an appreciation

I'm overdue for blogging here (I have a few topics lined up and partially researched) in part because I spent a very, very long time on US taxes and FATCA. This is definitely worthy of a rant. The US treatment of its expatriated citizens is absurd. But lots of other people are doing that rant. And I come here not to rant, but to appreciate.

I feel extremely privileged that writing this blog has led to so many interesting, polite, cooperative, informative, entertaining and just plain rewarding interactions--mostly online, occasionally in real life. Last week, a reader, correspondent and virtual friend died unexpectedly. I'm finding it strange to realise that you can miss someone you've never met. But the fact that the world is missing such a funny, interesting/interested, and generous person is difficult knowledge to have. That's before one even starts to consider that there are people who loved him closely who will be affected far, far more than internet acquaintances like myself. My heart goes out to them, though I do not know them.

Writing for the internet public about language is hard. It's also fun and has lots of perks. But it is hard because it's risky. There's always someone there to tell you that they think you're wrong, that they think you're unqualified, that you didn't talk about what they wanted you to talk about. It's hard because you can't always tell if people who respond to you are joking or talking down to you, if they're exasperated or just brief. And there are certainly people out there who haven't yet figured out how to tell when I'm any of those things. My strategy is to always try to read anything sent to me in the most positive way possible--to imagine a kind smile on their imagined faces and to try to have a sincere smile on mine when I reply. If I can't do that, it's better not to reply at all. I don't always succeed in not-replying to perceived rudeness, but with practice it gets easier.

Anyhow, that all said, my life on the web has been easy. (Which is good because the grief I do get is plenty enough!) Even though there is no shortage of people willing to be very rude on the internet about the national dialects I write about, they don't seem to come here (or to my Twitter feed or Facebook page) very often. Or maybe they do, but they behave themselves when they come here. If so, I'm very grateful to them for that restraint.

But more generally, the people who hang around this blog and virtually interact with me seem to be lovely people. If we knew each other in real life, we might well drive each other (BrE) bonkers, but maybe not.* There have been readers/commenters who were active for a while and then faded away; I'll never know if they're just lost to the blog or lost to the world. There are others who've been the blog's constant companions for years. And I'm sure the majority drop in for a word then forget about the blog. Whichever one you are, I just want to take a moment to appreciate the interactions we've had and will (I hope) continue to.

At any rate, here's to Marc Naimark. He is missed. As a tribute, here are some of the blog posts he inspired:
finger-tip search
write (to) someone
the big list of vegetables

* Marc and I got to know each other on a more personal level than some of us have, because we became Facebook friends in the early days when I accepted friend requests from names I recogni{s/z}ed from the blog. I now rarely accept friend requests from people I've not met in person. Sometimes I think I should do so, knowing how valuable I found those interactions with Marc, but on the other hand there were other requests that I accepted, then later became uncomfortable at having let those strangers into my family life. I'm sticking with that anti-social social-media policy (and directing people I don't know to interact with me on the Lynneguist page or Twitter feed) not because I don't want to get to know you better, but because my child's privacy is my priority. That said, perhaps we'll meet...


  1. When I have (very rarely) commented in (?) your blog, and in (?) other people’s blogs, I have always tried to be polite and friendly, because I only comment on things I really like, but somehow I tend to lose control as I write and end up saying absolute ******* ****, if you see what I mean. (But this kind of thing never happens when I’m speaking, I assure you!)

  2. Lynne:
    I've been reading your blog for a month or so now and have found it to be quite a friendly place. I think that is because places like this need adult supervision and you provide that at the level needed, i.e. as a kindly 3rd grade teacher ("Now, Lucy, do not call Charlie Brown names. Use your words and describe exactly why you disagree with him.") The lack of face-to-face contact breaks down social convention, and adult supervision brings it back.
    I am sorry for the loss of your friend. I would suggest the best way to honor his memory is to keep up the good work here.:)

  3. I don't often comment on this blog but I keep a close eye on it. You as blogger are unfailingly courteous, and at the same time rigorous and penetrating. I should be very sorry if you gave up.

