Professor Rodney Desmond Huddleston, the world’s greatest expert on the grammar of English, woke beside the South Pacific Ocean today on his 80th birthday. He was, I’m sure, up as usual by 3:30 a.m. (Brisbane time; that’s 1:30 p.m. the previous day in Washington, D.C., so he’s way ahead of Lingua Franca time), and will have gone on his standard predawn five-mile hike in the Noosa Heads National Park a few hundred yards from his home. Then he will have had breakfast, and a postbreakfast nap (put…
Trump’s wall along our southern border is not your garden-variety folly.
One of the most oft-misquoted lines in English literature is the three-word escape clause “ignorance is bliss.” You’ve heard it often, probably when the speaker wants to brush off some awkward fact or rumor.
Readers of Lingua Franca know, of course, that this famous observation by Alexander Pope does not endorse ignorance.
Also it’s not Pope. It’s Thomas Gray, whose best-known poem is “Elegy Written in a Country Churc…
In a long-forgotten Monty Python sketch, John Cleese is driving a panel truck for the BBC. “I wanted to be in program planning,” he remarks acidly to a colleague, “But unfortunately I have a degree.”
I wanted to work in linguistics. But unfortunately personal computing was invented, and I ended up an amateur software engineer specializing in file format conversion and workarounds for word-processor bugs. I try to do a bit of linguistics in my spare time.
Left to my own devices, I wou…
Hokusai’s view of Japan (Image via Wikimedia Commons). Wilde: No such country.
If you aren’t nauseated yet by the outpouring of lies from our elected officials and those that serve them, you’ve got a stronger stomach than I do or you’re not paying attention.
But what is a lie, after all?
Mark Twain gave currency to the bon mot that lies come in three flavors: lies, damned lies, and statistics. Social scientists have been dining out on that one for a century now.
In his little dialogue “The De…
Regular Lingua Franca readers may recall that I am a skeptic about both machine intelligence and the dangers of computers invading our privacy. But do not imagine that I am dismissive of all developments in the fields bracketed under the misnomer “artificial intelligence”: Some of the claims made about what computers can do are true, even a little scary.
I know I mocked the pathetic artificial stupidity exhibited by the devices that purport to communicate linguistically with us. I dissed 2013-vi…
So you think you’re so smart?
Somewhere in one of his novels, David Lodge gave us the game of Humiliation. You know, the one where people who are supposed to have read everything (yes, I’m talking about you people in literature) have to admit to what they haven’t read.
Think Truth or Dare, the Doctoral Edition.
There are lots of Important Books that we don’t read. And I mean those of us in the Reading Business (don’t worry, I’ll run out of capital letters soon), whatever our fields. But th…