possessive pronouns June 12, 2009 9:32 PM   Subscribe

His, hers, and its. All possessive, none of them take apostrophes.

Or: have I seen a lot of hissy fits about this lately? What is the MeFi take on being a spelling nazi? It seems terribly inconsistent to me, when people are corrected and when not. I find myself embarrassed and try to self-correct when my preview-fu fails me, but should we be calling each other out?
posted by hippybear to Etiquette/Policy at 9:32 PM (317 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

I fix them when I see other people being spazmos about it. And then delete the spazzmo comments.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:33 PM on June 12, 2009 [7 favorites]


That's fair enough, I suppose... I fully understand why there is no edit button on MeFi, so I guess it's good that someone is helping keep the hate at bay. :)
posted by hippybear at 9:36 PM on June 12, 2009


Hey, what ever happened to that "three minute edit" idea that was floated a few months ago?
posted by telstar at 9:40 PM on June 12, 2009


It's only awesome sauce when someone corrects another person's grammar, and in the process, makes mistakes of their own. Then it's Grammar Nazi Hodown Time!
posted by stavrosthewonderchicken at 9:42 PM on June 12, 2009 [18 favorites]


It had been floating for awhile, and then got flushed when THE ATTACK happened.
posted by P.o.B. at 9:47 PM on June 12, 2009


I can't really spell spaz'mo.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 9:49 PM on June 12, 2009


(THE ATTACK?)

The internet is growing up--or at least parts of it are. We are seeing a push back against sloppy, lazy writing. Tricky to do it without being a dick, though.
posted by LarryC at 9:50 PM on June 12, 2009


His, hers, and its. All possessive, none of them take apostrophes.

I've dated all three, and this sort of jealousy and lack of compromise is exactly why none of them worked out.
posted by gman at 9:51 PM on June 12, 2009 [18 favorites]


I tend to let strangers' spelling/grammar errors slide since people just typo occasionally. But man, I hate hate hate! that all-lowercase "typing" that a few people do around here. It makes me want to hunt them down and hit them over their tiny heads with their keyboards. It's not cute, people; it's lazy, and it doesn't flow.
posted by heyho at 10:01 PM on June 12, 2009 [6 favorites]


You know, I originally typed out a stupid little jokey comment to post, but in the process of writing that single sentence, I managed to make so many stupid mistakes that it looked like I was trying to be ironic.
posted by Ms. Saint at 10:04 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


My daughter used to correct people. Thankfully, she grew out of it in middle school.
posted by auntbunny at 10:05 PM on June 12, 2009 [11 favorites]


Ms. Saint: You have NO idea how many times I previewed before I hit post. I would have had to cancel my account and start again under a new name...
posted by hippybear at 10:06 PM on June 12, 2009


I think when you hit the post Preview button, if you have any errant apostrophes, Wayne Knight should pop up.
posted by blueberry at 10:07 PM on June 12, 2009


When I see someone write "loose" when they mean "lose," I just so, so want to beat them to death.

Anyone else? Who's with me? Anyone? Just me? OK.
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 10:08 PM on June 12, 2009 [47 favorites]


Is "hi's" much of a problem?
posted by gman at 10:10 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


I'm an editor and the it's/its/grocer's apostrophe mistakes in particular make me grind my teeth. But nobody here is paying me to correct their spelling or grammar, so I just respond by favoriting frustrated outbursts.

On preview (oh hell yeah), me too, CPB.
posted by rtha at 10:11 PM on June 12, 2009


"It's only awesome sauce when someone corrects another person's grammar, and in the process, makes mistakes of their own. Then it's Grammar Nazi Hodown Time!"

Its supposed to be "Grammar Nazi Hoedown Time!".
posted by Bugbread at 10:22 PM on June 12, 2009 [19 favorites]


His, Hers and Its will be a popular towel set when the conservative predictions come true and people start marrying animals!

If this towel idea hasn't been patented and/or trademarked yet, I call dibs.
posted by amyms at 10:26 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


I have to say I prefer grammar police to the incoherent gibberish one sees on other parts of the internet.

I was on a discussion board long ago with ignore list features, and I made it a practice to ignore list the people with the worst grammar. We can't ignore list people here, so I am rather pleased that the 'its teh internet who cares if I cant spell or punctuate?' crowd does not hold sway here.

I successfully resist the urge to send polite MeMails to people using that awful @ sign dictation to tell them to STOP STOP STOP, however. I am not a total spazzmo.
posted by winna at 10:38 PM on June 12, 2009 [3 favorites]


The meaning is always derived from context, so the apostrophe is really nothing more than a design element - it adds no information of its own. Use it at your discretion to weed out and/or aggravate feeble-minded people with no sense of wonder at the world around them.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 10:38 PM on June 12, 2009 [5 favorites]


P.S. Th sm s tr fr vwls.
posted by abc123xyzinfinity at 10:40 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


I love it all! Every time I see somebody make a spelling "mistake" I think of it as a little clue as to what their lexicon looks like. Or the fuzzy edges on their grammar rules. Like whether or not somebody says "piece of mind" or "peace of mind." Or "tow the line" and "toe the line." "Too sense" vs "2¢" Each of these...completely different underlying metaphors and conceptual understanding!

When somebody spells 'thru' or 'tho' instead of 'through' or 'though'...I think to myself, fucking awesome. Because this ain't Old English anymore. Yay economy of letters! In fact, I started not caring that I'm spelling 'caught' and 'taught' as 'cought' and 'tought'. The o makes more sense to me. Maybe eventually I'll even drop some g's and h's.

Sometimes people come up with novel ways to use memes and phrases. A friend assigned me a "Your bad" the other day. "My bad indeed," I concurred. Then he wrote me an email and ended it with "Your neat-o." So I thought to myself, was that a compliment, or was he sharing a little piece of his neat-o with me?

My favorite one lately is "There's [plural noun here]." Some people find it jarring, some not so much. It's in my grammar index. Is it in yours?

Sounds are cool too. The thing you park a car into? Is it a [garaʤ] or [garaʒ]. Some English speakers have that allophone in their phonetic inventory, some don't.

I know what you might be thinking...you might be totally freaking out. This is society! This is communication! This is the ENGLISH LANGUAGE I'm messing with! You know what? I get it. I'll run spellcheck if its a professional correspondence. But otherwise, meh.

So yeah, I guess I could get uptight about it all, but its so much more fun not to.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:46 PM on June 12, 2009 [39 favorites]


His, hers, and its. All possessive, none of them take apostrophes.

And, please, for the love of all that is grammarly, don't get us started on yours, theirs and ours!
posted by amyms at 10:47 PM on June 12, 2009


*is too much of a lady to point out that hippybear has a redundant comma in His, hers, and its.*
posted by amyms at 10:50 PM on June 12, 2009


"Loose" instead of "lose" is at the top of my list of peeves, but "incidences" instead of "incidents" or "instances" is rising quickly.

That said, I make more than my share of grammar and spelling errors that aren't caught in preview, but I usually don't post a followup correction because I figure it's better to be thought of as an idiot than to be seen as an insecure idiot.
posted by Balonious Assault at 10:52 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


Misuse of "disinterested" when "uninterested" is meant has been what's caught my eye on thay h'Interwebs recently.
posted by Abiezer at 10:57 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Too much of a lady to recognize the serial comma?
posted by heyho at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2009 [8 favorites]


I type "adjascent" every fucking time and have to go back for that s. And I prefer judgement with the extra e, even though it's not favored, but spellcheck in firefox has me dropping it just to avoid the damn squigglies.

Also.
posted by cortex (staff) at 10:58 PM on June 12, 2009


anyms: sorry, I'm really old school when it comes to commas. Undoubtedly archaic punctuation rules conflict with modern usage. I find commas generally less offensive than apostrophes when used extraneously.
posted by hippybear at 11:00 PM on June 12, 2009


""incidences" instead of "incidents" or "instances" is rising quickly."

Er, aren't those all different?
"Incidences" is the plural of "incidence"
"Incidents" is the plural of "incident"
"Instances" is the plural of "instance"
posted by Bugbread at 11:03 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


"spellcheck in firefox has me dropping it just to avoid the damn squigglies."

Right click and select "Add to Dictionary".
posted by Bugbread at 11:04 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Supposably.
posted by heyho at 11:04 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


heyho: thank you for the phrase the serial comma. I feel better now.
posted by hippybear at 11:06 PM on June 12, 2009


"Could care less" as a faux pas of "couldn't care less" is the one that either makes me insane or makes me chuckle, depending on my mood. Whenever I see/hear someone say "I could care less" I mentally reply, "Oh really? You could care less but you decided to care at least a little bit?"

And, yeah, I make plenty of my own grammar mistakes and typos, so my comments in this thread are going to come around and bite me in the ass someday.

On preview: I was just being silly about the comma thing, hippybear. I tend to use too many commas myself, and I like the way they look (an extra comma before the "and" in a list is more intuitive to me and I have to force myself not to use one).
posted by amyms at 11:07 PM on June 12, 2009


Right click and select "Add to Dictionary".

I am still struggling to find my moral compass on the subject. Until then, it's me vs. the squigglies in a battle of will and compromise.
posted by cortex (staff) at 11:08 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh, very cool about the serial comma info. MetaTalk is nothing if not educational!
posted by amyms at 11:10 PM on June 12, 2009


Now I'm all curious about the serial comma. I was under the impression that using the serial comma was the old-skool way, and eliminating it was new-skool. I tried a little Googling, but I can't find a good history of it. Does anyone know which is the new way and which is the old?

As for the "Add to Dictionary" thing, cortex, don't think of it as finding your moral compass, think of it as finding your writer's voice. Nobody considers stuff like "writing 'an' before words which start with vowels, and 'a' before words that start with consonants" to be a writer's voice. That's just standard grammar. No, a writer's voice consists of the quirks. Add the word to your dictionary on purpose, and you're not making a mistake, you've just Found Your Voice.
posted by Bugbread at 11:13 PM on June 12, 2009


Its supposed to be "Grammar Nazi Hoedown Time!".

Y'know*, I always thought so to, but Googled "hodown" results are surprisingly numerous.

Oh, and bugbread, you left out the apostrophe in "it's".

*see what I did there? I love using apostrophes like that!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:13 PM on June 12, 2009 [1 favorite]


amyms: Oxford comma.

I'm all for it myself because it helps to eliminate doubt, uncertainty, and confusion. That, and because it's how I was taught back in the 70's (in Aus, oddly enough, because I've since learned despite its origins it's more accepted in US English than UK English). Never really understood why Fowler et al. consider it redundant (the "comma replaces and/or" argument), when its purpose is to add clarity.

(That's something else I occasionally get pinged on - the full stop in et al. It's a contraction that doesn't finish with the final letter of the full phrase - et alii - so it gets the full stop. Spent 30 minutes arguing with a lecturer who pinged me a mark for repeated use on an assignment, nearly ending in a showdown with Google & style guides at 10 paces.

Now I just piss him off by using the slightly-archaic "&c" and "connexion" all the time ;-)


On preview: guess I spent too much time typing that reply ;-)
posted by Pinback at 11:15 PM on June 12, 2009 [4 favorites]


"I'm an editor and the it's/its/grocer's apostrophe mistakes in particular make me grind my teeth. But nobody here is paying me to correct their spelling or grammar, so I just respond by favoriting frustrated outbursts."

Well the outburst in question was actually for a mistake in text directly from the posted article - I suppose I could have dropped in a [sic] though. But then again, I did make the exact same mistake in the first post clarifying some details.

For some reason, the it's/its thing doesn't bug me as much some some others - I see it as a typo or misspelling while things like "I could care less" demonstrate a fundamental misunderstanding of the principle the speaker is trying to voice.
posted by sloe at 11:15 PM on June 12, 2009


Shall no one speak against the to/too and there/their/they're confusions? OK, then I will not mention them.
posted by Cranberry at 11:29 PM on June 12, 2009 [2 favorites]


You won't want to miss the Grocer's Apostrophe Flickr pool.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 11:35 PM on June 12, 2009


heyho: "Supposably."

*strangles heyho*
posted by IndigoRain at 11:37 PM on June 12, 2009


Hee!
posted by heyho at 11:38 PM on June 12, 2009


Er, aren't those all different?

Yes, that was my point, but apparently I didn't make it very well. "Incidences" has a specific meaning, and I notice when people seem to think it is synonymous with "incidents" or "instances." For example (and I do note that mefites are smart and there is a high incidence of the correct usage in there too).
posted by Balonious Assault at 11:52 PM on June 12, 2009


I appreciate proper use of apostrophes, prescription, and correct use of the phrase "beg the question."

Yaaay for people who know how to do stuff!

(needless to say, the Grocer's Apostrophe is something that nobody likes.)
posted by Afroblanco at 11:53 PM on June 12, 2009


Flapjax, you should know better. We both come from states with hoedowns, because we have farmers. With hoes. Who put their hoes down and party.

Though I suppose pimps might have "hodowns".

