Mighty Red Pen

August 9, 2010

A word nerd called Kevin

Filed under: Pop culture,Wordsworthy — mighty red pen @ 6:16 pm
Tags: ,

You can’t keep a good word nerd down, as actor Kevin Kline shows in a recent interview:

Bad grammar, it turns out, drives Kline crazy. After praising a journalist for correctly pronouncing “forte,’’ he and said journalist ranted together about the decline of the English language.

Do not get him started on speaking. He got apoplectic at the ubiquity of “like’’ in the vocabulary of the young adult. “They used to teach rhetoric,’’ he said with some heat, and cited Edith Skinner’s classic “Speak With Distinction’’ as the bible on the subject. He does just that, often adding a French coda to a sentence like “n’est-ce pas?’’ that by all rights should sound affected but somehow, at least for an hour, does not.

He holds his nose at “transition’’ used as a verb. Ditto for “impact.’’ “I can’t stand ‘lay’ and ‘lie,’ ’’ said Kline. “No one lays down. They lie down. And then there are hyper-extensions like ‘I’ instead of ‘me.’ ’’

Finding these golden grafs buried deep in an interview about Kline put me in mind of a great feature called “English Major Mondays”—profiles of celebrity English majors such as Paul Newman and Matt Damon—that used to appear on the blog Editrix. Alas, Editrix seems to be on indefinite (or perhaps permanent) hiatus!



  1. “English Major Mondays” sounds awesome! I always had a good feeling about Kevin Kline–this revelation must be why.

    PS. I totally love your blog!

    Comment by Jessica — August 10, 2010 @ 7:54 pm | Reply

  2. I looked up Skinner’s “Speak with Distinction”. It’s a guide to pronunciation for actors. It’s doesn’t deal with rhetoric as I understand it (the art of using language effectively so as to persuade or influence others).

    Comment by goofy — August 16, 2010 @ 7:57 am | Reply

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