The Return of The thread on word usage that grates like blackboard fingernails...

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RosaL

Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:

Other Americanisms I notice in the speech of her circle of friends: "grades" for "marks", and "eighth grade" for "grade eight." Or were these ever only Ontario usages?

 

I've heard this too. I've also heard many people say "ant-eye" for "anti" and "mawm" rather than "mom" (pronounced "mum"). A change in what little kids call their mothers is surely significant!

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:

Has anyone else noticed what might be called the Colour Man's Conditional? Typical use: colour man is commenting on replay and says, "Now if Toskala flops, Crosby goes upstairs and buries it." Standard usage: "If Toskala had flopped, Crosby would have gone upstairs and buried it." The sports usage is less cumbrous and more immediate: it makes it seem that the slow-mo replay is a presently occurring fact. But it's now occurring in situations far removed from replays, and I'm not sure I like it. Some time ago I heard a Supreme Court justice use it during arguments about the Truscott appeal. He said something like, "If he's at the bridge at 6:45, there's no way he's home at 7:15."

It's called the historical present - the use of the present tense in the narrative of past events. It has a long and respectable history in English and many other languages.

Unionist

M. Spector wrote:

The unnecessary nouning of verbs, ...

Isn't that an example of the unnecessary verbing of nouns?

 

Weltschmerz

I was in Sanko, our favourite Japanese grocery here in TO, and saw a package that had the word "saladly" in the description.  I've never seen "salad" used as an adverb before, but I liked it.

Unionist

Lettuce leave that one alone.

Slumberjack

The head of an organization, while reciting the list of priorities for the upcoming year to a captive audience of employees gathered to receive the wisdom and direction, without batting an eyelid reads down from the top in the order of importance, where 'putting people first' comes out at number three.  I still fondly recall the laughter in the room.

Fotheringay-Phipps

M. Spector wrote:

Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:

Has anyone else noticed what might be called the Colour Man's Conditional? Typical use: colour man is commenting on replay and says, "Now if Toskala flops, Crosby goes upstairs and buries it." Standard usage: "If Toskala had flopped, Crosby would have gone upstairs and buried it." The sports usage is less cumbrous and more immediate: it makes it seem that the slow-mo replay is a presently occurring fact. But it's now occurring in situations far removed from replays, and I'm not sure I like it. Some time ago I heard a Supreme Court justice use it during arguments about the Truscott appeal. He said something like, "If he's at the bridge at 6:45, there's no way he's home at 7:15."

It's called the historical present - the use of the present tense in the narrative of past events. It has a long and respectable history in English and many other languages.

Devilish clever of you, M. Spector. I hadn't thought of that. I'm not quite convinced, though. A true historical present would go something like, "If Caesar leaves the camp, the Gauls will set upon him," where this new conditional would say, "If Caesar leaves the camp, the Gauls set upon him." What bothers me is the clearing away of all those auxiliaries, the little markers that say, "Take it easy, this didn't actually happen." I figure they're like the left-hand thread on gas fittings, little reminders you're dealing with something potentially explosive in one case, untrue in the other.

Anyway, nicely spotted. I'll have to go away and think about this.

Unionist

Quote:
"If he's at the bridge at 6:45, there's no way he's home at 7:15."

I agree with MS - perfectably acceptable usage - although it isn't the historical present, because it's actually presented as a counterfactual. A more pedestrian rendering might have been:

Quote:
"If he had indeed been at the bridge at 6:45, there is no way he could have been home at 7:15."

But thereby is lost immediacy, force, poetry.

[Or more dogmatically, "thereby would have been lost ... etc.".]

In fact, the way it's framed, it's like a reductio ad absurdum proof:

Assume he is at the bridge at 6:45.

The evidence shows he was home at 7:15.

That fact is incompatible with the assumption.

Ergo, he was not at the bridge at 6:45.

QED.

There, I've beat that one to death. Just a metaphor, mind you...

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

Fotheringay-Phipps wrote:

A true historical present would go something like, "If Caesar leaves the camp, the Gauls will set upon him," where this new conditional would say, "If Caesar leaves the camp, the Gauls set upon him."

You may well be right. I wasn't focusing specifically on your concern for the sequence of tenses in conditional sentences. Technically, it may not be an example of the "historical present" after all.

