, but for the handwritten ones – is it that hard to underline the word? Or in internet chat rooms, to use all caps for the emphatic words or to bracket them with something like asterisks?

If someone is just concerned about the state of grammar education in these modern times, then they pick their battles based on the idea that we must make sure people know how to communicate directly. To constantly berate and belittle based on grammatical ideals created based on the idea that English should be like Latin only makes it that much harder for the truly necessary corrections to be embraced.


Hello world!

January 13, 2009

Greetings! I am the Mysterious Masked Linguist. At the moment I am currently swearing at my attempts to import my old LJ posts into this blog. This WP blog is going to accomplish a few things for me. 1) I’m testing this system out before I recommend it for my father’s blogging and 2) Trying to become more regular about posting my linguist related thoughts, rantings, and ramblings. We shall see how things go.

UPDATE: HAH! Beat it into submission. Awesome.


Fun fact about The Masked Linguist and some more Fun with Structural Ambiguity

December 26, 2008

When the Masked Linguist is stressed, she becomes somewhat pedantic. A little error becomes a nagging thing. Today the bathroom at her workplace (because she has to have a mild-mannered secret identity, though in fact not one so mild-mannered) had a sign instructing people not to close the main door because “the handle is broke.”

This nagged, as despite the fact that The Mysterious Masked Linguist will defend language against over-zealous Prescriptivism, the workplace is one of the places where “Proper English” is supposed to prevail for the sense of professionalism.

Unable to let it slide, she grabbed a black sharpie from a coworkers desk and scrawled an “n” onto the sign. And now she can sit at her desk comfortably, knowing the error has been corrected.

And now for More Fun With Structural Ambiguity

From the 12/18/08 horoscope out of my local free paper
Capricorn: No one has the consistency and endurance required to handle tough situations like you.

Also, headline seen on online site:
Crew injured as speed yacht flips off France


Language ambiguity is still fun

September 24, 2008

Headline seen briefly on MSN.com before I went to Lunch:

Anger and skepticism in Congress dog bailout

We’re bailing dogs out now too?


Structural Ambiguity – Frequently amusing

June 14, 2008

Actual news article headline:
Detective makes promise to rape victim, tracks man for 10 years

First Fark Comment:
“Well? Did he finally rape him or what?”

The article headline was eventually fixed.



December 5, 2007

Ladies, Gentlemen, and people who prefer non-gendered identifications;

Gather ’round as I share with you a great tale. A tale that demonstrates to you the special kind of mind needed to be a linguist! You’ll laugh. You’ll cry. You’ll bemoan “Oh, god that’s SO true”.

Sadly, this is not really my tale to tell (though I’m sure I’ve got one like it somewhere in my past), but rather my friend and fellow linguist, foleyartist1‘s. She is letting me share it all with you because it is just that fabulous a tale.

So seigyoku and I went to Disneyland this past weekend, and one of the rides we checked out was the Christmas version of It’s a Small World After All. Now, basically this ride is a hellish combination of the title song and various Christmas carols which you listen to as you sit in a little boat passing underneath signs that say “Merry Christmas” in various languages.

As we pass underneath a sign that says ‘Mele Kalikimaka’…

foleyartist1: See, you can tell that this language doesn’t allow codas in its syllables, because it imported the phrase making sure no syllable ended in a consonant. You know, kinda like Japanese, but more hard-core.
seigyoku: I see.
foleyartist1: Based on that, I think it’s probably Hawaiian.
seigyoku: I think it’s Hawaiian too.
foleyartist1: Oh? Why?
seigyoku: Because the sign is surrounded by animatronic hula dancers.

I’m sure I would have noticed them eventually.