"Oh, and bugbread, you left out the apostrophe in "it's". "

Psst...that was the joke.
posted by Bugbread at 12:04 AM on June 13, 2009


man, I hate hate hate! that all-lowercase "typing" that a few people do around here. It makes me want to hunt them down and hit them over their tiny heads with their keyboards. It's not cute, people; it's lazy, and it doesn't flow.

it's not meant to be cute. i just can't be arsed using the shift key because it slows down my typing & increases the error rate. i actually type at something like a 200+ words per minute, so it fucking sucks to notice a capital one spot across from where it should be due to a timing mismatch of the tiniest fraction of a second, not to mention having to backtrack to fix the fucker and thereby lose the flow of whatever the hell i was writing about, because by then i'll have forgotten, due to some shiny new thing over on another tab somewhere.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:05 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Choke on a bucket of cock's.
posted by Krrrlson at 12:06 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


His's, hers's, and its's. All possessive-possessive, all of them take apostrophes.

In 5th dimensional hypergrammar, at least.
posted by zerokey at 12:07 AM on June 13, 2009


bugbread writes "Right click and select 'Add to Dictionary'."

Anyone know how to disable this misfeature? I know how to use a text editor and I find myself constantly adding gibberish to the firefox dictionary via miss clicks.
posted by Mitheral at 12:11 AM on June 13, 2009


Its supposed to be "Grammar Nazi Hoedown Time!".

You should follow such a remark with an explanation that will help people to write more betterer in dee future. In this case, mention (as bugbread notes above) that a hoedown was a party that rural folk would have, perhaps after putting their hoes down, while a hodown is a party thrown by evil pimps.

As for its and it's: just remember that it's is short for it is, so every time you see it's, expand it in your head to see if it still makes sense. You know the weasel bit it's owner is wrong because the weasel bit it is owner is wrong, so change the sentence to the weasel bit its owner.

Then put the weasel down. With a hoe.
posted by pracowity at 12:12 AM on June 13, 2009


I would like to know why retard is bad but spazzmo is acceptable.
posted by Meatbomb at 12:26 AM on June 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


it's not meant to be cute. i just can't be arsed using the shift key because it slows down my typing & increases the error rate.

Well, it makes your text harder to read, which is kind of rude to your readers.

That being said, I understand being rude to your readers is one of the purposes of the internets.

PS. LEARN TO TYPE, SUCKAH!
posted by Dr Dracator at 12:31 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


I have to preview my comments several times and try really hard and still undoubtedly make all sorts of cringe-inducing errors. Because I was a feral child and never recieved any formal grammar education. That's in addition to the intentional liberties I take, because sometimes my tortured, semi-coherent thoughts can only be expressed through tortured, semi-coherent sentences.

So I don't pay attention to most spelling and grammar mistakes. But I could care less about abuse of the words themselves. A lot less. My god I lived in the woods with a family of lemurs until I was 14 years old and I still know what "literally" means. "Irregardless" and stuff like the incident/incidence/instance confusion make me want to jab myself in the eye with a pointy stick.
posted by little e at 12:38 AM on June 13, 2009


The small grammar idiocies are sometimes tough to ignore, but I have to keep my own foibles in mind. When typing fast (or writing fast) I often spell the word "of": o_v_e.

Spazzmo
kinda bothers me, though. I bet it's supposed to designate clumsy and hard to control, yes?
posted by reflecked at 12:56 AM on June 13, 2009


"i just can't be arsed using the shift key because it slows down my typing & increases the error rate. i actually type at something like a 200+ words per minute, so it fucking sucks to notice a capital one spot across from where it should be due to a timing mismatch of the tiniest fraction of a second, not to mention having to backtrack to fix the fucker and thereby lose the flow of whatever the hell i was writing about, because by then i'll have forgotten, due to some shiny new thing over on another tab somewhere."

I'm not criticizing you, but, wow, that's just so alien to me. After I write a comment, I always go back and read through it one or two times, making little changes and corrections. I understand the idea of typing fast to get the ideas out, but I can't really imagine hitting the "Post Comment" button without first going back and correcting all the little mistakes.

(And yet tons slip through my sieve anyway...you should see what my comments look before I proofread them)
posted by Bugbread at 1:17 AM on June 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Well, sorrr-REE!
posted by UbuRoivas at 1:18 AM on June 13, 2009


Personally, I have been waging war against ever putting in apostrophes at all in certain places. I just cant see the loss of meaning in "Its going to rain." or in "Dont go there!" Who needs to be crucially reminded that I dropped a letter in constructing those sentences?

Notice there exist entire flickr pools devoted to folks who add an extra apostrophe but none to people who omit them altogether.
posted by vacapinta at 1:23 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


No, UbuRoivas, I was being sincere. That was not criticism. It's just different strokes for different folks. Like my wife's taste in TV: it's alien to me, but that doesn't mean I think it's bad, just radically different to mine. Really, I meant no offense.
posted by Bugbread at 1:25 AM on June 13, 2009


i actually type at something like a 200+

No.. Perhaps, if your claim is to be taken literally, you mistype at something like 200+. However, if you can't do capital letters, you obviously can't type that fast.
posted by Chuckles at 1:25 AM on June 13, 2009 [7 favorites]


I heard bugbread's wife has terrible taste in TV.
posted by item at 1:41 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


it's not meant to be cute.

Funny, it reminds me of the way 13 year-old girls type. Adorable.
posted by heyho at 1:46 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


omg!!1! lol!!! *yay* love u xxx!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:00 AM on June 13, 2009


omg!!1! lol!!! *yay* luv u xxx!!!
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:00 AM on June 13, 2009


Damn, and I thought I got in quick enough to correct the misspelling...who on earth uses "love", anyway?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:01 AM on June 13, 2009


jebus, splitting hairs here...without caps it's 200, with it's more like, idunno, 100 or so. happy now?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:03 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


UbuRoivas: i just can't be arsed using the shift key because it slows down my typing & increases the error rate. i actually type at something like a 200+ words per minute, so it fucking sucks to notice a capital one spot across from where it should be due to a timing mismatch of the tiniest fraction of a second, not to mention having to backtrack to fix the fucker and thereby lose the flow of whatever the hell i was writing about, because by then i'll have forgotten, due to some shiny new thing over on another tab somewhere.

I realise you're largely trolling at this point, but, really? I've heard many other excuses for ignoring the shift key, but that's the lamest. You can hit 30-odd other keys without error, but you can't manage an extra one without making mistakes? I dunno if you ever actually learned to type, but I do know you never learned to type properly...

(You know how much it "fucking sucks to notice a capital one spot across from where it should be"? Yeah, about as much as trying to read something without capitals at all...)

And nobody types at 200+wpm. A very few typists, usually doing fairly repetitive stuff like coding or dispatch data entry, can do 120+wpm. An excellent professional typist can sustain 80~100wpm; normally, it's more like 60~80wpm. I myself can type an accurate 120wpm for short bursts, like the average typing tutor paragraph or two (and do it with correct capitalisation!), but my sustained rate is more like 40~60wpm.
posted by Pinback at 2:11 AM on June 13, 2009


how about 'i hocked my shift keys to some gypsies; they gave me two cigarette butts in return'...is that plausible enough?
posted by UbuRoivas at 2:24 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I have two very important things to tell you.

Grinding your teeth can lead to Temporomandibular joint disorder which I have found to be very painful. Don't grind your teeth.

The second very important thing to know is that people who used to be so good at spelling and grammar that they could get away with correcting their teachers, grow older and sometimes lose brain cells (apparently) from things like drinking and accidentally bumping their heads through youthful exuberance. Then it turns out, that as they age, they accidentally type things like "useful" instead of "youthful" before "exuberance", which makes no fucking sense at all. Sometimes they type "point of you" instead of "point of view" which is sort of insensible solipsism, and thence the universe pays out on the arrogance of early grammar extremists.

If you want to be a self-important, snotty, snooty, pretentious, pompous, prig of a language know-it-all, just remember, that you too one day will forget what the difference between effect and affect is, and you will never be able to remember whether to use who or whom. And at the point, you can imagine me, here, even older, looking at you, pointing and laughing.
posted by b33j at 3:04 AM on June 13, 2009 [15 favorites]


Uh oh, I used an unnecessary capital in "Temporomandibular joint disorder". Please, please forgive me, Pinback.
posted by b33j at 3:05 AM on June 13, 2009


Psst...that was the joke.

dammit, I hate it when I don't get the joke.
posted by flapjax at midnite at 3:07 AM on June 13, 2009


My brain knows all the grammar and commas and apostrophes and shit but my fingers don't. Plus they love throwing in commas for no readily apparent reason. And when I'm on the internet fingies rule.

Of course I also wrote loose instead of lose on some official recording sheets today. The kind you're not allowed to use tippex (white out? twink? the correction fluid stuff) on so my crossings out and attempts to make it go away are on record forever now. So feel free to ignore the ramblings of my fingies.
posted by shelleycat at 3:24 AM on June 13, 2009


I think we all owe Jessamyn our thanks for the word "Spazmo".
posted by Pope Guilty at 3:28 AM on June 13, 2009


nup, spazmo is standard primary school slang here.
posted by UbuRoivas at 3:31 AM on June 13, 2009


"If you want to be a self-important, snotty, snooty, pretentious, pompous, prig of a language know-it-all, just remember, that you too one day will forget what the difference between effect and affect is, and you will never be able to remember whether to use who or whom."

So the lesson to be learned is...be as self-important, snotty, snooty, pretentious, pompous, and priggy as you can, because it's not going to last forever?
posted by Bugbread at 3:39 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


Also,

"Grinding your teeth can lead to Temporomandibular joint disorder which I have found to be very painful. Don't grind your teeth. "

Well, fuck. I grind my teeth in my sleep. I'd love to stop, but there's no way to do so. So now I have something fun to look forward to.
posted by Bugbread at 3:42 AM on June 13, 2009


This is really stupid. As several people have pointed out, the things people are complaining about are typos. It is most likely that the person whose typo annoyed you knows correct grammar and/or idioms (or that their first language is not English). But they are on the internet, they are in a hurry, they may be in the middle of a heated discussion, and, like b33j said, some of us are getting old and find that our fingers do dumb things. Some of us could probably be saved by the 3 minute editing function, but others of us probably can't be bothered assuming our meanings still come across despite the typos.

The occasional typo does not prove that the writer is uneducated or not worth reading, and your ability to recognize a typo does not make you smarter or more worth reading.

Calling it out in a Metafilter comment makes you look like a boring pedant who doesn't have anything of substance to contribute to the conversation. I guess this Metatalk thread is good because it lets people get it out of their system here instead of providing noise in an otherwise good conversation.
posted by hydropsyche at 3:43 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


I've always ground my teeth in my sleep, bugbread, and then I entered into a particularly trying student group and started gritting my teeth in the daytime too. They (dr + dentist) gave me valium to help me stop. After that, it didn't really matter quite so much. It also did not improve my grammerar.
posted by b33j at 3:46 AM on June 13, 2009


"others of us probably can't be bothered assuming our meanings still come across despite the typos."

I think you meant "others of us probably can't be bothered, assuming our meanings still come across despite the typos".
posted by Bugbread at 3:58 AM on June 13, 2009


I think you meant "others of us probably can't be bothered, assuming our meanings still come across, despite the typos".
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:09 AM on June 13, 2009


I think you meant "other's of us probably cant be bothered assuming, our meanings still come, across despite the typo's".
posted by little e at 4:12 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Well, I, for one, could care less if you assume my meanings come across despite the typos.
posted by b33j at 4:16 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you meant "cum across despite the typos".
posted by little e at 4:17 AM on June 13, 2009


I think you meant "cotton candy elephant pogo".
posted by Bugbread at 4:20 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


You know, I always thought "I could care less" worked, if you said it with an inflection that implied an unspoken "but I don't know how." Doesn't work in text though.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:23 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I think you meant "the rest of us are too lazy to bother".
posted by dg at 4:23 AM on June 13, 2009


Help me out here. Who's you, now? I mean, who's "you"? Um, who're "you"?

That is, you talking to me?
posted by b33j at 4:28 AM on June 13, 2009


We're all you now.

But who are we?
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2009


My general feeling is Metafilter is for people smart enough to know not to use a grocer's apostrophe.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:30 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This entire thread is rediculous.
posted by Devils Rancher at 4:31 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Do people with ADHD and/or dyslexia or who's first language is not English get taught well about grocers and their total disregard for correct apostrophe usage? Should grocers be banned from metafilter? What if they sell organic vegetables - does that give them a pass? First they came for the grocers, and I was not one...
posted by b33j at 4:34 AM on June 13, 2009


et alii

et alia (gender neutral-- although in Latin the plural masculine is inclusive, English doesn't really work that way so when the abbreviation is ported over, it's best construed as gender neutral. Not that it makes a difference in any way, since like three people know what the abbreviation means.)

/pedant


Most of the homonyms etc are typing mistakes, I assume. As mentioned above, the older people get, the more likely they are to make those types of mistakes when trying to communicate quickly. I know I do it all the time.

However the "it's thing" is, in my opinion, a true error. I have no basis for that opinion, of course.

The serial comma is preferred in the US and the opposite in the UK, I think. In formal writing here (US) it's required (at least by the Chicago Manual of Style).

My favorite is when a MeFite corrects someone else and then writes "ha ha your grammer was wrong."
posted by miss tea at 4:41 AM on June 13, 2009


you're mom got banned from metafilter because of vegetables
posted by little e at 4:41 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


have I seen a lot of hissy fits about this lately?

