The battle is lost December 30, 2022 10:25 PM   Subscribe

Trying to find an old comment, possibly about a contentious grammar/usage issue ("irregardless" type thing but likely not "irregardless") where one user was consoling another in slightly archaic military shadings: "I agree with you, we were right, but the battle is lost, comrade. Spike the cannons and retreat"

From MetaTalk? From quite a while ago? I think of the sentiment in the comment often, most recently this afternoon when I railed to an unmoved audience about how "use" and "utilize" are different words that mean different things, and "utilize" does not make a sentence sound more technical if you are using it incorrectly. But I don't want to fight about it!
posted by dirtdirt to MetaFilter-Related at 10:25 PM (17 comments total) 3 users marked this as a favorite

Also sounds familiar to me; I have the vaguest feeling it was about “beg the question” though that’s probably my recollection because it’s my bugbear.
posted by supercres at 12:37 AM on December 31, 2022 [2 favorites]


My first thought for searching was to throw some common words particular to vocab discussions into search along with some of the sorts of military terms you're mentioning, which is how I found out that both "cannon" and "usage" appear in the Treaty of Westphalia.
posted by cortex (retired) at 8:30 AM on December 31, 2022 [15 favorites]


Referring in the general case to grammar/usage discussions as a battle certainly comes up now and the, but neither of these feels like on the mark for what you're remembering: thelonius in 2013, anotherpanacea in 2006. This does feel like that sort of doomed hunt where if no one can pull the rabbit directly out of the hat here the best bet is to skim through every single usage discussion from the last several years and hope it was at least on topic.
posted by cortex (retired) at 8:38 AM on December 31, 2022 [1 favorite]


A couple more loosely-related comments, both from since 2009, 1,891 UVM students have specified a preferred pronoun:
Thou wilt find this distinction lost many centuries hence, fallen to the untutoréd hordes, as they prattell their “singular you”.

posted by traveler_ at 6:06 PM on February 3, 2015
OMDTLP refers to pronouns as a closed class and seems to leave it at that, apparently telling others to surrender this battle.

posted by Sticherbeast at 4:55 AM on February 5, 2015
posted by mbrubeck at 12:35 PM on December 31, 2022


Also feeling familiar to me but my memory tends more towards AskMe though maybe it was something that also got pulled into MeTa.
posted by jessamyn (staff) at 1:26 PM on December 31, 2022


I am remembering this too, and my metafilter reading has picked up in the last couple of years so maybe that's a decent time delimiter?

Ooh, or maybe a "underrated comment" thread?
posted by freethefeet at 2:41 AM on January 1


Unsure if i can find it but the "beg the question" variant had one version in a spiderman meme with Tobey Maguire breaking Kirsten Dunst's heart with a brutal truth...
posted by ominous_paws at 7:52 AM on January 1


Undying love to anyone who could find this, btw, as I thought I'd saved it and now can't turn it up.
posted by ominous_paws at 8:07 AM on January 1


This sounds like a good phrase/notion to have handy. "following", as the kids these days say.
posted by The otter lady at 5:16 PM on January 1


"spike the cannons and retreat" as a Google phrase only turns up this discussion.
posted by The otter lady at 2:56 PM on January 3


I gather the more general usage is "spike the cannons/guns" (or "spike a cannon/gun"), which was new to me with this thread as well but is an old military term of art for disabling a cannon. For further, see a subsection in this wikipedia article named, to my juvenile delight, "touch hole".
posted by cortex (retired) at 8:42 PM on January 3 [2 favorites]


"use" and "utilize" are different words that mean different things, and "utilize" does not make a sentence sound more technical if you are using it incorrectly. But I don't want to fight about it!

OK, I'm sorry, but I'm going to have to ask you to fight about this. I agree that "utilize" does not sound better/more technical/smarter or anything else. But they mean the same thing. As far as I'm concerned, there's no excuse for ever using the word "utilize," though I expect there may be some specific domain of some narrow field somewhere where "utliize" is somehow the preferred word in a particular context. Maybe you work in such a field. But if you don't...

Well, fight me! I'm ready! And this is Meta, so it's allowed.
posted by If only I had a penguin... at 7:44 AM on January 4 [1 favorite]


OK HERE WE GO

Use means, well, use. Utilize means to MAKE use of. You use a pencil to write, you utilize a pair of pencils as chopsticks. I'm not particularly prescriptivist but it bothers me when I hear someone utilize utilize to mean use. Why not use use? It's shorter and it means what you mean!

But, as they say, I understand that the battle is lost. Spike the cannons and retreat.
posted by dirtdirt at 12:10 PM on January 5 [2 favorites]


Use means, well, use. Utilize means to MAKE use of. You use a pencil to write, you utilize a pair of pencils as chopsticks. I'm not particularly prescriptivist but it bothers me when I hear someone utilize utilize to mean use. Why not use use? It's shorter and it means what you mean!

I 100% agree here, but must admit that my hackles were raised once on metatalk when I complained that the word 'gifted' was just a crummier version of 'gave' and someone gave me an earful. I'm not going to bother finding the comment, but I still believe that I am right and they are wrong, wrong, wrong!
posted by Literaryhero at 2:54 AM on January 7


Libraryhero, you are right. Gift is a noun. Give is a verb.
I am getting used to the singular “they,” but “gifted” will always be wrong.
posted by SLC Mom at 11:07 AM on January 8


via the Oxford English Dictionary:

1619 J. Sempill Sacrilege Sacredly Handled 31 “If they object, that tithes, being gifted to Levi, in official inheritance, can stand no longer than Levi”
1627 W. Sclater Brief Comm. Malachy (1650) 197 “See how the Lord gifted him above his brethren.”
1627 R. Sanderson Ten Serm. 451 “If God haue not gifted vs for it, he hath not called vs to it.”
1639 J. Spottiswood Hist. Church Scotl. (1677) v. 278 “The recovery of a parcel of ground which the Queen had gifted to Mary Levinston.”

(“Gyfte” as a verb also appeared even earlier and may go back to Middle English.)
posted by mbrubeck at 11:39 AM on January 8


But you can give someone something in all sorts of contexts - I give you my word, I give you this ring. You can only gift something if it is a gift. So the word does serve some purpose. You're entitled not to like it, naturally, but I don't think you're entitled to label it "wrong".
posted by altolinguistic at 6:49 AM on January 12


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