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There is a dark irony to the faintly racist idea that Afghans are unprincipled mercenaries available to the highest bidders, especially given the rampant panic in Washington at the inescapable conclusion that Hamid Karzai stole his own reelection. And still, after failed eight years of alternatively condemning a “culture of corruption” and thinking we just need to bribe the Afghans a little more, you see ostensibly smart columnists suggesting we try to bring back the nineteenth century. –“Bribe This: Despite years of failure, pundits still want to bribe Pashtuns,” Joshua Foust, Columbia Journalism Review
These problems have been recognized among linguists for some time. A famous 1971 essay by “Munç Wang” (a pseudonym of the syntactician Avery Andrews) discussed in tongue-in-cheek but linguistically accurate detail the syntax of sexual terms. Wang explored the syntactic constraints of various words and constructions, examining whether the object of a sexual thrust has to be an orifice, if it can be artificial, if “the orifice must be vaginoid,” and whether the object must be animate. Numerous sentences are offered up for analysis of their grammaticality: “Fred fucked the log through a hole that squirrels had made,” “The Wizard balled the witch’s body,” “Jack buggered Captain Bligh in a surgically created false cunt.” –“Can a Woman ‘Prong’ a Man? Why it’s so hard to put sex in the dictionary,” Jesse Sheidlower, Slate
Yesterday’s September labor market report was lousy by any measure, with 263,000 lost jobs and the jobless rate climbing to 9.8%. But for one group of Americans it was especially awful: the least skilled, especially young workers. Washington will deny the reality, and the media won’t make the connection, but one reason for these job losses is the rising minimum wage. –“The Young and the Jobless: The minimum wage hike has driven the wages of teen employees down to $0.00,” The Wall Street Journal (Opinion)
I recently spent a semester teaching writing at an elite liberal-arts college. At strategic points around the campus, in shades of yellow and green, banners displayed the following pair of texts. The first was attributed to the college’s founder, which dates it to the 1920s. The second was extracted from the latest version of the institution’s mission statement:
The paramount obligation of a college is to develop in its students the ability to think clearly and independently, and the ability to live confidently, courageously, and hopefully.
Let us take a moment to compare these texts. The first thing to observe about the older one is that it is a sentence. It expresses an idea by placing concepts in relation to one another within the kind of structure that we call a syntax. It is, moreover, highly wrought: a parallel structure underscored by repetition, five adverbs balanced two against three.
Percentage of Britons who cannot name the city that provides the setting for the musical Chicago:
An Australian entrepreneur was selling oysters raised in tanks laced with Viagra.
A naked man believed to be under the influence of LSD rammed his pickup truck into two police cars.
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“Shelby is waiting for something. He himself does not know what it is. When it comes he will either go back into the world from which he came, or sink out of sight in the morass of alcoholism or despair that has engulfed other vagrants.”