Friday, June 26, 2009

Who Really Started the Great English Punctuation Rush?

We might be inclined to think that it was Lynne Truss of England who started the sudden surge of interest in the comma and other forms of punctuation, and understandably so. After all, her 2004 book about the comma, Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, became a phenomenal bestseller in both the United Kingdom and the United States, making thousands of English learners turn to it for guidance on the dash, hyphen, colon, and semicolon. As one reviewer has raved, “The book is zero tolerance indeed. Truss says it doesn’t matter if you have a PhD and have read all of Henry James twice, ‘If you still persist in writing, “Good food at it’s best”, you deserve ...’ and she lists some ghastly punishments.”

And the marketing success of Eats, Shoots & Leaves had continued even with such dismissive critiques as that of Harvard University English professor Louis Menand, who, as earlier reported in this blog, had debunked the book for committing several dozen punctuation errors itself and summed it up as follows: “Eats, Shoots & Leaves presents itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing. But it’s hard to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax.”

Recently, I discovered that although Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots & Leaves remains the undisputed market leader in the punctuation-instruction industry, some other book in the genre had preceded it with great aplomb if not as much publicity. That book is The New Well-Tempered Sentence: A Punctuation Handbook for the Innocent, the Eager, and the Doomed by Karen Elizabeth Gordon, an American former English teacher. The book was published by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt in 2003—or at least a year before Eats, Shoots & Leaves made it into the bestsellers list in London and roared across the Atlantic to become a New York Times bestseller as well.

The New Well-Tempered Sentence is a charmingly illustrated revision of Gordon’s punctuation handbook that first saw publication in 1983. She had enlarged the handbook for the 2003 edition with more extensive explanations of the rules of punctuation and more illustrations. And from the looks of it, the book is a much more instructive, more entertaining—if decidedly Gothic—incursion into English punctuation than Eats, Shoots & Leaves. Although the revised edition was met with mixed reviews—some say the revision “has gotten too clever for its own good” even if the book “is miles beyond any other of its kind”—I think that a marketing effort comparable to that for Eats, Shoots & Leaves would easily catapult The New Well-Tempered Sentence to the former’s best-seller league.

For consider how engagingly and beautifully Gordon states her case for punctuation: “However frenzied, disarrayed, or complicated your thoughts might be, punctuation tempers them. We rarely give these symbols a second glance: they’re like invisible servants in fairy tales—the ones who bring glasses of water and pillows, not storms of weather or love. One quick blink and you’ve caught the comma’s or slash’s or hyphen’s message, or huddled in a parenthetical clasp. Like well-trained prodigies, punctuation marks can exceed your expectations, even defy belief.”

And look at just a few of the charming punctuation prescriptions of The New Well-Tempered Sentence:

Do NOT use quotation marks to indicate a cliché—it only emphasizes the cliché-ishness.

During last week’s monsoon, it really “rained cats and dogs.”

Use single quotes to indicate quotations within quotations.

The teacher made Jedediah write “‘Sod off’ is not an appropriate conclusion to a business letter” 300 times.

A colon introduces a part of a sentence that explains or exemplifies the main idea.

Pain stood in the way like a sheet of glass: you could walk through it, but not without a certain noise.

Besides sniffing cigars and snapping suspenders, there was one thing sure to be on the tycoons’ agenda: money.

There are three reasons for his absenteeism: fear of furniture, aversion to numbers and dollar signs, and a snakebite on his chin.

This is how I found him: mesomorphic, monosyllabic, and debonair.

No wonder then that The New York Times has said of Gordon that she “manages to make the period, question mark, exclamation point, comma, and semicolon sound friendlier instead of forbidding.”

Preview Karen Elizabeth Gordon’s The New Well-Tempered Sentence in Google Books

What do you think of my comparison between the punctuation-instruction books of Lynne Truss
and Karen Elizabeth Gordon? Do let me hear from you.

Saturday, June 20, 2009

Thank Heaven for PCs and Laptops and Broadband!

