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Peeves threads - R.I.P.

 
 
JTT
 
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 02:36 pm
Quote:

THE SOCIAL LIFE OF PRESCRIPTIVISM

So, the gripers. You have people who believe that there's a correct way of speaking and writing, and who impose that belief on others. For them, what they are doing is fighting for the truth, tradition, and the Natural Order of Language. While lots of them may have some interest in language and its inner workings, for most, language is simply a material/symbolic system that gets roped into social Othering.

Language is accessible, convenient, and flexible for use in doing so: it's always there, it's always changing, and it's always going to be socially differentiated. With linguistic variation, it seems that the grass is always greener on the other side, if you're talking about a usage associated with an appealing group of people (swoon those Aussies with their exotic diphthongs!), or it's greener on your side, if you're talking about a usage associated with a somehow undesirable group (shakes fist those Mexicans/teens/rednecks and their bad English!).

When you give gripers an outlet for their opinions, they're going to feel validated, and they're going to enjoy the feeling that their comments are helping to preserve the Natural Order. Maybe they see it as their duty, or maybe it's just a playful pastime. Either way, it's not (entirely) their fault, and it reflects issues beyond what people are taught about language. It's the reality of the social divisions we are constantly reproducing " every day, all the time, each of us. While I agree that it would be nice to get some teachable moments out of the gripes, I'm not certain that it would ultimately change anything until some deeper cultural issues were addressed.

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004327.html
 
djjd62
 
  3  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 02:44 pm
'And only ONE for birthday presents, you know. There's glory for you!'

'I don't know what you mean by "glory,"' Alice said.

Humpty Dumpty smiled contemptuously. 'Of course you don't"till I tell you. I meant "there's a nice knock-down argument for you!"'

'But "glory" doesn't mean "a nice knock-down argument,"' Alice objected.

'When I use a word,' Humpty Dumpty said in rather a scornful tone, 'it means just what I choose it to mean"neither more nor less.'

'The question is,' said Alice, 'whether you CAN make words mean so many different things.'

'The question is,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'which is to be master"that's all.'

Alice was too much puzzled to say anything, so after a minute Humpty Dumpty began again. 'They've a temper, some of them"particularly verbs, they're the proudest"adjectives you can do anything with, but not verbs"however, I can manage the whole lot of them! Impenetrability! That's what I say!'

'Would you tell me, please,' said Alice 'what that means?'

'Now you talk like a reasonable child,' said Humpty Dumpty, looking very much pleased. 'I meant by "impenetrability" that we've had enough of that subject, and it would be just as well if you'd mention what you mean to do next, as I suppose you don't mean to stop here all the rest of your life.'

'That's a great deal to make one word mean,' Alice said in a thoughtful tone.

'When I make a word do a lot of work like that,' said Humpty Dumpty, 'I always pay it extra.'

'Oh!' said Alice. She was too much puzzled to make any other remark.

'Ah, you should see 'em come round me of a Saturday night,' Humpty Dumpty went on, wagging his head gravely from side to side: 'for to get their wages, you know.'

(Alice didn't venture to ask what he paid them with; and so you see I can't tell YOU.)

'You seem very clever at explaining words, Sir,' said Alice. 'Would you kindly tell me the meaning of the poem called "Jabberwocky"?'

'Let's hear it,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'I can explain all the poems that were ever invented"and a good many that haven't been invented just yet.'

This sounded very hopeful, so Alice repeated the first verse:

'Twas brillig, and the slithy toves
Did gyre and gimble in the wabe;
All mimsy were the borogoves,
And the mome raths outgrabe.

'That's enough to begin with,' Humpty Dumpty interrupted: 'there are plenty of hard words there. "BRILLIG" means four o'clock in the afternoon"the time when you begin BROILING things for dinner.'

'That'll do very well,' said Alice: 'and "SLITHY"?'

'Well, "SLITHY" means "lithe and slimy." "Lithe" is the same as "active." You see it's like a portmanteau"there are two meanings packed up into one word.'

'I see it now,' Alice remarked thoughtfully: 'and what are "TOVES"?'

