Congratulations Language Log

by Brian on June 6, 2007

This is a nice story. The latest issue of Southwest Airlines’ inflight magazine features some recommended diversions. They include the usual summer books, movies and music, and a plug for Language Log as blog reading. Academic blogs have come a long way if they’re being recommended in inflight magazines. Now we only have to get them to be promoting other academic blogs the same way.

I’ve been seeing a lot of references to Language Log around the web recently, particularly to their prescriptivist-bashing posts. I particularly liked this attack on the alleged rules for using less and fewer, complete with examples from King Alfred’s Latin translations. It’s an example of how academic blogs can make an impact on public life not by dumbing down their work, or by stretching to find alleged applications, but simply by setting out their work in a clear and accessible way. Or, to bring things back to a favourite theme of mine, of why academics should get credit for successful blogs not necessarily as examples of research, but as examples of service to the community. Now giving people diversions alongside summer blockbusters isn’t quite the same kind of service as solving their medical or social problems, but it is a service, and a praiseworthy one.

{ 9 comments }

1

Matt 06.06.07 at 11:18 pm

The less/fewer link just goes to the main page. Is the piece archived somewhere?

2

Christopher M 06.06.07 at 11:22 pm

Yeah, Language Log is great. I really wish that the Crooked Timber bloggers would spend more time blogging in the Language Log style, which is to say, writing substantive posts about their areas of academic expertise. I have the (unverified) feeling that there used to be more of this on CT, but these days the posts trend heavily toward general political discussion (with an international bent) and meta-issues about academia per se. Nothing wrong with that, and obviously no one needs to write a blog they don’t want to. It’d just be interesting, that’s all.

3

Bloix 06.07.07 at 12:40 am

I’m a longtime fan of Language Log, although it’s annoying that they don’t have comments. Here is the less/fewer post. http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/003775.html

4

Matt 06.07.07 at 12:53 am

Thanks, Bloix

5

Tony 06.07.07 at 12:54 am

Thanks for introducing me to Language Log. As a former subeditor, this is the sort of thing I would have loved to have had on hand back in the day. Ah well.

Bonus linguistic goodness: Pullum strikes down the Eskimo-have-dozens-of-words-for-snow myth. (And I liked that myth.)

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/%7Emyl/languagelog/archives/000405.html

6

john h 06.07.07 at 8:56 am

Language Log is consistently entertaining. For a good laugh, read the one where Geoffrey Pullum brings the prose of Dan Brown into his lab and pulls its wings off.

7

wmr 06.07.07 at 4:28 pm

Do they anywhere address the issue of using “ten times less” instead of “one-tenth as much”?

8

James 06.07.07 at 8:49 pm

The Southwest article says Language Log posts “are anything but pedagogic.” I wonder if the writer meant “pedantic.”
Or am I just being pedagogic??

9

aa 06.09.07 at 6:30 pm

The less/fewer discussion cited is based on a poor formulation of the rule. The distinction is between discrete and continuous quantities. Continuous quantities (e.g., certain manifestations of time) are often “counted,” so a formulation in terms of counting is only an approximation to the rule. Also, it is natural and sensible to treat large discrete quantities as continuous (though discretion must be continuously exercised). Cf. Dehaene.

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