I know I won’t be guilty of overstatement if I say that without the personal computer and the Internet, this little blog that I’m writing now wouldn’t even stand a chance of being written at all, much less get read across so many hundreds or thousands of miles by at least a few hundreds of people whom I scarcely know. Such is the power of the communication revolution spawned by what’s arguably the most powerful and most far-reaching twin inventions made by humankind—the computer and the World Wide Web—and it’s my good fortune that unlike some people my age, I was still able to catch up and make myself computer-literate and web-literate enough to make good use of them. Otherwise, I probably would be holed out right now in some poorly lighted library checking a hundred and one facts from any number of printed books for this essay, and you probably would be out somewhere in your town or city looking for something to entertain yourself—a theatrical analog movie or a billiard game or a carnival ride perhaps—on a muggy Friday afternoon like this.

This is why I thank heaven for the invention of PCs and the development of even faster and more powerful laptops, then for the subsequent evolution of dial-up Internet into Broadband—making it so much simpler, so much faster, and much more convenient for me to compose and share my thoughts and feelings with those who value them enough to read them. In a less technologically advanced time, I’m sure that most of these thoughts and feelings of mine would just wither in the vine, as the old saying goes—unwritten, unshared, unacted upon.

Almost eight years ago, the overwhelming sense of wonder I had felt over the personal computer and the World Wide Web impelled me to write the essay below, “The Tree of Life.” Since then, many of the technological marvels I had gushed about have become pitifully outdated or obsolete, but I can say without blushing that even in the face of so many more quantum leaps of modern technology over them, the sense of wonder I felt for them has remained undiminished over the years.

Here now is that long-ago essay of mine:

The Tree of Life

I have given it a lot of thought, and now I suspect that the original Tree of Knowledge in the Garden of Eden was not a living plant but a powerful computer. The Bible was surprisingly silent about the nature of that tree, so artists and writers through the ages had felt free to variously picture it as an apple tree, a fig tree, a pear tree, a dragon’s blood tree, even a banana tree. I understand that in a 13th century cathedral somewhere in France, there was even a fresco that showed Eve finding a serpent coiled around a giant branching European mushroom, the lightly toxic and hallucinogenic Amanita muscaria, drawn with Provencãl innocence to represent the tree that gave us our much-dreaded mortality. These images of the Tree of Knowledge are as charming as the Romans envisioning their messenger-god Mercury as a runner with winged feet, as frightening as the early Christians sketching the devil as a thoroughly beastly creature with serpent’s snout and bat wings, and as heavenly as the Renaissance artists conjuring archangels with majestic, blindingly white eagle’s wings.

All of this ancient imagery, however, miserably fails to capture the essence of a device or icon that is supposed to represent the most powerful source of wisdom and instruction the world has ever known. An apple tree, a banana tree, or a vine-like mushroom as the Tree of Knowledge? This seems to me to stretch the credulity of even a nine-year-old grade-schooler much too much! I would therefore rather think of the Tree of Knowledge as a Pentium 4 personal computer with a 56 kbps fax modem, hooked up by a powerful Internet server to the World Wide Web, capable of directly feeding on the 2.5 billion documents accessible to the Internet and of being able to sift through 520 billion more that are publicly accessible in other databases.* I could not think of any other compendium or structure, no matter how massive, that could draw on such a huge database and merit “Tree of Knowledge” as a sobriquet, much less make this database accessible to even the small populace of the Garden of Eden close to the time of Creation.

Of course I realize that a myriad conceptual objections can be raised against this seemingly whimsical intellectual construct. Chief of these is the question of how the Pentium 4 and the Internet could have gotten themselves into the Garden of Eden in the first place. Could it be that they had managed to quietly transport themselves back in time and install into themselves into the Tree of Knowledge, or else disguise themselves as the tree itself? Those fixated with time’s immutability would of course deem this too farfetched, as improbable as the tales of extraterrestrial visitations peddled by the Danish writer Erik von Daeniken. But it is at least not as preposterous a concept as a fruit tree being the source of all human understanding and wisdom. A tree as a source of life, yes, like our coconut with its proverbial one thousand and one uses, from food to shelter to medicine to fuel and to lumber; but just any tree as source of all knowledge, I really wonder.

