or, On the Grammar Wars

Over the weekend, and extending into the week thus far, a debate has been steadily growing in the blogosphere, both here and in the US, about a controversial set of guidelines for teaching English published last year by the English Teacher’s Association of Queensland (ETAQ).

Before I go on, I might say that the breadth of this debate is such that I barely know where to begin, so logically, I might try beginning at the start.


Last weekend, a group of 16 Warlpiri women, including one three-month-old infant, travelled the 300 kilometres from Yuendumu to Alice Springs, to receive training in swimming skills and first aid, as they are about to become Yuendumu’s first life guards, ready for when the community’s new pool arrives in July.

However, the manager of the establishment that they had booked, the Haven Backpackers’ Resort, asked them to leave. The reason she gave, when challenged, was that since they were aboriginal, other guests had complained of being frightened by them.


Earlier on this afternoon, I heard a cricket commentator, having heard about someone whose name he didn’t immediately recall, promise that he’d google him up. This would not be a natural usage for me, although it’s unequivocally clear what he means; it’s completely synonymous with (in my view) the more natural version to google someone, i.e. to search for them on Google.

Anyway, I started wondering how common the construction google up is, so I went and googled it… up, and here’s a breakdown of the returned hits on all permutations:


A few weeks back, Joe wrote at Transient Languages and Cultures (which, owing to a historical accident, is acronymised to ELAC), that a page I wrote on the Wagiman language for Wikipedia had been nominated as a “good article”, subject of course, to peer review.

Well as of early this morning, a painstaking month after the initial nomination and two weeks since a review began, I can now announce that the page has earned “good article” status. This means that it’s the highest-rated article pertaining to an Australian language on Wikipedia, and joins 25 other language-related articles ranked as good or better.

However I would hardly think of it as a brilliant article per se; some parts are heavily over-simplified and need a lot more work and in some parts I just chose not to go into detail, but as it’s really just been an exercise in procrastination so far, it’s surpassed any expectations I had.

I’d personally like to see a lot more articles on languages on Wikipedia in the near future, because I think it can be a valuable resource for this sort of thing, provided it’s used wisely. So, linguists and language enthusiasts, get crackin’!