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What Is English Grammar? More Importantly, What Isn't English Grammar?

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The Split Infinitive:  “To really error is human.” One of my senior colleagues was taken aback when I, a tenured professor of English and Comparative Literature, volunteered to teach a course on Applied Grammar.  Teaching grammar was not at the top of the prestige ladder.  “Are you sure you are ready to start teaching about split infinitives?” he asked me.  I thought he was pulling my leg, but I wasn’t sure, so I photocopied a page from Steve Pinker’s  The Language Instinct and slid it under his door.  He never responded. [. . .] ‘don’t split infinitives,’ ‘don’t end a sentence with a preposition’ can be traced back to these eighteenth-century fads. Of course, forcing modern speakers of English to not split an infinitive because it isn’t done in Latin makes about as much sense as forcing modern residents of England to wear laurels and togas. (The Language Instinct 374) I would like to emphatically reiterate what Pinker is pointing out.  (Did you notice that I ju

How Is Money Created?

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Money isn't just pixel dust!  In an earlier post I described money as “pixel dust.” I was being cute—way too cute! Sometimes an analogy can hide much more than it reveals. Money is not created by Tinker Bell, though I did feel a bit smug upon realizing that the writers of the Zeitgeist film series repeated my observation that when you take out a bank loan you create that debt out of nothing. Banks have the right to create money, but they need your help The bank does not have the money it is lending you. Stop and think about that for a moment, because it is the answer to the question “how is money created?” As more and more people struggle to understand bitcoin , the fact that money is just a way of recording debt is starting to sink in. When I googled the question “how is money created?” I was surprised by the number of sites covering the question—the number of people who knew the answer. I found myself asking, as I often do, how could I not know this? Shouldn’t eve

Deconstruction and “Ways of Talking”

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Derrida denied deconstruction was of any importance As I’ve mentioned previously, the last time I saw Jacques Derrida, who is credited with coining the term “deconstruction,” being i nterviewed he was quite adamant that “deconstruction” was not a concept of any importance, not even a theory, not even a word that he used anymore. ( See "Critical Thinking Skills" and "Family V alues" )   Nonetheless, the word has taken on a life of its own and, while it may have gone out of fashion, it is still with us and showing no signs of disappearing from the language .  (See footnotes.) Postmodernist deconstructionist smuggery If you have ever tried to confront a postmodernist deconstructionist by pointing out that his work was contradictory, illogical, duplicitous, nonsensical and hypocritical, you would likely find him responding with glee, “Exactly!”—as if he were personally responsible for your recent intellectual epiphany.  Given the deconstructionist stance that l

Test Question: How Did Romeo Respond When He Was Told He Will Be Having Sex with Juliet?

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The Plan for Romeo and Juliet to consummate their marriage When the Nurse explained the plan—a rope ladder, “the cords,” would be placed from Juliet’s bedroom, “the highway to her bed,” so that Romeo and Juliet could have sex and thereby consummate their marriage—Romeo responded by saying “bid my sweet prepare to chide.” What does "to chide" mean? I’ve never been fully confident that I understood this line.  What does “to chide” mean in this context?  Why should Juliet “prepare to chide”? I’ve never seen the line analyzed or glossed, but it is the pivotal moment in the drama. Up to this point, alternatives are possible.  The marriage has not been consummated and can be easily annulled.  Juliet still could marry Paris, and Romeo find another Rosalind or Juliet. Or Romeo and Juliet could announce that they have married and accept the ire of their families and banishment.  Their marriage might, as Friar Lawrence planned all along, put an end to the enmity between th

Why Did Shakespeare Make Juliet Thirteen Years Old?

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Why did Shakespeare make Juliet thirteen years old? Whenever I lectured on Romeo and Juliet , I always started by asking “Why did Shakespeare make Juliet thirteen years old?”  As I fielded answers from students they generally fell into two broad categories. In Shakespeare's time, people married young.  Not really. Category 1: “People in Shakespeare’s time married young.”  Actually, they didn’t.  Shakespeare himself was 18 when he married Anne Hathaway who was 26 and pregnant with their first child, Susanna, but Shakespeare needed permission from his father to marry at such a young age.  Shakespeare’s own daughters, Susanna and Judith, were married at 24 and 31 respectively.   Our ideas of English girls’ marrying at thirteen (or younger) being common practice was likely provoked by infamous cases of royal betrothals.  For example, Mary Queen of Scots was sent to France to marry Francis, the Dauphin, when she was six.  She married him when she was sixteen and he was four

What Is Money?

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The system runs on borrowed money The cliché that “The system runs on borrowed money” is well known.  You might imagine that you are somehow removed from that “system.”  Whether you are aware or not, your country, state or province, your school, your job, your church, your city, and your household are all run on borrowed money.  Nonetheless, “borrowed money” is a funny/peculiar expression because it is redundant.  There is no other kind of money. What is money?  Experts aren't sure. Reading Graeber’s Debt:  The First 5000 Years I was bemused to discover that there is no consensus among the experts on what exactly money is.  (See   When Should You Repay Your Student Loan? ) Of course, we all know what money is, but it is one of those obvious, everyday concepts that makes perfect common sense until you start to think about it. IOU or Commodity? Historically, the debate has been between seeing money as a commodity like gold or silver (something that has a value) or vie