And what about the paradox that would result if we believed that the Tree of Knowledge drew its power from a state-of-the-art Pentium? Would that belief still hold if we consider the fact that the computer and the Web are actually the culmination of the series of small and big inventions that sprung from Adam and Eve having eaten the fruit from the Tree of Knowledge itself? Remember that the computer became possible only because somewhere early in time, man discovered and learned how to harness fire, then found a way centuries later to use it to melt the tiny particles of glass in sand into wafers of silicon, then developed a method for converting these wafers into transistor chips and into extremely powerful motherboards and processors that are the heart of the modern computer. Remember, too, that the Internet and the Web are of a much more recent vintage. It was only in 1973 that the Internet came into being, the happy result of American research into technologies to interlink computer networks of various kinds. Another 21 years into the future, in 1994, the British computer scientist Tim Berners-Lee invented the World Wide Web to unify and integrate the Internet’s global information and communication structure. Since then it has expanded into a global network of networks, enabling computers of all kinds—including yours and mine—to directly communicate and share services throughout much of our planet.

What is perhaps little appreciated in this dizzying train of inventions is that the modern computer and the Web have been essentially a continuing but silent Hindu-Arabic-European-American co-production, and that at the root of it was the ancient Indo-European language and the Arabic number system. We know, of course, that these twin foundations of our civilization moved into Europe and jumped across the English Channel into England, polishing themselves into the English language and into the Arabic number system that we know so well today. It really is no wonder that Boolean algebra, a mathematical system of representing logical propositions that became the foundation for the modern computer, was developed by the English language expert and mathematician George Boole in the very same soil that produced the wonder of English literature that was William Shakespeare. The Chinese may have invented paper, the abacus, and gunpowder, and the Romans may have built their empire that extended all the way to Africa and to the banks of the Mesopotamian River in what is now modern Iraq, but I simply cannot conceive of the modern computer built from Chinese script or from the Roman numeral system, with which no stable building taller than the Roman Coliseum could be built because the system simply could not multiply and divide numbers properly.

That the Tree of Knowledge could not have been a fruit tree but a computer linked to the Web may remain debatable, and I will not quibble with that fact. But to me, one thing is clear and certain: the computer and the Worldwide Web have made the Tree of Knowledge much more accessible and closer to us than ever before, and it would be a tragedy if not outright foolish for anyone not to learn to freely partake of its fruits.

From English Plain and Simple: No-Nonsense Ways to Learn Today’s Global Language © 2004 by Jose A. Carillo. Copyright 2008 by The Manila Times Publishing Corp. All rights reserved.

What do you think of my ideas in this essay? I would greatly appreciate hearing from you.


*Since this essay was written, of course, the Pentium 4 processor has been supplanted in personal computers by much more advanced and powerful processors like the Core-Duo, and Google has grown even more explosively from 2,469,940,685 web pages in 2002 to over 30,000,000,000 today. It can thus be said that the computing machines and the online search engine capability that I had described glowingly in this 2002 essay are now either outdated or outright obsolete. To me, however, they will forever remain a source of wonder for their immense, mind-stretching, and far-reaching utility as communication tools.

Monday, June 15, 2009

How to Generate a Linguistic Tsunami by Really Trying

No matter what we and the language experts might call him—word maven, English logophile, “The WordMan,” “a fraud,” “self-aggrandizing scammer”—Paul J.J. Payack has kicked up a worldwide linguistic storm trumpeting the supposed eminent arrival of the one-millionth English word. The Harvard-educated, California-based president of the Global Language Monitor has literally taken North American media for a fun, exhilarating ride—some linguists say he has been astutely conning the media—by making them indiscriminately report his pronouncements about the race of new English words to the 1-millionth mark.

Precisely what has Payack done to generate so much publicity for the 1-millionth word of English? And what was his motivation for embarking on such an apparently huge and (in the end) dubious undertaking?

