Wednesday, June 6, 2007

This is how we began...

First, with an innocent comment by IntrovertGirl...
Grammar Police: not addressed to anyone in particular

I'll probably get drowned for this, but I can't help it. It's been bugging me the last couple days. Its vs. it's: Its is possessive. It's is a contraction. Look! There's a dragon under the tree! Its scales are purple. It's going to eat some ball point pens. - IntrovertGirl
Then, I chimed in with...
Grammar police, Part II

I might as well pile on, too, IntrovertGirl, and keep you company in the water...

They're = they are
Their = possessive

There = not here

You're = you are

Your = possessive

Yore = not now, but before (that one is just for fun & symmetry)

Can't help it... they just jump out at me. ;~) Really. You can blame my (late) grandmother. - Karen M
There was some back and forth...
@ Karen M
Oh, no, don't get me started. I'll happily hijack any thread to babble about grammar and language. I like "yore."
We could start on ... nauseous v. nauseated disinterested v. uninterested which v. that socialism v. communism conservative v. liberal ... or, maybe not! - IntrovertGirl
We learned we had supporters...
Introvert Girl & Karen M - grammar police right on.
"disinterested v. uninterested" is one of my pet peeves. Rampant use of "dis" for "un" is only getting rampant-ier as days go by.
Current obsessions also include "different FROM" vs. "other THAN". ps - regards to sysprog on the auto-antonyms earlier, another one is "cleave" - certifiedprepwn3d
And other commenters began to offer us sites for jumping off purposes:
http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/affect.html - Paul Dirks
My starting point for grammar discussions is language log dot com, which has covered many of the points you talked about upthread. - Fraud Guy
@ Karen M "I object when nouns become verbs merely to serve jargon"
Oh, c'mon, Karen, surrender to the pleasures of anthimeria! What's wrong with verbing a few nouns? Or anthimeriazing them…or…something…
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthimeria http://blogs.msdn.com/ericlippert/archive/2004/10/01/236740.aspx - Jeff W
And a little later, in response to criticism that anyone could/would want to wallow in grammar, IntrovertGirl offered some personal, deep-seated reasons that could only inspire a blog like this one:
@Djinn, genie-ghost of 7th-grade Mrs. Sullivan ;)

This is absolutely my last word on the subject, promise.
My 7th-grade English teacher? She was a nice lady, but I don't think she knew that much about grammar. No, I wrote the original post in my professional capacity. I get paid to be nitpicky about grammar and language. And it's a job I couldn't do if I didn't absolutely love it.

That's the definition of a grammar geek. We love language. You don't read books like "The Deluxe Transitive Vampire" for kicks if you don't love grammar. And it's my endless enjoyment of the art that makes me push for precision. Half the reason I read this forum is because I enjoy the many ways the participants argue their points eloquently and often poetically.

As for English being a living language, that's absolutely true. My favorite poet is Gerard Manley Hopkins, a nonsensical user of words if there ever was one. What I object to is muddiness and ugliness. When someone says, "I feel nauseous" when they mean "I feel nauseated," it expasperates not because it's incorrect, but because we're losing one perfectly good word and forcing another to perform two functions. As for the -izing, I just find most of them aesthetically unpleasing. There's objectivity for you!

Finally, certifiedprepwn3d validated my original point about words used merely as jargon...
jeff w and karen m

Karen - I see what you are saying -- I play with language the way my little niece plays with her cheerios (not exactly the way, sure), and feel joy in understanding how not following "the rules" adds meaning rather than taking it away. Holograph - i.e., multi-layered information, is the goal.

The bland, intentional spin, wonk-speak (including "we are tasked with") filters information out of the statement. It is like those drugs that mimic other substances and block receptors in your body -- so many speakers from power want to make noise that has the same effect as communication (the listeners shutting up and behaving) without actually communicating anything. [And, they certainly don't accept any attempts to communicate back at them, particularly not truth to power.] Their use of language is not fun. It does not add to the shared human knowledge and experience of the world. - certifiedprepwn3d
And now we have a blog... if we can keep it (w/ apologies to B. Franklin).

26 comments:

Frankly, my dear, ... said...

Congratulations on getting this up and running so quickly (before the original thread even died [actually, it was dead a long time ago, but just refused to lie down]).
I wish you many happy discussions and I'm proud to post the first ever comment.

Karen M said...

And, F,md, we are equally proud to have you as our first commenter.

If you are at all inclined, we would also be pleased to include you as a contributor.

