Fwd: LINGUIST 30Q
flanigan at OHIOU.EDU
Mon Jun 14 18:33:21 UTC 2004
Wow, this gives me heart to object to the writing on our university
website's instructions to international applicants. It includes run-ons,
fragments, missing commas, oversupplied commas, etc.--all of which native
readers could disentangle but nonnatives could get, well, tangled up in. I
WILL complain now, though I'm dealing, I'm sure, with low-level page
writers who may not even understand what I'm complaining about.
BTW, I love that "alright" too--a spelling this curmudgeon gets all riled
up about. (And has anyone noticed that the NY Times fussily uses "roiled
up" whenever it has to use the phrase? Who on earth ever says "roiled up"?)
At 11:01 AM 6/14/2004 -0700, you wrote:
>i seem to be turning into a ranting curmudgeon; the events of the past
>year have left me with little patience for nonsense (like the blind
>application of "rules" from style sheets, as below), though i have
>endless patience for things i consider to be important.
>in the (slightly edited) exchange below, provided for your
>entertainment, i demand the reinstatement of a comma in a course
>description. i'm pleased to say that the stanford bulletin editor
>replied with a charming note conceding my point and restoring the
>comma, a decision applauded by both my department chair and the provost
>of the university.
>arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu)
>Begin forwarded message:
>>From: Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at csli.stanford.edu>
>>Date: June 11, 2004 6:06:55 PM PDT
>>Cc: [various university administrators]
>>Subject: Re: LINGUIST 30Q
>>On Jun 11, 2004, at 3:19 PM, [ML] wrote:
>>> Hi Arnold,
>>> Stylistically, the Bulletin office is opposed to the addition of the
>>>comma in your course description. Would you like me to "take up the
>>>fight", so to speak, or is it alright without the comma?
>>> Date: Fri, 11 Jun 2004 14:50:21 -0700
>>> To: [ML]
>>> From: [SS]
>>> Subject: Re: LINGUIST 30Q
>>> Hi [M],
>>> We do not use a comma before "including" or "such as" anywhere in
>>>the Bulletin. Descriptions are more like recipes or koans than
>>>expository prose, and many of the style conventions that we use
>>>derive from that. Because we use extra commas in lists of 3 or more
>>>(i.e., before the "and"), I tend to minimize commas elsewhere unless
>>>there is a "meaning reason."
>>> Arnold Zwicky approves of the LINGUIST 30Q course description,
>>>except would like to add an extra comma:
>>> i'd like a comma in here:
>>> The real system of English grammar and usage, including...
>>I suppose I should point out the irony of [SS]'s pronouncement with
>>respect to the content of the course I am asking to teach.
>>There are good reasons for having, or not having, a comma before
>>"including" or "such as" (the two cases are not parallel, by the way).
>> A careful writer will consider these. I wanted that comma because
>>the version the Registrar's office wants to insist on --
>> The real system of English grammar and usage including prepositions,
>>pronouns, modifiers, syntactic functions such as subjects, and forms
>>such as the accusative case.
>>-- fails to distinguish between nonrestrictive modifiers (my
>>intention) and restrictive modifiers (the Registrar's version). I
>>would silently correct the Registrar's version in material I was
>>editing for publication; it strikes me as semi-literate.
>>The Registrar's office is, of course, entitled to do whatever it
>>wants. It could decide that the "zw" in my family name is
>>unacceptable and insist on correcting it to "zaw". It could decide
>>that my whole name is too peculiar and should be replaced by something
>>truly American, say, "Alex Adams". But I don't have to cooperate.
>>Much as I like teaching Stanford undergraduates, and being paid for
>>it, I don't have to assent to arbitrary reworkings of what I write.
>>The Registrar's office proposes to save commas before "including",
>>apparently because it's spent its comma quota on serial commas (a good
>>decision, by the way, though I can't imagine why this should be viewed
>>as a zero-sum game). This is just a pig-ignorant decision to go for
>>consistency, in some utterly superficial sense. (What person reading
>>the Bulletin could *possibly* notice that there was an inconsistency
>>in the use of commas before "including"? Who the hell could care? Is
>>there a problem with commas increasing the size of the Bulletin? Get
>>a grip, people.)
>>Look, one of the *points* of the course I am hoping to teach is that
>>official pronouncements on the use of language -- even including the
>>fine details of punctuation -- are not necessarily accurate, sensible,
>>or worthy of attention. Some of them are just fucked.
>>The Registrar's office is, as I said, entitled to do what it wants.
>>I, too, am a free agent. If the Registrar's office insists on its
>>version, I choose to opt out. I utterly love teaching SIS courses,
>>but not at the cost of being pushed around on points on which I am
>>something of an authority.
>>Put back the comma or lose me. I'm deadly serious about this.
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