Here’s how his own publicity material describes what he has been doing: “At the crest of this linguistic tsunami surfs Paul J.J. Payack, aka the WordMan. As president of the Global Language Monitor, he has tracked the latest developments—the fascinating hybrids, the bizarre etymologies, the lasting malapropisms—in the language shared by two billion of the Earth’s citizens. Aided by a worldwide network of similarly obsessed ‘language mavens’ and armed with his own powerful word-counting algorithm, Payack ensures that no new English word falls from the tongue or marks the page without being counted toward the Million Word March.”

Well, to spin that kind of colorful language, Payack must be a “WordMan” indeed!

Not everybody agrees with him, though.

Here’s what blogger Benjamin Zimmer, in Language Log last January 23, said about Payack’s enterprise:

“As regular Language Log readers know, Mr. Payack has been trumpeting the arrival of ‘the millionth word’ in English for some time now. In fact, he’s predicted that the English language would pass the million-word mark in 2006… and 2007… and 2008… and now 2009. As reported in the Christian Science Monitor and The Economist, the date that Payack has now set for the million-word milestone is April 29, 2009.

“In a previous installment of the Payack saga, I wrote that the Million Word March was ‘a progression that he turns on and off based on his publicity needs.’ So I can’t say I was terribly surprised to learn that April 29, 2009 just happens to be the publication date of the paperback edition of Payack’s book, A Million Words and Counting: How Global English Is Rewriting The World. What a stupendous coincidence that Global Language Monitor’s word-counting algorithm has timed itself to accord with Payack’s publishing schedule!”

Geoffrey K. Pullum, co-author of Far From the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from the Language Log, even had harsher words about Payack’s modus operandi after the Global Language Monitor announced that the 1-millionth word is “Web 2.0.” In a post on Language Blog on June 10, he accused Payack of botching his own story:

“Paul JJ Payack, after all the run-up, has botched the story of the millionth word. The most amusing thing was that he forgot to write a script that would stop updating his headline when the millionth word was hit and exceeded, so at 11:30 a.m. in the UK he had this headline at his Global Language Monitor website:

“The English Language WordClock: 1,000,001

“0 words until the 1,000,000th Word

“Oops! I think that should be minus one words, not zero words until the millionth!

“The other thing he screwed up on was the fixing of the choice of word. He let his script decide—not a good idea when the whole point of the exercise is promotion and P.R. I’m not sure how his script works, but what it finally picked as the millionth ‘word’ with at least 25,000 attestations on the web turned out to be: Web 2.0. Oops! First, that isn’t a word, it’s a phrase containing a noun (web) and a one of those stylish postpositive decimal numeric quantifiers; and second, it is boring boring boring. If phrases containing numbers are allowed, no wonder there are a million words. I was scheduled to go to the BBC Scotland studio and talk about this in a couple of hours, but when the people at the BBC World Service heard that the millionth word was Web 2.0, and that among the runners-up was the two-word Hindi exclamation jai hoo, they dumped the story and told me not to bother going over to the studio. Quite rightly. Payack should have hand-picked a more convincing word and likable word.

“In addition, he should tell us what his criterion is for including phrases on his list. Recent ‘words’ added include cloud computing, carbon neutral, slow food, shovel ready, zombie banks, overseas contingency operations, and (“word” no. 1,000,001) financial tsunami. How could anybody, however scanty their linguistic general knowledge, think all these were words rather than phrases?”

What about Payack’s book then? Is his A Million Words and Counting: How Global English Is Rewriting The World as exciting as he has made the arrival of “Web 2.0” to be?

It looks like it isn’t bad at all. Here’s what reader Cristina Salmastrelli said in her review of the book:

“This book was such a wonderful read. With every page, I learned something new about the English Language. I had no idea that all these ‘different’ cultures spread out over the globe are connected in such a basic way with the English language! This book [is] filled wonderful facts, insightful comments, fun tidbits, and hilarious ‘isms’…

“Also, there are little gray boxes throughout the book that have extra facts. Everyone must check out the ‘not of shred of truth’ gray box. I am a big history buff, so this information was right up my alley. You truly do learn such wonderful information in this book!”

