Madding Gerunds

It’s hard to imagine any lover of words who wouldn’t be susceptible to Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log (by Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum), just delivered by USPS today. Flip it open at random and forget about whatever you were doing before… The first chapter is titled “Random monkeys & mendacious pontificating old windbags”, enough right there to justify the purchase. It’s all from the Language Log blog, to which I’ve pointed repeatedly, but there’s definitely value-added in the printed form, not least in the index and the many interesting callouts sprinkled here and there. It’s simply ideal bathroom (or bedtime) reading. Example, from the penultimate entry, one of several on Dan Brown’s ways with words:

The simple fact is that if you are ever mentioned on page 1 of a Dan Brown novel you will be mentioned with an anarthrous occupational nominal premodifier (“Renowned linguist Geoff Pullum staggered across the savage splendor of the forsaken Santa Cruz campus, struggling to remove the knife plunged unnaturally into his back by a barbarous millionaire novelist”), and you will have died a painful and horrible death by page 2, along with several curiously ill-chosen clichés and mangled idioms.
(pg 341, and Nov 7 2004 for the whole thing)

Run right out and buy multiple copies, and place them with those most in need.

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