The Sequence of Cumulative Adjectives

Cumulative (aka attributive) adjectives, unlike coordinate (aka correlative) adjectives, do not require commas between them when placed before their object in a sentence. While coordinate adjectives are sequentially interchangeable, there is a standard order to cumulative adjectives that most native English speakers understand intuitively without necessarily realizing it: Articles, possessives, and demonstratives:  the, her, those…

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Negation as Implicature

the Night Vale Harbor and Waterfront Recreation Area never really existed, and was in no way a multimillion-dollar failure of municipal planning. All Things Linguistic examines the use of negation in the storytelling of the fantastic and fantastical podcast Welcome to Night Vale ... Where even "Not" isn't as it seems. Night Vale often uses negation as an implicature,…

Gender Terminology, Old and New

Knowing the etymology and social history of words can be helpful in determining and remembering preferred forms. To that end, here is a very basic primer on some gender-related terminology: Transgender: An adjective, as in transgender person. Not transgenders, as if a noun, nor transgendered, as if a verb—the -ed suffix comes with the implication…

Pleonastic Tautological Redundancies

See what I did there? Here are some common, yet often overlooked, examples of grammatical tautologies. heir apparent end result general public doctorate degree undergraduate student root cause old adage major breakthrough close proximity self-confessed final outcome There are lots of tautological proper nouns, like the Los Angeles Angels (The the angels angels: Spanish) or…

The Great Singular 'They' Debate

The lovely and talented Ronosaurus Rex (author of the finely edited book Narrative Madness) has written an argument for the use of "they" as a generic singular pronoun: "A Case for the Singular They as a Genderless Pronoun in Formal Speech and Writing." The Chronicle of Higher Education has also recently covered the idea a few times in the…