But S. Karsten has a negative view about the book. In a review that he sent to, he said:

“I strongly recommend against buying this book. Paul Payack is not a linguist. His ‘Predictive Qualities Indicator,’ a proprietary algorithm that supposedly analyzes language in media, is nothing more than a common word count tool with a rip-off of the Flesch-Kincaid Readability test. Visit his web site for yourself (; he cites no sources (other than himself), provides no evidence for his claims and misuses linguistic terminology. The worst part: He likes to talk a lot about politicians and the passive voice. On the ‘’08 Election’ page of his web site, he gives the sentence ‘There will be setbacks’ as an example of passive voice. That is NOT passive voice; it’s an active-voice existential progressive construction. Payack fancies himself as ‘The Word Man,’ but he can't distinguish between passive and progressive voice.”

So what can we conclude from all this brouhaha about Payack’s 1-millionth English word and his book about its arrival?

Well, I think that no matter how shoddy and unscientific his word-counting methodology might have been, he and his spirit of enterprise have generated more interest and excitement in the English language than anyone in this generation has done, all linguists included. For that I think we should all doff our hats to him.

Well done, Paul—until the 2-millionth English word then!

Saturday, June 6, 2009

Down to the Very Grassroots of English Grammar and Usage

Among the English grammar-and-usage reference books that have come out in the United States and the United Kingdom these past few years, hardly has there been one that simply promised good, old traditional instruction on how to achieve good English. Not a few of the titles seem to be more interested in bashing the traditional rules of English usage than in teaching them, like Mark Liberman and Geoffrey K. Pullum’s Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log and Patricia T. O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman’s Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language. They debunk many of the traditional rules of English so gleefully and so mercilessly that it’s hard not to entertain the thought that their authors are actually playing to the gallery so their books can make it to the nonfiction bestseller lists on both sides of the Atlantic.

And why not? A book that—of all things!—dwells on the virtues on the comma and other punctuation marks, Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves, had made it to The New York Times nonfiction bestseller lists and had stayed there for so many weeks and had likewise been a runaway bestseller in the author’s homeland—England, the very place from which English had sprung to become the world’s global language! It’s therefore not surprising that there had been a dizzying rush—no, a stampede—of linguists and English professors and journalists wanting to capitalize on this sudden public euphoria in relearning the basics of English and avoiding its pitfalls.

One notable exception to this authorial stampede is, as I reported in Jose Carillo’s English Forum last week, When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It: The Parts of Speech, for Better and/or Worse by Ben Yagoda, an American English professor. Despite the vicious-sounding title of his book, Yagoda is no gleeful assassin of the English language unlike some authors in the genre; instead, as Publisher’s Weekly had so aptly put it, Yagoda uses the parts of speech as signposts as “he charts an amiable path between those critics for whom any alterations to established grammar are hateful and those who believe whatever people use in speech is by default acceptable.”

There’s actually another book that I was about to add to Ben Yagoda’s league as a congenial, forthright, and unpretentious body of instruction for navigating the fundamentals and niceties of the English language—Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing. It caught my attention because, like Patricia T. O’Conner’s Woe is I and Lynne Truss’s Eats, Shoots and Leaves, it has the distinction of making it to The New York Times bestseller list for paperback advice books, reaching the No. 9 slot after its mid-2008 release. This was on the heels of Mignon Fogarty’s sensational free weekly “Grammar Girl” podcasts—reportedly downloaded over 20,000,000 times—on the most common mistakes people make when communicating in English.

Make no mistake about it: I think the supreme virtue of Mignon Fogarty’s book and the primary reason for its marketing success is its unabashed, unapologetic willingness to go down to the very grassroots of English grammar and usage—that stage where the learner of the language still has to grapple with the grammatical and semantic difference between the articles “a” and “an,” the verbs “bring” and “take,” or the expressions “feeling bad” and “feeling badly.”