'Well, "TOVES" are something like badgers"they're something like lizards"and they're something like corkscrews.'

'They must be very curious looking creatures.'

'They are that,' said Humpty Dumpty: 'also they make their nests under sun-dials"also they live on cheese.'

'And what's the "GYRE" and to "GIMBLE"?'

'To "GYRE" is to go round and round like a gyroscope. To "GIMBLE" is to make holes like a gimlet.'

'And "THE WABE" is the grass-plot round a sun-dial, I suppose?' said Alice, surprised at her own ingenuity.

'Of course it is. It's called "WABE," you know, because it goes a long way before it, and a long way behind it"'

'And a long way beyond it on each side,' Alice added.

'Exactly so. Well, then, "MIMSY" is "flimsy and miserable" (there's another portmanteau for you). And a "BOROGOVE" is a thin shabby-looking bird with its feathers sticking out all round"something like a live mop.'

'And then "MOME RATHS"?' said Alice. 'I'm afraid I'm giving you a great deal of trouble.'

'Well, a "RATH" is a sort of green pig: but "MOME" I'm not certain about. I think it's short for "from home""meaning that they'd lost their way, you know.'

'And what does "OUTGRABE" mean?'

'Well, "OUTGRABING" is something between bellowing and whistling, with a kind of sneeze in the middle: however, you'll hear it done, maybe"down in the wood yonder"and when you've once heard it you'll be QUITE content. Who's been repeating all that hard stuff to you?'

'I read it in a book,' said Alice. 'But I had some poetry repeated to me, much easier than that, by"Tweedledee, I think it was.'

'As to poetry, you know,' said Humpty Dumpty, stretching out one of his great hands, 'I can repeat poetry as well as other folk, if it comes to that"'

'Oh, it needn't come to that!' Alice hastily said, hoping to keep him from beginning.

'The piece I'm going to repeat,' he went on without noticing her remark, 'was written entirely for your amusement.'

Alice felt that in that case she really OUGHT to listen to it, so she sat down, and said 'Thank you' rather sadly.

'In winter, when the fields are white,
I sing this song for your delight"

only I don't sing it,' he added, as an explanation.

'I see you don't,' said Alice.

'If you can SEE whether I'm singing or not, you've sharper eyes than most.' Humpty Dumpty remarked severely. Alice was silent.

'In spring, when woods are getting green,
I'll try and tell you what I mean.'

'Thank you very much,' said Alice.

'In summer, when the days are long,
Perhaps you'll understand the song:
In autumn, when the leaves are brown,
Take pen and ink, and write it down.'

'I will, if I can remember it so long,' said Alice.

'You needn't go on making remarks like that,' Humpty Dumpty said: 'they're not sensible, and they put me out.'

'I sent a message to the fish:
I told them "This is what I wish."

The little fishes of the sea,
They sent an answer back to me.

The little fishes' answer was
"We cannot do it, Sir, because""'

'I'm afraid I don't quite understand,' said Alice.

'It gets easier further on,' Humpty Dumpty replied.

'I sent to them again to say
"It will be better to obey."

The fishes answered with a grin,
"Why, what a temper you are in!"

I told them once, I told them twice:
They would not listen to advice.

I took a kettle large and new,
Fit for the deed I had to do.

My heart went hop, my heart went thump;
I filled the kettle at the pump.

Then some one came to me and said,
"The little fishes are in bed."

I said to him, I said it plain,
"Then you must wake them up again."

I said it very loud and clear;
I went and shouted in his ear.'

Humpty Dumpty raised his voice almost to a scream as he repeated this verse, and Alice thought with a shudder, 'I wouldn't have been the messenger for ANYTHING!'

'But he was very stiff and proud;
He said "You needn't shout so loud!"

And he was very proud and stiff;
He said "I'd go and wake them, if""

I took a corkscrew from the shelf:
I went to wake them up myself.

And when I found the door was locked,
I pulled and pushed and kicked and knocked.

And when I found the door was shut,
I tried to turn the handle, but"'

There was a long pause.

