Grammar Nazi Thread: Smooshing Words Together

Discussion in 'Miscellaneous' started by scotpens, Apr 22, 2013.

  1. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    If having more words makes a language richer, then words pronunced the same but spelt differently should apply as well. After all in English the words metre and meter mean two different things as do the words tyre and tire. So if adding to the language makes it richer then doesn't the opposite apply?

    In regards to English, remember the saying that "Britain and America are two countries divided by a common language". As for English itslef it does love to borrow words from other languages.
     
  2. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Then not only did the word chillax appropriately communicate to you the speaker's intended meaning, it also had associated meaning cluing you in to the fact that the speaker was a poser. How is that bad?
    As someone who loves puns, I'd never argue that!
    Are you saying removing words makes language less rich? Yeah, possibly. English lost some useful and meaningful words. We lost thee, thou, thy, etc, which had more meaning than the simple you that replaced them, for example.
     
  3. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    If "a more perfect union" was good enough for Thomas Jefferson, it's good enough for me!

    That reminds me of the famous quote that may or may not have been spoken by Samuel Goldwyn: "Include me out."

    Aaaauugh! Every time I see the word "incentivize," I want to scream at the person who used it. "Why the ugly neologism? What's wrong with encourage, persuade, or motivate? And "disincentivize" is even worse.

    "Coopetition"? That's a new one on me.
     
  4. MacLeod

    MacLeod Admiral Admiral

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    Thee, Thou and thy haven't been totally lost according to wikipedia.

    It is used in parts of Northern England and by Scots

    Now how widely it used, is open to debate.
     
  5. TorontoTrekker

    TorontoTrekker Vice Admiral Admiral

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    What language did it borrow "itslef" from? (Sorry, couldn't resist. :p Of course, this means I will probably make a typo myself...)

    But yes, you're right. There's a quotation I often see printed on T-shirts about this topic. I get annoyed when I see it, though, not because the quotation is inaccurate or incorrect, but because it's misattributed, and the person who said it originally never gets the credit he deserves (or the money from the T-shirt sales):

    "The problem with defending the purity of the English language is that English is about as pure as a cribhouse whore. We don't just borrow words; on occasion, English has pursued other languages down alleyways to beat them unconscious and rifle their pockets for new vocabulary."

    -- James Nicoll

    Ironically, he originally misspelled "rifle" as "riffle". Oh, and one of the main reasons I'm annoyed that he doesn't get credit is because he's a friend of nearly 25 years... I was in a theatre troupe with him while I was at university, and I happen to think that someone as brilliant as James should get credit for his brilliance. (Just in case anyone was wondering why that annoyed me.)
     
  6. Sector 7

    Sector 7 Vice Admiral Admiral

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    Having been a writer and author for much of my life, as well as a substitute English teacher, the devolution of the English language is a pet peeve of mine. Much of this phenomenon comes from a lack of proper education and laziness.

    I was taught to speak and write proper English aka "the King's English". Ebonics, street slang and such are abhorrent to me.

    For me, the worst part is reading a news article, because most of my time is spent mentally editing and correcting to proper English... so much so that it distracts from the message of the article. I have actually thrown away books I was reading, because the author could not write a coherent sentence or use proper syntax. Yuck!
     
  7. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    It's a matter of the right level of usage. Street slang is appropriate for . . . well, the street. But you don't use slang or "ebonics" or netspeak abbreviations in a research paper.

    And I still say there's no such word as "alot," dammit. :brickwall:
     
  8. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Thoroughly agree with both of you. I too have made a career out of reading, writing and editing the English language, and it sometimes physically hurts me to see the mistakes people make.

    Genuine flubs are fine. Dialectic variations are fine. Socio-cultural variations are fine. Blatant wrongness because of a lack of education (for which I blame the schools) or a general lack of give-a-shit (for which I blame the individual) is not fine.

    When other people write for a living, and don't know the difference between it's and its, or their and there, it's simply unacceptable. But then I suppose I shouldn't complain, or else I wouldn't have a job that pays me to correct them.

    And yes, I did read this through eight times before posting.

    .
     
  9. Yoda

    Yoda Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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  10. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I write professionally too (not in English though) and I have a completely different relationship with language.

    In my opinion, the kind of distinction you're making here is absurd. Yes, there is such a thing as "proper English", but it is just one variant among many others, one which has been arbitrarily chosen to set the standard 600 years ago, yes, but that doesn't mean that the other variants are not part of the English language. They are, and in fact those idioms you find so abhorrent are the gateway where new words and expressions enter the language, which keeps English fresh and relevant.
     
  11. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    I wouldn't call it "proper English" (although I often do) so much as "neutral English." There is one "central" form of the language that, in theory, everyone who calls themselves an English speaker shares. No matter what your local dialect might be, in theory everyone understands that neutral version, so they can communicate in it across different socio-economic, geographical or circumstance-dependent groups. If that central version is lost in favour of always talking in some pidgin dialect no matter the circumstances, then the universal ability to communicate in "English" is lost with it.

    English does have a wonderful ability to incorporate words from other languages, and not just the ones from which it was originally created. That ability is what has made English into a world-level language, one spoken by many as a second language across the world. Another factor in that universality is its pretty basic grammar rules, where a lot of the complexity of other languages (genders, cases, tenses) has been stripped away, leaving it easy for other people to learn.

