Open Thread – When I make a word do a lot of work like that, I always pay it extra…

I love words, despite the indignities I enforce upon them, so I relish a little bit of grammar geekery.

Geoffrey K. Pullum has a wonderfully nasty post up at Lingua Franca and a wonderfully wonky post up at Language Log, both discussing an article by Washington Post blogger Alexandra Petri.

Petri piles on poor old Bill Keller (isn’t being married to Emma punishment enough for you jackals?), not only for being a concern troll and a horrible human being but, worse still, a blatant and premeditated user of “passive constructions” in his writing. As Petri puts it:

Concern trolls thrive on passive constructions the way vultures thrive on carcasses.

Pullum wonders whether Petri might be getting her “passive” confused with her “obscured agency”, and details his analysis in the Language Log post. There are tables and numbered lists. It’s great fun.

Pullum also links to his tutorial essay which provides a “clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is” in English, and his forthcoming article Fear and Loathing of the English Passive (pdf):

No folk rhetorical property could yoke together this diverse array of constructions. What is going on is that people are simply tossing the term ‘passive’ around when they want to cast aspersions on pieces of writing that, for some ineffable reason, they don’t care for. They see a turn of phrase that strikes them as weak in some way, or lacks some sort of crispness or brightness that they cannot pin down, and they call it ‘passive’ without further thought. And such is the state of knowledge about grammar among the reading public that they get away with it.

If concealed passives dipped in a little bit of scorn are your thing, then that will keep you entertained for a while.

Meanwhile, in segues, music. Sunday is Australia Day, and one of Australia’s proudest traditions – besides pretending to have invented pavlova*; meat pies; footballers in tiny shorts; dispossessing indigenous peoples; and shipping coloured people back where they came from – is the Triple J Hottest 100. Voting on the best music releases for 2013 has ended, but if you feel like an Aussie weekend, tune in online at 12 noon Sunday Sydney time (Saturday evening for most of you).

You may have to crank up the thermostat and buy some Australian beer to get you in the mood. Think James Boag or Little Creatures. Please don’t buy Fosters, because it is watered-down mule piss.

Cheers, buckeroos. I’m off to bed, for there is to be much drinking today, so that we’ve got a headstart on Sunday. I’ll post a post at Hottest 100 kickoff time for anyone who wants to listen along.

ETA: * Edited for accuracy

EATA: Jesus, you’re going to turn me into Greenwald.

Petri probably was using the term “passive construction” in some rhetorical sense to mean “hiding behind the alleged views of others”, but that means she was being unclear, and exposing herself to the argument that she didn’t know what the term meant. I’m a writer who agonises over every word (and I still manage to fuck up half my posts). I try to use words in a way that avoids confusion, and Petri wasn’t doing that.

I agree, however, that that doesn’t mean she deserves to be called a nincompoop.

EOATA: It is, of course, entirely possible that Ms Petri is, in fact, a nincompoop.

At this stage, I’m just enjoying typing “nincompoop”.

105 replies
  1. 1
    Alexandra says:

    The pav is most definitely a Kiwi thang, Miss SP&T. ;)

  2. 2
    piratedan says:

    I’ve always preferred Steinlager myself, but as always, ymmv when it comes to personal taste.

    http://www.steinlager.com/Home

  3. 3
    IowaOldLady says:

    As long as we’re talking about language, can the world please stop using “gift” as a verb? Also, learn the difference between lay and lie? kthx

  4. 4

    @Alexandra:

    Oh absolutely. I have edited for accuracy. Still, my aussie friends’ mums make a damn fine pav.

  5. 5
    Punchy says:

    Pullum also links to his tutorial essay which provides a “clear and simple explanation of what a passive clause is” in English

    Boy, that sounds like fun, exciting reading. Perhaps not.

    “Passive clause” sounds like a cuckolded Santa.

  6. 6
  7. 7
    Alexandra says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall:

    Love me some pavlova, unfortunately. Love Australia too, but don’t tell any of my Kiwi friends. It’s akin to treason.

  8. 8
    chopper says:

    one of Australia’s proudest traditions, besides pretending to have invented pavlova, meat pies, footballers in tiny shorts, dispossessing indigenous peoples, and shipping coloured people back where they came from

    wow, they pretend to have invented all of those things? buncha fuckin’ liars if you ask me.

