Category: Language

“Sentence first — verdict afterwards,” says the Red Queen in Alice in Wonderland; and the trial of the Knave of Hearts has justly remained the literary standard for injustice, since the book’s publication in 1869. Being an idiot, I thought the expression originated with Lewis Carroll, until last night. I was reading Macaulay’s 1830 essay […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted December 30, 2006 @ 1:13 PM | Language

The first piece of advice in Strunk and White’s Elements of Style concerns punctuation — the proper use of the apostrophe. I learn that I must write “Charles’s execution,” but “Jesus’ crucifixion.” Already my prose is improving, though not at the rate I would like. Items 2 through 8 also concern punctuation. I learn to […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted December 8, 2006 @ 2:28 PM | Language,Literature

While my back was turned blogs again united to take the power back, this time over the English language: Prior to the arrival of the Blogosphere, the Academics controlled the media. Not directly, of course, but the standards in which the media and journalists conformed to the literary fads. Journalists self-regulated, in consultation with their […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted June 26, 2004 @ 1:21 PM | Language

Eve Tushnet posts a list of great book titles, which you ought to read, like most everything else she writes. It is surprising how scarce great titles are, once you get to thinking about it. She marks some of them “in context,” which means you have to read the book to appreciate them, and this […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted May 4, 2004 @ 8:52 PM | Language,Literature

“In his first 100 days as President, John Kerry will sign an executive order to end influence peddling and secret deals,” Kerry spokesman Mark Kornblau said. Senator John Edwards proposes new restrictions on lobbyists in an effort to end “the nasty business of influence peddling” in Washington. Howard Dean doesn’t like influence peddling either. Neither […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted February 6, 2004 @ 2:48 PM | Language,Politics

Bad academic writing is called by its perpetrators “difficult” in the same way indulgent parents call their rotten children “difficult.” “Delinquent” would be apter in both cases. Jonathan Culler and Kevin Lamb have proferred the standard excuses in Just Being Difficult? Academic Writing in the Public Arena, which I haven’t read and doubt I could […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted December 13, 2003 @ 6:15 PM | Language

George Wallace, standing athwart the history of language yelling “Stop!”, proposes to replace “blog” with “web journal.” He enlists David Giacolone, who argues: Nurturers and caretakers of language do not have to accept the mindless process that begat the word “blog” and its progeny, even though it may be too late to keep teenyboppers, the […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted November 4, 2003 @ 5:35 PM | Language

I liked Eve Tushnet’s list of words she overuses; all bloggers should be required to post one. Here’s mine: but so because notwithstanding even distinguish (also the adjective, “distinguished”) ritual dispositive (twice is too often) characteristic I There’s a glass and concrete tower in Manhattan, 9 West 57th Street, with crossed steel supports on the […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted August 21, 2003 @ 11:51 AM | Language

Poor Thomas Nashe. He is credited with one of the most famous lines in English poetry, and he never wrote it. From Summer’s Last Will and Testament Adieu, farewell earth’s bliss, This world uncertain is; Fond are life’s lustful joys, Death proves them all but toys, None from his darts can fly. I am sick, […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted August 2, 2003 @ 12:32 PM | Language,Poetry

“In the adversity of our best friends we always find something that is not displeasing,” La Rochefoucauld wrote in 1665, identifying Schadenfreude — “joy in adversity,” an almost literal translation of his aphorism — for the first time, although more general strictures against envy date back to the Ten Commandments and beyond. The word, however, […]

Aaron Haspel | Posted July 31, 2003 @ 1:16 PM | Language,Philosophy