At long last, it’s time to reveal the Big Kahuna, the Top Dog, the Numero Uno Bête Noire of Summer 2011. Before I name the Best in Show, I would like to offer a final justification for why I’ve put this list together. First of all, I had no intentions of trying to scold anyone or of suggesting that I am rigidly prescriptive about language. In fact, I often enjoy the way language rules can be broken when we are being resourceful or creative because this might result in new meanings or useful distinctions.
I also wanted to make clear that I focus on the errors that native speakers make with their own language. Of course there are some learners of English that may make the same mistakes, but confusing grammatical structures in a second language is understandable. Learning another language is a huge undertaking and errors are a natural part of the process. Native speakers have less reason to be confused, especially with the more basic structures that should have been learned in elementary school. Continue reading →
About ten years ago, I read Nick Hornby’s novel High Fidelity. I enjoyed it enough that I still remember quite a few details and would probably read it again if I had a copy of it in front of me. The protagonist, Rob Fleming, is a Peter Pan sort of character: he owns a record store, has commitment issues, and spends most of his time compiling his Top Five lists. Top Five Most Memorable Break-Ups, Top Five Subtitled Movies, Top Five Elvis Costello Films…you get the idea.
They changed his name (Rob Gordon) and location (Chicago), but the movie version of High Fidelity starring John Cusack is actually quite good (Image courtesy of Zap 2 It)
I tried to pick a few Top Five items since reading that book, and it’s much harder than one might think. Perhaps I was choosing the wrong categories, ones for which I don’t have very clear criteria for determining what’s good and what’s bad. Even when I am more certain of what I do or do like, it’s an agonizing task to try to whittle a list down to only five items.
Theoretical category: Five Books to Have When Stranded on a Deserted Island. Impossible! How can I chose only five? Should I chose the five longest books I know and haven’t read yet so they’ll provide more material for long, solitary days? But what if I hate them? But if I chose tried and true (read and loved?) books, won’t I get sick of them if that’s all I had to read for 20 or more years? Do I want to taint my memory of A Memorable Feast or The Hobbit? Continue reading →