Big news! LibraryThing is now free to all! Read the blog post and discuss the change on Talk.
This site uses cookies to deliver our services, improve performance, for analytics, and (if not signed in) for advertising. By using LibraryThing you acknowledge that you have read and understand our Terms of Service and Privacy Policy. Your use of the site and services is subject to these policies and terms.
  • LibraryThing
  • Book discussions
  • Your LibraryThing
  • Join to start using.

Recent Transgressions #2

This is a continuation of the topic Recent Transgressions.

Pedants' corner

Join LibraryThing to post.

Jan 15, 2019, 10:13am Top

A continuation of the previous, and now very long, thread.

Jan 15, 2019, 12:24pm Top

Rep. Elijah Cummings: Less than that. Actually, less than that. The Congress doesn't meet but so many days in a year. And all I'm saying is that we've gotta hit the ground, not running, but flying."

... he’ll have to hit the ground “flying” with majority power to investigate the Trump administration...

which, as I understand it, means that he intends to "fly into the ground." And, come to think of it, I'm hoping his efforts amount to doing just that.

You go!, Elijah! You "hit the ground flying!", a.k.a. 'crash.'

"Ladies and gentlemen, please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts. We're about to make our final approach for hitting the ground flying."


All this reminds me of The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy in which we are told that the way to learn how to fly is to "throw yourself at the ground and miss."

Jan 15, 2019, 6:00pm Top

"Ladies and gentlemen, please return to your seats and fasten your seat belts. We're about to make our final approach for hitting the ground flying." Another way of saying 'we will be landing momentarily', no doubt. Bouncing planes.

I like the 'doesn't/aren't/hasn't got . . . but so many/much' construction. It sounds so down-home to me. Is it originally from southern US?

Jan 16, 2019, 5:30am Top

>3 bluepiano:

Actually, that quaint colloquialism is one I've heard "but rarely" and I spent a good number of years in the southern U.S. There are many similar quaint constructions--whether they were original to the Southern U.S. I don't know. A lot of speech habits migrated as people moved west from the 13 original colonies.

"He ain't but so high" (i.e. "tall")

The best source for such things as far as I know is this work:


See also : https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frederic_G._Cassidy


Jan 16, 2019, 2:58pm Top

When I moved south after growing up in the Midwest, "put it up" confused me. It means put it away.

I'm fascinated with regionalisms. In my hometown of Chicago, a traffic backup because of an accident already on the side of the road is called a gaper's block. I never realize it isn't used elsewhere.

Here in the American Pacific Northwest I hear "spendy" for expensive. I'll know I've fully acclimated to the PNW when I start using it.

Edited: Jan 17, 2019, 11:12am Top

>5 PhaedraB: "an accident already on the side of the road is called a gaper's block."

I grew up in the NY/NJ area where that is known as a "rubbernecking delay."

If you like regionalisms, you'll love New Orleans, although I'm guessing many of the best ones are fading away due to post-Katrina gentrification. For instance, when I lived there in the 1980s, the old people still talked about "making groceries" (going food shopping).

Jan 17, 2019, 1:22am Top

Speaking of transgressions, today I heard the local news anchor pronounce "logos" as LOW-guess. Our small-market newsreaders are a source of many such transgressions, although it seems they fired the most annoying one; I haven't seen her since the year turned.

Jan 17, 2019, 3:35am Top

>7 PhaedraB: She left to take a job with the Illinois State Fair.

>4 proximity1: Many thanks for the links.

>6 rocketjk: Over here 'making groceries' is 'picking up some messages'.

Jan 23, 2019, 1:20am Top

News from Davos - Brazil is the go-to place for winter-sports!

... his terse and widely-panned appearance at the World Economic Forum on Tuesday was overshadowed by a snowballing scandal back home involving one of his sons, the recently-elected senator Flávio Bolsonaro.


Jan 23, 2019, 7:42am Top

>9 thorold: I wish I hadn't read the Guardian article. The snowballing scandal in my mind's eye was much more entertaining.

Jan 23, 2019, 4:35pm Top

A reader on BBC Radio 4’s “The Invention of Free Speech” just pronounced the word “impiously” as though it meant “like an imp” ... rather than “in a manner that lacks piety”.

Edited: Jan 23, 2019, 5:08pm Top

>10 abbottthomas: Yes, it seems to be a bit more serious than just putting stones in them, alas.

>11 dtw42: I'm sure I've heard that quite often, I wouldn't say it's a new evil, although it is a bit counterintuitive.
I checked several dictionaries and for "impious" they all have both IMP-e-uss and im-PIE-uss. Cambridge says that the first is US and the second UK, but the others just list them as alternatives. I had the idea in the back of my mind that IMP-e-uss was the "posher" one in English. (None bother to give pronunciation for the adverb.)

Edited: Jan 23, 2019, 5:38pm Top

>12 thorold: Yes, I suspected it wasn't the first time I'd heard it either. "Counterintuitive" seems like a very polite way to describe it. ;-)

I know it's ridiculous to expect any aspect of the English language and its usage to make any kind of sense, but it seems to me that saying "IMP-e-uss" just screams "I don't know what this word means," like pronouncing "underfed" as "un-derfed".

Jan 24, 2019, 5:14am Top

>13 dtw42:

Exactly. After all, this suggests that the person who'd say, "IMP-pious-ly" would pronounce its 'positive' ("piously"side, "PEEOUS-ly".

What's suggested is a plain ignorance of the root word, "pious."

