Who remembers diagramming sentences? And what does it have to do with Facebook? And the Supreme Court?

Who remembers diagramming sentences? do, I do!

If you’re my age, you never forget the experience of diagramming sentences. Love it or hate it (I was one of the few who loved it), you don’t forget it. Maybe you forget the details, but not the experience.

As Tom Lehrer says (more or less, and in a different context), if you’re over 60 and went to a public school, or if you’re under 60 and went to a Catholic school, you learned to diagram sentences. I’m over 60 and went to a private school, so where does that leave me?

But what does it have to do with Facebook? And the Supreme Court? You may well wonder.

Wonder no more.

The issue is the case of Facebook v. Duguid, an appeal from Noah Duguid’s suit against Facebook in which he complained about getting unwanted text messages from Facebook. The official summary of the case reads as follows:

Does the definition of an “automatic telephone dialing system” in the Telephone and Consumer Protection Act of 1991 encompass any device that can “store” and “automatically dial” telephone numbers, even if the device does not “use a random or sequential number generator”?

Of course a linguist is needed as an expert witness. Do follow that link, which includes Mark Liberman’s post on the subject, and be sure to read the comments as well (which I don’t usually recommend). No word yet on which way Amy Coney Barrett will vote. In case you don’t read Liberman’s piece, here’s an explanation of the issue:


That’s clear, isn’t it?


Categories: Life, Linguistics, Technology