  4. Dear Lynne
    You are not a linguistic robot, you are human. Thank you for this.
    I've been following you for four years or soi and you are on my blog list (not a long one, I can assure you! )
    As a teacher of English I am extremely interested in everything you write about and have sent comments a few times.
    But I must have missed the results of the vote for best blogs ever :-)
    Would you mind letting me know about them? Much obliged.
    And please, keep up posting!

  5. I love your blog posts :D They are a wonderful read, and always interesting. Sometimes I feel that you missed something, or that you are more "English" now, but I think that makes your posts even more interesting to me.

    I recall Marc's name, and while I did not know him or his family, my prayers go out to all who did and who will miss him in their lives. God Bless

  6. Re. "There have been readers/commenters who were active for a while and then faded away; I'll never know if they're just lost to the blog or lost to the world."

    When I've "faded away" from email relationships, it's typically been in ones I've initiated and the responses have been few. On Facebook, it's typically due to Facebook's presentation algorithm wherein recent and frequent posters retain prominence while old friends who are infrequent posters tend to disappear.

    And now I know never to send you a friend request on Facebook, since there's no chance of your accepting.

  7. Thank you, Lynne, for forming yet another part of the Civilized Internet. I spend a lot of time on line, but I don't go where civility is not the rule.

  8. In one sense it isn't so remarkable that the commenters to your blog, Lynne, are as civilized/civilised as they are. Your link to Luke Bailey's rant about grilled cheese on BuzzFeed illustrates perfectly that the easiest way to generate pageviews on the Internet has always been to post something outrageous or intolerant. Because your posts manage always to take the high road, you naturally don't attract the kind of trolls who would quickly drive away the rest of us. So, as the Aussies say, good on you.

    Speaking of your commenters and their civlized/civilised comments, I'd like to suggest you switch to Disqus as your comment tool. (As someone who also has a Blogspot blog and who uses Disqus, I can assure you that it's not difficult to switch.) Disqus has a few key advantages over Blogspot's native comment interface: 1) it allows any commenter to reply to a comment, with the reply indented to make it easy for other viewers to see which comments stand alone and which form a thread, 2) even after submitting a comment, it's still possible to edit it (many of us manage to overlook a howler or two as we're clicking the orange Publish Your Comment button here) and 3) it's possible to vote up or down a comment to express an opinion about it. Voting thus makes it possible to register an opinion without having to post a comment -- or to do so in addition to posting a comment. In the case of the comments that have already been posted here, I'd have been glad of the chance to vote up Little Black Sambo's ... I found his opinion "I should be very sorry if you gave up" much in agreement with mine.

    My sincere thanks for all you do, Lynne.

  9. I’m so sorry to be such an ignorant freak but, please, COULD ANYBODY TELL ME WHERE SHE SAID SHE IS GOING TO GIVE UP?

  10. I always recommend your blog to everyone who learns English.
    This is my favourite website :)

  11. Emilio:

    I think some readers may have misconstrued my statement of encouragement ("I would suggest the best way to honor his memory is to keep up the good work here.:)"). This was not meant imply that Lynne was going to stop, but I suppose could be read that way.

