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Zwicky’s Zombie Rules of Grammar

August 7, 2012

Arnold Zwicky is a linguist. In 2009 he developed “zombie rules”:

a “zombie rule” (like the ones discussed here), a proscription that has died in practice but continues to lumber about in odd corners of usage advice.”

zombie arnold zwicky

Zwicky has identified zombie rules related to usage of which vs. that, the verbs “blame, love, graduate” and “convince vs. persuade“.

Zwicky also posted about how zombie rules come to be and he thinks there is no distinction between something a slight variant that Geoff Pullum calls bogeyman rules (explained in “Zombies and Bogeyman”. Both versions seem like they would be applicable to more than just grammar rules. This kind of non-accepted rule seems related to modern rhetoric of zombie economics – in that there were innovations in banking and changes to world economy that altered common usages and challenge the proscriptions.

As a comment about Teaching Zombie Rules at Language Log, Andrew Shield suggests: “teach the controversy”. I discovered Zwicky just the other day mentioned in “Zombies Among Us” by John E. McIntyre in Baltimore Sun.

zombie john mcintyre zombie geoff pollum

This also reminds me of the recent NYT op-ed about “Zombie Nouns” and Sword’s rule against nationalization may itself be a zombie rule.

And finally, this also seems related to the current MetroPlus advertisement hanging in NYC subways. The slogan claims “MetroPlus got you covered”.
zombie metroplus

– UPDATE –
Zwicky has reblogged these zombified images on his blog under the post title “Zomlingbies” – I’m glad he enjoyed (thanks for linking) and what a cool new word.

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