Its certainly a problem.
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 4:43 AM on June 13, 2009


In formal writing here (US) it's required (at least by the Chicago Manual of Style).

The American Psychological Association Publication manual supports this view (p78), and the Snooks' Style Manual (Australian reference) states that it is not necessary unless it reduces ambiguity (p102).

There you go, then. It's not just the extra 'u's in words like colour, or the use of 's' in words like organise that separate. We are divided by commas as well.
posted by b33j at 4:55 AM on June 13, 2009


His's, hers's, and its's. All possessive-possessive, all of them take apostrophes.

I don't know, I get more google results for "hiss" than "his's"

I've heard many other excuses for ignoring the shift key, but that's the lamest. You can hit 30-odd other keys without error, but you can't manage an extra one without making mistakes?

I guess you don't know that UbuRoivas lost both his little fingers in a blogging accident. Blogging about the yakuza.
posted by Mike1024 at 5:06 AM on June 13, 2009


If you spazz out about a minor error in spelling or grammar in one of my posts I will punch you in the throat.
posted by The Straightener at 5:10 AM on June 13, 2009


Help me out here. Who's you, now? I mean, who's "you"? Um, who're "you"?

You're the who're.
posted by gman at 5:24 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


...and Joe Beese is the favourite who're.
posted by gman at 5:28 AM on June 13, 2009


Ok, so is it "grocer's apostrophe"? Or is it "grocers' apostrophe"?
posted by Lemurrhea at 5:52 AM on June 13, 2009


Irregardless.

Doesn't even get a fucking squiggle in Firefox. Kill me.
posted by The Bellman at 6:12 AM on June 13, 2009


This entire thread is rediculous

That is my FAVORITE one. It's diculous all over again!
posted by dirtdirt at 6:19 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Their, there, they're. I make this mistake way too often, but it's a matter of bad typing more often than ignorance.
posted by cjorgensen at 6:34 AM on June 13, 2009


I used to think verbing nouns was annoying, but it's tiny taters compared to nouning verbs. People who ring me up at dinner time to explain how I can reduce my monthly telephone "spend" can fuck the fuck right off.

Has anybody here ever gone to their boss and asked for an increase in their monthly earn?
posted by flabdablet at 6:41 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


cjorgensen? There, there, there, never mind.

flabdablet? Anyone who rings me at dinner time for any reason can fuck the fucking fuck right fucking off. (Actually, I threaten to bill them at $100 per hour, in increments of no less than an hour, for wasting my time. When this works, they get very, very [a comma here or not?] angry and hang up.)
posted by b33j at 6:51 AM on June 13, 2009


Ok, so is it "grocer's apostrophe"? Or is it "grocers' apostrophe"?

Depends on whether there's one person or more at Hannaford writing "Carrot's 99c/lb".
posted by dunkadunc at 6:52 AM on June 13, 2009


Has anybody here ever gone to their boss and asked for an increase in their monthly earn?

yeah, but she said i'd need to embiggen my effortly product first.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:53 AM on June 13, 2009


I just type what I think is right and then I go back and look at it and everything looks kind of wrong anyway. In my current job I'm not allowed to backspace at all and it's really kinda freaking me out. So anyway, at least I never get loose and lose or peace and piece wrong so nyah sucks to you silly typo dimwits! (But I really do wish we had an editing function) and yes I use too many brackets, so what?
posted by h00py at 6:55 AM on June 13, 2009


*is too much of a lady to point out that hippybear has a redundant comma in His, hers, and its.*

Hey, the redundant comma was good enough for my parents, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker!
posted by Deathalicious at 6:56 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Hey, the comma was good enough for my redundant parents, F. Scott Fitzgerald and Dorothy Parker!

Correction was required there, I felt.
posted by UbuRoivas at 7:01 AM on June 13, 2009


I fix them when I see other people being spazmos about it. And then delete the spazzmo comments.
posted by jessamyn


But you leave the spazmo comments, right? They're not quite as bad.
posted by weapons-grade pandemonium at 7:05 AM on June 13, 2009


Might I suggest Origins of the specious by Patricia O'Conner? Well I might.
It can tame the anal repetitive would-be English mavens. Or infuriate.
And entertain most normal folks.
"It's a damn poor mind that can only think of one way to spell a word."
~ Andrew Jackson
posted by dawson at 7:06 AM on June 13, 2009


christ: what an asshole.
posted by sephira at 7:07 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Now come on, Christ was just being quoted. He can't be held responsible for the typos.
posted by h00py at 7:11 AM on June 13, 2009


Has anybody here ever gone to their boss and asked for an increase in their monthly earn?

yeah, but she said i'd need to embiggen my effortly product first.


Seems reasonable, if they're going to action your request.
posted by Devils Rancher at 7:16 AM on June 13, 2009


The latest post on languagehat's blog is about word rage.

I don't mind seeing people getting all huffy about typos or perfectly acceptable usage, it just means that my list will be extra long come the revolution.
posted by Kattullus at 7:17 AM on June 13, 2009


should we be calling each other out?

Ah, I question I can answer! The answer is: No, for fuck's fucking sake. Anyone who calls someone else out for "grammar" "mistakes" is a hopeless asshat probably about two shakes of a lamb's tail from graduating to asshole status. Don't do it.

Also, I hate all of you, except for iamkimiam and hydropsyche. And that other person whose name I forget. Yeah, it was you, that's right. Thanks for jogging my memory.
posted by languagehat at 7:23 AM on June 13, 2009


On non-preview: His, Kattullus!

*adds Kattullus to the non-hate list*
posted by languagehat at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


AARGH that was supposed to be "Hi, Kattullus!" AARGH
posted by languagehat at 7:24 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


To be honest, I don't really think it's calloutworthy unless it's something ridiculous like "hey y dont u fags wont kool link? i Show metafiltr, y no?"
posted by dunkadunc at 7:30 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Ah, I question I can answer! The answer is: No, for fuck's fucking sake.

I answer I can question. Sorry.
posted by gman at 7:43 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm just commenting so that languagehat can point out that he doesn't hate me either.
posted by desuetude at 7:49 AM on June 13, 2009


My boss says (and types) supposively. I can't even figure out what two words he somehow combined to make supposively. Supparitely and agglocosively, probably.
posted by iconomy at 7:51 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast. Spoke wif Ergates thi ant who sed itz juss been wurk wurk wurk 4 u lately master Bascule, Y dont u ½ a holiday? & I agreed & that woz how we decided we otter go 2 c Mr Zoliparia in thi I-ball ov thi gargoyle Rosbrith.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 7:59 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


My husband wants me to jump in and point out that, to those mathematically-inclined types, .99¢/lb is just as annoying as the grocer's apostrophe.

When he sees a sign like that, he often wants to stop the car right there, offer the guy a penny and say, "Keep the change."
posted by misha at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2009 [6 favorites]


Ok, so is it "grocer's apostrophe"? Or is it "grocers' apostrophe"?

The correct term is "grocers apos'trophe."

I'm just commenting so that languagehat can point out that he doesn't hate me either.

ODERINT DUM METUANT.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:03 AM on June 13, 2009


Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast dragda combacross mehead.
posted by UbuRoivas at 8:04 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Grammar nazis can suck on my dangling participle.
posted by Joe Beese at 8:15 AM on June 13, 2009


Woak up. Got dresd. Had brekfast dragda combacross mehead.

your givin' in to heyho's threats? booooooooooooooooooooooo, man. fuckin' boo. your better than that.
posted by gman at 8:26 AM on June 13, 2009


We were at a friend's house.
She went off like a bomb at the "lesser" and "fewer" thing.

WHOA!
posted by Drasher at 8:36 AM on June 13, 2009


"I used to think verbing nouns was annoying, but it's tiny taters compared to nouning verbs...Has anybody here ever gone to their boss and asked for an increase in their monthly earn?"

I would ask my boss for a raise, but that's a nouned verb, and I can't bring myself to say the word.
posted by Bugbread at 8:41 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Supparitely and agglocosively, probably.

I see prolly on here a lot. I don't know if they think prolly is really a word, or if they're trying to save key strokes from probably. It is a conundrum. I prolly should go now.
posted by netbros at 8:42 AM on June 13, 2009


I'm naming my next pets Hi, Her and It.
posted by boo_radley at 8:49 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I was watching Fright Night the other night (and, seriously, is Chris Sarandon basically just the greatest or what?) and one of the characters was basically The Spazmo, and it occurred to me that that felt like a very 80's-specific stock character.

Not that there haven't been tweaky sidekicks and also-rans since (see: Matthew Lillard), but it feels like something that has gone by the wayside somewhat as a ready, uninflected negative cardboard stereotype—now if someone's hyper/manic/tweaky, it's something that gets at least explained or justified diagetically, but back then it was okay to just be like "oh that spazmo, he's implicitly just such a spazmo."

But I don't know how accurate this impression is.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:53 AM on June 13, 2009 [5 favorites]


gman: "...and Joe Beese is the favourite who're."

Collected my 5,000th favorite this week. Not that I was counting or anything.
posted by Joe Beese at 9:05 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I could care less. If I tried really hard.

Maybe I grew up in a sarcastic familly or a sacastic town but this is what I read into the phrase. I have always been fond of it.
posted by pointilist at 9:07 AM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


you're mom got banned from metafilter because of vegetables is what I'd like on a t-shirt.
posted by auntbunny at 9:26 AM on June 13, 2009


I see that everyday. Anyways, don't let it bother you.
posted by Zambrano at 9:33 AM on June 13, 2009


... it just means that my list will be extra long come the revolution.

Does my Hulk-like rage at "could/would/should of" put me on the list? I'll gladly face the firing squad; that shit's definitely not cromulent.
posted by CKmtl at 9:44 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has no one mentioned the noble semi-colon? I like semi-colons. I have no idea where they're actually supposed to be used; I just slip 'em in wherever I feel like it because it makes me look more intellectual than a silly comma.
posted by grapefruitmoon at 9:46 AM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


I've spent six productive years in graduate school studying the discipline of writing. I can write with an editor's precision. I do freelance work as a writer and editor. I teach writing. But, ya know, when I write MetaFilter comments, they have stylistic inconsistencies, even errors. If I had the inclination, I could go back through and revise, edit, and proofread my comments, but I'm usually commenting in the midst of doing a lot of other things that demand more of me. So I don't and I'm a little sad if that makes someone angry, but really if it does remind yourself that you're just an Internet stranger and this is a community that is very low stakes in both of our lives.
posted by mrmojoflying at 9:57 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Has no one mentioned the noble semi-colon?

A semi-colon isn't quite as shitty.
posted by gman at 10:14 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


et alia (gender neutral-- although in Latin the plural masculine is inclusive, English doesn't really work that way so when the abbreviation is ported over, it's best construed as gender neutral. Not that it makes a difference in any way, since like three people know what the abbreviation means.)

I disagree with this. The Latin neuter doesn't magically make something gender neutral--you're confusing grammatical gender and human gender. "Et alia" is inappropriate because we're generally not talking about concepts or objects, which is what most (all?) Latin neuter nouns are. Feel free to switch up "et alii" and "et aliae," but "et alia" is a piss-poor compromise.
posted by nasreddin at 10:22 AM on June 13, 2009


Some of us know the rule, and totally forget when we're typing. Just like how I always use two lls at the end of word like playfull, because I live in the 17th century. It's the internet, not a job application.

So we should all just let its slide.
posted by jb at 10:33 AM on June 13, 2009


This ones mine, but where's her's?

Its over their!
posted by Dr-Baa at 10:39 AM on June 13, 2009


I actually find myself saying "prolly" out loud from time to time, so I don't take it too badly when people type it- that's how words change, after all.
My dad said his mother once called up the TV station to complain when a character on a kid's show said "snuck" instead of "sneaked". Lighten up on strong verb conjugation, lady.
posted by dunkadunc at 11:11 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


should we be calling each other out?

Of course not. Could you imagine how irritating it would be in spoken conversation if someone was constantly correcting your grammar or pronunciation? Same thing here.
posted by Nelson at 11:12 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


This is the most polite thread I ever remember on grammar, punctuation and spelling abuse here at the Metafilter. I, too, cringe every time I see all the horrible misusage pointed out by others, above, but I figure I might as well just back away from the keyboard and let the internet have its way so as not to be tagged a grammar nazi. However, I'm thinking it at you abusers! Thinking at you! Hard! Thanks to all those who were brave enough to chime in............
posted by Lynsey at 11:34 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I actually find myself saying "prolly" out loud from time to time, so I don't take it too badly when people type it- that's how words change, after all.

Words don't change. Ignorant, irresponsible people change them, and other ignorant, irresponsible people go along with it.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 11:35 AM on June 13, 2009


Just coming back to say languagehat doesn't hate me. yay!
posted by hydropsyche at 11:43 AM on June 13, 2009


amyms: ""Could care less" as a faux pas of "couldn't care less" is the one that either makes me insane or makes me chuckle, depending on my mood. Whenever I see/hear someone say "I could care less" I mentally reply, "Oh really? You could care less but you decided to care at least a little bit."

