|[a] Caricature RF|
I will be posting the manuscript that I have provisionally entitled Styling Culture on Round and Square during the autumn and into the winter. As you will quickly see, it is meant to be a grammar book for the anthropologist of American English. It has its prescriptive elements, to be sure (this is all explained in the introduction to the series), but it is meant far more powerfully to be a genuinely useful guide to the culture wars surrounding grammar and usage. In particular, I have great venom for both the annoying critics who always seem to be correcting people and (this is important) for the "good guys" who tell you that it doesn't matter.
They're both wrong, and they will hurt you if you listen to them. I'm here to help you, so read on.
a. millions If you mean “a large number” or something similar, say it.
c. literally Mean it. Do not write “…he literally talked his head off” when surely you mean “figuratively.”
|[b] Literally welcoming RF|
I also have a little bit of a soft spot for the sound bites manufactured by our current vice-president. Joe Biden adores the word literally. He says it often. In almost every case, he means "figuratively." The word, however, has such a nice, emphatic quality that it is hard to resist for any of us. It is a kind of verbal underlining that can be added to almost any sentence to give it that je ne sais quoi that creates just the right dash of excitement.
It's over, people. There is no originality left in our tired list of exaggerations. Phenomenal? Please. Awfully? Grandma gets to use it in speech. You don't. Countless? Even if true, it is beyond dull. Find another word. Amazing? If it really is, you would think of a better word and not waste a vibrant tale on something this mundane. I could
|[c] Pointed RF|
Perhaps I just failed to notice them, because I can't think of a good reason why they would suddenly appear, as though driven by a newly vociferous and somewhat angry generation of student writers. Suffice it to say that they are memorable and often inadvertently funny. The problem is the lack of what in academic jargon we call "intentionality." If you mean to poke fun at certain customs or institutions, you might well want to throw in a word such as "infested" or "littered." You would very likely be engaged in a very different kind of writing from an academic paper or essay, though. Diatribe has its place, but I hope that we can keep it out of most of our academic writing. And if you mean "lots" you probably don't want to write "littered with."
|[d] Awfully versatile RF|
"Cut, cut," he yelled.
He pulled John Wayne aside and said, "John, John...This is one of the most significant lines in the greatest story in our history; could you try it again and this time show some awe?"
"Sure," replied Wayne.
"Take two," shouted Stevens.
Awwwwww, truly this man was the son of god.
That's my (remembered) story. Just remind yourself as you write that precise language is always better than cliché, and exaggeration almost never leads a reader to believe your claims. It is
We will have so much fun and such a good time tomorrow, THAT you won't even realize that you are reading about grammar.