A lot of people think of reading Moby-Dick as a chore, even if they’ve never tried in earnest. It has a bad reputation for being a hard book, and it’s certainly chock full of information about whaling that many find boring. If it’s widely ignored or feared, Moby-Dick is also a book widely loved, and I thought I’d spend a post writing on its behalf. There’s so much in the book to enjoy and admire, especially if you’re of a mind to turn the odd phrase yourself. Read more
Posts by Daryl L. L. Houston
Having closed out my grammar series, I’m now starting up a new series of posts in which I’ll share an excerpt from something I’ve read that made an impression on me and explain what I liked about it. The idea here is that appreciating compelling or artful writing can help us to become better writers ourselves. In this first installment, I consider a story by Joe Meno entitled “The Use of Medicine” and collected in his 2005 book of stories entitled Bluebirds Used to Croon in the Choir. Read more
For nearly two years, I’ve written posts about grammar and usage, so clearly it’s a topic that I think is important. Equally important, I think, is knowing when it’s appropriate to insist on proper grammar and how to go about it.
You hear of cases now and then in which people go into public and make a big show of correcting grammatical problems on signage. Take for example this instance that resulted in probation for two men who fixed the grammar on a sign at Grand Canyon National Park. The men in fact went on a nationwide crusade to fix public typos, as documented in an NPR story and a book. Read more
Without reruns, I would never have known the joys of Gilligan’s Island and Happy Days, of The Brady Bunch and M*A*S*H. Without reruns of the culinary variety, I’d have to cook every night instead of doing half-labor by cooking a meal planned for two nights. Some things — I’m looking at you, chili — are even better warmed over. So in celebration of reruns, I offer a retrospective of a few posts I’ve written from the past couple of years that I liked, that garnered a fair number of comments, or whose ideas (if not necessarily my particular expression of them) are important. Read more
Tasked this week with explaining how to properly use a semicolon, I thought immediately of the poster designed by the fellow behind web comic The Oatmeal. He’s done a number of grammar posters, and there’s very little I could add to the explanation he offers. I’ll summarize, but for some colorful examples, be sure to check out his post. Read more
English usage snobs all over the internet shudder when they hear the word “literally” used to mean its opposite. For example, somebody who claims to have been “literally scared to death” actually means that he was figuratively scared to death. If he had been literally scared to death, he wouldn’t be around to tell us about his fate. Search Google for the simple word “literally” and you’ll find no shortage of sites correcting the misuse. Some fun treatments include that of The Oatmeal (beware, it’s a little off-color) and xkcd.