How do you feel about "head over heels"?
posted by The corpse in the library at 11:55 AM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Words don't change. Ignorant, irresponsible people change them, and other ignorant, irresponsible people go along with it.

Please stop trolling this site. You're hurting Metafilter. Thanks.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 12:15 PM on June 13, 2009 [4 favorites]


Of COURSE words change. And not just as the whim of ignorant, irresponsible people, but dynamically through the ages are their meanings grow and change and...I should have done just what Blazecock Pileon did. Nevermind.
posted by misha at 12:25 PM on June 13, 2009


Wow, that was full of typos. Grammar police, have at me!
posted by misha at 12:26 PM on June 13, 2009


Words don't change. Ignorant, irresponsible people change them, and other ignorant, irresponsible people go along with it.

Faze does this much, much better than you and we don't need two. Run along now.
posted by Lentrohamsanin at 12:44 PM on June 13, 2009 [2 favorites]


Words do not exist apart from their usage by people. They don't morph by themselves.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 12:49 PM on June 13, 2009


Word change is the neutral drift in the mental gene pool. Mores change as populations with "better" mores succeed, hateful tendencies die out as previously-unknown mingling happens between hater and hatee. Words just go along for the ride, unassuming, uncomprehending, uncaring. And I suggest that last as to what your opinion should be on if word change is good or bad.

It just is.
posted by Lemurrhea at 12:57 PM on June 13, 2009


Words do not exist apart from their usage by people.

Sometimes educated responsible people change them, however.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:02 PM on June 13, 2009 [3 favorites]


Word change is the neutral drift in the mental gene pool.

I must confess that I have no idea what that means.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:03 PM on June 13, 2009


Sometimes educated responsible people change them, however.

Of course they do. Would that it were the rule and not the exception.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:04 PM on June 13, 2009


I hope you've never seen early copies of Shakespeare's plays, Crabby, because his spelling was shite.
posted by rtha at 1:17 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'm willing to cut Shakespeare a little slack. :-)
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:19 PM on June 13, 2009


Word change is the neutral drift in the mental gene pool.

I must confess that I have no idea what that means.


I learned about genetic drift as being called neutral drift.

But the proper answer to your confession is to confess that I've had a nice afternoon of reading politics textbooks and drinking beer and well the drinking beer is the point.
posted by Lemurrhea at 1:32 PM on June 13, 2009




How do you feel about "head over heels"?

I don't get too bent out of shape over it.
posted by amyms at 1:53 PM on June 13, 2009


According to The Ailments of Style, you've got a semi in your colon.
posted by Kirth Gerson at 2:18 PM on June 13, 2009


How do you feel about "head over heels"?

The Go-Gos song is only slightly better than the Tears For Fears song. I'm not a huge fan of either. I wish Fun Boy Three had covered at least one of them.
posted by heyho at 2:28 PM on June 13, 2009


MetaFilter:"the rest of us are too lazy to bother".
posted by Cranberry at 2:46 PM on June 13, 2009


Along the lines the ambiguous "couldn't care less", as a kid I always got a kick out the phrase "That's the last thing I needed".

Hooray! My list is complete! That's the the last thing I needed!
posted by team lowkey at 2:47 PM on June 13, 2009


educated responsible people

You mean cubics?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 3:05 PM on June 13, 2009


Along the lines the ambiguous "couldn't care less", as a kid I always got a kick out the phrase "That's the last thing I needed".

When I was a kid, when she was exasperated my mom would say "I'm not going to tell you again!" and I always thought "Great! I'm sick of hearing it!"
posted by Devils Rancher at 3:22 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


educated responsible people

Thought you meant me there for a second... whew.
posted by educatedslacker at 3:26 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


Devils Rancher: "When I was a kid, when she was exasperated my mom would say "I'm not going to tell you again!" and I always thought "Great! I'm sick of hearing it!""

Heh. Yeah, I was specifically remembering it from my mom, too. "The last thing I need right now is attitude from you".

Oh, really? Well, if that's all you need, far be it from me to deny you...
posted by team lowkey at 3:59 PM on June 13, 2009




How do you feel about "head over heels"?

It was alright, I guess, but I think I prefer Heaven or Las Vegas.
posted by UbuRoivas at 4:18 PM on June 13, 2009


Gifting. Argh.
posted by fish tick at 4:19 PM on June 13, 2009


amyms: "*is too much of a lady to point out that hippybear has a redundant comma in His, hers, and its.*"

For the record, it's not an extra comma. It's an Oxford comma.
posted by DarlingBri at 4:40 PM on June 13, 2009


Yeah, DarlingBri, several people schooled me upthread. I am hereby properly chastened, and relieved (because I like to use a comma before the "and" in lists, and I always thought it was wrong).
posted by amyms at 4:55 PM on June 13, 2009


Oy. Speaking of pet peeves...
posted by heyho at 5:03 PM on June 13, 2009


OK sorry; I didn't read the whole thread. Welcome to the Serial Comma Fan Club!
posted by DarlingBri at 5:04 PM on June 13, 2009


Mores change as populations with "better" mores succeed, hateful tendencies die out as previously-unknown mingling happens between hater and hatee.

Ladie's, and Gentlemen, plea'se 'say, "Hello," to my newe'st edition to Engli'sh orthography: "apo'strophe before 'S, ALWAY'S." You may, hate it now, but I feel confident, that you will grow to luv my special addition, the more you mingle with it's. (And plea'se 'stay tuned for my fa'scinating in'sight's into comma u'seage!)
posted by olaguera at 5:52 PM on June 13, 2009


you know what I think everyones comments should faithfully reproduce their actual unedited ungrammatical thoughts as accurately as possible. there are few commas or apostrophes in my mind the primary punctuation in here is exclamation points!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! ALSO MY THOUGHTS ARE MOSTLY ALL CAPS AND HAVE A LOT OF CURSE WORDS AND ARE AT LEAST 53% ABOUT SEX ON AVERAGE damn i like this song kiiiiissss me please kiiissss me!!!!!!!!! (IN MY THOUGHTS THE LYRICS ARE ITALICIZED!!!!) fuck i ate all the apples still have bananas but id really like some fuckin apples wish I didnt have to go to work tonight THE WORLD AND LIFE SMELL REALLY GOOD TODAY--TOO GOOD FOR GOING TO WORK i wonder if i called in sick tonight i could manage to get laid. if i hurry can go to STORE OF GROCERY get some apples STORE OF GROCERY'S !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! let me sleep tonight on your couch

Lawn chair.
posted by little e at 5:55 PM on June 13, 2009


Whoop's, it look's like Ive mi's'spelled the word, "'special" above. Well, I try to be thourough, but 'sometime's the ol brain doe'snt work like it u'sed to.
posted by olaguera at 5:59 PM on June 13, 2009


Don't worry about it. It looks like little e has bigger issues.
posted by gman at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2009


On preiveiw, Metafilter: Lawn chair. I welcome our new overlord's.
posted by olaguera at 6:01 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


"I would like to know why retard is bad but spazzmo is acceptable."

'Cuz we can't say cunt.
posted by klangklangston at 6:04 PM on June 13, 2009


probably needs a bigger E.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:04 PM on June 13, 2009


Lawn chairs are everywhere, everywhere, my mind describes them to me.
posted by klangklangston at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2009


'Cuz we can't say cunt.

that'd be because your american. youse cunts aren't entitled to the word.
posted by UbuRoivas at 6:06 PM on June 13, 2009


I fucking TEACH grammar, and I will not correct people's grammar. It's painful, and if you do it in real life, you won't have any friendzorz.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 6:12 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


TEACH grammar is one lucky woman.
posted by gman at 6:15 PM on June 13, 2009


I took the CBEST (the "are you just barely bright enough to teach in California public schools?" test) this morning, and one of the things giving me agita was when I wrote my essay, I didn't know whether they used the serial comma. I spent too much of my life learning AP style, which just reinforces how arbitrary stylebooks are. (Look, Firefox, I have the AP Stylebook right here, it's one fucking word, leeme alone!)
posted by klangklangston at 6:26 PM on June 13, 2009


I fucking TEACH grammar, and I will not correct people's grammar.

Please get fired.
posted by Sys Rq at 7:07 PM on June 13, 2009


Collected my 5,000th favorite this week.

Maybe by 10,000 you'll learn what an appropriate MeTa post is.

Seriously, dude, you're probably the only person who's posted a dozen MeTa threads in the last six months. Most folks get by with, like zero or one or two a year. Wake up, you're doing it wrong.
posted by mediareport at 7:46 PM on June 13, 2009


"For all intensive purposes" is the one that makes me want to 'splode.

The problem is, it makes about as much sense as "for all intents and purposes," and I feel like an asshat for correcting it.
posted by coppermoss at 7:51 PM on June 13, 2009


The phrase "for all intents and purposes" makes perfect sense when it is used properly.

I do have a real beef with the "fewer" vs. "less" difference, but I long ago gave up that fight when express lanes started opening in grocery stores.

(Except at Albertsons. They know that "fewer" is a counting word, and "less" is a comparative word. That rocks, and makes me not mock them for being Mormon-owned.)
posted by hippybear at 8:00 PM on June 13, 2009


Maybe by 10,000 you'll learn what an appropriate MeTa post is.

I know! I know!
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 8:01 PM on June 13, 2009


correction: "Except at Albertsons. They know that "fewer" is a counting word, and "less" is, for all intents and purposes, a comparative word."

Which begs the question, Albertson's, or Albertsons?
posted by hippybear at 8:02 PM on June 13, 2009


"So yeah, I guess I could get uptight about it all, but its so much more fun not to."

You've got that backward.

Also, the attitude which you betray the sense that you "just don't feel the need to care." That's such a great thing to be proud of. Congratulations!
posted by oddman at 8:19 PM on June 13, 2009


Spazzmo: the bizarro-world version of Louis Armstrong.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 8:25 PM on June 13, 2009 [1 favorite]


hippybearPoster: "Which begs the question, Albertson's, or Albertsons?"

I hope you're joking.
posted by team lowkey at 8:27 PM on June 13, 2009


I actually find myself saying "prolly" out loud from time to time, so I don't take it too badly when people type it- that's how words change, after all.
My dad said his mother once called up the TV station to complain when a character on a kid's show said "snuck" instead of "sneaked". Lighten up on strong verb conjugation, lady.


We say "snook" at my house.

I called someone out recently for typing Nazi's instead of Nazis. I felt justified because it was in the gray, and I didn't agree with his whole comment. Plus, Nazis. But I felt bad later because the commenter might have been drunk or upset at something else and I'm really bad about commenting drunk on MeFi, so I should have some empathy.

Also, I'm reading two forums at the same time at the moment and I just reread a comment I made on the other one and found a grammar mistake - I left the apostrophe out of a possessive - "Nick Drakes history" - and I would have been pissed off if someone called me out on it.
posted by zinfandel at 8:55 PM on June 13, 2009


Lawn chair.

TOASTER OVEN'S!

(i panicked)
posted by Devils Rancher at 9:00 PM on June 13, 2009


I guess I could have just looked it up.

It's Albertsons. Not sure how many of them there are, but it's not possessive. Maybe I'm wrong in assuming it's plural...
posted by hippybear at 10:20 PM on June 13, 2009


Sorry, I was referring to "Which begs the question". My personal peeve.
posted by team lowkey at 12:50 AM on June 14, 2009


I know a guy who said his parents were divorced because: "my father had a love affair with the semi-colon."
posted by marble at 1:36 AM on June 14, 2009


The one I notice a lot is "suffice to say."

And alot.
posted by Devils Slide at 6:41 AM on June 14, 2009


I felt justified because it was in the gray, and I didn't agree with his whole comment.

Are you saying there were parts of the comment that you did agree with, or that you disagreed with all of it?
posted by Kirth Gerson at 6:43 AM on June 14, 2009


team lowkey: However, I DID use the phrase correctly, I believe...

If not, here if your chance to edumacate me.
posted by hippybear at 7:54 AM on June 14, 2009


grrrr. here IS your chance...

it's the fingers, I tell ya. they're out to get me.
posted by hippybear at 7:57 AM on June 14, 2009


However, I DID use the phrase correctly, I believe...

Actually, you did; that is the normal usage in contemporary English. However, insufferable pedants like to pretend it is "correctly" used only as the equivalent of the obscure logical term petitio principii, something (unlike the usual use) entirely unnecessary in normal people's lives and conversations. Ordinarily, I'd say "don't worry, just ignore the haters," but since you started this whole peevefest and are clearly one of the haters, I'll let you enjoy your own self-flagellation when team lowkey is done "edumacating" you. (N.b.: Scare quotes not for Simpsons usage but for the very idea that idiotic faux-corrections involve any sort of education.)
posted by languagehat at 8:06 AM on June 14, 2009


Okay, wait. "clearly one of the haters"... Reread my OP... I don't think anything I've written in this or any thread here on MeFi has contained language-correction hate.

As far as "peevefests" go, this has been pretty civilized. Are we reading the same thread? And why are you attacking me, anyway? Are you just trying to get a rise out of me in the hopes that I will embarrass myself? Or should you have perhaps written and then deleted the entire second half of your post as meaningless ad hominem and allowed the informative part of your post to remain?

