Archive for the ‘Usage attitudes’ Category

Fellows

June 29, 2017

A Dilbert from 9/7/91 (passed on by Tom Limoncelli):

Betty balks at the title fellow — because she thinks of only one of the three lexical items fellow, informal ‘man, boy’. But there are two others, and the one she’s thinking of is the most recent.

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It was correction killed the desire

March 19, 2017

Yesterday’s Bizarro:

(If you’re puzzled by the odd symbols in the cartoon — Dan Piraro says there are 2 in this strip — see this Page.)

First, the adverb bad in I want you so bad. Then some notes on correction as a social practice, especially in one-on-one interactions.

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Risible (faux-)commercial name

March 13, 2017

From a posting by Randy Murray to the Facebook page‎ “THE ERRORIST MOVEMENT – Correct grammar, with humour”, where he comments, “apostrophes mean so much”:

(#1)

At first glance, this ad would seem to fall into four big topic areas on this blog: dubious commercial names; It’s All Grammar; vulgar slang; and phallic play (in particular, word play). To which I add: the conventions on the form of hashtags, e-mail addresses, and web addresses (URLs). But first, I have to tell you that this particular Dick’s Pizza is a fabrication.

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Helping the kid out

December 2, 2016

From the most recent  NYT “Metropolitan Diary” (on-line on the 26th, in the national edition on the 28th), a contribution from Michael Joseloff that begins:

Two teenagers with clipboards were stopping passers-by on the Upper East Side. I was in a hurry to get to the bank, so I tried to maneuver past them and avoid their pitch. No luck.

“Me and my friend are trying to raise money to buy uniforms for our basketball team,” one of the boys began, before rattling on with the rest of his memorized speech. To paraphrase Renée Zellweger in “Jerry Maguire,” he had me at “me and my friend.” He seemed sincere. I decided to help.

I was desperately hoping that he was going to help the kid by making a contribution. But no: he proposed to help by correcting the kid’s grammar.

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Something I missed on NCOD

November 12, 2016

National Coming Out Day was largely a day of personal remembrance for me this year — see my posting here — so I missed a bit of significant lgbt news, with a local twist even. It came to me circuitously, via the (closed) Facebook group Our Bastard Language, in a posting by Lauren Hall, originally on October 11th (NCOD itself), where Lauren reported the Think Different poster she’d seen on Market St. in San Francisco that day. One shot among many available (this one just a bit off Market, but in a famous spot):

(#1)

A variant of Apple’s Think Different ad campaign of some years back, with a silhouette of Squire GrabPussy (as the President-Elect was then) instead of a semicircular bite out of the apple, and with the bands of the Pride Flag instead of Apple’s rainbow colors:

(#2)

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Grammar nazi on the loose in the library

October 15, 2016

The Unshelved cartoon from the 12th, passed on by Betsy Herrington on Facebook:

The GN takes a truly extreme (One Right Way) position that like can be only a verb, a bizarre view that results in her seeing the library poster as being incorrectly punctuated. (Ok, when in doubt, blame it on the punctuation.) She doesn’t even recognize the preposition use (Which one of these things is not like the others?), not to mention the many uses of like that are set off intonationally in speech and consequently should be punctuated with a comma — no doubt she dismisses these as simply incorrect, “not English” — in particular, quotative like (I asked when she was going, and she was like, “In a minute”) and discourse particle, or discourse marker, like, as in the library’s poster.

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Two notes from the obits

September 24, 2015

Two language-related notes from the death notices in my edition of the New York Times yesterday (they appeared on two different days in NYC): a word inappropriate in context; wine that speaks.

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So…?

August 11, 2015

Today’s Zippy features Mr. the Toad, moving during the day to his default personality: seized by rage and a sense of entitlement and issuing sweeping pronouncements, including one on grammar:

Every so often, there’s a fresh wave of complaints about beginning sentences with so, along with speculations about why people do it and where it started. Mr. the Toad forgoes all that in favor of trying to wipe the practice out.

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Intervention

May 19, 2015

Part 1:  Back in my posting on “Words to eliminate”, I looked at a site that proposed to get you to improve your writing by eliminating 15 words from it. (Yes, a silly idea.) One of these was that:

[Mashable advice] It’s superfluous most of the time. Open any document you’ve got drafted on your desktop, and find a sentence with “that” in it. Read it out loud. Now read it again without “that.” If the sentence works without it, delete it.

The idea is fraught with problems, most turning on the fact that there are several distinct lexical items that, with a large number of uses, and with distinct syntax, discourse functions, and sociolinguistic statuses for each use.

Part 2: On one of these items, the complementizer that, and its use to mark the object complement of a verb, as in

They know (that) pigs can’t fly.

(where the that variant and the ∅ variant are both fine).

But then I started an e-mail to a friend:

 I do wish people would credit sources.

(with the ∅ variant; the that variant is also possible) and thought to link to previous context with a though — but then the ∅ variant struck me as very awkward indeed:

?? I do wish, though, people would credit sources.

though the that variant is fine:

 I do wish, though, that people would credit sources.

What’s crucial is that material intervenes between the complement-taking verb and the complement. It turns out that this intervention effect is well-known in the variation literature.

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so (that)

May 19, 2015

A sideline in an investigation of “optional that“– that is, variation between that and ∅ — that I’ll post more on in a little while: so that vs. so as conjunctions. I have a bit of personal history with this variation.

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