They had the good taste to include Geoff Pullum's post on Ray Charles among the recommended readings at the site. It is, to my mind, one of the best things originally published on the web. The structure of the post emulates the blues it describes--commencing on one theme, segueing to a pitch-perfect improvised solo in the middle, returning to the main theme with a big finish at the end.
Geoff's own version of the blues sets the scene in an idealized California--Ray Charles, not long before his passing, appearing at a summertime blues festival in the park. From there, Geoff's solo takes us into an analysis of Ray's word selection in "America the Beautiful," and with such flare we almost don't notice we've strayed from an unabashed Ray Charles appreciation to complete grammar-geek mode. Pullum gets out of this potentially dead-end riffing by slyly reminding us that he himself has had just two real professions: blues musician and linguist. He thus circles back to praise--more forceful and meaningful this time--for Ray Charles’ musicianship. The piece concludes with the four magic words for any American: Happy Fourth of July. It’s what we in the biz call bringing it home.
But if you’re like me, you tire of trying to read so much great material onscreen. For you, there’s Far from the Madding Gerund, complete with Geoff’s masterpiece of blogging on Ray Charles and 139 other classics from the annals of Language Log.
When you pick up the book, please do not miss Mark Liberman’s “The SAT fails a grammar test.” I know there are but eight great diversions remaining in this weary world, but surely this must be one of them, too.