Because, honestly, I WOULD rather be corrected here and now if I'm using a phrase such as "begs the question" incorrectly. This thread is the correct place for such things, and I did ASK to be corrected. Not by you, I note, but I'm glad for the useful part of your input.
posted by hippybear at 8:30 AM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


As far as "peevefests" go, this has been pretty civilized. Are we reading the same thread?

I get a lot less grumpy about this stuff than lhat does (which fits nicely into the model I'm about to propose below, quod erat...), but one thing to consider is that just how peevy and festy a thread of gripes and incorrections and pedantry seems may depend a lot on how many times in how many places a person has already read pretty much exactly that thread.

Because it's often pretty much exactly the same thread, every time, with different people playing specific parts as far as the (mostly good-natured, mostly well-intended, mostly unselfconscious) reel of complaints and peeves plays out.

One of the things I saw a lot of when I was researching irregardless last month (oh hey look!) was the consistency with with askme threads asking about language gripes, and metatalk threads airing specific peeves, would descend into a general collaborative listing of Things People Can't Stand.

So, yes, this has been pretty civilized, and I'm not about to jump down your throat personally for having gone here. But under the lapping oscillations of thread after thread of this sort of thing, here and everywhere else, a kind of wearying residue can accrue. languagehat is an example of someone who, avocationally, has been exposed to an awful lot of that particular tide, and so is less tolerant at this point of the Cylon-esque This Has All Happened Before sheen these things have.

It's sort of like a new metatalk on some threadworn asked-and-answered subject, from someone who hasn't been exposed to the the discussion in the past on account of being new or at least new to metatalk (or just plain inattentive, I guess). It's not that person's fault in some horrible, damning way that they weren't aware of how much the subject had been gone over, and so it may seem like folks are coming down awfully hard on 'em just for treading old ground. But the people who have been around and have trod that ground are to a degree justifiably grumpy with the new voice for not doing some homework first, too.

Language peeving doesn't have that sort of limited social context, though, so instead of six threads about e.g. a modification to favoriting or a couple dozen about What The Dot Means, there are hundreds of threads and watercooler conversations in dozens of venues about What Kind Of Idiot Does [Grammatical Thing I Disfavor While Possibly Not Really Having Any Linguistic Understanding Of], so the scale of potential anti-peeve annoyance dwarfs that of any local metatalk thing.
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:12 AM on June 14, 2009


I guess the MeFi equivalent of DRIVE CAREFUL! would be POST CAREFUL!

Post careful, y'all!
posted by grapefruitmoon at 10:19 AM on June 14, 2009


I used to type medical transcription. One day a coworker said to me "I don't know what to do! Dr. M. says I should type his notes exactly as he dictated them, but some of his sentences aren't grammarically correct!"

I told her to just do what he says.
posted by dogmom at 10:45 AM on June 14, 2009


It just goes to show, you can't be too careful.
posted by educatedslacker at 12:34 PM on June 14, 2009


Okay, wait. "clearly one of the haters"... Reread my OP... I don't think anything I've written in this or any thread here on MeFi has contained language-correction hate.

Yeah, you're right, sorry about that—I should have gone back and reread the post in the first place. But you have to understand these threads cause me agita verging on derangement. The repetitive outbursts of ill-informed opinions about language and usage in this place are intensely irritating. Imagine that hardly anyone knew even the most basic facts of physical science and you kept going into threads where people were discussing how long it takes for the sun to go around the earth and whether if you shoot an arrow really fast it will hit the sun and will that anger the sun god and hey, did we ever decide exactly how many angels can dance on the head of a pin?... well, it's pretty much like that. And it's particularly aggravating because most MeFites seem to consider themselves well educated, sensible, and scientific, and yet they spout the most egregious nonsense about language and show little or no interest in informing themselves.

But I shouldn't have taken it out on you, and I apologize.

Because, honestly, I WOULD rather be corrected here and now if I'm using a phrase such as "begs the question" incorrectly.

But I simply don't understand this self-abasing desire for "correction." (Not aimed at you in particular, it's well-nigh universal.) You're a native English speaker; of course you're using it correctly. Why would you eagerly take "correction" from someone who knows no more than you about the subject but has absorbed some idiotic "rules" they learned from someone just as ill informed? Oh, the humanity!
posted by languagehat at 12:40 PM on June 14, 2009


Yeah, I wasn't trying to bring the smack down in any way. I thought you might be using the phrase ironically, since this is a thread about language peeves, and you used a fairly well-known one. I did meekishly link the period at the end of my sentence to the wikipedia page.

I'm far from a pedant, and certainly hope I'm not insufferable. I love when people twist and play with language, and abuse the "rules". Like I said, just a personal peeve.

"Begging the question" refers to logical fallacy in which you assume the thing you are trying to prove in the premise. For example, there was recently a thread in which someone basically proposed the argument "People should eat meat because we are omnivores". That's begging the question. Saying people eat meat because people eat meat.

It's a useful phrase to have when arguing something, just as "ad hominem" or "strawman" fallacies are useful. You don't have to attempt to disprove a point when it is logically false. But the phrase has gained popular usage as "The question that is begging to be asked", due to the unfortunate translation of "beg" from the Latin. It's understandable that people have run with that usage, but it's unfortunate because we don't have another phrase to refer to the fallacy.
posted by team lowkey at 12:43 PM on June 14, 2009


I will happily jump into any one of these recurring language threads to profess my love for linguistic variations, or anything linguistical for that matter. One person's peeve is another's pleasure, and all that jazz, garbage, and mixed metaphor.
posted by iamkimiam at 12:50 PM on June 14, 2009


These discussions aren't about scientific issues of linguistics. They're about the question of how we, as users of the English language, should use it. It's primarily a question of values, and secondarily of facts. What I value in language usage is precision, clarity, and concision of expression, and so I tend to think that we should use language in such a manner as to preserve it as an instrument capable of supporting those properties of expression. Others may disagree. I don't see how languagehat's scientific expertise confers the authority to dictate what we should value about language usage.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 1:16 PM on June 14, 2009


"You're a native English speaker; of course you're using it correctly."
-languagehat

With great respect for languagehat, this goes too far. Native speakers are capable of making mistakes about their own language. What "really" counts as English, or a regional variation of English, is determined not by any one speaker but by some community that speaker's a part of. So I can't just decide to haul off and start using "sneeze" to mean "eat". I would just be wrong. Even if you could decode my meaning, I would be using the word wrong. Over time, if enough people went along with me, I would become right.

So, to languagehat's point that there are no eternal fixed Rules of English inscribed in stone somewhere: yes. But the correct position is not the opposite extreme, it's a middle ground, where the community of actual speakers determine by their actual usage what's correct for their language.

On that understanding, the phrase "begs the question" is in transition right now (and has been for a while).

Most people use it the "incorrect" (more general) way, to mean "raises a further point that we must look at". In that sense, the "incorrect" way has become the "correct" (more widely used) way!

But on the other hand, a fairly large group of native speakers recognizes the "correct" (specifically logical) way, to mean "assumes what you're trying to prove" aka circular reasoning. More explanation of this below. The point is that the phrase currently has two quite different meanings, and there are various social values attached to using one or the other meaning. For example, people who have gone through a bunch of formal education may think you're dumb if you use the more general meaning. They're wrong for the reasons languagehat describes BUT it is useful to know the more specific meaning if you want to have these people think well of you -- for example if you want to publish an academic paper in logic, you need to use the phrase in the more specific meaning, or you'll be a laughingstock. Just like it's useful to know that "ain't" marks you as being from a certain social group, etc.

The point is that even if we accept that the meanings of phrases (and words and which grammatical conventions are "good English" etc) are just social facts that can change over time, even still it's useful to understand what those social conventions. It's useful to understand which phrases mark you as being lower-class or upper-class, which mark you as speaking formally vs speaking intimately, etc. Yes, facts about English usage aren't written in stone by experts, but even so, there is -- at a given time, in a given group -- useful social knowledge that can be gained by discussion of them. Just being a native speaker doesn't mean you already know all the social nuances etc and perceptions attached to a given usage.
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:21 PM on June 14, 2009


What I value in language usage is precision, clarity, and concision of expression, and so I tend to think that we should use language in such a manner as to preserve it as an instrument capable of supporting those properties of expression.

What evidence do you have that your current linguistic prejudices have anything to do with "precision, clarity, and concision"? This is a handwave that's trotted out so often in these discussions that one could almost believe it's grounded in a shred of real experience. It's not, of course. There's nothing inherently imprecise, unclear, or long-winded about the grocer's apostrophe, "it's," "beg the question," or "for all intensive purposes."

Then again, arguing with people who hold this opinion is pretty much a lost cause.
posted by nasreddin at 1:25 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


More detail on the logical meaning of "begs the question":

Team lowkey's example above (should we eat meat? we do eat meat! therefore we should eat meat) is on the right track but doesn't perfectly fit this, because the argument doesn't assume that we *should* eat meat -- it just assumes that *if we do eat meat then we should eat meat*, which is a slightly different proposition. To be really an example of circular reasoning, the argument would go: we should eat meat, therefore we should eat meat.

A classical example is:
The Bible tells us God exists
God wrote the Bible, so everything it says must be true
Therefore God exists.

That second premise begs the question, because it assumes (tacitly) that God exists. It assumes the very thing the argument is trying to prove. [Note this isn't a slam on religion; there can be arguments for God's existence that are not circular.]

If you're properly using the logical meaning of "begs the question", you don't specify the question that is being begged -- because your listener knows what the argument is trying to prove (in my example, "God exists"), so she already knows what claim is being illicitly assumed.

On the more general meaning of "begs the question", you do need to specify the question you have in mind. For example, "The mayor says we should adopt the best plan. This begs the question, 'Is his plan really the best one?'"
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:31 PM on June 14, 2009


I wrote: Because, honestly, I WOULD rather be corrected here and now if I'm using a phrase such as "begs the question" incorrectly.

languagehat responded: But I simply don't understand this self-abasing desire for "correction." (Not aimed at you in particular, it's well-nigh universal.) You're a native English speaker; of course you're using it correctly. Why would you eagerly take "correction" from someone who knows no more than you about the subject but has absorbed some idiotic "rules" they learned from someone just as ill informed?

Well, for starters, I'm a thinking, curious person and seek to constantly refine my own knowledge. This can only serve to allow me to express myself more clearly, or in some (many?) cases will keep me from expressing untruths in the guise of fact.

I am not certain it is fair to say that native English speakers know how to use their own language according to "the rules". I know that I had an excellent spiral curriculum in school which gave me skills of expression and language understanding which 90% of the rest of my graduating class did not receive. These differences are immediately apparent in written or verbal conversation with these people and I'm certain this is not an isolated case to my high school. In fact, anyone who regularly deals within the realm of "business" can attest to the fact that, sadly, most are unable to create a memo or paper without basic errors, and they are blind to the fact that they are communicating poorly.

I'm also not certain that learning "rules" is, in this instance, different from understanding the basis for those rules. "I before E" and all that certainly helps keep my spelling from annoying the MS Word paperclip, but if I had to lay out a grounding as to the Latin or Greek roots involved and why this rule was established, I'd be at a complete loss. As it stands, I'm pretty good with most basic spelling and grammar, and just because I may have learned those rules from an "ill-informed" educator in the past, or because someone equally "ill-informed" here on MeFi shared a tidbit about how English works, the practical outcome is identical -- my knowledge is increased, and my communications become more clear.

I think the point is, I ASKED. The random comment on the Blue which takes another poster to task for poor grammar or spelling or typos isn't contributing to the conversation. Instead, it derails the flow for the sake of one-upmanship. That was what I had been witnessing repeatedly in the past week, I felt it was being harmful, and thus I started this thread.
posted by hippybear at 1:33 PM on June 14, 2009


more on begging the question
posted by LobsterMitten at 1:35 PM on June 14, 2009


Well, for starters, I'm a thinking, curious person and seek to constantly refine my own knowledge. This can only serve to allow me to express myself more clearly, or in some (many?) cases will keep me from expressing untruths in the guise of fact.

But see, if you learn how to use "beg the question" correctly, you're actually becoming less clear. The fact that so many people take it to mean "raise the question" means that the correct phrase is manifestly unclear. (Which is unsurprising given its origin.)
posted by nasreddin at 1:36 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


I think I've figured out why this particular phrase bothers me. It's not from any need to tell someone "ur doing it wrong". It's more that I'm now doing it wrong. Someone saying "That begs the question, ...", is clearly communicating what they intend to communicate, and that can't be called anything other than a correct usage. But if I now say to someone "That begs the question", period, they'll think "What question?". It's like if people started using "strawman" to mean stupid, like that brainless scarecrow in the Wizard of Oz. Now if I say "That's a strawman argument", they'll be all "Hey, don't call me stupid!"