  9. 9

    @IowaOldLady:

    See how the Lord gifted him above his brethren (1608)
    -SOED

    But I’m with you on lay and lie.

  10. 10
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    The passive voice sucks.

    There. I said it. Or, rather, some people say they said it.

  11. 11
  12. 12
    different-church-lady says:

    So it’s settled then: Petri doesn’t understand how cancer works, Keller doesn’t understand how humanity works, and some people might worry that Pullum is a pedantic bore.

  13. 13
    aimai says:

    You know I actually think that Pullum piece is both incredibly boring and totally off point. Although Petrie uses the phrase “passive construction” she is not, emphatically not, using it to describe grammer at all. Oddly enough, when she describes what Keller is doing as “Concern Trolling” she is also not literally describing him as either fishing or being a hairy norweigian folk creature. She goes out of her way to describe a variety of pieces of political commentary which limply or passively put the onus on the reader, or the imaginary “everyman” to do the dirty work the writer wants done. She calls that a passive construction but she is pretty clear she doesn’t mean as applied to verbs or anything else. She means its rhetorically passive and lazy and shifts the emotional force of the argument from the writer to the reader.

    I love language log but they often go off on these rants which generate a lot more harrumphing heat than they do light.

  14. 14
    Violet says:

    Hi, Miss Sarah! Good to see you! Happy Australia Day!

    Everything is covered in ice where I am. I did my best to cover the citrus trees but the tropical storm force winds blew the plastic sheeting off. The sheets stayed on so now they’re frozen solid, like ice domes on and over the citrus trees. I don’t know if that’s a good or bad thing for the trees. The trees are in pots so small enough to be covered. I hope they survive.

  15. 15
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @aimai:

    generate a lot more harrumphing heat than they do light.

    Harrumphing heat is better for click counts.

  16. 16
    MattF says:

    @different-church-lady: And co-author of:

    http://www.cambridge.org/uk/linguistics/cgel/

    So Pullum’s position as pedantic bore is acquired honestly. He has a legitimate claim on being the world’s expert on questions of English grammar.

  17. 17
    El Cid says:

    @aimai: One finds something beautiful in that comment.

  18. 18
    Amir Khalid says:

    The passive voice goes “A was [past participle of transitive verb] (by B).” The active voice goes “B [transitive verb] A.” It isn’t all that hard to identify them, or to tell them apart. It’s just inexcusable to be in the pros like Alexandra Petri, and not know stuff like this.

  19. 19
    MBL says:

    It is twenty degrees below zero outside if you take wind chill into account; I am home all day on account of school being closed. I have been staring at a computer screen all morning trying to get some writing done. The prospect of killing half an hour reading a grammar fight online excites me to a degree that is frankly a little frightening. If I’m reading about writing, I don’t have to be doing any, right?

  20. 20
    Punchy says:

    I think Petri likes dishing on her Washington brethren in order to see growth in this media.

    /I’ll be here all week…tip yer waiters.

  21. 21

    @aimai:

    Hello dear.

    So why does Petri call it a “lovely passive construction” (which strongly suggests grammar), rather than say, “What a lovely passive style”, or “attitude”, which would be rhetorically passive.

  22. 22
    different-church-lady says:

    @MattF: Oh, I’m sure he’s completely qualified. I’m just worried people might think he’s completely missed the point of Petri’s article, and done so in a rather obnoxious way:

    “Some might suggest, then, that Petri is a posturing grammatical nincompoop.”

    A display of asshole was given, no?

  23. 23
    Baud says:

    Shorter SP&T: Mistakes were made.

  24. 24
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Punchy:
    By the way, is her surname pronounced “pee tree” or “pet tree”?

  25. 25
  26. 26
    KS in MA says:

    @Amir Khalid: This. And: Writers very often use passives to conceal information– as in “A was [past participle of transitive verb]”– without mentioning “(by B)”. For instance, “Mistakes were made,” or “A few bystanders were injured.” That’s the real reason why people should try to avoid using the passive voice.

    ETA: I see Baud beat me to it.

  27. 27
    Cervantes says:

    @MattF:

    He has a legitimate claim on being the world’s expert on questions of English grammar.

    And he’s a descriptivist, so even though he wrote this …

    What is going on is that people are simply tossing the term ‘passive’ around when they want to cast aspersions on pieces of writing that, for some ineffable reason, they don’t care for.

    … he does know the score.

