Sunday, July 03, 2011

spot the error

Linguist Alice Freed, in critiquing the work of fellow linguist Deborah Tannen (who specializes in discourse analysis) at "a 1992 conference on women and language," said the following:

"As an American Jewish woman married to an Irish-American man, the constellation of conversational traits that I live with is completely at odds with those described by Tannen."*

For shame, Madame! As a linguistics professor, you should know better! And to say that in front of an audience full of linguistics profs? The gall!**

*The blockquoted text has been slightly cleaned up to conform to American punctuation standards. A hyphen was added to the phrase "Irish-American," which is usually hyphenated. No hyphen was added to "American Jewish" because there's a nuanced difference between that expression and the more common "Jewish-American."

**In case it's not obvious, I'm joking. Well... kinda' joking. Spoken English is riddled with errors, and I'm just not energetic enough to run around correcting everyone's spoken gaffes. However, Freed was giving a speech when the above was uttered, so it's an open question as to whether she was reading written remarks or speaking extemporaneously.



JSA said...

Who's to say that the constellation isn't Jewish?

Also, that is the type of English up with which I will not put!

Kevin Kim said...

"up with which I will not put"

I've always loved that locution. It was presented to us in linguistics class as an example of why the so-called "rule" disallowing prepositions at the ends of sentences is false. "Put up with" is an example of a petrified expression, i.e., a locution the word order of which can't be changed.

Pardon the pedantry-- it's not aimed at you, since you're obviously in on the joke. I'm mentioning all this for the benefit of readers who still labor under the delusion that one should never end a sentence with a preposition.

Oh, and... congrats on spotting the dangler. Join me now as we cast stones at Ms. Freed.

JSA said...

Haha, I love your definition of "petrified expression". Well played!

As a language geek myself, the possibility of petrified expressions in my own writing has me nervous, as does my frequent use of "as a..."