Edited: Jan 24, 2019, 2:38pm Top

>11 dtw42:

It's semi-related, but often traffic reports on BBC Radio 5 Live will talk about hold ups due to a SHED load rather than simply 'a shed load '. It might seem rather subtle, but the former emphasis signifies "lots of" rather than the result of a truck shedding its load.

Jan 24, 2019, 5:49pm Top

>14 proximity1: Naw, doesn't suggest ignorance so much as it suggests that stress--like spelling, pronunciation, current word meanings--doesn't necessarily fit into a logical pattern.

>15 Tid: That's v. interesting. I'd always assumed that 'SHEDload' was UK euphemism for US 'shitload' which makes this seem all the stranger given the context. Is it one announcer only who says this? If so, I'm wondering whether s/he is too old or too young to have come across the word.

Edited: Jan 24, 2019, 6:07pm Top

>16 bluepiano:

stress--like spelling, pronunciation, current word meanings--doesn't necessarily fit into a logical pattern.

Exactly. Look at the difference between HIStory and hisTORical, NORmal and norMALity, imMORal and immorALity. It's not unusual for the shift from one form of a word to another to be accompanied by a shift in stress.

Jan 24, 2019, 6:46pm Top

>16 bluepiano: I reckon that 'shed load' and 'shit load' are pretty well synonymous but we Brits do love our sheds.

Jan 25, 2019, 6:11am Top

>16 bluepiano:

Shedload is indeed a UK euphemism for 'shitload'. However, traffic reporters still have to describe road closures due to a 'shed load' from a truck or lorry! It's all in the syllabic emphasis...

Feb 3, 2019, 2:02am Top

"The Daily" is a New York Times podcast. In the comments to an article about it, a reader wrote, "This is the penultimate episode of “The Daily”! Kudos to Mr. Sulzberger and Michael for the good work."

And no, she was not suggesting that the podcast was being discontinued; it's not.

Feb 3, 2019, 4:57am Top

>20 lilithcat: ??? I wonder what she wanted to say, then... Did she simply want to refer to the podcast before the last?

Feb 3, 2019, 9:21am Top

>21 ScarletBea:

No, I think that she thinks "penultimate" is a form of praise. Many people think it means "very best" or "really great". I see that error fairly often.

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 5:31am Top

>20 lilithcat: to >22 lilithcat:

Soon to be 'standard' English-- LOL!

"pen•ul•ti•mate" (adj.): the highest, utmost; a form of praise, 'best', as in 'the penultimate film of the year': 'the best film of the year.'

because, of course, standard English usage ought to be determined by the least lowest*-common-denominator, those more ignorant and careless who, being the most numerous, are also bound to be far less well informed than people who've studied and practiced their native languages carefully.


* per abbottthomas' objection, below, preferring "lowest" to "least".

Feb 3, 2019, 10:21am Top

Least-common-denominator? To me that means the denominator that occurs most infrequently. I prefer lowest common denominator.

Feb 3, 2019, 10:29am Top

>23 proximity1:

Which is exactly why we now have the ubiquitous "flammable" instead of "inflammable".

Feb 3, 2019, 11:02am Top

Speaking of ubiquity:

Nothing is the center of anything anymore. Everything is the "epicenter".

Feb 3, 2019, 11:25am Top

>26 lilithcat: That one’s so common that I’ve almost stopped noticing it...

I suppose the same kind of logic applies to both penultimate and epicentre - the assumption that any prefix you stick on a word has a strengthening effect, irrespective of what that prefix might mean, and equally irrespective of whether the word in question can meaningfully be strengthened. By that logic, an epicentre is obviously so much more central than a mere centre, and penultimate is obviously even more ne plus ultra than ultimate. I’m just waiting for epi-uniqueness to start popping up.

Feb 3, 2019, 11:41am Top

>27 thorold:

I’m just waiting for epi-uniqueness to start popping up

I hate to tell you how often I hear or read "most unique", "very unique', and the like.

Feb 3, 2019, 12:28pm Top

>28 lilithcat: “most unique”, etc.

This is a really old one - it was a pet bugbear of my aunt, who qualified as a teacher before the Great War. Google confirms, interestingly enough, that “most unique” peaked around 1914. Apart from “very unique”, which had a bit of a boost around the end of the last century, none of the degrees of uniqueness shows any sign of a recent boom.

(I looked at *uniquer and *uniquest as well, but Google only came up with one or two actual examples - and even those seemed to be parodic, not real mistakes - the rest of the hits were all grammar books telling you not to use those words.)


Feb 3, 2019, 12:37pm Top

>29 thorold: ...

Fowler's Modern English Usage (1926): "...no unique thing is more or less unique than another unique thing ... & it is nonsense to call anything more, most, very, somewhat, or comparatively u. Such nonsense, however, is often written" (and he goes on to give a long list of examples of misuse).

Feb 3, 2019, 1:04pm Top

>27 thorold:
"the assumption that any prefix you stick on a word has a strengthening effect, irrespective of what that prefix might mean"

I suppose soon we'll be seeing "shit-ultimate", or, in the UK, "shed-ultimate"...

Feb 3, 2019, 4:15pm Top

How about quite unique?

Feb 3, 2019, 6:39pm Top

>32 krazy4katz: In steady decline since about 1910, according to Google. But the reason for that is probably that we are losing the sense of “quite”=“absolutely”, which would have been the normal one a century ago, and it’s become a vague qualifier for something that is appreciable but not excessive (“quite warm today”). Obviously in the looser sense of “quite”, you wouldn’t be able to say “quite unique”, but in the other sense you would.

