alt.usage.english

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

The newsgroup frequently strayed off-topic; sometimes off-topic discussions lasted for weeks. Indeed, many threads began with off-topic messages. Traditionally, sheep and food were considered on-topic.

Among its on-topic posts were reports of odd usage (including mishy-phens and eggcorns) and questions from people learning English as a second language. There was 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 were usually considered acceptable (as they usually are not elsewhere on Usenet), but may have led to disagreements and instances of Skitt's law, as it was called in AUE. Group members often participated in word games such as "Govende" (unique to AUE) or pun-filled conversations.

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

Professionals sometimes visited AUE to share their knowledge or get information about English usage. Among them were 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 maintained 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 enlivened or infested the newsgroup; it consisted of questions that contestants race to answer correctly.

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