Language log offers interesting info for writers

Word count: 241 words

Reading time: Less than 1 minute

This is my weekly installment of “writing about writing,” in which I scan the world to find websites, books and articles to help writers.

If you want to discuss language in an erudite way, get yourself over the the Language Log immediately. This weblog, run by University of Pennsylvania phonetician Mark Liberman — along with multiple guest linguists — features some extraordinarily interesting posts. I particularly enjoyed the recent one on International Talk Like a Pirate Day, featuring a photo of the Corsair Ergonomic Keyboard for Pirates (shown above.)

More important, however, is the log’s sparkling “comments” section. Here, for example, is a comment from Eric P Smith on the topic of Science reporting:

For many years I have despaired at the standard of science reporting in the newspapers, and I have collected some examples. My candidate for the title of least accurate headline in the history of British broadsheet publishing is the Guardian headline of 10 October 2002. It began:

Monkey or man? Toumai, hailed as our oldest ancestor

For monkey read ape. For man read hominid (or hominin in more a recent classification system). For our oldest ancestor read the oldest known hominid. Depending on how you count them, three if not four serious errors in 9 words.

It makes me happy to live in a world that takes language so seriously, that’s not ashamed to make jokes AND be fiercely (and intelligently) defensive of it.