But we must acknowledge that verb tenses do not always express purely temporal concepts and relationships. They may also signify non-temporal concepts like intimacy, salience, actuality, and attenuation. Here I will quote extensively from [url=http://www.vyvevans.net/ExperienceConceptualStructureMeaning.pdf]an article by Andrea Tyler and Vyvyan Evans[/url].

 

  • Intimacy, or lack of intimacy, can be expressed in the use of tenses to suggest either distance or proximity not merely in time, but (at least metaphorically) in space as well.

Example: My daughter's father was Brazilian. He stays in contact with Suzanna, but I haven't seen him in years.

This illustrates the use of past tense to signal lack of emotional intimacy. "The speaker presents information about her daughter's father in the past tense. Out of context, this sentence is ambiguous and could suggest that the father is no longer alive. However, the additional information, that the father and the daughter continue to see each other, rules out the interpretation that the father is dead. Given our knowledge of the world, we can also rule out the interpretation that he is no longer Brazilian, as one's country of origin typically does not change. Finally, we can reject the interpretation that the man from Brazil is no longer Suzanna's father since biological fatherhood is unchangeable and he seems to continue, at least in some aspects, in the social role of father. We conclude that the speaker used the past tense to signal her own psychological/emotional attitude of non-intimacy towards her daughter's father."

 

  • Salience refers to the relative status of the information being conveyed - that is, whether it is foreground or background information.

Example: Consider this sequence of theree statements:

A. In November 1859, Charles Darwin's The Origin of Species, one of the greatest and most controversial works in the literature of science, was published in London.

B. The central idea in this book is the principle of natural selection.

C. In the sixth edition...Darwin wrote: "This principle of preservation of the survival of the fittest, I have called Natural Selection."

A and C are background, while B is foreground. "The main point of these sentences is not the precise date of publication of this book, but rather the central topic of the book. The information presented in the first sentence establishes the frame for the focal information which occurs in the second sentence. The information in [C] provides supporting evidence for the key point, and as such is less prominent in terms of information status. Discourse analysts have often referred to the relative status of information such as that in sentences [A] and [C] as background and information such as that in sentence [B] as foreground. In this example, tense is employed to signal the relative status of the information, i.e. past tense signals background status and present tense signals foreground status." 

 

  • Actuality can be signalled by the use of a tense that indicates the "degree to which the experiencer believes the event described matches the current or actual world state."

Example: Suppose your house burned down. Do you have enough insurance?

"In this example past tense seems to underscore that the speaker does not believe that your house burned down references a situation holding in the world. That is, the use of past tense cannot be interpreted as referring to a past event, but rather signals a lack of commitment to the actuality of the situation."

 

  • Attenuation "constitutes a linguistic lessening of the speaker's assertion of authority and an offering of options to one's addressee to cooperatively be affected by the speaker's request, hence lessening the face-threat involved."

Example: I wanted to ask you a question.

In such a sentence "we conventionally understand that the use of past tense does not place the desire to ask the question in the past, but rather that it attenuates and so makes such requests less face-threatening and hence more polite."

The use of the present tense in describing historical events of the past, as in the "historical present", signals a sense of immediacy and vividness.

The present tense is also used in a similar way in other specialized contexts.

For example in constructing timelines of a sequence of events that actually happened in the past, or are projected to happen in the future:

Quote:
At 8:15 Jane returns to the office and signs in at the security desk. By 8:30 she is working in her office at her desk. About three minutes later she hears a loud sound like an explosion and upon investigation she finds the photocopier in the adjoining room is on fire. At 8:46 she calls 911.

Quote:
Anwar waits in the van while Bill and Jonas walk calmly into the bank. Bill goes to the north end to look for the security guard. If he sees the guard, he signals to Jonas, who calmly walks out of the bank again. If he doesn't see the guard, Bill walks over to a teller's counter and passes her the note.

Note especially the use of the present tense in the two latter conditional sentences, in both the protasis and the apodosis.

Another example, related to these, is in the elaboration of fantasy scenarios that never actually happened and are not expected to happen in future. Consider the consistent use of the present tense in this description of the Schrodinger's cat thought-experiment:

Quote:
A cat is penned up in a steel chamber, along with the following device (which must be secured against direct interference by the cat): in a Geiger counter, there is a tiny bit of radioactive substance, so small that perhaps in the course of the hour, one of the atoms decays, but also, with equal probability, perhaps none; if it happens, the counter tube discharges, and through a relay releases a hammer that shatters a small flask of hydrocyanic acid.

