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When “Bad Writing” is Good


In this week’s brand-spankin’-new episode: Great gifts for language lovers, nerds vs. geeks, “tow the line” vs. “toe the line,” the slang term “poutrage,” and the crust in the corners of your eyes after you sleep. Here ’tis:


It’s been called “the ‘Rocky’ of speech therapy movies.” We can’t wait to see the new film “The King’s Speech,” about King George VI’s efforts to overcome his stammer.

New York Times language columnist Ben Zimmer details the tongue-twisting calisthenics:


Another new word-related movie is “Bad Writing.” Documentary filmmaker Vernon Lott shows his own admittedly bad poetry to such authors as Margaret Atwood and David Sedaris, and asks what exactly makes it so awful.

The film’s trailer is cringeworthy, but the L.A. Times assures that the film is amusing and instructive. If you see it, tell us what you think.


“English needs a proper adjective to cover the United States of America and its citizens.” That’s the contention on The Economist’s language blog. So what’s the alternative? “United Statians”? “USAnians?” The blog’s comments are lively, too:


OOPS! Last week we were all aflutter about the new online Oxford English Dictionary–so aflutter, in fact, that we gave you the wrong URL for it. Sorry! Here’s the real one:


BEHIND THE SCENES: We’re delighted to announce our new partnership with the San Diego Community College District. We’re grateful for their support. More about SDCCD here:


Also, Martha had a blast last week speaking to San Diego’s venerable Wednesday Club. A big welcome to all those in attendance who signed up for this newsletter!

Pip, pip,

Martha and Grant

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