A phrase that I find useful as shorthand for a more complex idea has been subverted, and now I'm now longer able to communicate that idea without greater effort. Sucks.
posted by team lowkey at 1:45 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


Oh man. There's a been quite few posts since I started writing that. Better catch up...
posted by team lowkey at 1:46 PM on June 14, 2009


nasreddin, team lowkey: I think the takeaway lesson of this, for me, is to NEVER USE THAT PHRASE AGAIN. Obviously my usage was incorrect, despite common usage, and since it is poisoned beyond relief with false meaning, I will simply strike it from my lexicon.
posted by hippybear at 1:51 PM on June 14, 2009


"But see, if you learn how to use "beg the question" correctly, you're actually becoming less clear. "
-nasreddin

Nah. Just know your audience. Hippybear, don't worry about this; it is like dozens of other similar cases that I'm sure you normally navigate with ease. You know when to use slang and when not to, etc.
posted by LobsterMitten at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2009


A phrase that I find useful as shorthand for a more complex idea has been subverted, and now I'm now longer able to communicate that idea without greater effort. Sucks.

Look, the percentage of English speakers who know what "beg the question" means in the logical sense has probably never reached the double-digits. Those people still know what it means today. Everyone else would be better served with a clear explanation.

nasreddin, team lowkey: I think the takeaway lesson of this, for me, is to NEVER USE THAT PHRASE AGAIN. Obviously my usage was incorrect, despite common usage, and since it is poisoned beyond relief with false meaning, I will simply strike it from my lexicon.

Yep, that's what I do.
posted by nasreddin at 2:03 PM on June 14, 2009


nasreddin: "Look, the percentage of English speakers who know what "beg the question" means in the logical sense has probably never reached the double-digits. Those people still know what it means today. Everyone else would be better served with a clear explanation."

I guess my point was that if it weren't for the alternate meaning, people would at least realize I was using a specific term that they weren't aware of, and they could look it up or ask what it meant if needed. Now it's like I'm using it incorrectly.
posted by team lowkey at 2:09 PM on June 14, 2009


I guess my point was that if it weren't for the alternate meaning, people would at least realize I was using a specific term that they weren't aware of, and they could look it up or ask what it meant if needed. Now it's like I'm using it incorrectly.

Well, there's always "petitio principii."
posted by nasreddin at 2:14 PM on June 14, 2009


What evidence do you have that your current linguistic prejudices have anything to do with "precision, clarity, and concision"?

I'm not sure I'm willing to defend something characterized as "my current linguistic prejudices". I'd say, rather, that when people flout long-established standards and conventions of usage, the meaning of what they write is not immediately as clear as it would have been had they followed the conventions.

There's nothing inherently imprecise, unclear, or long-winded about the grocer's apostrophe, "it's," "beg the question," or "for all intensive purposes."

Let me use one of my own favorite examples, the confusion between "infer" and "imply". Let's say there's a hypothetical MeFite whose user name is British Petroleum. And let's imagine that, in response to some comment of mine, he replies "Are you inferring that I'm an idiot?". Now what he (almost certainly) means here is "Are you implying that I'm an idiot?". And let's imagine that, in fact, I was implying no such thing. But I could be inferring that he's an idiot (let's say, because he might be following me around and calling me a troll whenever I make a comment). And, although I might think he's an idiot, the conventions of polite MetaFilter discussion require me to assume that he knows how to use the language properly. So I might reply "Yes, as a matter of fact, I was inferring that, how did you know?". So you see, because of his error in usage we have miscommunicated.

Then again, arguing with people who hold this opinion is pretty much a lost cause.

Well, thanks for your vote of confidence on my ability to be persuaded by rational argument. But I have to admit that I think you're unlikely to change my views on this.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:18 PM on June 14, 2009


Not necessarily. You're using it in a context, and your interlocuter's response will generally confirm that what you meant was understood as such. If not, their response may prompt you to make a repair, to clarify meaning. This is all also regardless of whether or not the interlocuter agrees with the sentiment.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:19 PM on June 14, 2009


Let's say there's a hypothetical MeFite whose user name is British Petroleum...(let's say, because he might be following me around and calling me a troll whenever I make a comment).

Not hypothetically, seriously, cut this shit out.
posted by cortex (staff) at 2:23 PM on June 14, 2009


So you see, because of his error in usage we have miscommunicated.

OK, now consider this exchange:

"Excuse me, would you please call me a cab?"
"Sir, you are a cab."

The joke relies on the confusion between two perfectly legitimate uses of "call." There are ten million jokes that rely on similar instances of miscommunication. The point is that "correct" usage neither guarantees nor particularly promotes clarity, and no one seems to mind. And this would be a vaguely decent argument if grammar-gripers only complained about things like "infer/imply." But they don't. They complain about "begging the question" and "it's" and "irregardless," none of which cause any extra confusion in any real-world situation.

I'd say, rather, that when people flout long-established standards and conventions of usage, the meaning of what they write is not immediately as clear as it would have been had they followed the conventions.


The use of "it's" for "its" is centuries old. Other "mistakes" have a similarly long history. They have become as much "standards and conventions" as their "correct" counterparts. Your single example is not nearly enough evidence to raise your claims to the status of anything beyond prejudices.

Well, thanks for your vote of confidence on my ability to be persuaded by rational argument. But I have to admit that I think you're unlikely to change my views on this.


quod erat demonstrandum
posted by nasreddin at 2:32 PM on June 14, 2009


nasreddin: "Well, there's always "petitio principii.""

Are you suggesting that I change my behavior instead of insisting that everyone else change theirs? I'm at a loss.
posted by team lowkey at 2:37 PM on June 14, 2009


And I would add that it is this wonderful variability and flexibility of meaning that allows language to change at all. And thank God. We need language to grow, change, shift, expand so that we can play with words and their meanings in order to express our own ever changing, shifting, and expanding emotions, ideas, actions and states.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:39 PM on June 14, 2009


Are you suggesting that I change my behavior instead of insisting that everyone else change theirs? I'm at a loss.

I wouldn't dream of it. That's why I ſtill capitalize all my Nouns, as my Great-Aunt Sally taught me back in 1742. Thoſe were the Days--why ſhould a Man of Learning follow the faſhionable uſage of the ſwinish Multitude?
posted by nasreddin at 2:42 PM on June 14, 2009 [1 favorite]


ſorry, I miſspelled ſwiniſh
posted by nasreddin at 2:43 PM on June 14, 2009 [2 favorites]


Or think about it this way...how bad would things suck if we were only allowed a fixed number of memes with fixed meanings; let's say five of them? We could choose to use them or not, but we can't allow them to evolve. And if I try to use them inappropriately, you must correct and remind me that I am doing a bad, wrong thing; for these have their uses and I am willfully undermining that perfectly clear and understandable objective.

That would really suck.
posted by iamkimiam at 2:45 PM on June 14, 2009


The point is that "correct" usage neither guarantees nor particularly promotes clarity, and no one seems to mind.

Correct usage doesn't guarantee clarity. I think it promotes clarity, but I'm not prepared to make a persuasive argument at this time, so you may be right. Incorrect usage, however, often degrades clarity, and only rarely promotes it.

The use of "it's" for "its" is centuries old. Other "mistakes" have a similarly long history. They have become as much "standards and conventions" as their "correct" counterparts.

I don't see how that is relevant. There is now, and has been for some time, a standard convention about the usage of "its" vs. "it's". What people did before there was a convention has no bearing. The non-conventional usage hasn't become a convention also, unless "convention" has no meaning. I really don't understand what you're trying to say here. Do you not like the convention? Do you want to get it changed? It's just a convention; the value is in having a convention, not so much in what the convention is.

Your single example is not nearly enough evidence to raise your claims to the status of anything beyond prejudices.

Perhaps not. It's not my job to give a rigorous proof here. My main concern is to show that prescriptivist concerns should not be dismissed with a handwave or a sneer. Anyone who hasn't already formed an immutable opinion can investigate the prescriptivist literature on their own, and I encourage them to do so.

quod erat demonstrandum

I suppose I asked for that.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 3:01 PM on June 14, 2009


The reason that I occasionally get het up is because of the very real realization that if I don't practice prescriptivism, my stylebook memory fades. So yes, it does irk me to see "entitled" used instead of "titled," no matter what every goddamn dictionary says, because if I don't remember that it irks me, I won't necessarily catch it.

(This is subtly different than my feeling on "irregardless", which I think just feels dumb.)

But, I don't copy edit my comments here except when I'm already feeling pissy, so I don't expect other people to copy edit theirs either.
posted by klangklangston at 3:04 PM on June 14, 2009


Incorrect usage, however, often degrades clarity, and only rarely promotes it.

Even if this is true, which I'm not sure about, language is only incidentally about clarity.

It's just a convention; the value is in having a convention, not so much in what the convention is.

This doesn't even begin to make sense to me. Is the alternative some kind of anarchic nightmare scenario? That wouldn't happen. People have arbitrary standards for discourse which they use in certain contexts and which exist independently of grammatical conventions. In the context of published, non-literary prose, these standards largely overlap with those of Strunk and White. In the context of drug dealing, slam poetry, or telegrams, they do not. What's so hard about that?

My main concern is to show that prescriptivist concerns should not be dismissed with a handwave or a sneer.

How have you done that? It looks crystal-clear to you, because you're already convinced. But I see nothing here that justifies taking prescriptivist arguments seriously. Everything goes back to rest on that single "infer/imply" example--the rest is all handwaving and generalities.
posted by nasreddin at 3:24 PM on June 14, 2009


The repetitive outbursts of ill-informed opinions about language and usage in this place are intensely irritating.

Honestly, languagehat, I don't see that much of a difference between 1) opinions about language and usage and 2) opinions about other things here. "Repetitive outbursts of ill-informed opinions" happen on all sorts of subjects; I think you're just noticing them more because it's your field. And in just about every usage discussion I can recall in recent months, there's almost always been someone - not you - who fairly quickly chimes in with what you'd probably call the correct opinion.
posted by mediareport at 3:24 PM on June 14, 2009


Even if this is true, which I'm not sure about, language is only incidentally about clarity.

My view is that non-literary writing is (ideally, at least) about clarity. A diplomat (for example) might disagree. But even a diplomat might agree that the language should at least allow clarity of expression, and not make it too difficult to achieve.

This doesn't even begin to make sense to me.

I'm mainly concerned here about published non-literary prose. (I include what we're doing here as "publishing".) I don't want to lock up all the poets. :-) But for most non-literary writing, I think conventions, even if they're arbitrary, are a good thing. The alternative is not some kind of anarchic nightmare scenario, but more a sort of muddled, inefficient, fuzzy scenario. If you will.

It looks crystal-clear to you, because you're already convinced.

I might say the same to you.

But I see nothing here that justifies taking prescriptivist arguments seriously.

That's because I've only sketched an argument. I lack the resources currently to do more. But I'm not writing primarily for you. I'm writing for the hypothetical lurker who hasn't made up his or her mind but, had I said nothing, might imagine that there's no serious disagreement on the issue.

Everything goes back to rest on that single "infer/imply" example--the rest is all handwaving and generalities.

That really is a good example, isn't it? It must be, since you don't seem concerned to refute it. I'll have to keep that in mind. Unfortunately (for me, in this particular context) my interest in this issue hasn't been sufficiently obsessive for me to collect examples and arguments. In my copious spare time, maybe I'll go look for other good examples.
posted by Crabby Appleton at 4:13 PM on June 14, 2009


My view is that non-literary writing is (ideally, at least) about clarity

I think maybe it makes sense to say that it's a matter of how hight the stakes are. Clarity in writing (and in spoken communication) is pretty much assumed to be an implied goal, but the difference in how valued clarity is in e.g. drafting a legal document vs. leisure-time bullshitting on a website is pretty stark in practice—the potential cost of an unresolved ambiguity in the former context is much higher than that in the latter. And, importantly, the latter case is much more broadly representative of typical written communication.

There's a lot of value in being familiar with convention and ambiguous usage and which thinks typically catch pedants short, if you like to avoid drawing negative attention to your writing, and I don't think pretty much anyone with an active descriptivist bent would really argue otherwise. The general assertion is not that knowledge of this stuff can't be useful to a wary communicator, but that it's useful as a sort of social insurance, street smarts if you will, for navigating a world where people will react badly to stuff that is not necessarily in any way problematic in a purely linguistic sense.

Taking care to avoid riling up pedants is not the same thing as granting that the pedantry itself is meritorious. Likewise, there's not reason that being aware of all that swampy stuff requires anyone to actually drink the koolaid and start believing in the fundamental correctness of mere lay stricture. And most of this stuff is very much lay stuff, elevated over time not by the merit of essential Truth but by the aggressive assertiveness of amateurs who enjoy feeling Right and telling other people that they're wrong.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:40 PM on June 14, 2009


Let me use one of my own favorite examples, the confusion between "infer" and "imply". Let's say there's a hypothetical MeFite whose user name is British Petroleum. And let's imagine that, in response to some comment of mine, he replies "Are you inferring that I'm an idiot?". Now what he (almost certainly) means here is "Are you implying that I'm an idiot?". And let's imagine that, in fact, I was implying no such thing. But I could be inferring that he's an idiot (let's say, because he might be following me around and calling me a troll whenever I make a comment).

