Tuesday 28 December 2010

Grammar: Heteroglossia

Heteroglossia is a figure of speech – it means combining high and low diction for ironic effect. You can also combine words from different backgrounds – scientific, flowery, bureaucratic, vulgar. And if you lift words and phrases from science, architecture or railway timetables, it’s funnier if you use them precisely. Charles Dickens, Raymond Chandler and PG Wodehouse employed this dodge frequently.

'Jeeves,' I said. 'Sir?' said Jeeves. He had been clearing away the breakfast things, but at the sound of the young master's voice cheesed it courteously. PG Wodehouse

Did someone really kill someone else by tying them onto the rails and hoping the 5:20 from Chicago would do the rest? Or was it a metaphor for Industry crushing agricultural society? Liz Gorman, Rockville, Maryland, straightdope.com

And while we're all here: Some will occasionally claim that since the moon reflects UV radiation, staying out too long when it's full can get you a case of "moonburn." In medical parlance, these people are known as half-wits. (straightdope.com)

As soon as a tenant was found, he subsided into the greengrocer’s shop once more... Thackeray, Vanity Fair

Francis Scott Key wrote of the Stars and Stripes waving “o’er the land of the free and the home of the brave,” not o’er the Brooks Brothers lapel. (letter to Time)

Le tout Loughborough has turned out... (Time)

One American research program was cancelled after the chimps escaped the lab on a Sunday morning and reassembled in a local church, interrupting worship services. (skeptic.com)

Taking pictures in public is indeed legal, but that's not likely to impress some outraged citizen who's determined to tapdance on your cranium. (straightdope.com)

Dollo's law states that evolution isn't reversible, and that things that have been lost during the course of evolution don't reappear. Once it's gone, it's gone – sayonara, whale legs. (howstuffworks.com)

I suppose we ought to be glad that Burchill was never appointed to a diplomatic post: World War 3 might have ensued. (@doctorcdf)

More figures of speech:

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