    The words that it does take from other languages, though, are almost always vocabulary - nouns, verbs, adjectives. You can make up any old bollocks as a verb or noun and make yourself understood because those are open classes. But they still have to fit into the existing grammatical and syntactical structures to be understood. Grammatical words are a closed class, where it is next to impossible to change them. Look at the trouble anyone has had trying to come with a simple gender-neutral pronoun (the current attempt is "yo"). It's when grammar is lost and confused that a language breaks down. You might understand the concepts in play, but if you don't know how they relate to each other, how do you proceed? And given that English is so basic in its grammatical rules, it's not that unreasonable people to expect to follow them, especially native speakers.

    A lot of my personal antipathy towards bad grammar is just personal pickiness - if I was a different kind of person who wasn't such a stickler for specifics it probably wouldn't bother me as much as it does.

    But does it not wind everybody else up as well, when you see a professionally done sign outside a shop that is mis-spelled or mis-punctuated? You're using this to promote your business, presumably, and if you're not spelling basic words correctly in your first point of contact with potential customers, what kind of impression do you expect them to take away of you? And not everyone has the excuse of being a non-native speaker.

    .
     
  12. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    (Emphasis mine)

    My mother is a teacher and she would take vehement exception to that proclamation. She spends a lot of time trying to teach her pupils (age 11) to read properly - unfortunately, the problem she encounters is that the childrens' parents do not read with their children, and do not spend time with them using English; the fact that they don't do so at home means that they won't do so in school. Even discounting non-native speakers (who will normally speak in their own language at home), this is the case. In other words, no, it's not "the schools", it's "the parents".

    To give you an example, by the time I was age 5, I had a reading age of 11 - this was not because of my school, it was because of my parents, who would read with me regularly (getting me to do much of the reading), talk and listen to us, and ask probing questions rather than questions we could answer with a "Yes" or "No". Many of the parents of the pupils my mother teaches will not read with their children, do not communicate with their children for the sake of it, and do not engage their children. My mother's school has asked native speakers of some of her pupils' native languages to talk with these children in their own language, and their grasp of their own language has had similar deficiencies to those found in her native English speaking pupils' grasp of English. It's not just a case of the schools not teaching, it's a case of the parents not doing the groundwork so that schools can teach.

    Relying on schools to teach pupils how to read and speak English when in fact they should be learning it from their parents at a very young age (1-3 years old) is just pig-headed - it clearly doesn't work, because we learn most of our linguistic skills when we are toddlers. Schooling just formalises this and expands upon the basics that should already have been taught to us.

    This is also why it's harder to learn a foreign language later in life - the older you get, the more ingrained your language and communication patterns become, and the harder it is to break out of them. My mother started throwing random French at my brother and I when we were about 3-5 years old, so when we got to secondary school, we were more capable of making the switch between linguistic styles. (I did three different foreign languages at GCSE level, when you had to do exams in speaking, reading, writing and listening. I attained A* in one, A in the other two. This is primarily because I understood how English was composed, and how French (and therefore other languages) could have a different structure.)
     
  13. lvsxy808

    lvsxy808 Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Actually yes, you're quite right, I retract that. Like you I was immersed in reading as a child, and grew up with an appreciation for it. My sister is raising her two the same way. And that came from having parents who actually gave a toss.

    .
     
  14. scotpens

    scotpens Vice Admiral Admiral

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    You mean "My mother started throwing random French at my brother and me."

    Sorry about that . . . :shrug:
     
  15. Jim Gamma

    Jim Gamma This space left blank intentionally. Premium Member

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    Yes, you're quite correct. :) Thanks!
     
  16. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Wow. You do know that Ebonics is a dialect, and not slang, don't you? It has a consistent grammatical structure similar to West African Languages and is, in every respect, equal to Standard English as a language. In fact, in many regards, AAVE (African American Vernacular English, the technical name for Ebonics), is more efficient than Standard English, and more "evolved", at least in the sense that it's grammatical structure has greater complexity, clarity, and utility than does that of Standard English.

    As for the "devolution" of the language, your complaint seems to be over a matter of taste (you find AAVE and slang distasteful, it seems), not language. Unless you can actually define this apparent devolution without relying on opinion -- can you do that?
     
  17. KimMH

    KimMH Rear Admiral Rear Admiral

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    Headed for perdition in the handcart of people who believe language expands to fit the human experience; and am usually delighted, or at least midly entertained when new words are coined, purloined and portmanteau(ed) to describe a new thing.
     
  18. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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  19. thestrangequark

    thestrangequark Admiral Admiral

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    Beautifully said! Not surprising, either, coming from Fry. I do disagree on one point, however; there is indeed a group who consistently innovate, create, and revel in the beauty of language: rappers. Of course, most of them rap in ebonics which, as we've seen in this thread, people tend to dismiss as uneducated, slangy, or otherwise somehow "less" than Standard English. Though I very much doubt that any one of those doing the dismissing could play so adeptly and skillfully with words as a good rap artist.
     
  20. The Mirrorball Man

    The Mirrorball Man Vice Admiral Admiral

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    I don't think you disagree: Fry's point is that very few of those who claim to be "guardians of language" actually revel in its beauty. Rappers don't make such claims and they certainly don't spend their time obsessing about apostrophes. I do believe that Stephen Fry would agree with you.