February 21, 2008

NYC subway semicolon and NCLB

As Mark has observed, the coverage of the NYC Subway Semicolon Case — a semicolon appropriately deployed in a subway message — produced a baffling quote from Noam Chomsky, after clearly relevant remarks by Louis Menand, Lynne Truss, [our own] Geoff Nunberg (who started the whole business), and Allan M. Siegal:

The linguist Noam Chomsky sniffed, "I suppose Bush would claim it's the effect of No Child Left Behind."

What on earth did Sam Roberts (the writer of the story) ask Chomsky to elicit such a response?

The comment seems totally off-topic, given that neither President Bush nor the NCLB Act were in the context. What was Chomsky trying to say? It sounds like he's saying that Bush would interpret ANYTHING linguistically competent, no matter how irrelevant, as a positive effect of NCLB.

Well, this use of the semicolon by Neil Neches (a 55-year-old writer for the city) could not possibly have the slightest thing to do with the No Child Left Behind Act of 2001 (note the date).  You wonder what the interview (presumably done by phone) was like.  And where the snarky "sniffed" came from.

Posted by Arnold Zwicky at February 21, 2008 10:09 AM