What I'm Reading - Vol. Two

Tuesday, April 30, 2013

image source:  East News

When 'Best' Isn't Good Enough
A few years ago I got this note from a mother in my son's class. "Hey, we both end our emails with 'Carpe Diem'! Hope the parents in class won't confuse us, ha-ha!" Naturally, I thought she was kidding, and wrote back saying our different names might be a tip-off we weren't the same person. "Oh sure," she said, "but I've used 'Carpe Diem' forever. People know me by that one. It would be great if you used something else from now on. Thanks!" After briefly considering the the alternative, "Carpe Diem, You Control Freak," I continued ending my notes as I had, and the mother dropped the issue. But it was the first time I realized how fraught that little epistolary goodbye can be.

Who knew your email sign-off could be such a serious thing. What do you sign your emails with? I've fallen into the habit of signing off with "Thanks". The sad thing is that I still use it even when there's nothing particular that I'm thanking the person for. Taking the time to read my email, maybe? What do you use?

Texting as a "miraculous thing": 6 ways our generation is redefining communication
Texting is not a blight on the English language, says linguist John McWhorter in a talk given at TED2013. Rather, texting is a "miraculous thing": a novel linguistic mode that's redefining the way we communicate with each other -- for the better. McWhorter points out that texting shouldn't be categorized as written language -- but as speech. This shift makes the apparent problem of grammatical errors seem misplaced and unimportant.

Slash: Not Just a Punctuation Mark Anymore
Slash is clearly a word to watch. Slash I do mean word, not punctuation mark. The emergence of a new conjunction/conjunctive adverb (let alone one stemming from a punctuation mark) is like a rare-bird sighting in the world of linguistics. This use of slash is so commonplace for students in my class that they almost forgot to mention it as a new slang word this term. That young people have integrated innovative slash into their language while barely noticing its presence is all the more reason that conjunctive slash might have staying power. 

It's obvious that the language nerd inside of me is coming out in full force when I find an article on a punctuation mark interesting! If someone else finds this topic remotely interesting, please let me know so I'll know I'm not the only person!

How to Make a Flight Attendant Love You 
THE HOLY GRAIL OF KINDNESS TO A FLIGHT ATTENDANT: If you're finished with a magazine, hand it to her as she walks through collecting trash and say, 'I thought you might like this." Seriously, you'll get so many cookies and extra beverages if you do it. TRY IT.

The George Jones Sound 
His voice was the source of envy, and sometimes envious parody, among his peers. In its most notable and glorious movement, his voice bent and twanged like the sound an old saw makes when you give it a shake. He found vowels in words where no one had ever seen them before. Other pop singers have possessed what is often called "an instrument", but Jones's voice was the closest to making this expression real: it was a thing, like a reliable tool dusted off in an old shed, smooth in places, rough in others. It was like honey that had caught a few specks of dirt.  

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