Nathanael Green's Blog

An advertising copywriter, novelist, and freelance writer's brain goo.

A Quick Introduction to a Quick Blog.

with 5 comments

Screw the wheel and sliced bread – language is the greatest invention of all time. So that’s what this blog is all about.

In a later post, I can talk about whether it’s really an invention or whether it’s a discovery or a facet of evolution, but for now, just ignore the semantics and stay with me.

As a fiction author, an MFA student, an advertising copywriter, an amateur linguist and general word nerd, I find all things language fascinating. And I know of at least a few other people who share that same enthusiasm, and perhaps, if I’m really lucky and stick to it long enough, I can turn some new people on to the amazing fun and craziness in how we communicate.

I hope this blog will help foster discussions about language in all its forms. Because, to be honest, I think language gets a bad rap. We all remember that seventh-grade teacher harping over the grammar book and turning English into a dreaded test on gerunds rather than an exciting, natural art of communication. People would probably hate sex if they were forced to study how it works rather than just enjoying it. Alright, that one’s a stretch.

So I’m going to focus language-related issues that I think you’ll find interesting and fun. Well, at any rate, I’m going to talk about things that I personally find interesting … I have no idea what kind of weird stuff you’re into, and that’s your business. I’m not here to judge.

I’ve already written a huge list of topics including some crazy word origins, fun tricks to confuse your friends, thoughts on different aspects of fiction-writing, book reviews, writing effective marketing copy, why I think 95% of grammar books are worthless, and why a preposition is something you certainly can end a sentence with.

Bottom line: I’m going to use my years of experience in working with and studying words in general to explore some of the funky things about what I consider to be the greatest invention of all time.

So once every week I’ll post a new entry on language and keep it around 500 words, more or less. Why 500 words? Because it forces me to be brief and clear. It’s long enough to get my point across without turning into a rambling diatribe.

Plus, after 500 words here, I need to stop procrastinating and get back to working on my novel.

Written by Nathanael Green

January 10, 2009 at 7:34 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

5 Responses

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  1. Nate,

    The blogosphere is a better world with you in it.

    First question: do you split infinitives or not? I don’t think the reasoning behind the rule makes much sense. And besides, Capt. Kirk wouldn’t have sounded as cool if he said “to go boldly where no man has gone before.”

    Brian O'Rourke

    January 10, 2009 at 7:58 pm

  2. Thanks, Brian.

    One of the theories I’ve heard is that this rule is based on Latin grammar where it’s impossible to split verb infinitives and have them retain their meaning because they’re only one word. It’s easy to slap a “boldly” in the middle of “to go” but breaking the Latin “ire” doesn’t make sense. I don’t know if that actually is the real basis of the rule, and I’m going to do a little research before posting about it a little more in depth.

    So based on that, I think it’s an asinine rule. Why construct the grammar of a 21st-century Germanic language on that of a dead Romance one? But more importantly for me, it’s a matter of style. Sometimes splitting the infinitive of a verb sounds better or offers a clearer meaning, but the opposite is just as true: splitting it can make the meaning less clear, in which case, keep the verb together.

    In summary, I ignore the rule and do whatever I feel like.

    Nathanael Green

    January 10, 2009 at 10:16 pm

  3. That’s my understanding of the split infinitive rule, too.

    I do believe that the Oxford English Dictionary recently (as in, the last few years) just “approved” the usage of the split infinitive. For what that’s worth ;)

    Brian O'Rourke

    January 11, 2009 at 2:26 pm

  4. Well, uh, actually Brian…

    Why would we consult the “Oxford English” dictionary when we’re trying to speak “American”?

    Nate, are you going to write a post about the quirky differences between those two (what are they, languages, dialects?)?

    Also, can you help a novice word nerd decide where to put his punctuation marks in relation to parentheses and quotation marks?

    Welcome to the innernets, Nate.

    To quote Spock, I find this blog “fascinating.”

    Nicklas Hughes

    January 13, 2009 at 5:23 am

  5. Hey, Nick. Thanks for the comments and the suggestion. There are definitely some major differences between the English and American dialects, but that’s just the beginning. There are so many dialects of varying degrees, it makes my head spin.

    Think about the people just in Pennsylvania – from NEPA to the PA Dutch to the Philly accent … that’s three just in one state.

    As for your question about punctuation, I’ll definitely have a post about this in the future, but for now: standard American English puts punctuation inside the quotation marks. How you quoted Spock was correct. British English tends to put them outside the quotation marks like “fascinating”.

    I think the British way makes much more sense, and I’ll actually use it in cases where it’ll help make the sentence more clear. For instance when I’m quoting someone, but their quote isn’t part of the question.

    Did you say, “Welcome to the innernets”? Because I believe the appropriate term in webbernet. :-)

    Nathanael Green

    January 13, 2009 at 1:58 pm

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