gg: By Definition

"...it is a bad method, to start from words to define things..." —Ferdinand de Saussure, as quoted by Ogden and Richards Penny: The gostak distims the doshes. Quentin: What's a gostak? Penny: That's what distims the doshes. Quentin: What's distimming? Penny: It's what the gostak does to the doshes. Quentin: Okay, but what are doshes? […]

ff: Tempos Fugue It

(Unfortunately, this is another column best viewed in browsers that support tables. Apologies to lynx users.) The fugue, as a musical form, is looser than the canon; less canonical, one might say. The following piece is meant to be spoken aloud in parallel, in two voices; each line on the left is spoken in synch […]

ee: He, She, and It (Reader Comments and Addenda)

(Note that the former GFP FAQ has moved to a new URL and has become the Gender-Neutral Pronoun FAQ, and John Chao is now named John Williams.) My idea of including reader-comments pages for my columns came originally from Douglas Hofstadter's Metamagical Themas, collecting his columns from Scientific American, in which he includes a "Post […]

ee: He, She, and It

There are too many schools of thought on the matter to list (he said, beginning in media res), but here are some of the most common: Those who believe that "he" remains a gender-neutral pronoun and should be used in all cases where the subject's gender is not specifically known to be female. (With "one" […]

dd: From Dodgson to Dodo

Electronic dictionaries make it quick and easy to look things up. You don't have to search through thousands of pages to find your word; you don't even have to know the order of the alphabet. Some electronic dictionaries will even correct your spelling if you spell your word wrong. Unfortunately, electronic dictionaries also eliminate the […]

cc: Rat Dreams (Notes)

Here are the originals of the Chaucer and Shakespeare quotations I mangled: Whan that Aprill with his shoures soote The droghte of March hath perced to the roote, And bathed every veyne in swich licour Of which vertu engendred is the flour; Whan Zephirus eek with his sweete breeth Inspired hath in every holt and […]

cc: Rat Dreams

Few modern writers would dream of submitting a manuscript without running it through a spellchecker first. Alas, in olden days, many famous writers had no access to computers, and were thus forced to submit manuscripts rife with typos and idiosyncratic spellings. Publishers were often lax in those days and failed to notice the blatant spelling […]

bb: Ought the Otter to Ott?

In many cases a verb x has a corresponding noun (often formed by adding "-er" or "-or" to the verb) meaning "one who does x." For instance, the verb "to spoil" corresponds to the noun "spoiler," meaning "one who spoils." Thus, it seems reasonable to assume that to find out what a "burglar" does, one […]