I would like to ask for the aforementioned comment to be deleted.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 4:44 PM on June 14, 2009


Crabby Appleton:
Please cut it out, especially the being-a-jerk part.
I've said jerkish stuff on here but... you deserve a medal for it or something.
posted by dunkadunc at 4:45 PM on June 14, 2009


I would like to publicly ask you two to start pretending one another doesn't exist, if that's what it takes, now that I've already had to ask you both to do it privately. Enough of this.
posted by cortex (staff) at 4:46 PM on June 14, 2009


Yeah, you boys need to let that Citgo.
posted by gman at 5:52 PM on June 14, 2009


Perhaps the two (1,2) copy/paste's of the objectionable bit of Crabby Appleton's comment should be deleted as well?
posted by HopperFan at 11:08 PM on June 14, 2009


yah dont cow tow too teh ignorent grammer nazi's
posted by Pronoiac at 12:35 AM on June 15, 2009


Please get fired.

Sys Rq: fuck off.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 1:30 AM on June 15, 2009


Sys Rq: fuck off.

I'd expect a teacher to say 'please'.
posted by gman at 4:22 AM on June 15, 2009


> So I can't just decide to haul off and start using "sneeze" to mean "eat". I would just be wrong. Even if you could decode my meaning, I would be using the word wrong.

Pure straw man. You're not going to decide to haul off and start using "sneeze" to mean "eat," because you're a native English speaker and you know that's not English.

Native speakers are capable of making mistakes about their own language.

Yes, of course, but that's rare and not relevant to this discussion. It involves either 1) a "slip of the tongue" or other momentary glitch, usually recognized and corrected by the speaker, or 2) a "misuse" (use not shared by other speakers) of some word or phrase, often because it was encountered in reading and the meaning assumed rather than looked up; this by definition involves rare words and phrases, not commonly encountered phrases like "begs the question." Pro tip: if you look up a usage and it's in the dictionary ("beg the question: 'to elicit a question logically as a reaction or response'"), it's not a mistake. If someone tells you it is, they're an idiot.

> Obviously my usage was incorrect, despite common usage

Jesus fucking Christ. I give up.
posted by languagehat at 8:23 AM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


Sorry, I was referring to "Which begs the question". My personal peeve.

Awesome, mine is British-style punctuation. PERIOD, ENDQUOTE. AMERICA FIRST.
posted by kittyprecious at 9:17 AM on June 15, 2009


languagehat: What I'm saying is that your general point is correct but the way you put it is a bit too strong. Native speakers can be wrong; maybe this is rare but it's certainly happened to me enough. (I thought for many years that "erstwhile" meant "former". I thought it with religious certainty, and I'm a very highly competent native speaker. I was wrong anyway.)

The point is if you're a native speaker, and you have an intuition about your own language, your intuition is quite good evidence but NOT ironclad evidence that you're correct. All I'm saying is, don't overstate the case. The overstated case (native speakers can't be wrong) is plainly false.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:25 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


And the corollary is, of course, that correcting people does have SOME place. I wish somebody had told me years earlier that I was using "erstwhile" wrong!

Now, your point is that correction and pet peevism happens --overwhelmingly -- in cases where it's not appropriate, because the phrases in question are widely used. I will agree with this.

Even in those cases where "correction" isn't appropriate, still we can get important information about the social values attached to certain usages. Don't use 'ain't' in formal writing because it makes you seem ignorant. That's a useful thing to know, even if the judgment about your ignorance isn't based on Eternal Rules of English but on contingent social facts at a given time. We can't rule out those judgments by just explaining that there aren't Eternal Rules.
posted by LobsterMitten at 10:32 AM on June 15, 2009


I thought for many years that "erstwhile" meant "former".

It doesn't?
posted by dirtdirt at 10:33 AM on June 15, 2009


It did previously.
posted by gman at 10:44 AM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


If it's okay with his mom, I would like to buy Crabby Appleton a juice box.
posted by LordSludge at 10:49 AM on June 15, 2009


Whose is it?
It's its.
Its?
It's.
posted by Mister_A at 11:06 AM on June 15, 2009


Mister_A: Il campionissimo del internetto!
posted by Mister_A at 11:09 AM on June 15, 2009


It's/its makes me craaaaaaazy, but the one I can never keep straight in my head is affect vs effect. I've been known to completely restructure my sentences to avoid using either.

I do tend to go with the all/mostly lowercase thing, but that dates back to junior high journals. On paper. The internets have only made that habit worse. Same with the fragment sentences and the parenthesis.

Also, it looks as though I have a(n early?) MeTa post about grammar under my belt. (Wow...featuring rebeccablood & Migs!)

(I would've sworn there was one where stavros gave my sis a hard time about her atrocious writing on her very first post, sometime around then. But I can't find it.)
posted by epersonae at 11:16 AM on June 15, 2009


Yeah, I'm pretty sure that erstwhile does mean "formerly." See here. Or wait, LobsterMitten -- was it that you were using it as an adjective rather than an adverb?

For me, the hard one is nonplussed. I always read it as calm and unbothered, which is pretty much the opposite of what it really means.
posted by shiu mai baby at 11:33 AM on June 15, 2009


Languagehat = Sisyphus.
posted by kaspen at 11:55 AM on June 15, 2009


I understand the idea of typing fast to get the ideas out, but I can't really imagine hitting the "Post Comment" button without first going back and correcting all the little mistakes.

nth. that's actually what my comment would have been.

Choke on a bucket of cock's. (sic)

Just giggling. Very lots of many giggling.

Anywho.. rules for correct usage actually change over time--
that's how a language evolves into something almost utterly removed from its former self after around 6 centuries.

It's sad, but it's the way it goes.
(see 'could care less' recently recognized as synonomous with 'couldn't care less'; 'irregardless' as synonomous with 'regardless', the 'beg the question' bit that languagehat mentioned, etc)

Every time I hear about this, I do gag for a moment, but a language does slowly die, unfolding as a caccoon for the language of tomorrow, and the truth is that evolving (including erring) common usage is how it happens.
posted by candyhammer at 12:19 PM on June 15, 2009


> Native speakers can be wrong; maybe this is rare but it's certainly happened to me enough. (I thought for many years that "erstwhile" meant "former". I thought it with religious certainty, and I'm a very highly competent native speaker. I was wrong anyway.)

Like others, I'm nonplussed by this. Merriam-Webster: erstwhile (adjective): "former, previous <erstwhile enemies>." Did you listen to some asshat who said "That's wrong" and you just believed him? This is that strange self-flagellating propensity I wrote about above and here ("If I could understand exactly what was happening there on both ends, I would have a better handle on what usage griping is all about. But I don't").

> The point is if you're a native speaker, and you have an intuition about your own language, your intuition is quite good evidence but NOT ironclad evidence that you're correct. All I'm saying is, don't overstate the case. The overstated case (native speakers can't be wrong) is plainly false.

I understand what you're saying, but I disagree, for the same reason I disagreed with someone recently about the approach of Christopher Beckwith in his book Empires of the Silk Road: A History of Central Eurasia from the Bronze Age to the Present (which I highly recommend). The complaint was that he made sweeping statements, ignored or downplayed exceptions, etc. My response was: So? He's confronting an age-old mountain of deeply ingrained wrongness ("barbarians" have been attacking "civilized peoples" for centuries and ruining their attempts to be "civilized"), and it's not possible to dislodge ingrained ideas by carefully stated "objective" presentations full of qualifiers and due allowance for exceptions. Sure, a few hyperrational people with unusually open minds will be swayed, but that's not enough. To blow up that mountain, you need dynamite. To counter the ingrained "I know I say all kinds of things wrong, so I'll listen to any asshat who comes along and tells me so," you don't need an hour-long disquisition on historical and synchronic linguistics, you need a firm assertion: "You are a native speaker, and you speak your language fine. Don't listen to anyone who tells you otherwise." Once they get a handle on that basic point, they can assimilate the complexities if they feel like it.

(Similarly, one reason the creationists have so many people listening to them is that the scientists called on to present "the opposing view" are good, rational, boring people who drone on about how scientific theories are constructed and tested, and the creationist says triumphantly "See, you admit it's just a theory!" The scientists should be saying "You're a fool and you don't know what you're talking about. Evolution is a scientifically established fact, like gravitation. Stop misleading honest folk." This might make an impression on people.)
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2009 [7 favorites]


> Languagehat = Sisyphus.

Tell me about it! At least I've got a few helpers with this rock...
posted by languagehat at 1:12 PM on June 15, 2009


I hear it keeps away tigers!
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 2:24 PM on June 15, 2009


No god has consigned you to this fate, languagehat. Do yourself and the world a favor and walk away from the rock. Lay your burden down and be free, languagehat, free at last!
posted by Crabby Appleton at 2:28 PM on June 15, 2009


Cortex: . . . leisure-time bullshitting . . .

Oh man, have I been doing this wrong.
posted by Nabubrush at 4:25 PM on June 15, 2009


I, I've been lonely
And I, I've been blind
And I, I've learned nothing
So my hands are firmly tied
To the sinking leadweight
of descriptivism.

I've worked hard all my life
Money slips through my hands
My face in the mirror tells me
It's no surprise that I'm
Pushing the stone up the hill
of descriptivism.

posted by UbuRoivas at 4:33 PM on June 15, 2009


You're a native English speaker; of course you're using it correctly.

With all due respect -- and I say this as a descriptivist -- what utter horseshit.

It seems to me that you lack the courage of your convictions here. If I as a native English speaker believe that aardvark is a type of tree, I would be using the word incorrectly, no? And If I am using the word correctly, would a native French speaker learning English says that an aardvark is a type of tree be correct? And if not, why not? And if he is, in what sense is this different from saying that every utterance is correct, no matter how little meaning it communicates?

The usage of "beg the question" is fundamentally a vocabulary question: what it signifies is more abstract than "aardvark" or "tree" but it does signify something specific. Vocab does not arise from intuitive use: it is purely convention. Speaker intuition takes you pretty far in syntax, but I am afraid it is failing you here.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 4:50 PM on June 15, 2009


Oh please. Y'all are getting way too intense on this biscuit. Native speaker implies that you can communicate and be understood. If you can do that, you're using it correctly. The whole point is to get ideas across, not for one to imprint every little nuance and sequence of synapse firings onto the brain of another. If you get the general idea and are able to respond, you're doing it right.
posted by iamkimiam at 4:58 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


HA! I have NO idea how 'biscuit' got in there, other than I must've read 'ricochet biscuit' and got mentally derailed. Which kind of proves my point in a silly way. Either way, I'm laughing at myself.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:00 PM on June 15, 2009


Ooh, I totally nominate "biscuit" to be the worth successor to "plate of beans."
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:03 PM on June 15, 2009


worthY successor, worthY successor. Christamighty.
posted by shiu mai baby at 5:04 PM on June 15, 2009


Well, it's an honour just to be nominated.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2009


I love how Metafilter is slowly building a compendium of foods-as-innuendos. Beans, biscuits, grilled cheese sandwiches, taters...

I see a potluck in our future.
posted by iamkimiam at 5:07 PM on June 15, 2009


I thought for many years that "erstwhile" meant "former".

It doesn't?
posted by dirtdirt on June 15 [+] [!]


Dammit, no, I got my own example wrong. I thought for many years that it meant "steady and true" (our erstwhile companions) but instead it means "former". Anyway, yeah. What I was saying about how people can be wrong.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:26 PM on June 15, 2009


Did you listen to some asshat who said "That's wrong" and you just believed him?
-languagehat


No, I was really wrong. I just mis-described it here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:30 PM on June 15, 2009


Well, it's an honour just to be nominated.

Be careful with what you wish for - you might find that it ricochets onto you.
posted by UbuRoivas at 5:44 PM on June 15, 2009


it's not possible to dislodge ingrained ideas by carefully stated "objective" presentations full of qualifiers and due allowance for exceptions.
-languagehat


But it's also not great to do it by saying obviously false things, when you could instead state your memorable slogan and then acknowledge elsewhere in the same comment that there's a qualification to it. Eh. I'm sympathetic to the general point, but I think the overstatement doesn't help that much (since it leaves an obvious avenue for opponents to disagree), and it sort of alienates listeners by suggesting that there's no purpose in exchanging information about customary usage -- when the usefulness of exchanging that information is totally clear.

So: yeah, people shouldn't get on their jerk horses about usage pet peeves. And they certainly shouldn't shout about Eternal Rules of English. But barring jerky behavior, it's natural and ok to discuss pet peeves (in terms of personal irritation), and to talk about perceptions related to certain usages. People who see themselves as educated languagey people WANT to know how to use 'begs the question' in the logicky way; they want to know how to pronounce 'shibboleth'. And I'm guessing you're fine with all that, and you just want to dispel the belief in Eternal Rules of English. So, tailor your claim more precisely to deny only the things you want to deny, and leave the rest alone.

(But of course, this means I write with a bunch of careful qualifiers that make me harder to read)


Native speaker implies that you can communicate and be understood. If you can do that, you're using it correctly. The whole point is to get ideas across, not for one to imprint every little nuance and sequence of synapse firings onto the brain of another. If you get the general idea and are able to respond, you're doing it right.
-iamkimiam


But this is transparently false (because it's too strongly worded). I can make myself understood to a Frenchman even though I only know a few words. Communication is very, very elastic and forgiving at the level of "getting the gist across". I am sure not a native or fluent speaker of French.

As I said above, I absolutely accept the general point that "what a language is" is determined solely by native speaker actions, and not by any magical rulebook. But if you say things that are false on their face, you're not helping to get people to believe this idea.
posted by LobsterMitten at 5:45 PM on June 15, 2009


> With all due respect -- and I say this as a descriptivist -- what utter horseshit.

