Grammar is in the news this week, as Sufjan Stevens takes Miley Cyrus to task on her language usage.

And a school in the UK is banning slang.

What motivates these grammar grouches? And are their criticisms spot on, or all wet?

Linguist Daniel Midgley scans the headlines on this episode of Talk the Talk.

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At the top of the show: Sufjan Stevens has burst into the War on Miley with… grammar? Is this appropriate?

In our second half: a UK school has banned certain words in an effort to raise the tone of the language students use. Hair-brained scheme, or quite reasonable, really? Since I’m a linguist and Ben’s a teacher, you can bet we’ll have some strong views.

And hey, Ben even brought a song. Good one, too; I hadn’t heard of Aesop Rock. You can probably count on him bringing a few more in.

Show notes

Farsi doesn’t have gendered pronouns. Who knew?

Sufjan Stevens jumps into the Miley fray. I don’t think we can call it a ‘gate’ yet.

There’s actually an interesting discussion to be had here, as second- and third-wave feminists clash

But you wouldn’t know it from Stevens’ pointless and incoherent rant about grammar.

A VICE copy editor goes to town on it.

Lay and lie are not really a problem.

Historically, they’re quite close. Right-click one of the Google Ngram lines to collapse them.

So Faulkner got it right after all.

A UK school has banned certain slang words.

They’ve banned ain’t


and extra.

Higgs extols ‘blue-sky research’.

Quantum mechanics was blue-sky science once, too.

Show tunes

‘Jacksonville’ by Sufjan Stevens
from the album Illinoise

‘Big Bang’ by Aesop Rock
from the album Float