'Is that all?' Alice timidly asked.

'That's all,' said Humpty Dumpty. 'Good-bye.'
JTT
 
  -1  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 06:47 pm
@djjd62,
A simple, "This stuff is beyond me" would have worked, Djjd.
djjd62
 
  4  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 06:56 pm
@JTT,
not beyond me at all, i thought the passage was quite appropriate, i could have cut out humpty's poem, but his treatise on words and language is well within the spirit of the discussion
Merry Andrew
 
  3  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 08:19 pm
@djjd62,
You're butting your head against a stone wall, dj. Do you know whom you're arguing with? That is the one and only JTT, the world's foremost authority (we haven't figured out of what yet). Between him and BillRM, us mortals haven't got a chance.

(I'm just settin' back now and a-waitin' for him to make a snide comment about my 'prescriptivist' use of 'whom' sted of the illiterate but far more commonly used 'who.')
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 09:03 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Quote:
my 'prescriptivist' use of 'whom'


Rolling Eyes

What an idiotic statement, Merry! But let me assure you, I don't think for a moment that you can't still top yourself.

Quote:
"Maybe these anxieties and the desire to correct others provide an opening for language education but I don't think it shows a particular interest in language apart from simplistic corrections. In fact if my experience in math is any guide these individuals are often resistant to really learning about the subject because it undercuts the importance of those simple rules which make them feel safe and intelligent."

http://158.130.17.5/~myl/languagelog/archives/004313.html


Quote:
In my experience, a large percentage of Usage Gripers are people who have a huge emotional investment in the things they're griping about. They went through bloody hell and torment learning that you're not allowed to split infinitives in English (or whatever); it took them forever to learn it, and the experience was miserable; they finally passed a test over it; and they would rather become people everybody runs from on sight than give up one tiniest fraction of "Only the ignorant and unwashed split infinitives in English." The more they suffered to learn the "rule" in question, the more passionately they treasure it and are prepared to defend it.

http://158.130.17.5/~myl/languagelog/archives/004313.html








0 Replies
 
Always Eleven to him
 
  2  
Reply Thu 3 Dec, 2009 09:13 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Just call me the apostrophe queen: I correct misplaced apostrophes at the grocery store and on white-board menus.
JTT
 
  1  
Reply Fri 4 Dec, 2009 11:43 am
@Always Eleven to him,
Maybe you don't want to read this, then.

Quote:
June 21, 2004

READS, ZAPS AND DIGRESSES
Lynne Truss may believe that "people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place ... deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave", but apparently she herself isn't very careful about where she puts her commas. In a New Yorker review posted today, Louis Menand comes down on Truss like a whole squall line of Jovian thunderbolts, and after his first 1200 words, there's not enough left to hack up and bury.

He starts this way:

"The first punctuation mistake in “Eats, Shoots & Leaves: The Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation” (Gotham; $17.50), by Lynne Truss, a British writer, appears in the dedication, where a nonrestrictive clause is not preceded by a comma. It is a wild ride downhill from there. “Eats, Shoots & Leaves” presents itself as a call to arms, in a world spinning rapidly into subliteracy, by a hip yet unapologetic curmudgeon, a stickler for the rules of writing. But it’s hard to fend off the suspicion that the whole thing might be a hoax."

He ends his discussion of Truss by pointing out that her fans are mad as hell

"and they do not wish to be handed the line that “language is always evolving,” or some other slice of liberal pie. They don’t even want to know what the distinction between a restrictive and a non-restrictive clause might be. They are like people who lose control when they hear a cell phone ring in a public place: they just need to vent. Truss is their Jeremiah. They don’t care where her commas are, because her heart is in the right place."

...

