Monthly Archives: October 2015


For Halloween, a spoooky image I’m using to inspire a redneck eldritch story I’m writing:

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Filed under Bonechilling Ideas

Language Quantification

quantifyI spend a lot of time in my day job quantifying things, and apparently this falls under one of the many things I do that other people think is cool, because, as with Global Positioning System work and wearing wrap-around sunglasses, I often find people doing it in inappropriate contexts.  Today I find yet another in a long line of people desperately trying to score language and grammar.  This time, it’s in the New York Times, and involves trying to figure out which works of literature the speeches of various politicians are most similar to.  The method of comparison uses axes of “complexity” and “positivity” to classify both books and speeches.  I could delve into why these things are hard to quantify in language, and why it might not work, but we don’t really need to get into all that.  Besides, Language Log is better at that than I’ll every be.  But there’s no need to get all clever about it; there are two much simpler ways to examine this whole thing.

First, let’s look at the results.  Are Ted Cruz’s speeches similar, in any meaningful or useful way, to Beowulf?  Has anyone ever listened to Bernie Sanders speak and thought it sounded like James Joyce’s Ulysses?  No.  The answer is no.  So the final results don’t help much.

But heck, let’s also look at the axes of the graph.  Is Peter Pan really characterized by it’s relentlessly negative language?  Is the language in Jerome K Jerome’s Three Men in a Boat really simple?  Again, maybe in some sense, but from a purely practical sense, is that a useful sense?  No.  So apparently the scoring system doesn’t really work, either.

So there we go.  Back to counting personal pronouns.

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Filed under General Writing Things, Grammar Gripery


baseballWe don’t normally discuss sports around this blog, but the Baseball Hall of Fame is just down the road from me in Cooperstown.  And with Halloween approaching, I thought I should link to this wonderful article about that famous institution.

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In His House at R’lyeh, Dead Cthulhu Enjoys Some Nice Blueberry Pie

cthulu_pieThe sentence “Blueberry and Octopus Pie?  This dessert will prove you wrong!” is easily the best collection of words I’ve read all week, so thanks to WowAmazing for that.  But that ain’t no octopus.  The folks at WowAmazing had best tread carefully.  Ph’nglui mglw’nafh C’thulhu R’lyeh wgah’nagl fhtagn, after all, and he doesn’t want to hear about being mistaken for an octopus.

I’m totally making that pie, though.

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That’s Not an Idea! None of Those Are Ideas!

twilight-fiftyshadesSomewhat against my will, I’ve been following recent developments in the Twilight saga.  I vaguely recall the big hoofara when someone leaked part of “Midnight Sun”, a retelling of Twilight from a different character’s POV, a while back.  I can certainly understand Stephanie Meyer being ticked about having a messy first draft released.  I can also understand her being mildly irritated at someone’s poorly-written fanfic based on her story turning into a massive bestseller.  But apparently now no one’s going to get a properly-edited POV-character shift of Twilight because there’s going to be a POV-switched “50 Shades of Grey”.  Instead, fans will have to make do with a different rewriting of Twilight with genders swapped.

But here’s the thing.  None of these things – rewriting a book with a different POV character, or swapping genders, are ideas, exactly, are they?  I mean, yeah, in the broadest sense they are, but they mostly sound like writing exercises.  I’ve rewritten parts of books in different POVs just so I have a better idea what’s going on, but I never thought of saving that stuff to publish later.  So it seems peculiar to get all wrapped ’round the axle about someone “stealing” something that isn’t much of an idea to begin with.  And I can’t help but feel that everyone would be better off finding some other book to write, like my idea about S&M vampires in the old west.  None of you are allowed to use that, by the way.


Filed under The Writing Biz

Parts of Speech

BuildingAlaska1_16x9_1920x1080I don’t expect much from television stations, Lord knows.  But Scripps Interactive seems to fancy themselves something of an owner of educational programming (Food Network, Travel Channel, etc.), not that horrible brain-rotting stuff that encourages coarse behavior and lack of socialization that you hear about.  Still, even educational programming can be cut a bit of slack, and I don’t demand detailed knowledge of fiddly arcana.

But come on, DIY network, this new ad is too much.  The ad I refer to is for “Building Alaska” (there was a law passed recently that at least 20% of new reality shows have to be set in Alaska, I believe).  It features someone defining words one might hear on a building site in Alaska for the benefit of residents of the lower 48 (and I presume Hawaii – I don’t know why Alaskans always ignore that state).  Some of the words aren’t really regional Alaskanisms, but we’ll let that pass.  What bothers me is when the guy gets to the word “snoozle”, which, hell, might be only used in Alaska for all I know.  Anyway, he points out that it is both a noun and a verb – to be precise it can mean either “something to poke with” or “a type of movement”.

Now, my readers are no doubt all shouting “Hah!  What a maroon!  Those are both nouns, the way he said it!  Or maybe that second one is an adverb!  I’m not really sure!”.  But the fellow was speaking extemporaneously (or pretending to), and anyway, he actually meant verb for the second, because the example he gave was “snoozle on over there”.  No, the real problem is with the knucklehead who wrote the copy for the words that are printed under him while he talks.  When he says “Any kind of poking device”, the text reads “Snoozle = (n.) To poke” – identifying a verb form that the guy didn’t even mention as a noun.  Then, when he says “type of movement”, the text reads “Snoozle = (v.) Movement or go to fetch” – which, sheesh, I don’t know, just throws in a noun and some random clause and calls it a verb.

This is all part and parcel with people mis-identifying “passive voice” of course – the vague notion that the function of a word has something to do with its grammatical definition, so if something is vaguely related to motion, it must be a verb or whatever.  But you know, the person responsible for that copy is like, a writer.

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Filed under Grammar Gripery


The.Encounter-wash-680x1024A nice review of my story (and others) in the latest Kaleidotrope at Eric Landreneau’s site.

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Filed under The Writing Biz


As a writer, I catalog all my experiences, naturally, and try to make sense of them for later use.  But recently, I discovered something bizarre and inexplicable. Everything happens for a reason, of course, and the universe has an order to it.

So why does Hanes underwear come in a resealable bag?


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