  28. 28
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @Amir Khalid: Still trying out for that teacher job from downstairs, eh?

    I’m wiling to cut Petri a fair amount of slack for playing along with (or at least recognizing) a DougJ trolling a while back.

  29. 29
    burnspbesq says:

    Can we have a post commemorating the 30th anniversary of the Mac? It would be useful to have the haters’ irrational nonsense preserved in one convenient location for ease of reference.

  30. 30
    different-church-lady says:

    @burnspbesq: The cool thing is most of the nonsense is as old as the Mac itself.

  31. 31
    srv says:

    What aimai said.

    I’m concerned Sarah may be trying to gift the Kellers here.

  32. 32
    MattF says:

    @different-church-lady: Well, sure. But it’s informed assholery– there’s a lesson in grammar from an expert buried in there.

  33. 33
    Face says:

    @burnspbesq: I’m a Apple 2e man. (BTW, the Mac costed $5440 dollars in 2012 dollars).

  34. 34
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @KS in MA: Actually, that can be a benefit of passive voice. One can use it to deflect emphasis from facts that don’t support your argument without being accused leaving the facts out. Lawyer’s trick for brief writing.

  35. 35
    aimai says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall: You can use construction in its other senses, you know. Its not necessary to be a biblical literalist on this point. This is actually something they talk about, or they used to, in linguistics all the time–words have extensions in meaning. I don’t really have a dog inthis hunt but Petrie’s overall point is good: there’s something going on here, as far as writers and pundits are concerned, which is important–a shifting of the blame from the actual opinions of the writer to the imputed concern/beliefs of the reader. Poiting this out and giving it a name, like calling Fox news questions “Cavuto Marks,” is a good thing. We don’t bitch and moan about how its not a real “Mark” because you don’t use “Question” before it.

  36. 36
    different-church-lady says:

    @Cervantes: There’s not a single god-damned thing that’s “ineffable” about Petri’s column, nor the scorn heaped upon Keller, and Mr. Prissy-Pants Secretary of Language ought to know that. I worry someone might think he has ‘no intellectual grasp’ of such things.

  37. 37
    aimai says:

    @different-church-lady: Yes, Ineffable is inexcusable in that context.

  38. 38
    Cervantes says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    It’s just inexcusable to be in the pros like Alexandra Petri, and not know stuff like this.

    Obviously not inexcusable as she is still there.

    Petri went to college at Harvard, of course, and not that long ago, either, as you can tell from her writing. Her degree is in … English. Of course.

    While at Harvard, her only big complaint, she says, is that “dining-hall services stopped serving scrod on a regular basis” after she asked for more. Her biggest puzzlement was “why most of the toilets lack lids, or whatever you call that thing that covers the seat.” And note: “People always said that the best parts of Harvard were the wonderful intellectual conversations that you would have. So far [just before graduation], I have yet to have any of these wonderful intellectual conversations.”

    Now believe that she actually wrote this:

    When I graduate, I know that the Harvard name will brand me regardless of what field I try to enter, possibly because I have literally branded the words “Harvard Class of 2010” on my forehead. But it will have been worth it.

    That’s whom you’re dealing with.

  39. 39
    different-church-lady says:

    @MattF: Hang on then, I’ll go down to the basement and see if I can figure out which box we stored the nutcracker in…

  40. 40
    Cervantes says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    The passive voice sucks. There. I said it. Or, rather, some people say they said it.

    Funny.

  41. 41
    Commenting at Balloon Juice since 1937 says:

    So what you’re saying is that mistakes were made.

  42. 42
    different-church-lady says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: It was said.

  43. 43
    Poopyman says:

    @Cervantes: And I thought GWB was the final nail in the coffin for the Harvard brand.

  44. 44
    Cervantes says:

    @Face:

    (BTW, the Mac costed $5440 dollars in 2012 dollars).

    My Lisa costed about twice that much in 1983 dollars.

  45. 45
    different-church-lady says:

    Mayhew makes an inter-thread running joke!

    7 million will be reached

  46. 46
    Ruckus says:

    SPT
    If fosters is watered down mule piss then mule piss must really be horribly awful.
    No wait…
    What is worse than horribly awful?

  47. 47
    MattF says:

    @Poopyman: Also Yale, don’t forget!