(It still works in the negative - if you say something is “not quite unique” you obviously mean it’s not unique, but it comes very close to being.)

Feb 3, 2019, 8:33pm Top

I was thinking of quite as being similar to “amazingly” but maybe that is wrong too.

Feb 4, 2019, 5:42am Top

"How about quite unique?"

Ask yourself: are there degrees of "unique"?

>33 thorold:

But the sense of "unique" is "uni": "one. the "one" and only, "one of a kind," no other example.

So, by this light, it is confusion to speak of "one" being "not quite two or more."

Does the "uni-sex" barber serve almost both sexes? Is unidimensional "almost more than one dimension"?

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 5:53am Top

>34 krazy4katz:

"I was thinking of quite as being similar to “amazingly” but maybe that is wrong too."

Right. The only necessary relationship I can think of between "amazement"--required for something to be "amazingly..."-- and "quite" is that both of these are inherently relative and subjective in character.

But one can be "amazed" by things which are not necessarily "quite" this, that, or the other: the ordinary, the banal, for example, can leave one "amazed" though that presumes the kind of attention and awareness that's rather unusual today.

"Words have roots."

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 6:47am Top

>33 thorold:

Apparently this is a difference between British and American English. I never knew until quite (LOL) recently, that "quite" only means "very" to Americans. Whereas to Brits it can mean either "very" (that performance was quite superb) or "less than perfect" (your maths score was quite good).

So an English writer being told by an American publisher that his manuscript was "quite good" would start searching for other outlets, while an American brandishing her CV ("Her performance of duties has been quite good") at English employers might wonder why she got no job offers.

Feb 4, 2019, 7:00am Top

>35 proximity1: So, by this light, it is confusion to speak of "one" being "not quite two or more."

There’s a difference between qualifying the amount of a property something has - which obviously can only be all or nothing when you’re talking about uniqueness - and qualifying its proximity to having that property. Ninety-nine is not one hundred, and never can be, but it’s meaningful and useful to say that it’s “close to” one hundred, or “not quite” one hundred. And “almost unique” or “not quite unique” are meaningful ways of expressing that something is very rare.

Unisex is a transgression of the 60s, off-topic here... And it is even almost logical, if you are prepared to accept that the “uni” prefix refers to the number of barbers involved, not to the number of sexes.

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 7:08am Top

>37 Tid: Quite! And pity the American aeronautical engineer, who steps into a wind-tunnel instead of sending off his resumé when asked for a CV...

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 11:02am Top

>40 Crypto-Willobie:

“ 'A novel is not a blog post about Your Favorite Things,' Dreyer notes."

But, apparently, his own "Utterly Correct Guide to Clarity and Style" is.

Thank you, waiter; I'll have the Strunk & White, Zinsser's On Writing Well and, for dessert, I'd like Ambrose Bierce's still-unequalled guide to style and clarity, Write It Right: A Little Blacklist of Literary Faults (1909).


E.g.: Things that Bierce understood which, today, few people understand without his aid.

Note to the reader: in the following (sampling), according to Bierce, "Everything in quotation marks is to be understood as disapproved."


"Precision is much, but not all; some words and phrases are disallowed on the ground of taste. As there are neither standards nor arbiters of taste, the book can do little more than reflect that of its author, who is far indeed from professing impeccability. In neither taste nor precision is any man's practice a court of last appeal, for writers all, both great and small, are habitual sinners against the light; and their accuser is cheerfully aware that his own work will supply (as in making this book it has supplied) many 'awful examples'—his later work less abundantly, he hopes, than his earlier. He nevertheless believes that this does not disqualify him for showing by other instances than his own how not to write. The infallible teacher is still in the forest primeval, throwing seeds to the white blackbirds."

Advisedly for Advertently, Intentionally. "It was done advisedly" should mean that it was done after advice.

Aggravate for Irritate. "He aggravated me by his insolence." To aggravate is to augment the disagreeableness of something already disagreeable, or the badness of something bad. But a person cannot be aggravated, even if disagreeable or bad. Women are singularly prone to misuse of this word.

Attain for Accomplish. "By diligence we attain our purpose." A purpose is accomplished; success is attained.

Avocation for Vocation. A vocation is, literally, a calling; that is, a trade or profession. An avocation is something that calls one away from it. If I say that farming is some one's avocation I mean that he practises it, not regularly, but at odd times.

Candidate for Aspirant. In American politics, one is not a candidate for an office until formally named (nominated) for it by a convention, or otherwise, as provided by law or custom. So when a man who is moving Heaven and Earth to procure the nomination protests that he is "not a candidate" he tells the truth in order to deceive.

Commit Suicide. Instead of "He committed suicide," say, He killed himself, or, He took his life. For married we do not say "committed matrimony." Unfortunately most of us do say, "got married," which is almost as bad. For lack of a suitable verb we just sometimes say committed this or that, as in the instance of bigamy, for the verb to bigam is a blessing that is still in store for us.

Definitely for Definitively. "It was definitely decided." Definitely means precisely, with exactness; definitively means finally, conclusively.

Preventative for Preventive. No such word as preventative.

Quite. "She is quite charming." If it is meant that she is entirely charming this is right, but usually the meaning intended to be conveyed is less than that—that she is rather, or somewhat, charming.

Various for Several. "Various kinds of men." Kinds are various of course, for they vary—that is what makes them kinds. Use various only when, in speaking of a number of things, you wish to direct attention to their variety—their difference, one from another. "The dividend was distributed among the various stockholders." The stockholders vary, as do all persons, but that is irrelevant and was not in mind. "Various persons have spoken to me of you." Their variation is unimportant; what is meant is that there was a small indefinite number of them; that is, several.

