Couple Of Killer Comments

They're on two different subjects, but they're both really awesome. Here's Polwogy responding to a query as to whether the phrase "powerfully connected" is grammatically corrected:

Yes, I think a connection can be powerful. I'd say the electrical connection between generator and appliance is more powerful than a string that follows the same route.

Other than that, you're moving into realms of poetic license and prescriptive versus descriptive grammar, etc. Which, to me, comes down to context and the aim of communication. Take the split infinitive: For generations we've been told that that's an abomination (prescriptive grammar) but if you look at the actual usage in literary works, some great writers have always done it (descriptive grammar). But to me, more important is the impact. "To boldly go" versus "to go boldly" -- the former is far more bold-feeling than the latter. It may (or may not) be incorrect English, but I would argue it is the more correct communication. In any case, if you want to open your SciFi show with an exciting promise of adventure, there's no comparison, right?

When you write a poem (or a New Yorker article) part of the point is the words, to grab your attention and move you out of reading for information into savoring the words and images. In that case, use all the arresting and dislocating words you can -- while still conveying the ideas you want to convey.

On the other hand, when I write a proposal to the National Science Foundation, the last thing I want them to do is stumble over the words, to get them out of the flow of logic, or give them any reason to doubt my competence or communication skills. In that instance, I want the language to be as quite as possible, if you know what I mean.

My philosophy is that the important part is communication -- getting the idea, image or feeling from one person to another. Rules of language are important facilitators to that -- if we didn't have guidelines, nothing would get through. But when handled with care and skill, breaking and/or bending the rules can sometimes be the best way to get your message across, and I think that's far more important than splitting an infinitive occasionally.

And, for those who didn't see, here's Darth Thulhu on Andrew and Sarah Palin:

Sully's mildly OCD about his fixations, but the advantage of OCD is that one becomes very very well-informed about every detail of one's compulsion. One retains the whole timeline, and all the details; and before slotting in new data, that data is relentlessly compared to each piece of existing data.

Palin had the misfortune of being someone Sully could project his Thatcher OCD onto. His first posts about her , when little was known, glowed with hope and optimistic spin that she might be a common sense live-and-let-live fiscal conservative and social liberal. His early love obviously wasn't starburst-related, it was hope that she was Young Alaskan Maggie. Unfortunately for Palin, Sully digs and digs and digs into the things he loves. Her hype was never built on solid foundations, and he checked under the floorboards quickly, and stared into the first of many dank flooded subbasements of horror.

And now he's hooked. What could have been an OCD of love and respect tempered with stark disagreements and challenges (q.v. Obama) is now a Cassandran compulsion to examine what others looking only at the surface don't see, a mad prophet's need to make others listen before it's too late, and an old school journalist's certainty that now they can't accept anything from Palin without getting three pieces of independent confirmation.

Keep it up guys. Rachel Maddow is watching you!

Presented by

Ta-Nehisi Coates is a national correspondent at The Atlantic, where he writes about culture, politics, and social issues. He is the author of the memoir The Beautiful Struggle.

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