With all due respect, I'm not sure I believe you're a descriptivist, because you're talking horseshit.

> If I as a native English speaker believe that aardvark is a type of tree, I would be using the word incorrectly, no?

Oh goody, another straw man!

> But if you say things that are false on their face, you're not helping to get people to believe this idea.

Um, do you read the papers and/or listen to the news? Besides, "false on their face" is ridiculous; talk about oversimplification/overgeneralization. "Insufficiently qualified" is not the same as "false on its face."
posted by languagehat at 6:34 PM on June 15, 2009


Ok. I hear you, and I see your point. Let me try to revise (and bear with me, because what I'm about to say *is* a bit circular, but it kind of has to be). Here's my attempt at the long version:

Native speaker implies that you can communicate and be understood at a level of proficiency clearly demarcated from that of non-native speakers. This can be recognized as such by other native speakers. This level of proficiency, and the title of native speaker itself presupposes a complete, but not exhaustive, understanding of, and general adherence to, the language's grammar, syntax, lexicon, phonology, semantics, pragmatics, etc. Dialectical, regional and other variations allowed. If you can do that, you're using it correctly. "Correctly" can be assumed to be defined as "sufficient use to convey complex communicative concepts and ideas." Again, dialectical, regional and other variations allowed, to the point that they do not significantly interfere with the transfer of ideas. If such an instance occurs, and it cannot be repaired through further communication, it is possible that there is a grander problem, i.e. the speaker is not using the language correctly. If other reasons for this are ruled out (pragmatic disorders, neurological disorders, barriers to hearing/reading, problems at the receiving end, etc.) then it can be determined that the speaker is either willfully or unknowingly not using the language correctly. However, this might then imply incomplete language acquisition at either the sociolinguistic, psycholinguistic, both or other level. If such a case occurs then the speaker in question is likely a non-native speaker, or a non-Rational Agent. Which brings us back to the top.

Fringe cases notwithstanding, if you are in the clear as a native speaker and a Rational Agent, then you are doing it right. You can have confidence that you are. Verbal blunders and the like aren't evidence of doing it wrong, but rather individual instances of linguistic phenomenon or subtle and acceptable variations in acquisition. Which are fun to discover, as well as sometimes being the accidental seeds of innovation.

And I'd like to add, just in case there's a misread with my tone or anything...I'm having fun with this thread and not taking things too seriously. I hope the feelings are mutual and this is perceived as healthy debate and not shit-stirring or contentious posting. You never know, which is why I bother to say it.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:43 PM on June 15, 2009


"Insufficiently qualified" is not the same as "false on its face."
-languagehat

Consider a politics thread where someone says "everybody on the other side wants war!" or whatever. That's false on its face, and insufficiently qualified, and an overgeneralization. You'll reject the claim outright, even if indeed there is a sizeable majority of people on the other side who want war. What the person should say if they want to be convincing is some more qualified version. Then we can all settle in and have a more substantive discussion about the finer points rather than shouting back and forth between two positions so extreme neither is plausible. That's just a waste of time. (unlike, you know, carefully slicing the niceties of phrasing in an internet argument)

I'm having fun with this thread... not shit-stirring...
-iamkimiam

absolutely, all in good faith and good feelings on my end.
And I think the issue about native speakers -- or, native within a given subcommunity of a language, eg native New England WASPs will have certain verbal intuitions that other groups don't about which prepositions are allowed where, etc -- is that both their actual usage behavior AND their intuitions about class etc associations of certain usages are important, and that it's not so much any ONE native speaker alone, but groups of native speakers, that matter.

I mean, I think we're talking about pretty small refinements to the way this position is being stated, and I think they're refinements that are already tacit in your view of it, just not in the exact words being used as a slogan. All I'm objecting to is the falsity of the slogan -- falsity easily remedied, and falsity that's relevant to the kind of pet peeve airing/exchange of info about eg how to use 'begs the question' in the logic sense, that's at issue here.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:25 PM on June 15, 2009


but I'm going to hang it up here, I think.
posted by LobsterMitten at 7:27 PM on June 15, 2009


Oh goody, another straw man!

So, you have no answer then?

You know, a great deal will be gained for human interaction when someone on the internet learns the name of a third logical fallacy beyond "straw man" and "ad hominem." Just once in my life I would like to see someone try to defend a position with calling someone out by calling "misleading vividness" or "appeal to common practice."
posted by ricochet biscuit at 8:10 PM on June 15, 2009 [3 favorites]


I prefer the fake ou...HEY, WHAT'S THAT OVER THERE????? =====>
posted by iamkimiam at 8:16 PM on June 15, 2009


I'm tempted to start a score card to see how many of these I could call out, a logical fallacy birding list if you will. A recent thread would get me Fallacy of distribution, Proof by assertion, Pro hominem, Non sequitur, and a Parade of horribles. I wonder which would be last. Maybe Conjunction fallacy.
posted by Mitheral at 9:18 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


You pay off for possessive pronouns just like everyone
else. Far as I know -- and what I don't know in
this Strunk & White's ain't worth knowing -- the mods haven't
closed any of your accounts and languagehat hasn't
touched any of your misuse. You haven't bought
any license to kill pedants, and today I ain't
selling any. So take your modifier and dangle!
posted by flapjax at midnite at 9:35 PM on June 15, 2009 [1 favorite]


I'd expect a teacher to say 'please'.

Why would that be? I'm not your teacher. That's like expecting a track coach not to walk.
posted by Joseph Gurl at 12:10 AM on June 16, 2009


You know, a great deal will be gained for human interaction when someone on the internet learns the name of a third logical fallacy beyond "straw man" and "ad hominem."

Sounds like somebody's indulging in too much confirmation bias.
posted by UbuRoivas at 12:20 AM on June 16, 2009


You know, a great deal will be gained for human interaction when someone on the internet learns the name of a third logical fallacy beyond "straw man" and "ad hominem."

Well, there is begging the question...
posted by Ms. Saint at 12:22 AM on June 16, 2009


little e:"My god I lived in the woods with a family of lemurs until I was 14 years old and I still know what "literally" means. "

I want to meet those lemurs. Sounds like they had good reading material. And should have their own reality show.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:30 AM on June 16, 2009


Oh forgot to add -

Mitheral: "I'm tempted to start a score card to see how many of these I could call out, a logical fallacy birding list if you will. A recent thread would get me Fallacy of distribution, Proof by assertion, Pro hominem, Non sequitur, and a Parade of horribles. I wonder which would be last. Maybe Conjunction fallacy."

You really should make up a MeFi Bingo card out of that.
posted by batgrlHG at 2:35 AM on June 16, 2009


Well, there is begging the question...

I thought of that as I wrote the last post, but everyone uses it wrong*. Except native speakers, who use it correctly.


* Wait, should this be "wrongly"? No, what am I saying? I am a native speaker ,so of course anything I say will be correct.
posted by ricochet biscuit at 7:39 AM on June 16, 2009


"wrong" as an adverbial—and similar somewhat systematic drop-the-ly examples of common adverbs—is a great example of the natural shift of language to accommodate the actual speech/writing patterns of the people using the language.

As galling as it may be from a formal/logical perspective to see a perfectly nice category-marking suffix get dropped, lo, folks still manage to communicate the underlying notion of adverbial modification in these contexts. And not in some "if I squint real hard I can muddle out the meaning" sense, but in the plain, straightforward Alice Speaks, Bob Correctly Interprets sense of basic successful communication.

There's nothing ambiguous in the general case about e.g. "you're doing it wrong" or "try and do it quick", unless you go straining unreasonably for an excuse to be confused/muddled. The structural redundancy of natural language is a big net win here—aspects of the overall form of an utterance help proof it against some of the variations speakers can present over time in the superficial details.

That's not to say you can't be loving of or prickly about -ly adverbial forms, or that it wouldn't benefit a modern speaker/writer to be aware of the potential for tsk-tsk action in the face of the simplified forms. Again: street smarts. A savvy speaker/writer understands the value of knowing the territory and picking their usage battles and being aware of the forces of clucking prescription they're likely to encounter as they move through the world.

But knowing the territory doesn't require thinking the territory is altogether good or well-formed. Being careful enough to step around the cacti of pedantry is not the same thing as falling for the idea that a cactus is a comfortable, likeable, worthwhile thing to wrap one's arms around.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:54 AM on June 16, 2009


I don't normally do this but-

Metafilter: the cacti of pedantry
posted by dirtdirt at 8:17 AM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


> As galling as it may be from a formal/logical perspective to see a perfectly nice category-marking suffix get dropped, lo, folks still manage to communicate the underlying notion of adverbial modification in these contexts.

While your point is an excellent one which I endorse, your example is flawed in that the -ly adverbs are a more recent development; "Go slow" is older than "Go slowly," and people concerned about preserving the pristine beauty and order of the English language should be deprecating the latter, not the former. Also, while I'm on the subject, near is originally a comparative ("nigh-er"); I'll let the prescriptivists decide what they want to do with that information.
posted by languagehat at 8:17 AM on June 16, 2009


Let's take it as a given that I don't care so much about the order of operations so much as the perceived order of operations in language change, since most of the people arsing on about it don't actually seem to bother familiarizing themselves with any of the history anyway.
posted by cortex (staff) at 8:32 AM on June 16, 2009


(Don't care so much for the purpose of my keening righteous barnstorming above, that is. I think the history is really interesting stuff and wish I had a more solid grasp on the subject, in general.)
posted by cortex (staff) at 9:07 AM on June 16, 2009


How can the internet be so powerful and still so useless in convincing people that they are wrong?
posted by Nabubrush at 9:30 AM on June 16, 2009


Please correct me if I'm wrong, but isn't the prescriptivist/descriptivist debate more about how language is formally observed, rather than how it's used?

What I mean is, surely the desire to construct 'correct' usages is universal, and language change has happened despite it. Prescribing that people not practice prescriptivism with their own grammars and lexicons makes about as much sense to me as prescriptivism itself.

Still it is annoying to be corrected, isn't it? (Except in this case where I've requested it: please correct away.)
posted by olaguera at 2:17 PM on June 16, 2009


surely the desire to construct 'correct' usages is universal

Not necessarily. For example, English had been happily developing for several hundred years, and it wasn't until the introduction of the printing press (and the subsequent fossilization of English orthography) and what is now called the Age of Dialect that English speaking people in England even started to take notice of how they spoke, i.e. developed linguistic awareness, and subsequently linguistic insecurity. This has all only happened in the last several hundred years. Dictionaries, grammar books, and prescriptivism itself, in regards to the English language, are all very, very new things. And with them comes their luggage.

The Wikipedia page on prescriptivism is quite excellent btw. It delves into the origins of prescriptivism, problems with prescriptivism, and other areas.
posted by iamkimiam at 6:05 PM on June 16, 2009


I think what olaguera is getting at is the strange authoritarian tack some people take (not you, of course, iamkimiam) when expressing the idea, which would seem to be at odds with an anti-prescriptivist sentiment.

You're wrong to correct someone. You're wrong to ask to be corrected. Allow me to correct you. You should ignore people who try to tell you that there is a correct way to communicate. You should listen to me, because I know the correct way to communicate.

That doesn't come across as a desire to let language evolve naturally. It comes across as an evolved form of pedantry. It comes across as the same argument from authority (hey! another fallacy!) that it is intended to oppose.
posted by team lowkey at 11:18 PM on June 16, 2009 [1 favorite]


It's a complicated bit of territory to navigate. In a sense this is a matter of giving a man a trout vs. teaching him to angle: true, "eat this fish, see?" and "use the rod like this, now cast, wait, reel, that's how you get at the fish, see?" are both imperatives, but they're very different kinds of advice.

Trying to supersede nattering Grammar Police (in)corrections with assertions about how to investigate language critically is trading one kind of telling-about-language for another, sure, but the latter kind is immensely more productive. People may not always do it as politely or diplomatically as you could hope, but they're at least not adding to the miasma of unprompted, misguided faux-linguistic peevery that passes for language "criticism" in a lot of conversation.
posted by cortex (staff) at 7:10 AM on June 17, 2009


This is still an active thread? Jebus. It was about people having a flameout over misuse of an apostrophe, and how that was disrupting the discourse on the Blue. Is this really a topic of such passion?
posted by hippybear at 9:45 AM on June 17, 2009


You have no idea.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2009


Er, You've no idea.
posted by iamkimiam at 10:01 AM on June 17, 2009


Without further adieu, I must bid this thread ado.
posted by Devils Rancher at 11:04 AM on June 17, 2009


All possessive, none of them take apostrophes.

If you were proper Grammar Nazis, at least one of you would have spazzed out about hippybear having written 'none of them takes apostrophes' instead of the more pedant-friendly 'none of them takes an apostrophe' (None = not one! It should always be treated as singular whenever possible! And similar tiresome rantings!) Youse is all way more loose 'n' laissez-faire than you done thunk, Mefites.
posted by eatyourcellphone at 11:03 AM on June 19, 2009 [2 favorites]


*hangs head in shame*
posted by hippybear at 1:08 PM on June 19, 2009


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