Whom for Who. "The man whom they thought was dead is living." Here the needless introduction of was entails the alteration of whom to who. "Remember whom it is that you speak of." "George Washington, than whom there was no greater man, loved a jest." The misuse of whom after than is almost universal. Who and whom trip up many a good writer, although, unlike which and who, they require nothing but knowledge of grammar.


"And you knew who you were then,
Girls were girls and men were men,
Mister, we could use a man like Herbert Hoover a-gain!
Didn't need no welfare-state,
Everybody pulled his weight,
Gee!, our old La Salle ran great!
Those were the days!"

Feb 4, 2019, 10:30am Top

>41 proximity1:
Just pointing it out. Didn't mean to strain your cut-n-paste finger...

Feb 4, 2019, 12:03pm Top

>38 thorold:

"Unisex is a transgression of the 60s, off-topic here... And it is even almost logical, if you are prepared to accept that the “uni” prefix refers to the number of barbers involved, not to the number of sexes."

"Unisex," as in the unisex hair stylists of the 70s, makes at least modicum of sense in context if you think of the meaning as "treating both sexes as one."

Edited: Feb 4, 2019, 1:37pm Top

>36 proximity1:

Maybe the most accurate word is "surprisingly" unique. That is probably what I am trying to say, but not "quite" saying it.

Feb 4, 2019, 3:44pm Top

and yet ... I can't help thinking ...

Let us suppose that thing A has one attribute that nothing else has, rendering it unique.
Then we turn to thing B, and find that it has THREE attributes that nothing else has, rendering it unique in three different ways. It certainly has more elements of uniqueness than thing A, so why should we not say that is it more unique? Just playing devil's advocate here, folks...

Feb 4, 2019, 5:48pm Top

>45 dtw42: The quality of being unique does not relate to the way in which something is unique but simply the fact that it is one of a kind. The number of differences between a unique item and other items is irrelevant with regards to its uniqueness.

Feb 4, 2019, 5:54pm Top

>44 krazy4katz: Maybe to avoid seeming to qualify unique 'it is, surprisingly, unique'.

>39 thorold: Is this yet another joke about aeronautical engineers or am I once again failing to see the obvious? I so hope it's the former as I want to believe that aeronautical engineers have the status of mothers-in-law and bosses in jokeland.

I adore Bierce's book. But he was self-educated and perhaps because of that was dogmatic in his more eccentric notions. The book though certainly didn't deserve the marginal comments made by previous owner in one of my copies: 'Oh, *really*, Ambrose?', 'Wrong wrong wrong', and 'what a snob'.

Feb 5, 2019, 6:32am Top

>46 pgmcc:


Feb 5, 2019, 7:24am Top

I too dislike the misuse of the word Unique although several years ago a LT member told me off on that same topic, for being too pedantic!

I also care for the word Awesome .

It should be reserved for ... the universe or GOD (for believers) Milton knew how to use that word :-)

Edited: Feb 5, 2019, 11:55am Top

>47 bluepiano: I want to believe that aeronautical engineers have the status of mothers-in-law and bosses in jokeland

I'm sure that could be arranged if we all made an effort!

No, it was just a weak pun, which would almost have made sense if I hadn't confused flow coefficient (Cv) with drag coefficient (Cd). Only the latter is something you could plausibly measure in a wind-tunnel. Best forgotten.

Feb 6, 2019, 2:21pm Top

Today I heard an interviewee on BBC radio refer to children who were "evacuee'd" in the war.

Feb 6, 2019, 4:31pm Top

>51 Tid: I think that means they emptied both their bowels and their bladder.

Feb 6, 2019, 5:19pm Top

>52 dtw42: I suppose had it only been their bladder it would have been "evacupeed".

Edited: Feb 7, 2019, 9:01am Top

>51 Tid:

Not surprising in a country where the verb "to try" is on what amounts to linguistic-life-support as it's replaced by its nominal-form cousin, "trial".

Everywhere one hears such-and-such is being "trialed" or shall be "trialed" or so-and-so are "trialing" such-and-such.

Feb 7, 2019, 8:55am Top

>54 proximity1:

Heavens! I've never heard that!

Feb 7, 2019, 10:32am Top

>56 proximity1:

Oh, I believed you. It just hasn't gotten to the States yet. And I hope it never will.

Feb 7, 2019, 11:06am Top

>57 lilithcat:

"Americans to trial recent British-ism in return for the American 'gifts' of, 'it's, like, awesome' and tear-ridden denim trouser-legs."

Edited: Feb 7, 2019, 12:38pm Top

Fascinating - “trial” (vb.) really does seem to be much more common in British than US English. I wonder why? Google shows forms like “trialled” and “trialling” as being about ten times more frequent in the “British” corpus than in the “American” one. The earliest examples are from about 1980. A lot of the examples are from scientific papers, so I would guess that it migrated into newspaper headline use via press releases.

(I looked for “to trial” first, but of course that comes up in phrases like “bring him to trial” and isn’t a good indicator of the verb)

ETA: it occurred to me that Americans might use “trialed” and “trialing” - it turns out that they do. When you allow for that the difference isn’t quite so spectacular, maybe a factor of three rather than a factor of ten.

Edited: Feb 7, 2019, 12:42pm Top

>59 thorold: Side note: In America, "trialled," when it gets here, will more likely to be spelled with just the one L. We generally dispense with the double consonant at the end if the accent of the word is on the first syllable. So "travelled" becomes "traveled," for example, though the past tense of "occur" remains "occurred."

