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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting the fun back into proper grammar
I've always been sort of a grammar freak (which is not to say I don't make my share of mistakes), but I now know I'm not quite ready to play with the big boys. Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum are definitely two of the big boys, and they do indeed like to play. That's part of the reason they started an online magazine called Language Log and began filling it with...
Published on 26 July 2006 by Daniel Jolley

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars pithy commentary on some aspect of grammar that has annoyed the authors
This is a collection of selected posts from The Language Log, a lively blog about grammar and more. Each entry is a short, pithy commentary on some aspect of grammar that has annoyed the authors.

For example, Geoff Pullum clearly has issues with Strunk and White:

pp.39-40: "Strunk and White’s toxic little book of crap"

p68:...
Published 6 months ago by Susan Stepney


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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars pithy commentary on some aspect of grammar that has annoyed the authors, 9 Aug. 2014
This review is from: Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log (Paperback)
This is a collection of selected posts from The Language Log, a lively blog about grammar and more. Each entry is a short, pithy commentary on some aspect of grammar that has annoyed the authors.

For example, Geoff Pullum clearly has issues with Strunk and White:

pp.39-40: "Strunk and White’s toxic little book of crap"

p68: "If you want to see what the very worst of the usage and style recommenders say, it is always a good idea to turn to Strunk and White’s The Elements of Style first."

p322: "Strunk and White’s poisonous little collection of bad grammatical advice, The Elements of Style"

Many of the entries are examples of poor grammar advice, as delivered by people who don’t know the real grammar of English. There is some interesting discussion on how grammar can be descriptive rather than prescriptive (having rules derived from how people actually use the language, rather than having a bunch of made-up rules that few people follow), whilst simultaneously allowing for grammatical errors (the derived rules are based on patterns of usage, not just single idiosyncratic events).

p279: "it’s not just the existence of ignorant authoritarian prescriptivism in this culture that needs an explanation, it’s also the level of anger that accompanies its expression."

Some of their advice I myself do not follow. For example, they talk of the “which-hunts”, where people are told that, for example, “the phone on the desk which is ringing” is grammatically incorrect, and should be “the phone on the desk that is ringing”. I’m not claiming that the “which” form is incorrect, but I do advise my students to use the “that” form, in order to clearly distinguish it from “the phone on the desk, which is ringing”. (The form without the comma indicates there are several phones on the desk, and I am referring to the one of them that is ringing; the form with the comma indicates there is a single phone on the desk, which, by the way, is ringing.) I advise my students to do this because many writers don’t seem to know that the comma in the sentence changes the meaning, and I think it is easier for them to get the right meaning if they consistently use “that” for one form, and restrict “which” for the other. But I don’t get angry about it.

Many of the entries here are quite technical, using grammatical terms that I wasn’t previously aware of. But it’s all written in a witty, trenchant style. It ends up with some entries on Dan Brown’s writing style, which I had come across before when reviewing the film of The Da Vinci Code, and was the main reason I bought this book (and didn’t buy the Dan Brown book!).
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7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Putting the fun back into proper grammar, 26 July 2006
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Daniel Jolley "darkgenius" (Shelby, North Carolina USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log (Paperback)
I've always been sort of a grammar freak (which is not to say I don't make my share of mistakes), but I now know I'm not quite ready to play with the big boys. Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum are definitely two of the big boys, and they do indeed like to play. That's part of the reason they started an online magazine called Language Log and began filling it with mini-essays, observations, and occasional rants on all sorts of grammatical topics. Their overriding goal was to reintroduce the general public to linguistics and the proper use of the English language. Even now, it sounds like a crazy dream - after all, I certainly don't remember the last time a break room conversation at work turned into a debate over linguistics - but I think it is safe to say the site has been wildly successful. It's not all that hard to see why. Liberman and Pullum are not your prototypical linguistics professors, and they don't write boring, pedantic, stodgy old posts about arcane topics. Instead, their writing is witty, pithy, sometimes surprisingly irreverent, and - well - fun. Most of their posts are borne of things they hear on the news, read in a book, come across on a web page, etc. Scholars by day - working on articles that take months to appear in journals only those in the profession will likely ever read - these fellows, as they readily admit, have a blast working on The Language Log, largely because the site affords them the luxury of instant publication, grants them the means to correspond with a growing readership of laymen genuinely interested in the proper use of language, and allows them to express ideas they could never truly address in a peer-reviewed journal. Far From the Madding Gerund is the natural outgrowth of their online mission, bringing together a wide range of Language Log posts.

It's obvious how much these men love and care about linguistics, especially now that it is becoming a lost art in the world of academia. They want to communicate their own feelings for the subject matter to others and thereby help right some of the wrongs being perpetrated in the grammatical world of today. They are not knights defending a 19th-century treasure horde of golden rules, either. I was quite surprised by the flexibility and adaptability they show toward modern-day usage. The language changes constantly, and they are right there in the middle of it, warning us of the dangers and obstacles that lurk around each corner and shining the light of truth on those who would mislead us. They absolutely excoriate Strunk and White, long-recognized authority figures in the field, take copy editors to task for mangling perfectly acceptable grammar into highfaluting nonsense, and bemoan those who are propagating grammatical myths to many a student. Some of what they say goes against what I was taught, but the authors go to great lengths to defend their positions - not only do they tell us that, to take one example, the commandment "thou shalt not split infinitives" is without merit, they explain why.

I had several different reactions to the information in this book. Early on, I was disheartened to find Pullum allowing for the fact that the singular they (one of my own biggest pet peeves) is becoming standard, but it just goes to show you how separated both authors are from prescriptivists who oppose any and all changes in the English language. Once they began arguing that split infinitives are perfectly OK, though, they had my full attention and maintained it all the way through the book's hilarious ending (several Pullum essays devoted to what he regards as the stylistic mess of mega-author Dan Brown's writing - starting with the very first sentence of The Da Vinci Code).

Far From the Madding Gerund isn't a particularly easy read, however. While the authors are in many ways writing for the non-linguistic crowd, their essays are littered with linguistic terms I never knew or forgot the meanings of long ago (preterites, past and present subjunctives, etc.). On the other hand, most of the material they address comes from pop culture in the form of comments from government leaders, articles in newspapers, and well-known books of literature. They also make heavy use of Google searches as an unscientific yet demonstrative means of gauging the prevalent usage of certain words or phrases (proving that certain ones are far from the brink of extinction, no matter what others might say).

Before closing, I think it would behoove me to say that Liberman and Pullum are not grammar policemen; in fact, they have no use whatsoever for those who yell Gotcha and make a big deal out of every single grammatical mistake they come across (unless, of course, it's Dan Brown's). They will, however, pounce upon anyone they find corrupting young grammatical minds with completely wrong notions about the proper use of English. Through it all, their overriding goal is simply to show the public that linguistics is not only important, it can also be a lot of fun.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Wonderful. If there were six stars, 21 Dec. 2014
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This review is from: Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log (Paperback)
Wonderful. If there were six stars, I would click on all six. Lively, often very amusing, sometimes sardonic, always intelligent and opinionated - a dream for linguists (of whom I am one), and I think an attractive proposition for anyone who worries about the way our language is developing.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Fascinating, 6 Dec. 2012
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This review is from: Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log (Paperback)
This is an excellent book for anyone who is interested in language and has a good sense of humour. Highly recommended.
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Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log
Far from the Madding Gerund: And Other Dispatches from Language Log by Geoffrey K. Pullum (Paperback - 30 April 2006)
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