Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Law of Grammarian Outrage

Much as Godwin's Law predicts the eventual invocation of Hitler in any sufficiently long internet discussion, I'd like to propose an axiom in the same sociological vein. There is a correlation between A, the number of commenting readers of a blog that are of an analytical (not to say hairsplitting) bent, and B, the likelihood that any blog post that mentions "beg the question" will get more responses to this controversial point of usage than to the original intended topic. (A for analytical, B for beg.) I'd say that on average, you need about 3 such readers for a 50% likelihood and perhaps 6 for 95%.

Relatedly, the number of grammarian posts is probably big omega of n^2, where n is the number of such readers: each such reader tends to respond to every other at least once. This far outstrips the usual number, which is, what, n log n, maybe? That is, the rate of response per reader would be log n. Or perhaps it would be "blog n".