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Grammar Rules

Gwynne’s Grammar: The Ultimate Introduction to Grammar and the Writing of Good English? by n. m. gwynne ?knopf, 288 pages, $19.95 One of the first axioms of the field of linguistics is that the rules of usage in any language at any time are wholly conventional. Proper grammar and style have no . . . . Continue Reading »

How to Do Things with Words

A friend and I are arguing over the word traditionalist as applied to Catholics. He criticizes “traditionalists” but means only the “cranks,” he insists: No “sane person” would call himself a Catholic traditionalist; only cranks do that. When he writes “traditionalist,” my friend has in mind a careful definition that excludes the likes of Cardinal Burke and Pope Emeritus Benedict, but the word in general circulation has a broader range than that, and many gentle souls get caught in its net. Continue Reading »

Uncluttering the House of the Mind

thank Headmaster Crowe for that gracious introduction. And I thank Professor Owen Anderson of Arizona State University for introducing me to the headmaster, and to the wonderful venture of the Great Hearts Academies, which are doing such good in the world, one teacher, one student, one person at a time. One person at a time, I think, is really the only way to do any good in the world, for human beings are individual persons in communities, not statistics in a collective or parts in a machine. So on this happy day, as the students of the class of 2014 celebrate a milestone achievement with their families, their friends, and their teachers, I come to congratulate you, to wish you well, and to address each of you as a person who has received the good turn of a fine education, and who should feel a responsibility to repay the debt of that education by living well as a person, mindful of the personhood, the individuality, and the good of others around you, in the various communities through which your life will take you. Continue Reading »

The Animal with Logos

In Genesis the goodness of creation requires what I have called a logic of otherness , in which dualities that could become divisions or antagonisms are united for the good. The basic structure of this logic is: (1) first one, then the other, (2) the one for the good of the other, and (3) the one . . . . Continue Reading »

Is It Wrong to Say “Unborn Child”?

Are pro-lifers wrong to speak of the “unborn child”? A reader annoyed with Ramesh Ponnuru’s use of the phrase wrote him, saying, “There is no child until birth. Late in pregnancy the fetus may have some moral status but it is still not a child.” Ramesh replied: “Merriam-Webster’s . . . . Continue Reading »

11 Most Annoying Catchphrases

A couple of years ago, researchers at Oxford University compiled a list of the top ten most irritating expressions. Their list included overused office lingo, (24/7, synergy), grammatically incorrect constructions (“shouldn’t of”), and adverbs used out of context (literally, ironically).While everything on their list is certainly irritating, few of the items rise to the level of truly annoying. Perhaps Americans have a particular facility with our shared language because we seem to have a special affinity for creating trite catchphrases. Here are my eleven candidates for most annoying sayings: Continue Reading »

Ludwig Wittgenstein Confesses

Along with Martin Heidegger, Ludwig Wittgenstein is generally considered to be one of the two greatest philosophers of the twentieth century. But as with the field of twentieth-century philosophy itself, Wittgenstein has never seemed to be a very accessible thinker to the nonspecialist. Those, it . . . . Continue Reading »

The Philosophical Crusher

We milk the cow of the world, and as we do We whisper in her ear, “You are not true.” —Richard Wilbur “Before we dismantle this imposing structure, let’s step back a moment and admire its elegant lines.” Thus Alex Tourigny, my teacher of philosophical psychology forty years . . . . Continue Reading »

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