I am pleased to bring back my first repeat guest on the podcast: the author, teacher, and language lover Ellen Jovin. A lot has happened since our first chat over five years ago, including:

  • Travels all over the United States to chat about the inner workings of languages with passing strangers at her “Grammar Table.”

“. . . people have stopped by to ponder punctuation, share memories of sentence-diagramming, argue about apostrophes, debate word choice, discuss different writing systems, and much, much more. Anything language-related is fair game at Grammar Table . . .”

“This Grammar Guru will solve the world’s problems. Or, at least, help you figure out when to use an Oxford comma.” ―The New York Times

In the interview, we discuss:

  • How the “grammar table tour” began as whim in NYC and has now taken her to 20+ states.
  • How grammar can create an ideal context to connect with people, especially those very different from oneself.
  • Why Ellen refuses to call states in the middle of the nation as “fly over states” and why she’s proud to have brought the Grammar Table to Fargo, North Dakota.
  • The magic of visiting historic towns like Red Cloud, Nebraska, the hometown of the author Willa Cather, who wrote about fronteir life on the Great Planes.
  • Why the grammar table is not only about grammar. Any language related questions are welcome!
  • Ellen’s answer to the question, “Is ain’t a word?”
  • Why the spoken and written language are very different beasts with unique norms, origins, and purposes.
  • How languages have been used throughout human evolution to define “ingroup” and “outgroup” membership.

“There has been an idea for a long time that the way to engage with language is to be the most persnickety about it. And the way that you show you love language is by hating other people’s ways of talking. But the way that you show you love language can just be to like all languages and all the ways of talking. You don’t have to love it by hating it or love it by smothering it to death . . . It’s a lot more fun in terms of a way to live.” —Gretchen McCulloch, Because Internet

  • Why Ellen wrote English at Work, who it’s for, and how it can help one get ahead in business and beyond.
  • The power of self-study and autodidactic learning.
  • Ellen’s next projects, including a book and a documentary about her Grammar Table adventures.
  • The pros and cons of print and digital resources.
  • A few of Ellen’s favorite anecdotes and memories from meeting people at the Grammar Table.
  • The pros and cons of learning a language from a native or non-native speaker.
  • Why we’re all unique “bioindividuals” and why it’s so important to figure out what works for you.

Concepts, People, and Places Mentioned

More About English at Work

More About “Grammar Table”

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