Friday, December 4, 2009

The Naked Vulnerability Of His Sentences


The grammatically whimsical author of Infinite Jest, the late David Foster Wallace, was, apparently, a prescriptivist. Blogger Amy McDaniel at HTMLGIANT recently posted what she claims is a "complete text of a worksheet from his class" (HT kottke) which is, basically, a grammar test which begins with the following admonition:

IF NO ONE HAS YET TAUGHT YOU HOW TO AVOID OR REPAIR CLAUSES LIKE THE FOLLOWING, YOU SHOULD, IN MY OPINION, THINK SERIOUSLY ABOUT SUING SOMEBODY, PERHAPS AS CO-PLAINTIFF WITH WHOEVER’S PAID YOUR TUITION

Feel free to take the test yourself here, or to troll the answers folks are giving.

Personal fav:

2. I’d cringe at the naked vulnerability of his sentences left wandering around without periods and the ambiguity of his uncrossed “t”s.

UPDATE: it's always nice to scoop Language Log. A day late and a dollar short, Chris Potts posts about the DFW grammar test here. Psst, my post title is wayyyyy more cleverer. thhhpppt!

UPDATE 2: More LL on DFW and his prescriptivist bent here.

UPDATE 3: Looks like scooping LL is becoming a habit for me (pats self on back).

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