February 23, 2012

She's done it again

Another op-ed by Gail Collins. Another mentioning of Romeny's trip with the dog strapped to the roof of his car:
Take your pick, Republicans. On one hand, the guy who once drove to Canada with the family dog strapped to the roof of the car. On the other, the guy who won his first Congressional race by criticizing his opponent for moving his family to Washington. And then later moved his own family to Washington, but said it didn’t count because the Senate was different from the House.
As Fox News contributor Lanny Davis wrote in January:
There are more than 78 million Americans who own one or more dogs — about two out of every five households. A search of "Romney Dog on Car Roof" brought me 1,080,000 results. I don’t know how many of these 78 million dog owners (and thus, dog lovers) have yet heard or read about Romney doing this horrible thing, much less making his disingenuous claim that Seamus loved the experience on top of a speeding car for 12 hours, while his bowels turned to water. But I’m thinking if this story gets out and stays out, there will be tens of millions of Google hits by next October. And I am also thinking that Romney is going to lose a lot of dog-lover votes on this issue alone, regardless of party or ideology.Here’s one dog lover’s opinion — mine: I think anyone who puts his dog in a cage on top of a car for a 12-hour drive and then deludes himself or tries to delude others that the dog really enjoyed it — to me, with all due respect, I feel such a man shouldn’t be president of the United States.
Stay tuned.

Edited to add: And again (scroll down to bottom).
Edited on March 1 to add: And again! (again, scroll down to bottom)

February 22, 2012

In vain have I struggled...

It will not do. My feelings will not be repressed. You must allow me to tell you how ardently I admire and love you.
Sounds like a good start to a marriage proposal, no? Many will recognize these lines as belonging to a much loved, yet unsuccessful marriage proposal, that of Mr. Fitzwilliam Darcy of Pemberley to Miss Elizabeth Bennet. The proposal is so well known, in fact, that it has inspired a line of products, such as this mug, sold on etsy.com.

Alas, the creator of the mug doesn't seem to approve of Austen's use of negative inversion ("In vain HAVE I struggled...").  Negative expressions, such as "in vain" or "hardly" or "never in my life," when proposed, trigger what some call subject-auxiliary inversion (even though it is really just the auxiliary, here "have," that moves) in English. On no account should one mess with a quote by Mr. Darcy!

Edited to add: It seems that the shop owner agrees. The description of the mug includes the following PS: The photo depicts it written as 'I have' rather than the correct way, of 'have I'. The mug you will receive will say 'have I'. 

February 21, 2012

Watch out, corgis!

The world has been waiting for this announcement: The Duke and the Duchess of Cambridge are adding to their family! It's a .....cocker spaniel.

ETA: And we now know his name: Lupo

I wonder if the Windsors are familiar with Lupo from the German comic series Fix und Foxi"a bit of a slacker who lives in a tower, and a gluttonous ne’er-do-well ....who is a true master at the art of enjoying life."

February 16, 2012

Downton Abbey Fever

The hats! The dresses! The drama! How can one not love Downton Abbey? The answer may depend on one's tolerance of anachronisms. The show has been accused of "costume errors" and also of linguistic anachronisms. If you are interested in the latter, read Ben Zimmer's column here and watch his video compilation of questionable lines.

If you're less scholarly inclined, you might just want to watch a great compilation of Lady Grantham's one-liners, as produced by the incomparable Dame Maggie Smith (linked via the blog "Desperate for Downton"). What is a 'week-end?' (Note the stress on the second syllable.)

February 15, 2012

A flat-faced champion

The dog world has a new champion. His name is Malachy and he is a 4-year old Pekingese. He came out first competing against a German shepherd, a Dalmatian, a Kerry blue terrier, a Doberman pinscher, a wire-haired dachshund and an Irish setter.

I'm sure Malachy is a terrific dog, but I'm sad to see that a breed that is prone to severe health problems comes out on top of the competition. After all, it was not for nothing that in the UK, the breed standard for the Pekingese has been revised to exclude the clause that his profile should be "flat." (No such changes have been made in the US -- yet.)

In other news: The group associated with the blog "Dogs against Romney" used the Westminster show to draw attention to Mitt Romney's infamous family trip with dog Seamus strapped to the roof of the car. We have given the story quite a bit of attention on this blog, see here and here.

Seamus is long dead, but "Romney's shaggy dog story won't die."

Who disparaged those feminists?

It's good to see that some people know what the passive voice is. Frank Bruni takes up the recent revelation by presidential hopeful Rick Santorum that part of his book "It Takes a Family" was written by his wife, which, at least in Santorum's mind, explains why he, Santorum, can claim that he is not familiar with the following quote ("I don't know -- that's a new quote for me").
“Sadly the propaganda campaign launched in the 1960s has taken root,” Mr. Santorum, or his wife, wrote in the book. “The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness.”
Setting the issue of authorship aside, Bruni writes that radical feminists "are disparaged" in the book, noting that  by using the passive voice he is "cutting him [Santorum] a break. I could have said 'he disparaged'* those feminists, because he's the only author listed on the book's cover," but he chose to focus on what cannot be contested: Feminists are disparaged in the book for makingwomen think that they only deserve respect if they work outside the home. The passive voice is not agentless -- it just allows us to leave the agent unspecified.

Note that other opinions are less generous: The L.A. Times, for example, writes that " Elsewhere in the book he assailed feminists for 'their misogynistic crusade to make working outside the home the only marker of social value and self-respect,'" in line with the assumption that it is quite natural to assume that a book published by a single author was written by said author.

February 02, 2012

Is "constitution" a verb?

A student sent me a link to this clip from The Colbert Report on 1/30. Harvard Law Professor Laurence Tribe talks about the function of the Constitution today. At 2:30, Stephen Colbert brings up a recent article by Tribe, in which he wrote that "constitution" was not a noun, but a verb.

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Of course, he does not really mean that "constitution" is a verb. If it were, we'd say things like "What did they constitution?" No, what Tribe means, is that the meaning of the noun "constitution" is a process, not a thing, and that is true for many nouns ending on -ion. An exam is a thing, an examination is an event.

The situation reminds me of a slogan I keep reading on flyers about our campus craft studio: "Craftshop - Where ART is a verb!" What they mean is that they make art and that "art" is not just a finished product. They don't actually mean that the word "art" is a verb. If it were, they'd say something like "Craftshop -- where we art all the time."

You can't make something a a verb without using it as a verb.

Riding in the car with Bo

I just love how the story of driving with his family to Canada with his dog strapped to the roof of the car keeps haunting Mitt Romney. Those who want to keep track of the story should visit the blog "Dogs Against Romney." Of course, Gail Collins' column in the NY Times is always a reliable source:

But there's more: A NYT blog mentions how David Axelrod tweeted about the first dog, Bo, riding in a limousine with the president. "How loving owners transport their dogs."

Like this:

As far as I know, no pictures of Seamus strapped to the roof of the Romneys' car exist.

Oh, wait: