Reading the label

September 13, 2012|By John E. McIntyre | The Baltimore Sun

You see jam; Geoffrey Pullum sees syntax. 

Professor Pullum is teaching at Brown this year, and heading off to the store to buy some organic preserves, he picked up a jar of Nature's Promise Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread.

Then he discovered that the product is not purely organic, and his analysis of the syntax of the label at Lingua Franca explains some of the treacherous aspects of English.

English, you will have noticed, is given to transvestism. Nouns can act like verbs; verbs can act like nouns. Even adjectives can act like nouns, as the alert recognize. And, thanks to its lowly Germanic origins, English nouns can modify nouns which modify nouns which modify nouns. You recognize that, too, if you brush up against any of our many bureaucracies. Ever get caught up in a performance improvement plan?  

If you want to know what the trick is in the syntax of Nature's Promise Organic Raspberry Fruit Spread, you can always guess. But I recommend that you click on the link for Professor Pullum's explanation. 

While you're at Lingua Franca, check out some of the other offerings. 


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