  48. 48
    Chyron HR says:

    So Sarah Proud and Tall blogged about a blog that Geoffrey K. Pullum blogged about an article by Alexandria Petri about the articles the Kellers wrote about the cancer woman’s tweets?

    There is a point at which this needs to stop and I think we have clearly passed it.

  49. 49
    different-church-lady says:

    @Chyron HR:

    There is a point at which this needs to stop and I think we have clearly passed it it has been passed.

    Fixed that for you It has been fixed.

  50. 50
    Cervantes says:

    @Poopyman: Nails in coffins? Well, Harvard’s a great place, don’t get me wrong — but, despite my wild fantasies, I do not have my iron fist on the University’s admissions policy; and for some inscrutable reason they have not paid me to deflate inflated grades; and completely without my say-so they keep graduating some very uneducated people (your example comes to mind, though his Harvard stint was at the Business School, which is an entirely separate kind of hell).

  51. 51
    aimai says:

    @MattF:

    Christ. I actually went to both Harvard and Yale (A.B. and M.Phil/Ph.d respectively). It doesn’t mean I was extra smart and it also doesn’t mean I am extra stupid. They are just two schools which draw from a large pool of applicants. The amount of online hysteria about these two schools is just weird, to me.

  52. 52
    Gin & Tonic says:

    @different-church-lady: And uses “data” as a singular noun! Shame!

  53. 53
    MattF says:

    @aimai: I’m joking m’dear. I spent some time on various ivied campuses myself, long ago, if memory serves.

  54. 54

    @aimai:

    I agree with you. I think, however, that a blogger writing about “a shifting of the blame from the actual opinions of the writer to the imputed concern/beliefs of the reader” should be able to come up with a term for that concept that doesn’t already have a technical meaning in a different field (grammar), if they don’t want to be misunderstood or lead others to be misunderstood.

    Why doesn’t she call it “blame shifting”? Bill Keller is a blame shifter.

    ETA: None of which, I should add (as I have above) means that Petri deserves to be called a nincompoop.

  55. 55
    burnspbesq says:

    @Ruckus:

    The Foster’s that is brewed-under-license by SABMiller here in the USA is pretty nasty stuff. I have vague memories of consuming mass quantities of the real thing in undergrad, during the Ford and Carter Administrations.

    The best Aussie beer I’ve ever had, Cascade lager from Tasmania, has never had any US distribution.

  56. 56

    @Chyron HR:

    There are mirrors all the way down, and one of your reflections is waving, far, far back in the distance.

  57. 57
    Baud says:

    @Cervantes:

    I really hope Lisa is your daughter.

  58. 58
    KS in MA says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Indeed! :)

  59. 59
    Cervantes says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall:

    None of which, I should add (as I have above) means that Petri deserves to be called a nincompoop.

    I agree that if it were only this one incorrect usage — even if it’s about grammar, and even if she is trying to tell other people how to write, and even if she did go to Harvard to study English — still, merely one incorrect usage need not reap eternal damnation.

  60. 60
    Matthew B. says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall: And notice that Petri focuses on a grammatical, not metaphorical, passive that obscures agency. (Steven Goodman says, “But it shouldn’t be unduly praised,” and Petri comments, “BY WHOM?”)

    The context here is that Petri is one of a herd of writers complaining about “passive constructions,” it’s obvious that most of them mean that in its grammatical sense, and it’s also obvious that they often have only the haziest idea of what a passive is. I don’t see any reason to give Petri the benefit of the doubt.

  61. 61
    Cervantes says:

    @Baud: Aren’t daughters (or sons) considerably more expensive than that?

    It was an Apple computer, a predecessor of the Macintosh.

  62. 62
    Baud says:

    @Cervantes:

    Don’t know how much kids cost. My first thought was mail order bride. Computer is acceptable, however.

  63. 63
    aimai says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall: Well, admittedly she’s not a fun person to read, like Charles Pierce or Wonkette. But so what? Really, a boring choice of words is not the end of the world. Even a mistake in your grammar or spelling is not the end of the world. I take her point and I think “blame shifter” is not even a good version of what she is trying to argue. She’s trying to say that there is something in these constructions (sentences and paragraphs are constructions too) that divert responsibility from the writer to the reader or the “reasonable man” or the presumed ordinary man. This is actually something that Richard Cohen did, rather infamously, in his crappy column on 12 Years a Slave when he poses, absurdly, as some kind of white everyman, innocent of the real horrors of slavery until the movie educates him. Its a rhetorical style, not a grammatical one.

