Best links ever!

Well, pretty good anyway

Joe Carter gives us Heuristics and Hyperbole:How Not to Argue (Part I)

An example of a rule of thumb that I find to be particularly useful in helping to avoid problems is to avoid, whenever possible, willfully stupid people. Intelligence is, of course, a relative concept and everyone (except for the World’s Smartest Person) is just a little less bright than someone else. Willful stupidity, however, is distinct from IQ because it consists of a moral failing: Choosing to be dumber than you have to be.

And speaking of that…

Via Joanne Jacobs, China has modeled its new math curriculum on the 1989 U.S. math standards set by the National Council of Teachers of Mathematics.


The name is not the thing…

and sometimes it’s not even the name

Prompted by The Little Professor‘s post on things that can derail a lecture:

Marjoribanks is Marchbanks
Cholmondeley is Chumley
Leicester is Lester
St. John, as a first name, is Sinjin
St. John, as a last name, is Saint John
Featherstonewaugh is Fanshaw
Bob Loblaw is prounced as it is spelled.

It is not that they are spelled one way and pronounced another; This involves a particular kind of pronunciation (execpt for that last one). There is at least one other that I cannot remember. I will add more later, maybe.


Carnival XXIX is accepting submissions.


Theory and Practice

Just so we’re clear


  1. A definition is a logical statement placing an idea within a larger group of ideas, then distinguishing it from the rest of that group.
  2. Definition: Synonym; Meaning; Denotation; Explanation; Delimitation; Identification; Naming.
  3. A definition is when you say what a word means.
  4. A definition is like when you define something.

A few things

Whenever anyone says something like, “Those records were expunged,” I want to way say, “Clearly not very well.”

You can only flaunt authority if you have some. If you have no authority of your own, you can flout someone else’s.

If your cohort consists of only one guy, then you do not have a cohort. You have a companion, even if you are in cahoots with him. Maybe he could be your “co-hoot.” Or you could both join a gang; Then you might be part of a cohort.

If you want to know the depth of a mine shaft, you could plumb it. To determine its depth, you could use a plummet. If you jump into the shaft you will plummet. Do not speculate about the depths man will plunder unless you’re talking about Nethack.


Did you find a mistake here? Consider the Hartman/McKean Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation.

Featured Articles

Dr. Marc Miyake has written a discussion of the ‘Bossy R’ (as in ‘cover’) and its use as a “syllabic nucleus.”

Syllabic consonants like R, L, M, N are versions of the consonants r, l, m, n which serve as syllabic nuclei (= cores of syllables) just like vowels.

In rapid pronunciations of English, one can also hear syllabic (= ‘bossy’) L, M, and N

I have no expertise in this area, but I find Dr. Miyake’s writing entirely accessible. It’s more in-depth than language trivia, but it isn’t that incomprehensible blather that seems to pass for writing in parts of the academic community.

A decrepit old fool thinks outside the box in Multiple choice certainty and the failure of imagination:

I often know that I’m right. That is, when it’s SO obvious that the only way to proceed is “X,” I just don’t understand why anyone would disagree. Then I get slapped in the face by a different concept that I just… didn’t imagine.

I often disagree with what he writes, but he’s no fool. His age and decrepitude I can’t address.

And finally, here’s a brief introduction to international economics, in layman’s terms.

Me and Humpty Dumpty

First, let me explain how dictionaries work. The dictionary exists to record the language used by people like me. When I look up a word, as often as not it’s to see if the editors got it right. Occasionally, I’ll look up spelling or etymology.

That said, let me note that willy-nilly means willingly or unwillingly – with or without consent; will ye or nill ye, see? It also has a secondary meaning as an adjective describing vacillation or equivocation; Like shilly-shallying.

If you want to refer to something done in disorganized haste, try harum-scarum. For an existing mess, as a jumble of houshold goods, you could use tohubohu, (Sorry; I’ve been into the thesaurus again) or the more pedestrian topsey-turvey.

Lately I’ve been seeing willy-nilly used incorrectly to mean casually, or impulsively. In these contexts, if you must use a rhyming compound, you might try higgledy-piggledy. It’s not as glaringly incorrect, and it deserves to be used more than it is. For that matter, you can make up your own rhyming pairs. Just don’t just use willy-nilly higgledy-piggledy.

Next week, sleek.