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 21, 2004 11:30 PM

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001096.html

Merry Andrew
 
  2  
Reply Fri 4 Dec, 2009 11:50 am
@JTT,
Were I the Bishop of Rome (aka The Pope) I'd make sure there was a movement afoot to get Lynn Truss beatified and, eventually, elevated to sainthood as soon as she passes on, the vicious (and very, very funny) ravings of Louis Menand notwithstanding.
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Fri 4 Dec, 2009 12:34 pm
@Merry Andrew,
Quote:
Were I the Bishop of Rome (aka The Pope) I'd make sure there was a movement afoot to get Lynn Truss beatified and, eventually, elevated to sainthood as soon as she passes on, the vicious (and very, very funny) ravings of Louis Menand notwithstanding.


I take a measure of solace in this contrary to fact, Merry, and note that it is a lucky occurrence for language and just plain common sense that that will never happen.

While you're at it why not get started on a campaign for Robert Lowth, Goold Brown, Bryan Garner or maybe even John Simon or Richard Lederer? All these folk seem[ed] as determined as you to remain ignorant of the workings of language.

The following is you, in a nutshell, Merry.

Quote:
In my experience, a large percentage of Usage Gripers are people who have a huge emotional investment in the things they're griping about. They went through bloody hell and torment learning that you're not allowed to split infinitives in English (or whatever); it took them forever to learn it, and the experience was miserable; they finally passed a test over it; and they would rather become people everybody runs from on sight than give up one tiniest fraction of "Only the ignorant and unwashed split infinitives in English." The more they suffered to learn the "rule" in question, the more passionately they treasure it and are prepared to defend it.


And all you do is gripe and post inane comments, all the while studiously avoiding any actual discussion of language issues. Why might that be?

Quote:
June 09, 2004

A SOUL CANDIDLY ACKNOWLEGING IT'S FAULT

Lynne Truss, author of Eats, Shoots and Leaves: the Zero Tolerance Approach to Punctuation, say that she is "not a pedant, but a stickler", by which she means that "people who put an apostrophe in the wrong place ... deserve to be struck by lightning, hacked up on the spot and buried in an unmarked grave." Visiting Colonial Williamsburg, I've recently learned how lucky it was, for all concerned, that Ms. Truss was not living in Virginia in the last third of the 18th century

In 1771, Robert Skipwith, the brother of Thomas Jefferson's future wife, asked for "a catalogue of books to the amount of about 50 lib. sterl.". Jefferson, who had lost his family library in a fire in 1770, and had been busily building a new one, responded with a list of 148 titles in 379 volumes, costing several times the cited limit: "such a general collection as I think you would wish and might in time find convenient to procure. Out of this you will chuse for yourself to the amount you mentioned for the present year and may hereafter as shall be convenient proceed in completing the whole."

In the cover letter that Jefferson sent with his catalogue, he felt the need to excuse the inclusion of works of fiction, by arguing that

[w]e are ... wisely framed to be as warmly interested for a fictitious as for a real personage. The field of imagination is thus laid open to our use and lessons may be formed to illustrate and carry home to the heart every moral rule of life.

In addressing this question, Jefferson uses the possessive form of it four times, twice spelled as "its" and twice spelled as "it's":

A little attention however to the nature of the human mind evinces that the entertainments of fiction are useful as well as pleasant. That they are pleasant when well written every person feels who reads. But wherein is its utility asks the reverend sage, big with the notion that nothing can be useful but the learned lumber of Greek and Roman reading with which his head is stored?

I answer, everything is useful which contributes to fix in the principles and practices of virtue. When any original act of charity or of gratitude, for instance, is presented either to our sight or imagination, we are deeply impressed with its beauty and feel a strong desire in ourselves of doing charitable and grateful acts also. On the contrary when we see or read of any atrocious deed, we are disgusted with it's deformity, and conceive an abhorence of vice. Now every emotion of this kind is an exercise of our virtuous dispositions, and dispositions of the mind, like limbs of the body acquire strength by exercise. But exercise produces habit, and in the instance of which we speak the exercise being of the moral feelings produces a habit of thinking and acting virtuously. We never reflect whether the story we read be truth or fiction. If the painting be lively, and a tolerable picture of nature, we are thrown into a reverie, from which if we awaken it is the fault of the writer. I appeal to every reader of feeling and sentiment whether the fictitious murther of Duncan by Macbeth in Shakespeare does not excite in him as great a horror of villany, as the real one of Henry IV. by Ravaillac as related by Davila? And whether the fidelity of Nelson and generosity of Blandford in Marmontel do not dilate his breast and elevate his sentiments as much as any similar incident which real history can furnish? Does he not in fact feel himself a better man while reading them, and privately covenant to copy the fair example? We neither know nor care whether Lawrence Sterne really went to France, whether he was there accosted by the Franciscan, at first rebuked him unkindly, and then gave him a peace offering: or whether the whole be not fiction. In either case we equally are sorrowful at the rebuke, and secretly resolve we will never do so: we are pleased with the subsequent atonement, and view with emulation a soul candidly acknowleging it's fault and making a just reparation.