Again, note the use of the present tense in the conditional sentences above.

Another example comes from the world of fantasy gaming (don't try to make sense of it; just note the consistent use of the present tense):

Quote:
Starting with the second turn, the same procedure is used, but line order is never automatic. Roman leader must be first within his OC command range; then, if he fails the first attempt, once the opponent leader is finished, the tribune (or praefect) has to roll again; this time if he fails he can only issue individual orders or let the next roman leader in line try in his first attempt. If all non-roman leaders are finished (besides the OC) and there are still non-activated tribunes or praefects, they try only once with a DRM of Minus One (-1); if they fail all they can issue are individual orders. [url=
">http://patriot.net/~townsend/GBoH/gboh-fb-spqr-rules.html]Source[/url][/...

The "Colour Man's Conditional", wherein one describes what might have happened but never did, is but another example of the "fantasy-scenario/thought-experiment" use of the present tense to express non-temporal concepts.

al-Qa'bong

poppycock

al-Qa'bong

I wouldn't call this grating, but merely an example of bush-league editing:

 

 

Quote:
The story goes on to sew further doubts about possible progress: "..the view that Iran has suspended research on nuclear-warhead design, are also being reevaluated in light of new evidence, the two former officials said." No names and no explanation of what the new evidence is or where it came from.

 

Fotheringay-Phipps

al-Qa'bong wrote:

I wouldn't call this grating, but merely an example of bush-league editing:

 

 

Quote:
The story goes on to sew further doubts about possible progress

 

 

This sort of thing happens in urban societies that no longer recognize the reality that agrarian metaphors describe. A few weeks ago I read a newspaper story about "reigning in" health spending. There's a writer who only knows the horses under the hood of his car. Some time ago, the Daily Telegraph was fulminating against thoughtless parliamentarians in the UK who always referred to loopholes in the law that you could drive a horse and carriage through. I think we'd say "that you could drive a truck through." We're taking a dead metaphor and keeping it vital. Sowing doubts? I don't know...

Btw, our local paper got taken over by Sun Media. Talk about bush-league editing!

jas

M. Spector wrote:

The unnecessary nouning of verbs, used in place of perfectly good nouns that already exist, out of ignorance or laziness.

Examples:

Contain used instead of Containment

Spend used instead of Expense

Compare used instead of Comparison

Cite used instead of Citation

Fail used instead of Failure

Either M Spector is being funny, or he lives in a funny part of the world where people use these words as nouns. I have never heard any of these used as nouns, although I suppose I could imagine it.

More distasteful to me is the verbing of nouns, a point I belaboured in the last thread.

jas

The use of "it's", a contraction of "it is", as a possessive and vice versa.

The use of "said" as a pronoun or article.

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

What's the "vice versa" of "the use of 'it's', a contraction of 'it is', as a possessive"?

 

Quote:
The use of "said" as a pronoun or article.

Do you mean "[url=http://www.thefreedictionary.com/said]adjective[/url]"?

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
This sort of thing happens in urban societies that no longer recognize the reality that agrarian metaphors describe.

 

I wrote almost exactly the same thing a few years ago, either here on on EnMasse. People will write "free reign" because they don't live in a world in which reins exist, and "sew" because they have no connexion to the land. Nevertheless, I haven't seen "sewing one's wild oats" yet. That would be funny.

 

Come to think of it, "sowing" wild oats makes no sense anyway, since wild oats are weeds, and thus are never deliberately planted.

jas

M. Spector wrote:

Do you mean "[url=http://www.thefreedictionary.com/said]adjective[/url]"?

No, I really mean when people could just as easily, and with more clarity, use the words "that", "these", "those", "the" instead. I can tolerate it legal language, as long as it stays there.

M. Spector wrote:

What's the "vice versa" of "the use of 'it's', a contraction of 'it is', as a possessive"?

Using the possessive "its" to mean "it is", as in, "its fairly obvious, isn't it?"

 

M. Spector M. Spector's picture

jas wrote:

M. Spector wrote:

Do you mean "[url=http://www.thefreedictionary.com/said]adjective[/url]"?

No, I really mean when people could just as easily, and with more clarity, use the words "that", "these", "those", "the" instead. I can tolerate it legal language, as long as it stays there.