Feb 8, 2019, 6:13am Top

>56 proximity1:

I feel your pain, but I don't agree that "try" is the correct form in most of those cases? I would suggest "conduct a trial of" is what they are trying (!) to say.

Feb 8, 2019, 6:38am Top

>61 Tid:

Been there, Trialled that.

"conduct a trial of" will never catch on. Four words rather than one?--that is so Pre-Twitter.

"Trial" "trialled", etc., is home and has the shopping put away before "conduct a trial of" can change out of its soiled "Depends"-adult nappies.

Feb 8, 2019, 9:11am Top

You do have to remember that headline rules don't have to follow the normal rules of English if it can save a few characters. And saving three words is golden.

Feb 8, 2019, 9:27am Top

>63 jjwilson61:. ...especially if it introduces ambiguity which is always good click-bait.

Feb 8, 2019, 9:34am Top

>63 jjwilson61:

You do have to remember that headline rules don't have to follow the normal rules of English if it can save a few characters. And saving three words is golden.


I do? Oh! Right.

Well, then, let's see:

While it is true that the ugly, clumsy and needless "trialled" is briefer than "conduct a trial of,"
"try" is briefer than "trial" by two letters.

Finland trials basic income for unemployed
Finland tries basic income for unemployed

Letters saved: 1

Lung cancer stem cell therapy to be trialled in UK
Lung cancer stem cell therapy to be tried in UK

Letters saved: 3

Big Issue to trial card readers after steep decline in carrying cash
Big Issue to try card readers after steep decline in carrying cash

Letters saved: 2

Morrisons to trial paper bags for groceries and higher price for plastic bags
Morrisons to try paper bags for groceries and higher price for plastic bags

Letters saved: 2

German cities to trial free public transport to cut pollution
German cities to try free public transport to cut pollution

Letters saved: 2

Total letters saved in this exercise: 10

The "gold" stacks up! LOL!

"Trial" again, JJ.

Feb 8, 2019, 10:58am Top

Trying something is different than conducting a trial of it. Try implies "hey, let's give this a go", whereas trial implies a process that's significantly more controlled and monitored.

Feb 8, 2019, 11:54am Top

>66 r.orrison: ...more of a test, really.

Edited: Feb 8, 2019, 12:34pm Top

>65 proximity1: Do you need to make this group as factious as the Pro and Con political group?

Feb 8, 2019, 1:36pm Top

>65 proximity1:

Can't you tell snark when you read it?

Feb 8, 2019, 10:50pm Top

If a criminal is on trial, they are tried, but if a dog is at a herding trial, it is being trialed. Or so I've heard it used.

Feb 8, 2019, 10:54pm Top

My local noon news continues to be a treasure trove of transgressions. One young man being interviewed proclaimed he was 'prideful' rather than proud, while the incompetent news reader managed to confuse 'intimate' with 'inmate', which made the story more curious than it was meant to be.

I've emailed the television station with my shock over who they chose to anchor their noon news since as of yet she hasn't gotten through a single story without mangling what is on the teleprompter, but they haven't found it necessary to reply.

Edited: Feb 10, 2019, 6:31am Top

>69 lilithcat: You write: "Can't you tell snark when you read it?"

I ask: Can you?

Suppose I tell you that you badly missed the "snark" of my >65 proximity1:, hmm?

Can you compellingly argue that it wasn't intended that way? How would you do that?--and, how would you do it against an objection on my part, were I to post one?

Tell me: do you have it straight from JJW that his comment wasn't to be read and understood on its 'face-value'? If so, please claim that. Otherwise, before you "go off" on me for having missed a comment's sarcastic or facetious aspect, go and do what a responsible person would do: ask the source.

What the fuck has happened to this unbelievably goddamned prickly society where, rather than thinking, checking, finding out or--better, RATHER THAN LETTING SOME SUPPOSEDLY OFFENDED PARTY SPEAK FOR HIMSELF OR HERSELF, someone else leaps in to raise an objection on his or her behalf?

Sometimes, indeed, I've missed a comment's facetious intent. Most recently that happened in the thread on Immigration/Border-wall controversy where I misread TrippB's intent in a comment.

Alas, I've read scores and scores of comments by JJ. That experience informs me that there is simply nothing "snark-y" in the character of this comment.

"You do have to remember that headline rules don't have to follow the normal rules of English if it can save a few characters. And saving three words is golden."

But, please, I invite you to s-l-o--w-l-y and c-l-e-a-r-l-y explain in a convincing way just exactly what it is in the above that it shows it as unambiguously "snark-y".

Do that, won't you? Otherwise, I'm going to suspect that, really, you can't.

Edited: Feb 10, 2019, 6:30am Top

“I have nothing against rules. They’re indispensable when playing Monopoly or gin rummy, and their observance can go a long way toward improving a ride on the subway. The rule of law? Big fan.

“The English language, though, is not so easily ruled and regulated. It developed without codification, sucking up new constructions and vocabulary every time some foreigner set foot on the British Isles-to say nothing of the mischief we Americans have wreaked on it these last few centuries—and continues to evolve anarchically. It has, to my great dismay, no enforceable laws, much less someone to enforce the laws it doesn’t have.

Certain prose rules are essentially inarguable--that a sentence’s subject and its verb should agree in number, for instance. Or that in a “not only x but y” construction, the x and the y must be parallel elements. Why? I suppose because they’re firmly entrenched, because no one cares to argue with them, and because they aid us in using our words to their preeminent purpose: to communicate clearly with our readers. Let’s call these reasons the Four C’s, shall we? Convention. Consensus. Clarity. Comprehension”

Benjamin Dreyer, author of Dreyer’s English wrote that.

