Wednesday, June 03, 2009

Mailbag

1. For the umpty-seventh time, yes, I am the Richard Epstein. Those other Richard Epsteins are each a Richard Epstein. Yes, that professorly chap is more famous, but, dude, the gentleman is an attorney.

2. No, I do not know why a certain class of intellectual dilettante advocates the legalization of marijuana, but the prohibition of tobacco. Probably because I smoke cigars. And why are you asking a poet this question? This sort of conundrum is best addressed by Jerry Seinfeld.

3. As between Derek Walcott and Ruth Padel, I'd choose Francis Turner Palgrave, who has prior experience in the position, wore a long, but rather patchy, beard, is responsible for The Golden Treasury, which promoted the confusion of good poetry with Good Taste, and who edited a volume of selections from Robert Herrick mysteriously entitled Chrysomela.

4. No, I have no idea why the guy who played Kumar and Dr Kutner is in the White House now. What made you think I could explain this? Anyway, isn't Martin Sheen still President? Maybe Kumar/Dr Kutner knows him. Or Charlie Sheen.

5. I prefer the Oxford comma, even though Fowler eschews it, except when its omission would occasion confusion. The truth is, I like punctuation. I hope someday I shall find a grilled cheese sandwich bearing the imprint of a semi-colon. Should/would works just the same as shall/will, except that the distinction is even less observed. Do not get me started on decimate.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

The Richard Epstein,

The free online dictionary says "Decimate originally referred to the killing of every tenth person, a punishment used in the Roman army for mutinous legions. Today this meaning is commonly extended to include the killing of any large proportion of a group. Sixty-six percent of the Usage Panel accepts this extension in the sentence The Jewish population of Germany was decimated by the war, even though it is common knowledge that the number of Jews killed was much greater than a tenth of the original population." So go ahead, take your best shot. You will be decimated.

RHE said...

Dear Anonymous,

The Free Online Dictionary is worth what you paid for it. It's the same authority which says of "whom,"

It was formerly considered correct to use whom whenever the objective form of who was required. This is no longer thought to be necessary and the objective form who is now commonly used, even in formal writing: there were several people there who he had met before

which seems to me to be the straightforward reporting of ignorance, rather than a useful recommendation. On the other hand, usage may predict the future, when, as you may recall, we shall all have personal jetpacks.