As I suspected, the answer to my question is actually "yes."

 

jas

By jove, you've done it again ! Good work, Inspector M! Woe betide the fool who tries to escape your laser-sharp perception!

martin dufresne

It's in said nature of the man, sewing up poorly sown oats and itses...

al-Qa'bong

Don't give up yer day job...

 

I think it's funny that "elitist" is used as a perjorative.

I should pack up my beer league gear, head out to the Saddledome, and demand a job alongside Dion Phaneuf on the Flames' blue line.  Anyone who says I'm not good enough to play in the NHL is a damned elitist.

Fotheringay-Phipps

I see in another thread that Rona Ambrose (C - Forgotten But Not Gone) is ‘disappointed' that CN engineers have not resolved their differences with the company.

I first began noticing this usage when Mike Harris was Premier of Ontario. Some bright spark in his posse must have told him it wasn't good optics to actually giggle when confronted by people he'd kicked into the gutter. So he began taking the more-in sorrow-than-anger line that he was disappointed by their failure to be more positive.

For me ‘disappointed' means:

FATHER sits in a pool of yellow lamplight, dressed in cardigan and loosely knotted tie, flipping through Belknap's Bandsaw Basics as he puffs on his briar. Suddenly he raises his head.
FATHER: Jerry? What is it, son?
JERRY emerges from the darkness. JERRY: Oh, nothing, father.
FATHER: Come on, son, you've been working up to something for the last hour. What is it?
JERRY: Well, Father, you know the Home Medical Companion? Well, I happened to glance at the page with the picture of a lady's, well, chestal parts, and I...I...
FATHER: Son, I hope you know what you've done. You've not only let me down. You've not only let down Queen and Country. [He grasps his pipe by the bowl and waves the stem accusingly at JERRY.] You've let yourself down. I'm very disappointed in you.
JERRY: Oh, Father, can't you just thrash me with your belt? You know I can't bear your disappointment.

Now every governing politician is ‘disappointed' that their opponents don't share their view, as if disagreement were some adolescent failing that wrings a drop of blood from their wounded, merciful hearts. I'm not disappointed. Every time I hear the word in that context I get frustrated, twitchy, moved to nail the pompous would-be Ward Cleavers to the Wall of Squishy Speech. But disappointed? No.

 

al-Qa'bong

Since golf is so topical these days, what's up with people saying something's "not up to par" or that someone's performing "below par"when they are describing it/him negatively?

Being below par is a good thing.

So from now on, if you aren't feeling well, and someone asks how you're doing, say logically, "I'm feeling a little above par, but I'm getting better."

Fidel

I'm running out of derogatory synonyms to describe our pro-Bay Street, pro-corporate USA, democracy loathing 22 percenters in government in Ottawa and Toronto. I've somewhat over-used the terms: lackies, stooges, colonial administrators, lap dogs, lap poodles, vicious toadies etc. I'd like to maintain synonymy without sacrificing my sense of complete and utter disrepect for our elected stooges and Bay Street's hirelings stooging it up in this country for a number of years to-date. Any suggestions?  

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
I've somewhat over-used the terms: ...

 

You can say that again.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

There used to be a thread on eggcorns here on babble somewhere, but it was lost, apparently, in the great deluge. One of my favourites is "pre-madonna."

But I just came across a new one in a lost & found ad that brings me joy:

Quote:
Lost: 1 flask drive

Unionist

Catchfire - all I could find was the last 10 or so posts of [url=http://www.rabble.ca/babble/international-news-and-politics/phil-spector... thread[/url] - although I agree, I seem to remember something more exhaustive.

 

Joey Ramone

Politicians, judges and lawyers love the word "fulsome", which they think means "fuller" or "more of...".  For example, they say "I will provide more fulsome reasons for my decision in the coming days."  Actually fulsome means excessive, insincere flattery.

My Cat Knows Better My Cat Knows Better's picture

http://startupista.com/corporate-bullshit-generator/

Generally the formulation of phraseology to define in an esoteric manner ideas that are in and of themselves intrinsically simple, is best defined as bullshit.

G. Muffin

Joey Ramone wrote:
Actually fulsome means excessive, insincere flattery.

Shit me.  Really?  I thought it was like "winsome."

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Actually, "to win" and "winsome" have two different roots. "To Win" is from the germanic "winnan" which means to struggle, or to gain. The noun "win" meant a labour or struggle. "Winsome" is from the Old English "wynn," which means a pleasure, or a delight.

