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I like things like prosody, grammar, and music theory because I like to look at how things work as systems.  I guess literary too, but not a...

Friday, January 10, 2014

Passive loathing

Here is the definitive Pullum article on fear and loathing of the passive. Enjoy!


Vance Maverick said...

While the Language Loggers make great sense when they argue, I often feel I don't know the descriptive system they're using. That is, they appeal to a consensus which is not as firm as they imply. Here, Pullum is introducing new terminology as he goes:

When a passive clause has a by-phrase,
as in (4a), I will call it a long passive. The kind that does not, as in (4b), will be called a short

This is an important distinction, and obviously relevant to the peevery (it's the "short" form that's more open to the accusation of leaving agency unclear). So how can it be that it hasn't been named before? Can we blame people for not understanding it?

(Of course we can and should blame them for lecturing us all on the evils of a phenomenon they can't even identify.)

Jonathan said...

The "long passive" is also stigmatized as wordy, awkward, etc...