I'll be adding an email link. If you'd like to join us, just let us know.

William Timberman said...

Can we include Britishisms? I have done, rather than Yes, I have, for example. And what should we make of but nor to introduce a dependent clause? Of all the differences between the Queen's English and ours, this is the one that I find the most disturbing.

Karen M said...

William T: Perhaps you'd like to write up a little something to post here on that very topic... your ambivalent feelings about adopting Britishims... if I've read your comment correctly.

PhD9 said...

was dead a long time ago, but just refused to lie down

I'm suddenly reminded of Keith Richards.

William Timberman said...

Well, I'd consider it, KM, but CI doesn't seem to be listed in my Dashboard. I gather that's something the blogowner(s) has to set up.

I hadn't originally intended to go so far as to do posts myself -- since I doubted I'd have much to offer that was directly germane -- but I'm not agin it as a matter of principle.

Introvert Girl said...

I'll take William's comments any day! Master of articulation he be.

Britishisms? Ah, on a personal note -- my husband is English. Our first "divided by a common language" moment came when he said one evening, "I'll come by and knock you up about 8 tomorrow morning."

Er ... moving a little fast, are we?

Karen M said...

William... you should have already received an invite from blogger. You have to reply to it, in order for the blog to "recognize" you, and then you'll be listed as an author in the side-bar. And, if you are so inclined, we can give you admin rights, too, if you like to tinker with templates and such.

If you didn't receive the invite, let me know, and I'll resend it.

You may doubt whether we would like your contributions, but we don't doubt it at all. ;~)

Jeff said...

I'm honored to be mentioned in the first post.

I'm not sure if you want to add to Some Places to Go—that's in fact where I first picked up the term anthimeria.

So now I know that one of my favorite quips—
     I never knew what real happiness was until I got married. And by then it was too late
—is, of course, a classic paraprosdokian. But the rules prevent me from feeling like an awesome smarty-pants! Damn, what's the point? (Does that count as paralipsis?) :p

Jeff said...

Ha, the code is a little broken.

that should be "not sure if you want to add

to Some Places to Go"

Funny, it looked fine when I previewed it! Hmm, we'll see this time.

Jeff said...

OK, without "those" tags:

add Figures of Speech Served Fresh to Some Places to Go.

It almost makes Salon's letter section look good.

Karen M said...

Thanks, Jeff! Done!

Now, would you like to join us, too? I have a hunch that you would have a lot to contribute to this site.

Now, I'm going to try one of my links, too, just to see if I have better luck...

Bread Crumbs

William Timberman said...

Ah, KM, I thought I'd responded, but in fact I'd gotten sidetracked to create a google account; the old blogger account was toast.

Anyway, all's well now. I'll see what i can do about a post, but it may take me a day or two. I'm so used to doing the short comment stuff over at UT that I may've forgotten how to delay the puchline for more than three paragraphs. :-)

As for the Britishisms, I was thinking not so much about vocabulary or spelling, as about style. Of course so much journalism these days is transatlantic, and naturally so.

Which reminds me...a few threads back, over at Glenn's, someone linked to a Mencken article I hadn't read. When I did, I was amazed at how overblown it was -- not to mention casually bigoted. When I was young, I thought his writing was the height of elegance; viewed now, with my jaundiced, older eyes, this essay seemed to be larded with that faux British style that was once so popular on the eastern seaboard, and so hated by people like Stein and Hemingway. What a surprise -- and disappointment.

Ah, now there's a thought. How 'bout something, at some point, about one of my favorite curmudgeonly sweethearts? The father of the American language indeed. That would be a lot of fun, at least for me.

Karen M said...

It's all good, William T. The great part is that you can work on more than one thing at a time, keep the drafts and post them when you're ready.

The Britishisms, as they relate to style, or Mencken, or maybe a series, since they are related... any of that would be interesting to us language-loving folks.

Also, I love the word "curmudgeon," and would be one if I were male-- It's harder when you're female. So, I try for a lighter tone... ;~) and settle for understatement when I can achieve it.

[You should be able (hopefully, in this version, too) to change the publishing time to move your post up to the top of the screen from where ever it is in the "draft" mode.]

Karen M said...

Jeff... Are you sure you're closing the tags?

>a href="http://gobbledygook.com"<"gobbledygook">/a<

I had to reverse the < and > symbols, and add an extra set of quotes around gobbledygook, in order to make this comment both readable and legal.

Jeff said...

