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You’re Saying It Wrong

In August, the outcry began. “Have we literally broken the English language?” asked The Guardian. The Web site io9 announced “literally the greatest lexicographical travesty of our time,” while The Week bemoaned “the most unforgivable thing dictionaries have ever done.” The offense? Google’s second definition of the word literally, which had been posted on Reddit: “Used to acknowledge that something is not literally true but is used for emphasis or to express strong feeling.”

What the linguistic doomsayers failed to realize is that this definition is far from new. People have used literally to mean figuratively for centuries, and definitions to this effect have appeared in The Oxford English Dictionary and The Merriam-Webster Dictionary since the early 1900s, accompanied by a note that such usage might be “considered irregular” or “criticized as a misuse.” But literally is one of those words that, regardless of what’s in the dictionary—and sometimes because of it—continues to attract an especially snooty breed of linguistic scrutiny. It is a classic peeve.

Read more. [Image: Nishant Choksi]


'I Cheated All Throughout High School'

Sixty to 70 percent of high-school students report they have cheated. Ninety percent of students admit to having copied another student’s homework. Why is academic dishonesty so widespread? I wrote an article earlier this month that placed most of the blame on classroom culture. Currently, teachers assess students’ ability to reproduce examples and mimic lessons rather than display mastery of a concept. This is a misguided approach to learning, and it encourages students to cheat.

I specifically avoided a discussion of the question of student ethics and character in my article, not because I wanted to exonerate students from their share of the blame, but because I hoped to focus on pedagogy’s role in academic dishonesty. But just when I thought I had succeeded in divorcing character from practice for the sake of discussion, the folly of my strategy was made shockingly clear. 

The day the article was published, I received an email from a college student who wanted to provide his perspective on the cheating question. I had naively assumed that my readers and my students were operating from the same ethical starting place: that cheating is wrong. How mistaken I was.

Read more. [Image: Aly Song/Reuters]

Neat pinned connections! Also, I used to think that that being part of an airline club was “eh”, but now that I’ve been waiting forever for my plane… I sure wish I could be upstairs checking out the nice parts of the airport lol

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