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Results for "December, 2006"

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  • You are the person of the year. One of you? Two of you? All of you?

    Time magazine has just announced that you are its person of the year for 2006.  One blogger faulted the magazine for not making clear whether you is singular or plural.  Since the magazine’s cover has a mirror – actually a bit of silvered paper impersonating a mirror – it seemed clear to me that you was singular. Calling you the person of the year, not the people of the year, suggested this as well.  Nonetheless, some ambiguity remains: many of the articles in the “Person of the Year” issue address a mass audience, users of the World Wide Web, you plural.   

    Whatever Time meant, it’s clear that when it comes to numbers, the English second person pronoun isn’t clear at all.  You can mean one, or two, or more than two.  That hasn’t always been the case.  Old English had separate second person pronouns for the singular, the dual (referring to two people), and the plural (for more than two).  The dual died out – after the Norman conquest the English decided that two was the loneliest number – but singular thee, thou and thy held on till well into the 17th century, with ye, you and your reserved in most cases for the plural. 

  • Teaching grammar stops violence

    Teaching grammar stops violence.  French Minister of Education Gilles de Robien insists that his new initiative to improve grammar teaching in French schools will actually avert a repeat of the riots that took place in the fall of 2005, when immigrant teenagers ran through the streets night after night looting stores, attacking police, and burning thousands of cars.

  • "War on Terror" ends in England. Will U.S. stay the course?

    The British government has decided to drop the phrase "war on terror" from its official vocabulary list.  Prime Minister Tony Blair hasn't said "war on terror" since June, and the Foreign Office has told cabinet ministers to find a way to deal with terrorism both at home and in the Middle East without further alienating the growing body of disaffected British Muslims, not to mention the entire Islamic world (apparently the British war on terror never targeted the IRA).  

    Responding to Britain's rhetorical draw down, a spokesman for the U.S. State Department insisted that the war on terror, a trademark of the George W. Bush presidency, remains alive and well: "It's the president's phrase, and that's good enough for us."    

  • A roadside bomb exploding in Baghdad

    Roadside bomb: Word of the Year for 2006

    The most prominent word to come out of the war in Iraq isn't "insurgent" (an Iraqi who wants the Yanks to go home), "sectarian violence" (translation: 'not civil war'), or "Green Zone" (a name which gives environmental protection a whole new meaning). It's roadside bomb, the phrase that I've selected as Word of the Year for 2006.

  • Commas gone wild, or, punctuation bares all

    Its hard to imagine commas in the news, but thats exactly whats been happening. Lets call our first story, The Comma goes to War. In September, President George Bush said on CNN that when the final history is written on Iraq, it will look just like a comma. The Japan Times, editorializing that the president had literally lapsed into a comma, joined the legion of critics of who read into this presidential punctuation mark evidence that Bush was trivializing the human cost of war.