Any parent of a school-aged child over the past forty years, at least!, has seen his child—wait, No! : has seen their child—come home with a note from the school or the child’s teacher which is addressed generally to the parents concerned and, so, referring to “your child”, goes on to say “they.”

E.g. “The principal’s office would like to remind you that if your child must remain longer than fifteen minutes past the close of the school day, they must have your prior arrangement with the principal’s office” …

“Early in his career, Dreyer pursued writing(3) and acting.(1) He worked in bars and restaurants before turning to freelance proofreading, then copy editing.(1) In 1993 he joined Random House full time as a production editor.(2) He was promoted from group manager to senior managing editor and copy chief in 2008.” (Wikipedia)

So, what, I wonder, did Dreyer do over the course of his years in copying-editing faced with thousands of instances of “they” in a text which refers to a singular antecedent, “he”, “she,” or even “one”?

Feb 9, 2019, 10:38am Top

>72 proximity1: Was that snarky? It just reads as hostile.

Feb 9, 2019, 1:02pm Top

>72 proximity1:

I'm not sure that slolwly can be pronounced. (Yes, it was bound to be me that fell in your trap).

Feb 10, 2019, 9:54am Top

>74 jjwilson61:

"Was that snarky? It just reads as hostile."

It would seem that way to you; the plain facts, plainly-stated, must seem "hostile" to your mistaken views of things. Again, you almost never "disappoint."

Feb 10, 2019, 12:32pm Top

>76 proximity1: It read as hostile to me too. Perhaps practice gentle disagreement? It is possible.

Edited: Feb 11, 2019, 10:41am Top

>77 krazy4katz:

To paraphrase Douglas Murray, who said,

I don’t make any apology, by the way, for being gloomy. I think if the facts are gloomy then you should be gloomy. And I think that a huge amount of damage has been done historically and is still being done today by optimists. ... Extremism and violence can come from absolutely any community pretty much.”

In such cases as this I have no use for your "gentle disagreement."

You don't "connect the dots" or see the outline that results from connecting them.

The abuse of language and, especially, the distortion of plain-meanings into mush-mouthed euphemisms is probably the most important tool in the entire arsenal of vicious power and, at The Guardian (London), this tool is an essential part of that newspaper's campaign to turn everything to use in its racist and bigoted obsessions for the 'interests' of 'people of color' or for "feminism" as The Guardian (just one example amongst innumerable others) sees it, always championing these above all else, no matter how stupid and ridiculous the consequences. You can count on J.J. to lend his uniquely inept take on these things, defending the idiocy of servants of power's brutal rule--in this particular instance, that would be The Guardian.

The immediate examples here (the noun "trial" needlessly wrenched into service as a verb--and not done artfully, as "Shakespeare" was wont to do) though mainly innocuous in appearance, are part of the Guardian's larger work wreaking havoc on the English language for the paper's doctrinaire ends.

I don't make any apology for being 'hostile' toward those, wittingly or unwittingly*, who consistently offer up mindlessly naive and ill-considered excuses for what are truly vicious, truly hostile, people who, though they dress in beautifully-tailored clothes, though they dine in fine restaurants, though they very often speak with polished accents in calm, composed tones of voice (and, in public, on camera, before a live-microphone, never use profanity or violent words), are, never the less people whose power, greed, self-serving acts while in offices of public trust, are the bases for genuine and widespread violent hostility to groups who, in their lesser good fortune, comprise the vast majority of the public. These truly hostile privileged elite are practically beyond all effective challenge. Even when at last 'defeated' at the election-polls, these people go off to comfortable sinecures and are invariably replaced by their ideological brothers and sisters.

Behind what you pose here as advocacy of "gentle disagreement," (over, yes, indeed, innocent-looking language usage), I see a practical call for docility since docile language in the face of what is elsewhere, in other more serious examples, exactly what the powerful are so pleased to have.

Seattle, 1999 (Photo credit/source: Steve Kaiser from Seattle, US - WTO protests 10 CC BY-SA 2.0 (Wikipedia))

A police Tigres squad patrols during an operation in Los Alpes, southern outskirts of Tegucigalpa.
( The Intercept February, 2018, (Photo: Orlando Sierra/AFP/Getty Images))


* (wittingly or unwittingly) The damage, the harms, are the same whether one is aware of them or not.

For example, someone might say, innocently,

"Let's not knock banks. Banks do a lot of good: they help us keep our money safe; they allow us to borrow as well as save for the future, etc. We'd be in a big fix if we didn't have banks."

This person, defending "banks" in general, has, perhaps intentionally, perhaps unintentionally, also done something at least to "defend" Goldman Sachs bank in particular, even if the name of the bank is never mentioned--indeed, especially if the name is never mentioned. Now, maybe the person in this hypothetical example has never even heard of Goldman Sachs, never mind being aware of the bank's very questionable role in the larger society. The fact is, the results are the same unless there's a big, "Except, of course, for Goldman Sachs bank and all others like it." Depending on the particulars at issue, nearly all banks, in certain respects, are like Goldman Sachs bank, They say "the Devil is in the details," but J.J., as my experience shows me, just " 'doesn't do' 'details.' "

Feb 11, 2019, 1:25pm Top

>77 krazy4katz:
How dare you make a suggestion to prolixity1?
Don't you know that he is always right and everone else is a moron?

