Archive for September 2008
The founders of the Super 8 motel chain must surely have been ignorant of the meaning of the word ‘suppurate’.
The late David Foster Wallace, writing for Harper’s Magazine about English usage.
I hadn’t heard of Wallace until I read of his recent suicide, but the first page of this essay makes me think I’ll enjoy catching up.
(For the record, having stayed at a Super 8 motel–albeit only once–I found it perfectly good.)
Writers who hedge their use of unfamiliar, infrequent, or informal words with “I know that’s not a real word” … are giving up one of their inalienable rights as English speakers: the right to create new words as they see fit.
From Lexicographer Erin McKean’s article for the Boston Globe.
I think most people fail to realise that the rules of a language are a product of its usage—of its evolution—rather than the other way around. For every word ever spoken or written, there was a moment in time when it was invented.
When children first get their heads around language they tend to play with it, using the rules they have learned to extend their vocabulary, inventing words like “funnest” that tend to be expressed in other ways by more experienced users of the language. Children are corrected: “‘funnest’ is not a real word, you should say ‘most fun'”. And rightfully so; but we should also teach children—and one another—that there are contexts in which it is perfectly acceptable to invent or misuse language.
The thwarted aspirations of the man who discarded both ‘The Kama Sutra for Dummies’ and ‘How To Be a Gentleman in Seven Days’ in a Southampton hotel room can only be imagined.
From what appears to be a publicity piece par excellence in The Guardian. The image of the hurried would-be lothario, torn between gentlemanly aspirations and base desires—only to achieve neither—is almost Shakespearian in its tragedy. This silly season piece—which mentions the name of the motel chain several times, as well as listing some of the locations where one can find the chain—looks as if it were written by the motel chain’s PR firm rather than a journalist at what many would claim to be the UK’s most independent newspaper of record.