Oh, I thought I had! As I said, I tested the earlier comments in the preview and they looked OK.

Let me try again:

" to Some Places to Go"

OK, looks fine in Preview.

That should read as "[link]Figures of Speech Served Fresh[/link] to Some Places to Go"

Does it? Can't stand the suspense. OK, I'm "publishing"! Hah!

Jeff said...

:( Weird!

Well, that didn't work!

Sure, I'll join you, I guess. But full disclosure: I'm not a hard-core "prescriptionist." (Oh, no, it's the English language version of "libertarian wars"!)

Well, not really. I hate when Condi (or anyone else) says "tasked with" also—notwithstanding the pleasures of anthimeria.

(Actually, Glenn makes me a little nuts when he writes stuff like "a pure act of self-preservation"—does he mean "an act of pure self-preservation"? But that's a topic for another day.)

Frankly, my dear, ... said...

William: Which reminds me...a few threads back, over at Glenn's, someone linked to a Mencken article I hadn't read. When I did, I was amazed at how overblown it was -- not to mention casually bigoted. When I was young, I thought his writing was the height of elegance; viewed now, with my jaundiced, older eyes, this essay seemed to be larded with that faux British style that was once so popular on the eastern seaboard, and so hated by people like Stein and Hemingway. What a surprise -- and disappointment.

I suspect that that was my link to "Sahara of the Bozart" that you followed. One has to remember that it was written in 1917, very near the beginning of Mencken's career, when his individual style was not yet fully developed. Since you say you had never read it before, almost anything else you may have read is likely to have been more elegant. As for its bigotry, well, it was a product of its time, and perhaps a certain amount of bigotry is to be expected in a piece that was republished in a series of his works entitled Prejudices.

William Timberman said...

Frankly, it was indeed, and yes, in my memory at least, Mencken was often much better. One can say many things about southern white pretension -- I have myself -- but this particular piece was hardly better than what it was criticizing.

The salient part for me is that with the landed aristocracy wiped out by the war, the southern bourgeoisie immediately assumed the mantle, even though, as Mencken pointed out, it rarely fit.

Even in my day, fifty years later, southern whites pretended to themselves that the Yankees were the brutalists. It never occurred to them, even in the face of overwhelming evidence to the contrary, that civilization had passed them by. They were no longer its stewards, even in the south, and their power was maintained solely by oppression. Watching them rouge and powder this monstrosity daily, in the mirror of their own past glory, was hard to stomach, especially knowing that the police dogs and fire hoses were already hard at work at the other end of town.

Karen M said...

Jeff, just send me an email via the link on my profile and I'll have blogger send you an invite to join us.

About the code, I wonder if it's a browser compatibility issue. Do you use Firefox or IE, or something else?

My family converted me over to Firefox about a year ago; at work I need both, depending on what I'm doing.

Also, this newer version of blogger may have some new quirks. I've already noticed a few differences.

We'll figure it out eventually.

Introvert Girl said...

WT,
Is "but nor" a regionalism? The Brits I know don't use it (after an extremely unscientific poll).

There are other lovely little quirks. My first journalism job was at a British-run newspaper, and my editor had to correct me all the time. I'm so used to hearing "I have done" that I'd forgotten it ever sounded odd. They refer to corporations/companies in the singular rather than plural, as in, "Nike make shoes" rather than "Nike makes shoes."

Would love to hear your thoughts on the subject!

William Timberman said...

Well, IG, I haven't done a scientific survey, and don't have a native speaker of the Queen's English readily at hand, but since The Economist seems to use it all the time, I doubt that it's a regionalism. I've never seen it in American writing. I suppose what we need is an editor from the UK to set us straight.

Introvert Girl said...

Now I have to go find a copy of 'The Economist.' That's one I really ought to subscribe to, but literally cannot take that much in-depth journalism on every issue on the globe every single week. I need time for a little trash ;-)

Jeff said...

Well, the online Style Guide for The Economist might be good enough until we can line up one of those native speakers of the Queen's English:

Singular or Plural?

I agree about its ultra-in-depth quality— that's why The Economist is my preferred reading on long flights. One issue just seems to "last" forever!

Karen M said...

Great link! Thanks, Jeff.

I've added the main link to the blogroll.

Introvert Girl said...

How delightful! I keep a printed-out copy of The Economist's style guide on my shelf, and delve into it for sanity whenever the textbook company's own style guide (they each have their own tome) drives me too mad. Good choice!