Bring/Take and the Surrender of Grammar to Chaos

This morning, the Sunday New York Times delivered a shot upside the head before I even read about Ebola or the insanity that is ISIS.NYT paper bagThe bag.  It was the bag.  There, in the upper right corner

NYT closeup“Bring it Back” from the NYT. Bring it Back? Really?  Not “Recycle it?”

Since the delivery person already brought it to me, it has no further place to be brought, does it?

Seems to me (and very few other curmudgeons, apparently) that we are in an era of grammatical entropy. Articles on the subject seem to concentrate on the reality that language evolves (Duh…), that grammar really needs to represent what people speak, and so on. Maybe it’s that the brave new 140-character thought processes we seem to be bathed in so much of the time just can’t contemplate fine distinction, but the bring/take distinction is, it seems to me, different than, e.g., the who/whom distinction. Making all mentions of movement become ‘bring’ loses an important distinction, possibly … no, probably … causing confusion. Who/whom rarely does that, because it’s usually obvious to whom we are referring in a sentence. (And then there’s the issue of ending the sentence with a preposition.) (And sentence fragments.)

Maybe I need to find the address of the presumably long-suffering NYT delivery person and add to what must be a mountain of plastic bags in his/her living room.

Of course, it’s possible that all material things are meant to be brought to that black hole where odd socks and occasionally car keys are said to reside, from which they can never be taken out (of). Now, that’s entropy.

Ahhh … the Internet!

I am constantly astounded by the Internet.  It has changed fiction writing, at least genre fiction.  If your story has an involved plot, you have to love the Internet.

Last night, I was knocking around cyberspace, looking for a few details for my current writing project and second novel, Skins and Bone.  I was able to get a detailRoyal Societyed map of the road Fiskani Chomba (see, 100 common Zambian names in Nyanja and Bemba languages, available on several websites) needs to travel from Lusaka, the capital of Zambia (Google Maps), to a small airport in Congo.  (I know the airport’s fully functional; I saw it right down to the tarmac on Google Earth.)  The time differential between Lusaka, her destination in Dubai, and the bad guys she reports to in New York?  A snap on  Oh, and a quote from the statistician Thomas Bayes?  Google has scanned the Transactions of the Royal Philosophical Society for 1763, and there he is in his glory.  Inside dope on Charles Ponzi and his scheme?  Dozens of articles.  (His full name was

Charles Ponzi

Charles Ponzi

Carlo Pietro Giovanni Guglielmo Tebaldo Ponzi. Phew!)

In short, I think writing as an art form has been more heavily affected (no, not impacted … that’s still a dental term in my lexicon) by the Internet than music, and that’s saying a lot.  Twenty years ago, you had to travel to an area you expected to write about to get details.  That’s still essential for places your story spends much time in, but you can do peripheral locations from you computer, in your underwear.  (And no, you can’t go entirely naked even indoors in Minnesota in winter.)  Books that needed a minimum press run of 1,000 and an investment of $50,000 or more can now be printed as singles or as electronic files.

That’s the good part.  The other part is that Twitter can make a perfectly bland observation moronic and blow it to a thousand inboxes, and there is an enormous amount that probably none of us really want to know on social media.  (Your dog did what on the rug?)

I think the amount of important information in the world is growing at a slow, steady rate.  That’s an optimistic vision, as you surely know if you have been given the “magic of compound growth” talk by a life insurance agent.  The Internet has provided access we’ve never had before … a good thing.  But it’s also added an enormous pile of manure to dig through on the way to finding that pony.