Consider this passage—one of hundreds of what Mignon Fogarty calls “quick and dirty tips”—in the first chapter of the book:


“Interviewers often ask if people are afraid to write to me, and the answer, sadly, is yes. I get a lot of e-mail messages in which people (even my mother!) include blanket requests for forgiveness for any unidentified grammar errors. I feel bad about that—my goal isn’t to make people self-conscious or afraid.

“In addition, I get skewered when I make an error (or perceived error) myself. So when I was quoted in an article saying, ‘I feel bad about that,’ a lot of readers saw a chance to send me a gotcha e-mail message about using bad to modify feel. They maintained that I should have said, ‘I feel badly about that.’ I’m not perfect, and I make lots of errors (especially in live interviews), but this isn’t one of them.

“The quick and dirty tip is that it is correct to say you feel bad when you are expressing an emotion. To say ‘I feel badly’ could imply that there’s something wrong with your sense of touch. Every time I hear people say, ‘I feel badly,’ I imagine them in a dark room having trouble feeling their way around with numb fingers.”

But, we may well ask, who could be the market for such very basic, almost rock-bottom instruction on English usage—instruction that seems more appropriate for entry-level learners of English than for those whose first language is English? Judging from the immense popularity of Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips in the United States, this seems to be the answer: the typical or average American, whose English vocabulary reportedly runs to only about 14,000 words against the 20,000-25,000 words that a typical native-English-speaking college graduate needs to be functionally literate in English (a very sore point to educated Americans, I know, but there it is). This explains why the Oprah Winfrey Show had hailed Mignon Fogarty’s grammar podcasts as having “come up with clever ideas to help even the most grammatically challenged person remember the rules,” and why Newsday had gushed that the podcasts had “sparked what you might call a worldwide, syntax-driven fiesta.”

As to Mignon Fogarty’s book itself, however, I won’t argue against its well-deserved market success, but I’m not too sure now if I should put it in the same league as Ben Yagoda’s When You Catch an Adjective, Kill It. It’s just that I find the level of English instruction of Grammar Girl much too basic; indeed, if you are comfortable with the level of English being used in this Forum, I don’t think you could stand more than a few pages of Mignon’s “quick and dirty tips.” For the seriously English-challenged, however, there’s no doubt in my mind that Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing is a heaven-sent, eminently useful book that’s worth reading from cover to cover.

Read an excerpt from Mignon Fogarty’s Grammar Girl’s Quick and Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Read Literalminded’s review of Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Read Lisa Shea’s review of Grammar Girl's Quick & Dirty Tips for Better Writing

Have a look at Mignon Fogarty’s "Grammar Girl" website

Listen to the Grammar Girl podcast on “All Right” versus “Alright”

Wednesday, June 3, 2009

Is “in the same token” instead of “by the same token” acceptable usage?

A friend of mine sent me this question by e-mail a few days ago: “Which is correct: ‘Events Management’ or ‘Events Director’ with an ‘s’ or without?"

A very interesting question, so after I e-mailed my answer to my friend, I shared it with members of Jose Carillo’s English Forum by posting it on its English “Use and Misuse” section.

This was my answer:

“Events management with the ‘s’ affixed to ‘event’ is the practice or discipline of managing events, while ‘event management’ without the ‘s’ in ‘events’ simply means the act of managing one particular event.

“In the same token, an ‘events director’ is one whose occupation is directing or coordinating events, while ‘event director’ is one who is directing or coordinating one particular event.”

My answer quickly drew a rejoinder from an Australian member of the Forum, Max Sims, who curtly pointed out that the expression “in the same token” should be “by the same token” instead—with the preposition “by” and not the preposition “in.”

I must admit that I was taken by surprise by this, so I looked into the matter seriously to see if I had really committed a monumental English grammar gaffe.