    Anyway, I don’t really give a fuck about Petrie’s essay, which is of only minimal interest. I just see Pullum’s attack on her as shooting a mosquito with a very, very, very, dull cannon. At least she cared enough to be talking about something that is meaningful: the politics and rhetoric of a contemporary social event like the smearing of a cancer victim. What’s his excuse for going all Strunk and White? Boredom?

  64. 64
    Cervantes says:

    @Matthew B.:

    The context here is that Petri is one of a herd of writers complaining about “passive constructions”

    Pullum has an article coming out about exactly this — and his having worked on it recently may be why Petri’s offense annoyed him so much.

  65. 65

    @Cervantes:

    I have no idea what you are implying.

  66. 66
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Like the dish, as I understand it. PEAT tree.

  67. 67
    Cervantes says:

    @aimai:

    What’s his excuse for going all Strunk and White?

    Er … it’s his day job?

    I just see Pullum’s attack on her as shooting a mosquito with a very, very, very, dull cannon.

    Well, very, very, very, dull cannons are in the eye of the beholder, I guess.

    But here’s something: he’s about three times as old as she is. The age difference accounts for his perceptions and a lot of what he says (I regret to say).

  68. 68
    MattF says:

    @Cervantes: In fact, Pullum has a whole swarm of long-standing bees in his bonnet. Misuse of the term ‘passive’ is one of them. Also, Strunk and White are his bêtes noires so don’t say anything positive about them– you might get Pullumed.

  69. 69
    justawriter says:

    I question Pullum’s bona fides. For one thing, he doesn’t even count all the verbs (deserving, which is a passive form of deserves) plus he magically converts all the infinitives (which I was taught was a hallmark of passive writing) into active verbs.

  70. 70
    Cervantes says:

    @Sarah, Proud and Tall: Here’s the gist: in the circumstances, or really in any circumstances, being called a nincompoop is not the end of the world.

  71. 71
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @different-church-lady:

    <strikeFixed that for you It has been fixed.

    Fixed, it has been.

    /Master Yoda

  72. 72
    Cervantes says:

    @MattF:

    In fact, Pullum has a whole swarm of long-standing bees in his bonnet.

    Yes, and I know the feeling. It’s swarmy. And buzzy somewhat.

    But please: a swarm of long-standing bees? Really?

  73. 73
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MattF:

    Oh, that’s it. Dissing Strunk and White is heresy worthy of crucifixion, followed by a humane drawing and quartering,

  74. 74
    MattF says:

    @Cervantes: What good is a metaphor if it can’t be mixed?

  75. 75
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: Well, I did ask the if they wanted to take a seat. They declined en masse.

  76. 76
    Matthew B. says:

    @justawriter: In “deserving of our respect” deserving functions as an adjective, not a verb. You can’t say, e.g., “I deserved of his respect.” And I’m not sure why you think infinitives are hallmarks of passive constructions; they aren’t.

  77. 77
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: Grrrrrrr. FYWP, why can’t I edit in the mobile version?

  78. 78
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @MattF:

    Preferably with a decent blended Scotch.

  79. 79
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Villago Delenda Est: So is mixed metaphor a term for water or club soda?

  80. 80
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Cervantes:

    I understood exactly what MattF was getting at with that. That Pullum seems to be taking pages from Grandpa Simpson’s shouting at clouds playbook.

  81. 81
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Omnes Omnibus:

    Only in the sense of someone Catholic marrying someone Protestant.

  82. 82
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:
    The only part of The Elements of Style worth remembering is the famous paragraph that begins, “Omit needless words.” The rest is just Strunk and White urging you to write with vigour and concision (worthy), interspersed with claims about grammar and the meanings of words that Pullum reckons don’t pass serious scrutiny (not so worthy).

  83. 83
    tybee says:

    @Face:

    what was wrong with the 2+ ?

  84. 84
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Villago Delenda Est:

    Darn I messed up the tags on that. It’s too bad that the WP quote feature doesn’t preserve the tags inside the quote, but we can’t have everything, I suppose.

  85. 85
    Villago Delenda Est says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Eschew excess verbiage in order to streamline understanding on the part of the reader.

    Hey, I’ve got a quota to reach here! I’m paid by the syllable!