Fulsome is just an example, I think, of older, now archaic meanings being preserved in compound words or phrases. Like "to beg the question."

skdadl

Catchfire wrote:

Fulsome is just an example, I think, of older, now archaic meanings being preserved in compound words or phrases. Like "to beg the question."

 

Archaic? Not while I draw breath. Every time I hear those two misused, I cringe. I wouldn't lower the boom on fellow bloggers, but if I hear anyone with any kind of public power using "fulsome" to mean "rilly rilly full" or "to beg the question" to mean "invite the question," I go for the jugular.

 

I'm not the strictest of prescriptivists, but I think we have to dig our heels in and resist at least some of the intellectual collapse. Given that "to beg the question" is a serious category in logic, a well-known fallacy, there's just something wrong with our educational system that people are not learning that. And the worst offenders are not young; they're middle-aged pomposities who deserve to be called on their pomposities. Me, I'm happy to use any ammunition to hand.

al-Qa'bong

Quote:
I'm not the strictest of prescriptivists, but I think we have to dig our heels in and resist at least some of the intellectual collapse.

 

Get on the beam, kiddo. I've been told that the correct term for "intellectual collapse" is "evolving language."

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

Oh, skdadl, I agree with you! I meant that "full" and "fulsome" have the same root, but the meaning of the "ful-" refers to an archaic "full" no longer used, as in, to excess, to repletion, etc. My example meant to show that "to beg" never means "to take for granted without warrant" (OED) except in when used with "the question." That phrase's misuse is one of my pet peeves as well, for the same reasons you've outlined, but it does preserve the archaic meaning of the word: not a bad thing!

skdadl

Oh, I see what you mean. I "jumped the gun"? I misread you, probably reading in haste.

 

(What does "jumped the gun" mean anyway?)

G. Muffin

skdadl wrote:
(What does "jumped the gun" mean anyway?)

At the start of a race.  I do it all the time.  Mother Superior jumped the gun.

al-Qa'bong

While commenting on the Dion Phaneuf trade on Leafs Lunch today, Langenburg High School grad Darren Dreger said that there was "divide" in the Flames dressing room and that Phaneuf was "literally thrown under the bus."

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

Thrown under the bus? Makes me wonder...

p-sto

Hate it when people say literally when clearly they're speaking figuratively.  It seems to be quite popular nowadays.

Catchfire Catchfire's picture

That literally makes me want to explode. Literally.

p-sto

Please have some one post pics afterwards, just to confirm that you are being literal. Wink

bagkitty bagkitty's picture

I'll bring the sponge, dust pan and scraper.Innocent

lepidoptera

Is it really necessary to utilize the word "utilize" when one could use the word "use"?

lepidoptera

This is  pronunciation  rather than word use...but....Iraq?... (eye rack?).....sheeesh!

al-Qa'bong

lepidoptera wrote:

Is it really necessary to utilize the word "utilize" when one could use the word "use"?

 

In terms of certain instances of dialoguing, it is sometimes necessary to employ polysyllabic verbiage in order to enhance one's efforting in elevating the discourse portion of the communication process.

 

But really?  No.

p-sto

So you sometimes you want to use big words to sound smart?

al-Qa'bong

Not me;  but some folks do think such gobbledygook sounds impressive.

 

[ed.] Wait - you think that stuff sounds smart?  I threw in some of the worst crimes against language that I could think of, packed into a small space.  Brevity is important, y'know.

p-sto

I tend to focus more on content than on form.  However, there are times that I feel that certain words carry a greater aesthetic than others.

Sineed

I agree about Eye-rack - to that list I'd add Eye-ran.  Though the advantage to these pronunciations is they provide a ready-made "ignoramus alert" - opinions courtesy of Fox news.

Okay here's one I heard today: substituting "issue" for "problem."  So the CBC said, "There's an issue on the subway today - no trains are running between Eglinton and Union Stations."  Apparently there are "issues with the signal lights."

p-sto

Sineed wrote:

Okay here's one I heard today: substituting "issue" for "problem."  So the CBC said, "There's an issue on the subway today - no trains are running between Eglinton and Union Stations."  Apparently there are "issues with the signal lights."

I never knew that was considered odd.  I grew up with that word usage so I don't take much issue with it.

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