  12. Thank you, Kirk. My apologies to everyone. Please accept this as compensation for my disgraceful conduct:

  13. It has taken me a couple of days to work out my response to the original post, which was a touching appreciation of us - the punters - and of Marc, who died recently.
    I have been reading, and occasionally commenting, here for five or six years, and I agree that it is a civilised, friendly and scholarly place on the Net (I do not Tweet or Face). I think we punters imagine that Lynneguist is a benign 'presence' who is keeping up with our responses to her posts, using us as her raw material, and sometimes pushing the conversation along when it seems to get out of hand .. so there is moderation in all senses. Certainly the dynamic is different from the 'comments' sections of newspapers or even New Scientist, which are often inhabited by virulent, illiterate, intemperate idiots who just want to score points or insult other contributors. And of course, Lynne will know all about the world of student feedback - some cruel and thoughtless comments are made under the cloak of anonymity even when you imagine that you have made a decent attempt to educate young minds!
    Among the punters on this site, we can recognise that some have more knowledge and experience than others, yet we all contribute and a consensus is reached - sometimes!
    Brits are notoriously inarticulate when faced with bereavement or death; yet it happens to us all. Most of us will slip away from friends and family, and there will be no obituary, but marks of our presence will remain in cyberspace for ever, so it is important to ensure they are worthy of us.
    In keeping with the aims of this blog, I hope it is appropriate to note that the BrE offer of 'condolences' to a bereaved friend sounds rather cold and formal, and 'sorry for your loss' is used increasingly here, but it still sounds alien to me, although a very useful formula.

  14. Thanks, everyone.

    Dick: I tried installing Disqus and it made all access to comments disappear, as far as I could see, and that freaked me out, so I uninstalled it!

    I may move to another platform at some point, so I'll think about it again if I do...

  15. What John Cowan said. You have created Something Good.

  16. So long, Marc. We'll miss you.

    And I think it's safe to say we all appreciate you, Lynne, and everything you do! This is a meeting place for busy minds with warm hearts -- a rare thing on the internet, and all the more precious for that.

  17. Biochemist.. what's a punter?

  18. As a relative newcomer, I'll just say: Thank you. You've created a wonderful place to distract me from the writing I really ought to be doing! Not many places on the Interwebs make new arrivals feel like they've stumbled into a virtual Cheers (and those that do sometimes feel a bit cult-y).

    Oh. And bravo.

  19. Thanks, Lynne! I remembered that 'punter' had been discussed here before, and was amazed to find myself in the comments, in 2008! How time flies. In the recent comment, I was using the word in the BrE sense of a participant, but one who does not organise, or write the rules: so, more than a customer, but less than a member of staff. One might say 'We've sold 300 tickets, now where are the punters going to park?' or 'The punters enjoyed the third act'...

    I really logged on to continue the theme of appreciation. I think it is good to express appreciation, and of course also good to receive it. I remember that when the novelist Carol Shields died, I felt sorry that I had never got round to writing a fan letter; now I try to write to favourite novelists (and even one or two biochemists!) to express appreciation of their work. When I lived in the USA, I read a newspaper article suggesting that Thanksgiving Day was a good opportunity to make contact with former teachers and mentors, to let them know how much their help was appreciated - in other words, to give thanks. We don't have that festival here in Britain - when would be a good time to express our personal thanks? I know that many people have a 'Christmas card list' for those who merit and annual catch-up. Would this be a suitable occasion for appreciations?

  20. I am a lurker, I almost never comment, and often when I do it is on very old posts so I'm not surprised they don't get replied to, so we've had very little interaction with you. But as my general focus is comparative linguistics, and in particular I've had some need for explanations of BrE things - well, actually AusE, since my best friend is from there and uses words in ways that confuse us a lot sometimes, but BrE usage is often very close and we enjoy the distinctions that you explore here.

    What I would really love to have is a book that explores all of the differences between US/UK/Aus/Can/NZ/SA usages of English, but I suppose that would be a monumental task to achieve. At any rate, you have sometimes shed some light on things that were always confusing to us, so thank you very much for your work on this blog.

    p.s. I too would prefer a Disqus commenting system, it's partly one reason I rarely comment, I just dislike this style of commenting so. If you do move to another platform, I highly recommend wordpress, which has a much less unwieldy native comment function even without Disqus (you can't install Disqus on a wordpress unless it is hosted on your own domain, unfortunately, which is stupid), and is highly customisable for whatever your needs. :)


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AmE = American English
BrE = British English
OED = Oxford English Dictionary (online)