Here’s what I posted in Jose Carillo’s English Forum last night about this matter:

No, I really meant to write “in the same token” instead of “by the same token.” I have always used “in the same token” with the “in” instead of “by” since my high school years many decades ago, confident that it was correct usage. Now that my attention has been called to it, however, I checked with Google and found this: 1,510,000 entries for “by the same token” against 55,200 entries for “in the same token,” meaning that “by the same token” is the preferred usage by a ratio of 27.35: 1.

So the question that came to mind was this: Is “in the same token” wrong usage?

My digital Merriam-Webster’s 11th Collegiate Dictionary lists “by the same token” as an expression that means “for the same reason,” and the McGraw-Hill Dictionary of American Idioms and Phrasal Verbs similarly lists it, defining it as a “cliché—a phrase indicating that the speaker is introducing parallel or closely contrasting information.” I was unable to find any authoritative reference that lists “in the same token.”

Given these findings, I was prepared to acknowledge that perhaps I was guilty of propagating wrong English for having used “in the same token” all this time. But looking into the matter more deeply, I found that I was in rather good company using “in the same token.”

For instance, an article in a Georgetown University website, “From Spy Novels to CIA Papers,” uses it in this passage: “It sounds a bit rapacious, but in the same token, we’re doing them a service,” Buchtel says. “People don’t always know how to handle these pieces of history, and we’re there to offer advice and a home for them.”

In an article “Planning Research on Student Services: Variety in Research” bylined by Willard C. Hom in the iJournal, I found this usage: “Hopefully, a data validation study would precede the use of secondary data, but we realize the tentativeness of that expectation, given the pressures that often act to expedite analyses. In the same token, we hope researchers include a data validation step within a study that uses primary data.

In a 1997 Philippine Supreme Court decision, I found this passage using “in the same token”:

“4. The Court of Appeals erred when it granted mandamus, directing and in effect controlling Commissioner Kintanar and deputy Commissioners Dumlao and Perez, to meet en banc to consider and act on a ‘draft Order’ only which the Court itself recognized no longer had the approval of two (2) Commissioners while in the same token the Court of Appeals had set aside a duly promulgated Order of July 4, 1995 allegedly because it did not carry the approval of 2 commissioners.”

In the April 1, 2009 issue of The Guardian, I found this passage where the same speaker uses “by the same token” and “in the same token” in the same speech:

Earlier part of the statement:
“Attah said: ‘This is the whole experience we want to examine. We do not want to hide behind integrity of a nation to tell the world either that we are tolerant of any wrongdoing since a wrong has been established or can be established. We will have to look at that. But by the same token, there is no denying the need, as you said, to preserve the integrity and dignity of a nation...”

Later part of the statement:
“Nigeria must give itself the same dignity. But that dignity can also be eroded if everybody outside looks at us as criminals. So you have to do things in such a manner that you don't create or put yourself into disrespect. In the same token, you must not do it to show that your country condones or tolerates wrong.”

Finally, in the January 20, 2009 issue of The Christian Science Monitor, I found this very interesting exchange of opinion also involving the use of “by the same token” alongside “in the same token” about the inauguration of US President Barack Obama:

The first passage:
“In retrospect to an old green earth commercial where we see an Indian with a tear in his eye as he peruses the landscape of the earth from high atop vantage point, observes the abuse of Mother Nature by our earth’s inhabitants. By the same token one can also visualize our forefathers with tears in their eyes within our minds’ eye, as we see all that has transpired within our great nation, and how spirit of the Declaration of Independence was slowly demeaned and besmirched.”

And a passage that followed:
“I think it’s unfair to expect a Muslim not to mention Allah. It would stifle who they truly are. In the same token a Christian should not be expected to omit the name of Jesus. It would only be a meaningless exercise. We need to get real as Americans and have a little more tolerance for each other.”

I found in the web hundreds of other instances of the use of “in the same token” by apparently well-informed and well-educated people, so I would like to say that I can take comfort in the fact that I’m not alone in using that expression. But is this enough to establish “in the same token” as correct English usage alongside the much widely accepted “by the same token”?

I’m on a crossroads about this usage, so either way, I’d appreciate hearing the opinion of English-language experts and enthusiasts about this.

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