One type of word that we have written about in the past is collective nouns. These are fun because they often combine clever wordplay (a catastrophe of debt), behavior (an exaltation of larks), attributes (a pride of lions) or onomatopoeia (a flush of plumbers). But our new favorite collective noun is “binders of women”, which as many of us know was a gaffe by Romney during one of the presidential debates. What’s funny about this is that it lacks the attractive attributes of other collective nouns, and yet is just as amusing. Let’s pause for a few moments to imagine a few connotative meanings. Actually, never mind. We don’t envy political candidates who have to speak on the fly in front of live audiences on a daily basis for several months at a time. All of us, no matter how polished we may be at public speaking, are going to trip up sooner or later and say something foolish. And when this happens the media inevitably pounces on it.

Fortunately there are people protecting us from these kinds of missteps. One of them is Philip B. Corbett, a deputy news editor at the New York Times. He is part curmudgeon and part stickler, a person who helps the rest of us avoid impure grammatical thoughts. He has a blog called After Deadline where he tackles thorny language issues that are frankly so obscure that they are difficult for us mortals to get our minds around. He recently wrote about an outbreak of subjunctivitis, which is similar to conjunctivitis, except that it gets under your skin instead of your eyelids. Readers who enjoy this material should also check out Lingua Franca, a blog on the Chronicle of Higher Education. In one recent entry Ben Yagoda writes about the “preposition-possessive-pronoun combo—PPPC for short” and how it “speaks to my geeky heart.” There’s nothing geeky about good communication, though there may be something geeky about taking such apparent delight in arcane usage details.

This may seem rather far afield from the focus of this blog, which is Everett and his entourage. I think the link is his rapidly developing language abilities. He is now able to create grammatically correct sentences and string them together into complex stories. As listeners, we get to observe cognitive leaps and the phrases he uses to segue between them. One common example is “…speaking of X, can we do Y?” He is at a period in his life where creativity and language are freely intermingled without adherence to a strict set of rules. We are looking forward to hearing more language experiments and we will of course report any collective nouns that he invents.

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