Notes on language from Steve Martin

October 14, 2015

Yes, that Steve Martin. I just read Born Standing Up: A Comic’s Life, his engaging account of his early years as a stand-up comedian and gag writer for TV, and I’d like to share a few short passages that relate to language.

On one of his endless trips around America as an aspiring freelance comic, Martin began taping his shows with a cassette recorder ‘in case I ad-libbed something wonderful’. This led to his abandoning a routine in which he drank a couple of glasses of wine, because when listening to the tape later he could hear himself slurring. He never drank alcohol before or during a show again.

He also made another significant change based on reviewing the tapes:

Texas-born and California-raised, I realized I was dropping my “ings” – runnin’, walkin’, and talkin’ – and I worked like Eliza Doolittle to elevate my speech. It was a struggle; at first I thought I sounded pretentious and unnatural. But I did it, though now and then I slip back into my natural way of speakin’.

Read the rest of this entry »

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“I remember when this was all feels”

December 11, 2013

It’s a few months since I launched the Sentence first shop, and also since I mentioned it, so a brief plug before Christmas won’t go amiss. I’ve updated the contents a little, removing some items and adding a new product line or two – most recently one with the text:

I remember when this was all feels

Obviously it’s a play on the well-worn line I remember when this was all fields (or: when all this; all just fields, etc).

Sentence first shop - stan carey - spreadshirt T-shirt - i remember when this was all feelsThe feels in question are an internet meme of sorts. The pun might mean nothing to you, or you might find it appealingly silly. You might even have seasonal feels about it.

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Wordplay is the shop’s main theme. Old favourites Omit needles swords, Grammar is glamorous (etymologically speaking), Recursive hipsters et al. are still available on T-shirts, mugs, tops, badges, bags and hoodies, some now at reduced prices.

Spreadshirt advises ordering by 13–14 December to avail of standard delivery in the US by Christmas. (Outside the US, it may be too late even for Santa.) Requests and feedback are welcome – you can leave a comment below, send an email, or find me on Twitter at @StanCarey.

For other Christmas gift ideas, you might find language-related books of interest in my reviews archive.

Normal uncommercial service will resume shortly.


Sentence First shop – where grammar is glamorous

September 10, 2013

If you read this blog on its web page (as opposed to via email, say), you may have noticed a new image in the sidebar, and a new page, linking to the Sentence First shop. It now has a .com address only; I closed the .ie page for simplicity’s sake.

The shop has bags, T-shirts, hoodies and other clothes, badges, mugs, and more. Its general themes are wordplay, language, and bad puns. Omit needles swords, for example, is a spin on Strunk and White’s popular dictum Omit needless words. Less cryptic ones include:

Grammar is glamorous (etymologically speaking)

and

Recursive hipsters were into being into things before they were hip before it was hip

stan carey - sentence first shop - Grammar is glamorous (etymologically speaking) purple t-shirt I’ll be adding more from time to time.

If you want some item that isn’t shown, email or tweet me or leave a comment below, and I’ll see what I can do when time allows. Other feedback will be happily received; cries of “capitalist sell-out” are also permitted.

Spreadshirt, the shop’s host, has a special offer from today, Tuesday 10 September, till a week from now – free standard shipping when you buy two or more items. Just use the voucher code FALL2013.


A prison pun

April 4, 2013

Horatio Bottomley (British politician and co-founder of the Financial Times) was in prison for fraud in the 1920s. On one occasion, so the story goes, he was visited by a chaplain who saw him sewing mailbags and said: “Ah, Bottomley. Sewing, I see.”

To which Bottomley replied, “No, sir. Reaping.”

(Adapted from J. P. Bean, Verbals: The Book of Criminal Quotations, and other sources. For anyone unsure of the pun, it’s a play on sew/sow homophony and the saying “You reap what you sow.”)