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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 a postdoctoral scholar in the Language and Cognition Lab at Stanford University. Before that, I got a doctorate in linguistics from UC San Diego and a bachelor's in math from Princeton.

In my research, I look at how humans manage one of their greatest learning achievements: the acquisition of language. I build computational models of how people can learn language with cognitively-general processes and as few presuppositions as possible. Currently, I'm working on models for acquiring phonology and other constraint-based aspects of cognition.

I also examine how we can use large electronic resources, such as Twitter, to learn about how we speak to each other. Some of my recent work uses Twitter to map dialect regions in the United States.



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