Saturday, June 23, 2007

Are there grafs in blooks?

There are two ways to spell "Renaissance," one of which I dislike. Doesn't matter: that disliked version is a legitimate, recognized variant of the word, and is to be accepted as such. Furthermore, that is how it should be.

Such liberality does not extend to the internet-created mistake "medireview," nor do I tolerate such frontal assaults on the language as "irregardless" and "thru." They are monstrous.

Which is why I was delighted to find this story this morning, in the online Telegraph: what, indeed, is the most irritating internet word?
But while the internet may be responsible for the greatest blossoming of new phrases since Shakespeare it has also been blamed for some of the most irritating.

Now a poll has revealed the web-related words that drive most computer users up the wall. "Folksonomy" was voted the most annoying new phrase in a survey to mark the 10th anniversary of the word "web-log"., not entirely. I've never encountered some of these words outside the Telegraph story itself. I refer to "folksonomy" and to " blook," although, yes, "folksonomy" is irksome, and "blook" should be a hanging offense in any civilized community. But others, it seems to me, were created out of necessity -- "blog," and "blogosphere," and "podcast," for example. Need noted. Word created. Done.

I demand equal time in a room, alone, with those 2000 poll respondents, for an offense of their own: they omitted (oh, it's all spite, I'm sure of it) some of the monstrosities I would have included. Where is "graf," eh? Where is "lede?" Where is the here's-proof-of-my-hipness "money quote?"

Zinsser noted, decades ago, that "ripped off" had graduated from slang to English because it filled a legitimate need in a colorful, vital way. He was right, too. I would extend the same consideration to "blog" and to "burn a CD." But "blook" and "lede" offer us nothing: they serve only to corrupt the mother tongue.

YouGov should conduct this poll again, and often, and the Telegraph should report the results. It should in fact be celebrated throughout the, er, the blogosphere. Absitively! There should not, I hasten to add, be any "ledes" or, heaven help us, "money quotes." Nor should a collection of the findings be published as a "blook." We have enough problems already.

Why, enough, in fact, to fill a ... well, not a "blook." Not if I can help it.

Tuesday, June 12, 2007

Errors in Speaking and Writing, Part I

There are still lots of things to be learned from Lessons in Our Language (Quackenbos, 1882), as well as a couple of things to scratch our heads over.


Errors in speaking and writing are so numerous that the student cannot be too watchful for avoiding them. The most common mistakes have already been pointed out; further examples of these, arranged promiscuously, follow.

Apparently, "promiscuous" did not yet have the connotation it does today. I just cannot see using the word in a textbook that doesn't deal with psychology or sexuality. However, I have found that the old Randomhouse dictionary gives it no such connotation. It merely means "indiscriminate" or "casual." So, moving along.

Five dollars are a small sum to leave to the poor.

Five dollars being referred to as one sum, the verb are should be changed to the singular form is.

But we knew that, because we read Ceely's Modern Usage.

It was supposed that his first act would have been to have hurled defiance at his enemies.

The reference here is to an act future as regards the time when it was supposed. But have does not express future time; say would be and hurl.

The next one is an error that is still quite common, and many of us fall victim to it. However, we can see how correcting it would make our writing much more precise.

The class should here be shown a globe.

It is the globe that should be shown, and not the class. Make the right noun the subject: -- "A globe should be shown to the class."

And one more.

On examining his horse's foot, he found his shoe was loose and cutting his hoof.

In the first part of the sentence, his and he are used with reference to the rider; in the latter part, his is used for the horse. Change to "the shoe." "the hoof." -- In the same sentence, do not apply the same pronoun to different persons or things.

Now, here are a few sentences to correct on your own.

Five-eighths are more than one-half.

Another, perhaps, might have been able to have managed the affair better than me.

We were presented with sweet smelling nosegays.

When they looked at their stock of provisions they found they were near ruined with salt-water.

Angry men permit of no explanations nor apologies.

I have to say that your guess is as good as mine on some of these. The book does not provide an answer key.

Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Too Fine

I've been gleaning old newspapers for genealogical tidbits - and I have found many good tidbits - and marveling at the news I find therein. Gruesome deaths, freak accidents, and brutal murders appeared on the same pages as notices that the "Misses Myers have returned from visiting friends in Chicago," and that the little daughter of Frank Bond had a birthday party and here is a list of the 5 to 10-year-olds who attended (my grandfather was mentioned in one such as this). But when I ran across this, I had to scratch my head.

Fort Wayne Weekly Gazette, Thursday, May 7, 1896

'Twas Too Fine

The Police Sends a Traveling Show Out of Town

A "fine art" show opened up Saturday in the vacant room adjoining the old National Bank, and it had run but a little time until word came to Superintendent Ligget that it was entirely "too fine." He made an investigation and the result was that the outfit was ordered out of town. The proprietor was quite indignant, but he had to go. He claimed that he had showed in Detroit and other large cities, and had never before been molested.

One can only assume that the show contained nudes, but I find the euphemism "too fine" a bit "too cute." I suppose readers of the paper knew exactly what it meant, but I have to wonder if even they thought the phrase was reaching a bit.

Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Unwritten Laws

I thought this was pretty interesting: there are rules that aren't really taught to native speakers of English, but are known anyway. By absorption, I guess.

Having done a lot of reading and writing in my time, some of it for that purest of reasons (the pursuit of filthy lucre), I'm quite uncomfortably familiar with the notion of Ruth Walker's title: "Rules no one teaches but everyone learns." Familiar because that's the way of it, really. Uncomfortable because I want to know more of the rules, the theory, the structure. My ambition is to take a side in The Great Adverb War. blog it.

Literally and Metaphorically

It has come to our attention that there exists a blog with the unlikely name of "Literally: A Weblog." It describes itself in its subtitle as "An English grammar blog tracking abuse of the word 'literally.'" An unlikely mission as well.

Ceely's Modern Usage approves (in fact, it's blogrolled here). We're just afraid to discover a blog tracking misuse of "hopefully..."

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"All Your Lives Are Belong To Us"

A post by Andrew Stuttaford the other day brought this John Edwards quote to my attention:

One of the things we ought to be thinking about is some level of mandatory service to our country, so that everybody in America _ not just the poor kids who get sent to war _ are serving this country...

So this John Edwards, a lawyer, believes "everybody in America are serving this country" to be acceptable grammar. Hmm. Ceely's Modern Usage does not agree.

Furthermore, we find such statism particularly offensive on this observation of Memorial Day, and hereby declare our anti-endorsement of John Edwards.

Finally, a Ceely's Modern Usage Fearless Political Prediction: John Edwards will never be the President of the United States of America. Everybody here are quite sure of that.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

The Economist Style Guide

Jonah Goldberg at The Corner posted "Useful stuff we should all know, but most don't, " in which he linked to "Some common solecisms". Some interesting stuff from the list:

Blooded means pedigreed or initiated. Bloodied means wounded.
Cartel. A cartel is a group that restricts supply in order to drive up prices. Do not use it to describe any old syndicate or association of producers—especially of drugs.
Cassandra's predictions were correct but not believed.

And if you read the whole list, you'll encounter one I thought was quite well put:

Like governs nouns and pronouns, not verbs and clauses. So as in America not like in America. But authorities like Fowler and Gowers is a perfectly acceptable alternative to authorities such as Fowler and Gowers.

And -- why,yes, authorities do like Fowler and Gowers. I do.

More here. The links to the Johnson essays require a subscription, but the link to Orwell's "Politics and the English Language" takes you to a great read.

One of these days I'll sit down with a cup of tea and do an item-by-item comparison: the Style Guide from The Economist and this one.

Sunday, December 31, 2006

Just a Quick Note

I realize it's been quiet around here. My apologies. We will, perhaps, have something to write about in the near future. Until then, you might click over to Home Educator magazine where I have an article on How to Teach Using 19th Century Readers. (Please note that the various typos are not necessarily mine. I know I sent them a clean copy.)