Feb 11, 2019, 1:38pm Top

>79 Crypto-Willobie: I know. I was feeling nasty. ;-)

Mar 24, 2019, 10:41am Top

An article in today's Chicago Tribune about restoring old homes quoted one homeowner: "I walked in and the building literally gave me a hug and whispered in my ear, 'You're home now,' . . . "

Frankly, I'd have screamed and run out of there as fast as I was able!

Mar 24, 2019, 10:57am Top

If the building literally gave him a hug, it must have been falling down around him. Get out fast.

Edited: Mar 24, 2019, 11:41am Top

Reminds me of the Peanuts characters having conversations with their school building.

Mar 24, 2019, 3:55pm Top

>81 lilithcat: Who wrote the article? Shirley Jackson?

Jul 9, 2019, 5:33pm Top

Caption on a photo of a dog beach on Lake Michigan: Rising Lake Michigan water levels have left the lake submerged in 2018 and 2019.

I know they meant the beach, but are there no copy editors? (That's a rhetorical question, by the way.)

Jul 10, 2019, 4:16am Top

>85 lilithcat: my brain is turning in on itself trying to imagine a submerged lake!
(I feel like inside "Inception" :) )

Jul 10, 2019, 11:11am Top

>86 ScarletBea: Or an un-submerged lake, which is even a bigger problem.

Jul 10, 2019, 1:02pm Top

Chicago’s lakefront is a lot of landfill, and that is called “formerly submerged land”, which actually has legal ramifications.

Jul 10, 2019, 1:08pm Top

The Spongebob Squarepants cartoon has an ocean under the sea where the fishy denizens go to swim.

Edited: Oct 8, 2019, 6:57am Top

Would one of you who is able* and inclined to do so please pass along the following to its intended addressee? :

MEMO to John Daniel Davidson, Political Editor at The Federalist

RE: Your recent article, "Why Liberal Media Hate ‘The Joker’"


where you write,


"At the risk of reading too much into what is, at bottom, a comic-book supervillain origin story movie, 'Joker' is on some level an indictment. But not quite in the way liberals critics suppose. What 'Joker' indicts is moral relativism.

"Consciously or not, the film makes some implicit arguments, including an argument for compassion and community and against moral relativism and indifference. Here we have a profile of a disturbed man sliding into psychosis who gets no help from anyone—not least the government social worker who’s supposed to be helping him. It’s set in a city simmering with hatred and violence, where basic government services like trash collection have broken down."


This is not a quibble with the gist of your main point above— it's a critique of your clumsy misuse of the part to which I've added emphasis, "not least".

That (where the emphasis is added) is just confused. Fine, all our writing has to be edited between first and final draft. But, here, you've overlooked a blunder in your sense of the proper use of "not least."

When you point out—quite rightly— that in this case's example, the Joker "gets no help from anyone" then the phrase you want is most certainly "least of all" rather than, "not least."

I suspect that the reason you felt an impulse—which you followed—to use "not least" is because, indeed, the impulse to use "most of all," the Joker gets no help is obviously warranted and is part of your point there. But employing "most of all" in a context where it refers to one's getting "nothing" perhaps struck you as inapposite. But here"most of all" is quite apposite and you do not make the point you're trying to make by writing, in such a case, "least of all".

I trust you shall grasp this point's validity.


* I don't "do" either "Linked-In" or "Facebook".

Edited: Oct 8, 2019, 8:05am Top

>90 proximity1: I trust you shall grasp this point's validity.

This is not a quibble with the gist of your main point above— it's a critique of your clumsy misuse of the part to which I've added emphasis, "shall"... :-)

(Sorry, I know it was just an editing slip-up, but I couldn’t resist.)

Edited: Oct 8, 2019, 1:42pm Top

>91 thorold:

"Sorry, I know it was just an editing slip-up, but I couldn’t resist.)"


Not an editing slip-up so it's a good thing you didn't resist.

I don't see your point. What's the problem there with "shall"? Maybe you have assumed it's simply so obvious that you decided to leave it to me to figure out for myself. Since it isn't obvious to me, maybe you'd like to point out clearly what I suppose you mean : something amiss in my use of "shall."

However that may be, my point to J. D. Davidson is not simply a difference of opinion about various contexts in which "not least" can make sense. What I've pointed out concerning his use of "not least" is that it doesn't and can't work there and "make good sense."

You can dispute the correctness of my use of "shall" (if you would like to) but I don't think you can say it simply doesn't and can't be used there reasonably.

Oct 8, 2019, 5:13pm Top

>92 proximity1: Strange: to me there’s no good reason to use “shall” instead of “will” there, and I’m sure you would use “will” in normal speech. But it obviously sounds right to you, and there must be a reason for that.

After Googling it, it’s obvious that “I trust you shall ...” does exist, albeit far less common than “I trust you will”, and seems to date back to the eccentric use in the King James Bible (e.g. 2 Corinthians 1.13) and a few other 16th/17th century texts. So I’ll let you off, grudgingly...

Edited: Oct 9, 2019, 6:32am Top

>93 thorold:

... "So I’ll let you off, grudgingly..."

I'm, like, Whew! What a relief!

... "it obviously sounds right to you, and there must be a reason for that."

It certainly doesn't 'sound' wrong to my ear; and you are correct, Sir!: it happens that there is "a reason for that."

I suspect that one reason is that my ears are older than yours, that I learned to speak English (native English, of course) when space-flight was young and people saying or writing "should" or "shall" where, today, many people know no better or other than to say or write "would" or "will" wasn't odd, eccentric or unusual.

