Saturday, February 27, 2010

The shifting ground of backshifting

Recently, a correspondent asked about fall in Aristotle said that heavy things fall quicker than lighter things. Should fall be fell, he wondered.

I responded that the simple present tense is fine here, even preferred. I went on to say that backshifting is rarely obligatory and that, generally speaking, backshifting seems to be more common when talking about discrete events than general facts or states.

But then another participant in the discussion brought up the sentence People thought the earth was flat. In this sentence, the present tense of be just doesn't work. So what's the difference?

Thursday, February 25, 2010

Owning the podium (or not)

For any hard-up Canadian headline writers thinking the unthinkable about the Canadian men's Olympic hockey team, I offer the following:

Pwned! The odium!

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The power of you and me

The Canadian Press is responsible for publishing the following foolishness:
"'For some reason, polite Canadians do not seem to think that "me" is acceptable,' says Joanne Buckley, a professor at the Centre for Student Development at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont., and one of the country's pre-eminent grammarians.
"'Of course, we grammarians know that the words should be "believe in the power of you and me" since "of" is a preposition and takes an object.'"
For some reason, Joanne Buckley seems to be an incurious, self-agrandizing pedant who has memorized some rules of thumb about grammar but has not had the wherewithal to consider what lies behind those rules and how they play out in the real world.

Thursday, February 04, 2010

OK doing

A few years ago, I wrote about allowed doing. The other day, I heard for the first time (I think), "It's OK playing Wii." This was not an evaluative comment on the relative enjoyment of playing Wii but rather a claim that they were permitted to play Wii. My corpus searches have turned up almost no relevant examples, and as I've said, I don't think I've heard it before, but I'll keep my ears tuned.