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Here are two sentences from pages 394-5 of Paul Lovinger’s The Penguin Dictionary of American English Usage and Style, sentences that come just after Lovinger quoted five examples of a newspaper columnist’s use of a certain word — a word so appalling that he censors it himself:

“Although most writers do not display such voracity for bad language, that clumsy barbarism, ‘s—,’ is polluting the English tongue.  A radical weekly uses it regularly along with a grotesque plural version”

Now, let’s stop for a second. Lovinger is not referring to the standard scatological s-word, so perhaps you’d like to take a guess at what this barbaric word is before you continue reading.  To encourage you to do so, I’ve placed the answer below the fold.

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A lot of people make claims about what "good English" is. Much of what they say is flim-flam, and this blog aims to set the record straight. Its goal is to explain the motivations behind the real grammar of English and to debunk ill-founded claims about what is grammatical and what isn't. Somehow, this was enough to garner a favorable mention in the Wall Street Journal.

About Me

I'm Gabe Doyle, currently an assistant professor at San Diego State University, in the Department of Linguistics and Asian/Middle Eastern Languages, and a member of the Digital Humanities. Prior to that, I was a postdoctoral scholar in the Language and Cognition Lab at Stanford University. And before that, I got a doctorate in linguistics from UC San Diego and a bachelor's in math from Princeton.

My research and teaching connects language, the mind, and society (in fact, I teach a 500-level class with that title!). I use probabilistic models to understand how people learn, represent, and comprehend language. These models have helped us understand the ways that parents tailor their speech to their child's needs, why sports fans say more or less informative things while watching a game, and why people who disagree politically fight over the meaning of "we".



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