But it was a bummer. I didn't walk out until most of the question period was over, but it wasn't easy.
First, it was one of those wretched talks where everything he says is Power Point-ed on screen. He could have emailed it.
Second, he was focussed on trivia. I kept thinking, Who cares? He talked about esoteric rules of grammar and why we should ignore them -- but most of us already do. When was the last time you seriously worried about splitting an infinitive? Or about using "since" to mean "because," when it turns out it's only to be used to show a time relationship?
Third, he was mean. He sneered at EB White and The Elements of Style, a book I have found eminently sensible and funny. Whenever he quoted a White drollery, he willfully ignored the humor and interpreted it as nonsense. He faulted White for his advice on avoiding "they" as a singular pronoun, as if White were writing today instead of mid-20th century, when the so-called universal "he" was acceptable. Pullum's own apparent viewpoint is, if it sounds right, it is right, but when White said something similar, Pullum accused him of being wishy-washy.
Set up a straw man, knock him down.
During the question period, a lady raised her hand to share the old chestnut attributed to Churchill, who reportedly said about sentences ending in prepositions, "Up with that I will not put." Okay, it's hard to believe a linguist like Pullum would not have heard it, but Pullum replied that he was so tired of this line that he had suggested in his blog that people who repeated it should be hunted down and stopped. Bet that made her feel great.
My opinion? Dr Pullum is not a happy fella. Does he actually care about communicating?