  86. 86
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Cervantes:
    I’d edit that to

    For a long time now, Pullum has had a whole swarm of bees in his bonnet.

    Although men don’t look particularly fetching in bonnets.

  87. 87
    demit says:

    @burnspbesq: Foster’s over here IS watered down, by law. Drinking just a couple of tubes of real Foster’s would knock you on your ass. As I recall.

  88. 88
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Amir Khalid: Thousands of Scots shall rise in protest.

  89. 89
    justawriter says:

    ‘(She is) deserving of our respect’ is almost a perfect passive formulation of (She) deserves our respect.

  90. 90
    Cervantes says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    Although men don’t look particularly fetching in bonnets.

    This man — Pullum — is a Scot. He wears kilts.[*]

    Plus, in Scotland, there are bonnets and then there are bonnets. Indeed, the term “bonnet” can mean “helmet.” (Aside: For an amusing fifteen minutes, look up the “Affair of the Bonnets” in the time of Louis Quatorze.)

    Scotch bonnets are entirely different, of course, and possibly even irrelevant in this discussion.

    [*] OK, not on a regular basis.

  91. 91
    Amir Khalid says:

    @Cervantes:
    And “bonnet” is British English for the part of a car that Americans call the “hood”.

  92. 92
    Amir Khalid says:

    @justawriter:
    Wrong. That’s not a passive construction at all.

  93. 93
    Matthew B. says:

    @justawriter: A perfect passive version of that would be “Our respect has been deserved by her,” no?

    Look, try this. He is beautiful, she is more beautiful, they are the most beautiful: fine. He is walking, she is more walking, they are the most walking: no good. He is deserving of our respect, she is more deserving of our respect, they are the most deserving of our respect: fine. It’s an adjective.

  94. 94
    Cervantes says:

    @Amir Khalid:

    And “bonnet” is British English for the part of a car that Americans call the “hood”.

    Yes, and I agree that Pullum may not look good in one of those, either.

  95. 95
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Matthew B.: Wouldn’t deserving be a gerund used as direct object in your examples?

  96. 96
    Cervantes says:

    @Omnes Omnibus: A gerund works as a noun.

  97. 97
    kindness says:

    I tried watching the video but the ad for the XP Windows drivers that is common was offset just enough that I couldn’t click it to get rid of it. Those bastards!

  98. 98
    Omnes Omnibus says:

    @Cervantes: Right. It is a present participle as adjective. Don’t I feel silly.

  99. 99
    El Cid says:

    @aimai: There is and long has been offline hysteria about these two schools too.

  100. 100
    JoyfulA says:

    @Amir Khalid: Reminds me of a medical book I was supposed to edit from the passive to the active. The outcome was weird.

    I was young and dumb, or at least inexperienced. I’d never take such a job now.

  101. 101
    Cervantes says:

    @Baud:

    My first thought was mail order bride.

    OK, we can work with that. What was your second thought?

  102. 102
    fidelio says:

    @Matthew B.: If we’re going to wallow in gramatical technicalities, it’s an adjectival phrase.

    I was about to type “On a less snarky note”, but while it’s on a different tack, it’s still snark: One of the problems with outcries over the passive voice is that people these days are deeply confused and sometimes even stone-ignorant about the constructions known as verbals. You know, participles, gerunds, and gerundives. When they run across one of these, they react like a small, nervous dog hearing someone walk past on the sidewalk and start yapping about passive voice as if it were about to break into the house and steal the guns, the family silver, the 80-inch flatscreen and the other electronics, along with Grandpa’s watch and chain.

  103. 103
    Cervantes says:

    @fidelio: That’s not snark. I think it’s literally true.

  104. 104
    pacem appellant says:

    I am so going to become a passive-voice nazi! ‘literally’ and ‘begging the question’ are still on the table for receiving criticism, but in 2014, mis-identifying the passive voice is my new grammar bailiwick!

  105. 105
    Ruckus says:

    @burnspbesq:
    There are any number of things that are not distributed in the US that are actually good products. Beer is surely one of the major ones. In those days you sucked down imported fosters I still thought it tasted like piss. Maybe the quality of the piss used today has declined. It’s still piss. And we now have a reliable source to tell us what animal the piss was processed by. But then I understood that coors was watered down rocky mountain goat piss. And that outshines by a country mile past brands like brew 102, or my long standing least favorite, buttwipper.

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