From the Archives: Fun City

When a friend in his thirties came up to me at a party the other day and said, “I have a question about fun,” I knew he wasn’t going to ask about whether the word could be used as an adjective. That would be like asking if iced tea could be used as a beverage. Writing in The Atlantic Monthly in 1997, Barbara Wallraff described Steven Pinker as remarking that “he can tell whether people are under or over thirty years old by whether they’re willing to accept fun as a full-fledged adjective.” Today that translates to over or under 47, which seems about right.Indeed, my friend’s question concerned a nuance: he had read a post on the Grammarist blog about the merits of the comparative forms funner and more fun, and wanted to know my thoughts. Before I tell you my answer, a little background.

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From the Archives: Elizabeth Yagoda is Hungry for a Hamburger

Where’s the outrage?

People never stop getting upset about changes in the use of pronouns (“thanks for inviting me wife and me/I”), verbs (comprise/compose), and nouns (data is/data are ), but, with the exception of occasional squawks about those who say “different than” (or, in Britain, “different to”) instead of “different from,” they don’t seem to give a hoot about the pervasive phenomenon I call “preposition creep.” Continue reading

Hot off the E-Presses

I have officially entered the brave new world of e-books with a popularly-priced ($3.99!) collection of some of my pieces on language, first published in Slate, The Chronicle of Higher Education, and other fine publications.  language pieces . It’s called (take a deep breath) You Need to Read This: The Death of the Imperative Mode, the Rise of the American Glottal Stop, the Bizarre Popularity of “Amongst,” and Other Cuckoo Things That Have Happened to the English Language. Continue reading

It’s a Grand Old Bargain

I read in USA Today  on June 9th that Detroit’s Big Three auto makers have “committed $26-million to the grand bargain on which much of the city’s exit from bankruptcy is based.” The “grand bargain,” the newspaper went on to explain, is a complicated arrangement in which the Detroit Institute of Arts “and its masterworks will be spun off to a nonprofit trust for the equivalent of $816-million, with proceeds set aside to help reduce pension reductions for thousands of city workers.”

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