I did notice the errant apostrophes, but did not find that they spoiled the sentiment. I was also easily able to get past the non-standard spelling of acknowledge. In fact, I'll acknowledge that I didn't even notice it until I saw it in the title of this entry, which I cut-and-pasted from the online html version of Jefferson's letter.

This does not seem to have been a commonplace spelling of the time, but just an idiosyncratic mistake by Jefferson, since the OED has:

1590 SHAKES. Com. Err. V. i. 322 Thou sham'st to acknowledge me in miserie.
1597 1 Hen. IV, III. ii. 111 Through all the Kingdomes that acknowledge Christ.
1611 BIBLE Wisd. xii. 27 They acknowledged him to be the true God, whome before they denyed to know. Prov. iii. 6 In all thy wayes acknowledge him, and he shall direct thy pathes.
1651 HOBBES Leviathan I. x. 43 He acknowledgeth the power which others acknowledge.
1762 GOLDSM. Cit. W. (1837) iv. 16 An Englishman is taught to acknowledge no other master than the laws which himself has contributed to enact.
1781 GIBBON Decl. & F. III. 65 The authority of Theodosius was cheerfully acknowledged by all the inhabitants of the Roman world.

If all this means that I'm not a stickler, but a pedant, so be it. I like to think that Jefferson would have taken the same view.

Posted by Mark Liberman at June 9, 2004 08:11 AM





0 Replies
 
JTT
 
  0  
Reply Mon 7 Dec, 2009 07:18 pm
Take your Fowler's, go to the bathroom, look yourself in the mirror and severely chastise yourself for not turning it into a fireplace log long ago. Go directly to the fireplace and reap some Btu's.

Quote:
Crystal on Fowler
December 7, 2009 @ 11:32 am · Filed by Zwicky Arnold under Books, Usage advice


Oxford University Press has published A Dictionary of Modern English Usage: The Classic First Edition. Nothing especially notable in that, except for bibliophiles and usage scholars. But what sets this publication apart is David Crystal's introduction to the volume, an assessment of Fowler's entries.


My copy has not yet arrived, but I've read notices of the volume in several places, in particular an appreciation of Crystal's commentary by Language Hat. A perceptive quote from Crystal:

The problem in reading Fowler is that one never knows which way he is going to vote. Is he going to allow a usage because it is widespread, or is he going to condemn it for the same reason? … The impression the entries give is that Fowler considers to be idiomatic what he himself uses. Usages he does not like are given such labels as 'ugly' (e.g. at historicity) or even 'evil' (e.g. at respectively).

Language Hat follows the theme:

[Crystal] continues with a good deal of acute analysis of Fowler's choices, prejudices, and insights, presenting some striking examples of contradictions: Fowler sensibly rejects letting etymology define meaning, then turns around and expresses "strong support for the maintenance of earlier meanings of a word, such as at aggravate, transpire, and meticulous (a 'wicked word')."

It's not just Fowler, of course. Observers of the advice literature (here on Language Log and elsewhere) have noted that usage advice is so often an expression of the adviser's personal (and not infrequently idiosyncratic) taste. For a recent example, see the discussion here of David Foster Wallace's recommendations about grammar and usage.

December 7, 2009 @ 11:32 am · Filed by Zwicky Arnold under Books, Usage advice


http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=1945
0 Replies
 
 

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