The anti-fascist surgeon who was way ahead of his time

If your memory of Canada’s Heritage Moments is a little fuzzy, you could probably use a little refresher on one of Canada’s medical legends. Continue reading “The anti-fascist surgeon who was way ahead of his time”

A game of Show and Tell

499 words.

There’s a truism in storytelling that you’re meant to show, not tell. It’s trotted out so often that it’s become clichéd, losing its meaning, despite being a basically sound piece of advice. I myself heard it about a dozen times before coming across an example that showed me exactly why it was important.

Continue reading “A game of Show and Tell”

The end of an era for the end-stop

706 words.

Over time, our language habits change and evolve. Just like some living creatures are proven to be more fit for their surroundings, so too do certain phrases and communication styles ascend while others fall away.

In recent years, there’s been an explosion in the use of mobile phones, and with those phones came texting. The effect that texting has had on our language is fascinating, because in place of the usual slow and gradual evolutionary process that language typically abides by, there’s been a rapid growth and adoption of a new linguistic style.

There has been a general acceptance of truncations and elisions, mixed with using numbers as syllabic stand-ins.
“When R U cmin out?”  “Luv u 2”  “Wut r we waiting 4?”

There has been a quick adoption of using punctuation to mimic facial expressions.
“That sounds great :)”   “Don’t mind if I do ;)” “We lost :(“
Which has itself been replaced by the variety and specificity of emoji in most texting apps.

One of the most interesting changes, grammar-wise, has been the new affective weight of punctuation. Continue reading “The end of an era for the end-stop”

When it comes to quotes, honesty isn’t always the best policy

593 Words

A few weeks back, a baseball player got angry with a reporter. Often, public figures rail against the press, feeling they’ve been misquoted or that their comments were taken out of context. This case was different though. The baseball player in question, Carlos Gomez, was angry that they’d gotten his words exactly right.

Continue reading “When it comes to quotes, honesty isn’t always the best policy”

“They” gets its day

787 words

Yesterday, I had the good fortune of being interviewed by the talented writer Catherine Jan, the person responsible for the economical fun over at the blog TorontoFrugal.

After we’d been talking for a little while, Catherine hit me with a question that a lot of people have been thinking about recently. She wanted to know:

Is “they” acceptable as a singular pronoun?

This is a question that gets people’s hackles raised, and so before we answer the question, we need to delve into why it’s an important question and why anyone should care. Continue reading ““They” gets its day”

To boldly go where schoolteachers told you not to go

511 words

When I was in grad school, before we fell to marking student essays, my department’s teaching assistants were corralled together for a quick review. A faculty member swiftly ran through the things we should look for and mark out in the papers: clarity of argument, use of proper terminology, and adherence to rules of grammar.

Don’t let modifiers dangle. Make sure subjects agree with their verbs. And for God’s sake, whatever you do, you should never let an infinitive be split. Like our friend the atom, if an infinitive is split, it could spell disaster for all of us. Continue reading “To boldly go where schoolteachers told you not to go”

J.L. Austin and doing things with words

384 Words

Back in the 1950s, a British philosopher gave a series of 12 lectures that would forever change the way we think about language. His name was John Langshaw Austin, and he was a thin man who wore thick round glasses, pinstripe suits and a perpetual smirk. In the course of those 12 lectures, delivered at Harvard, he strode back and forth charting out a new theory he’d devised. Dr. Austin had noticed something that had been lurking in our language for years and decided to point them out. He called them speech acts. Continue reading “J.L. Austin and doing things with words”