alt.usage.english

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The Usenet newsgroup alt.usage.english is devoted to discussion of the English language, especially its usage. It was newgrouped (begun) on May 11, 1991 by David Bedno.

The newsgroup frequently strays off-topic; sometimes off-topic discussions last for weeks. Indeed, many threads are begun with off-topic messages. Traditionally, sheep and food have been considered on-topic.

Among its on-topic posts are reports of odd usage (including mishy-phens and eggcorns) and questions from people learning English as a second language. There is much information regarding the similarities and differences among United States, United Kingdom, and other varieties of English. Corrections of another poster's grammar, spelling, and style are usually considered acceptable (as they usually are not elsewhere on Usenet), but may lead to disagreements and instances of Skitt's law, as it's called in AUE. Group members often participate in word games such as "Govende" (unique to AUE) or pun-filled conversations.

There is a web site associated with the newsgroup — http://alt-usage-english.org — which incorporates, among many other things, lists of frequently asked questions about the English language.

AUE contributors, occasional or regular, have included Reinhold Aman, Dennis Báthory-Kitsz, Peter T. Daniels (when threads are crossposted to the newsgroup sci.lang - a practice strongly objected to by many participants), Lars Eighner, and James Follett. There are many more erstwhile and current regulars in the group, with varying interests and styles. Photographs of some regulars can be found on the group's web site.

Professionals sometimes visit AUE to share their knowledge or get information about English usage. Among them are John Lawler, a linguist at the University of Michigan; Jesse Sheidlower, the North American editor of the Oxford English Dictionary; and Paul Brians, a professor at Washington State University who maintains a Web site on common errors in English. ASCII IPA was developed under the leadership of an AUE regular for use there and in sci.lang.

Each September, the Totally Official Summer Doldrums Competition enlivens or infests the newsgroup; it consists of questions that contestants race to answer correctly.

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