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  • With T-shirts at work, you can’t always say what you want

    In 2011, Southern New England Telephone suspended 183 employees who refused to remove T-shirts that said “Inmate” on the front and “Prisoner of AT$T” on the back. The National Labor Relations Board sided with the phone workers, but the company appealed the NLRB’s decision in federal court. Defending its action, the phone company argued that the mass one-day suspension was justified because the T-shirts “could cause customers to believe that AT&T employees were actually convicts.” AT&T might as well have argued, “We’re the phone company, we don’t have to think it's funny.”

  • Grammar-shaming Trump

    Donald Trump is torturing the English language. Says New York Times columnist Frank Bruni, the president “is as inept at English as he is at governing,” adding, “He’s oxymoronic: a nativist who can’t really speak his native tongue.” What got Bruni riled up was not just the nonstop alt-right ravings, but also Trump’s constant misspellings, his oddball capitalization and bizarre punctuation, and his word-manglings like hamberder and covfefe. 

    Berating someone for making language mistakes is called "grammar shaming." Grammar shaming ordinary people doesn’t work: their English still won't meet your expectations and they'll resent your superior attitude. And there’s no point grammar shaming Trump because he’s incapable of feeling shame....

  • Chicago Tribune headline, Mrs. Young invents pronoun . . . makes principals gasp

    Heer, hiser, himer: Pronouns in the news, 1912 edition

    On January 7, 1912, a headline in the Chicago Tribune breathlessly announced, “Mrs. Ella Young Invents Pronoun . . . Makes Principals Gasp.” Ella Flagg Young, Superintendent of Chicago’s public schools, told the Tribune she thought up what she called the “duo-personal” pronouns he’er, his’er, and him’er as she walked to a meeting with school principals. The story went viral. Then it unraveled.

  • Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez were detained in Havre, Montana, by a Customs and Border Patrol agent for speaking Spanish

    Shopping while Spanish in Montana

    In 2018, Ana Suda and Martha Hernandez were detained in Havre, Montana, by a Customs and Border Protection agent for speaking Spanish while buying groceries at a gas station convenience store. Both are US citizens, fluent in English and Spanish. Both lived in Havre at the time and had valid Montana drivers licenses. Yet CBP agent Paul O’Neill singled them out because, “you guys are speaking Spanish, which is very unheard of up here.”

  • Word's diversity checker

    Microsoft Word's Wokeness checker is asleep on the job

    Microsoft has added a diversity checker to its Office 365 spelling and grammar tool. If you check the appropriate boxes in its drop-down menu, Word will scan your writing for age and cultural bias, ethnic slurs, gender bias, gender-neutral pronouns, gender-specific language, racial bias, sexual orientation bias, and socioeconomic bias. The goal is to replace the sensitivity readers that some publishers use to vet manuscripts for conscious or unconscious bias and anything else that might offend an audience. tl;dr: machine edits can't replace humans.