Words are Witchcraft

I was browsing the deep dungeon that is the lowest level of the Hopkins library yesterday between classes, and I discovered a couple interesting things. First, I found a section of great movies I never knew we had. Second, I found a book by Sir Walter Scott called Letters on Demonology and Witchcraft. Turns out the famous novelist and poet was skeptical both of the supernatural and of “new science.”
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I perused through the brokenly bound book with morbid curiosity. It was mostly accounts of fantastical illnesses, sights, and happenings, but Scott reasons through a lot of philosophy and psychology by way of explanation as well. Going through a history of the belief in demons, Scott starts with explaining a possible misinterpretation of the Bible, in which the line “men shall not suffer a witch to live” might simply be “men shall not suffer a poisoner to live” depending on one’s translation. The connotations and translations of a word carry power and serve to justify and authenticate power as well, especially in terms of the Bible. Continue reading

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Who Gives a F*** About an Oxford Comma?

While the Vampire Weekend song that opens with the title of this article is extremely catchy, the answer to that question is that I do care about the Oxford comma. Also known as the serial comma, the Oxford comma is what goes before the conjunction in a list of three or more things.

There is debate among sources of publications and grammar, however, on its use. The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, for which I copy edit, follows AP style, forcing me to step over my beliefs and take out those brave little Oxford commas every Wednesday night.

I am a firm believer that Oxford commas save lives and dignity. For example, it is what prevents cannibalism in the phrase “Let’s eat, Grandma.” When you have a party, there will be a huge difference between “We invited the strippers, JFK, and Stalin” and “We invited the strippers, JFK and Stalin.”  Continue reading

Miscellaneous Fun with Grammar

To brighten up your morning, here are some of the funniest grammatical jokes I have ever seen. I giggled way too loudly for someone sitting alone in her room.

Also, this is an amazing guide to what to call language phenomena. It will make you feel very clever and give you that wonderful sense of, “Oh! So THAT’S what that’s called!”

This is just a helpful guide to common grammar mistakes to subtly show your grammar-impaired colleagues and friends. While these differences may not be as egregious as the sins I listed in my previous Grammar Thursdays post, and you might not even know them all, it’s really quite helpful.

Happy Thursday!

Grammar Thursdays

Let me preface everything I say about grammar by briefly explaining that copy editing for my school’s paper, The Johns Hopkins News-Letter, is wonderfully calming and feels very productive. It is often also incredibly frustrating. I continue to be astounded that bright, college-aged writers still don’t know to punctuate inside of quotation marks.

With that disclaimer, here begin my adventures with language and grammar!

Today’s thoughts on grammar are brought to you in the style of one of the first works of literature, The Pillow Book of Sei Shonagon. While this Japanese noblewoman kept the book as a diary, she is most famous for her musings in the form of beautiful lists. Continue reading