Another reason is that the focus of much of my study is just there: in these 16th & 17th-century texts you mention.

My parents' generation was not far from the last required to take courses in elementary Latin in (ordinary American public) high school and neither of them studied it after leaving school; I think I'm correct in describing both of them as having experienced their Latin-course school-work as tremendously painful drudgery. By the time I went to high school, an ordinary public school was extremely unusual if it required any Latin language course at all. And, though I was delighted then not to have to study it, today I very much regret that I never learned it. Having never mastered Latin is now a huge deficiency in my current studies.

Why all the attention to Latin? Because, back when it was still routinely required in order to graduate from high school, people who did gratuate had learned the differences between "will" and "shall" and the subtle ways these differences allowed a knowledgable person to express himself. Those subtleties are now lost to us—or, rather, to those of us who never bother to look (back) into the former common uses of them.

I'm well aware that very many of these ignorant people should be quite prompt in telling us that they don't care.

And there's the difference: I do care. That is why, when I read your comment, I was sincerely interested to learn whether I'd been mistaken and, if so, how.


Now, to re-state my original point about "not least" and do it both better and more briefly,
when one is concerned with a number of elements in a group which all have in common the quality that they completely lack something, then, in referring to these elements, it doesn't and it can't make sense to remark that any one of them is "not least" in its relationship to the others--which also have exacty the same lack: "none at all."

So one who writes, (emphasis added)

"Here we have a profile of a disturbed man sliding into psychosis who gets no help from anyone—not least the government social worker who’s supposed to be helping him."

is introducing a comparative "more" versus "less" relation where it has just been indicated that there is none. The fellow got "no help from anyone". So, to refer to the social worker's having given him "no help" as being "not least" among all those who gave him no help is in such a case absurd.

Would one of you care to signal this to Mr. Davidson?

Oct 28, 2019, 4:13pm Top

The Gray Lady nods (actually, she falls completely asleep).

From an article in Sunday's New York Times:

"{John Hemmings} was part of the large Hemmings family connected to Jefferson; Sally Hemmings fathered at least six of his children."

(They did catch the errors and they were corrected in the online edition, but this shouldn't have happened in the first place!)

Dec 1, 2019, 2:47pm Top

>96 thorold:: What? It took him and his society from 2001 till now to realise that the horse he was flogging was dead?

Dec 2, 2019, 11:57am Top

Jan 27, 6:39am Top

Brexit, hysteria, and the final absurdity of an Oxford comma furore: https://www.theguardian.com/books/2020/jan/27/brexit-50p-coin-boycott-philip-pul...

Jan 28, 4:31am Top

>101 thorold: A suggestion in the Times as to the punctuation is that we wish peace to all nations but prosperity only to those that offer friendship. Or maybe the other way around.

Edited: Jan 28, 5:37am Top

I actually thought that only Americans used the Oxford comma, in Britain it was stopped ages ago, so the coin followed the official national rule :)

Jan 28, 6:01am Top

>103 ScarletBea: I'm sure it will come back now that we will have regained control next Friday.

Edited: Feb 1, 6:19am Top

The EU has ruled that Reese-Mogg is correct in his legal objection regarding the Oxford comma on the 50p coin.

10p, and, 10p, and, 10p, and, 10p, and, 10p, TOTAL, 50p.

Feb 12, 6:20am Top

"I robbed. I lose a dollar, my horse get away, and fifty-cents."

Feb 17, 5:47pm Top

Probably just a typo, but nevertheless, I was amused. This is from an article in the New York Times real estate section about a couple fixing up their decrepit apartment.

The deck in back could use some beatification

Feb 18, 5:01am Top

It must have done really good deeds in its life :)

Feb 18, 7:52am Top

>106 proximity1: I love it, have noted it to use elsewhere.

Mar 4, 12:27pm Top

A new one to me, which I seem to have come across three or four times lately: people who use tortuous for "gruelling" or "unpleasant" (presumably by confusion with "torture") — the last one I came across was in a description of a railway line with a "tortuous 1 in 70 gradient".

The OED suggests that tortuous is sometimes confused with tortious, but I wouldn't have thought the sort of people who decide to use a word like tortious are the sort who would get it confused with something else...

Mar 4, 3:26pm Top

On a roadworks sign, today:
"All business's open as usual"

Mar 4, 11:05pm Top

>111 ScarletBea:

But if "business's" = "business is"...

Mar 5, 6:05am Top

>112 Crypto-Willobie: Yep, but that doesn't work with the "all"

Mar 5, 6:56am Top

>110 thorold: I had to look up ‘tortious’ - not, for me certainly, a useful word. I suppose your railway line, if it wound its way up into mountains, might indeed be tortuous as well as torturous.

Mar 5, 11:08am Top

>113 ScarletBea:

If you use business as an abstract noun...
e.g. 'All business is corrupt...'

Mar 5, 11:47am Top

>114 abbottthomas: Yes, it might well have been, but in this case it seemed to be almost completely straight, which made it practically certain that the author was misusing the word.

I'm fairly certain that I've never needed to use the word "tortious", not even when I was taking law courses, but I would have known at least roughly what it meant. (My Mozley & Whitely gives the one-word definition "wrongful", which doesn't have its own entry, whilst the entry for "Wrong" sends you back to "Tort"!)

Mar 5, 6:18pm Top

>116 thorold: The problem often stems from a spellchecker. Sometimes the slightest error in spelling offers a list of alternatives, many of them very unusual. Select the wrong one and you have the basis for a whole new thread on LibraryThing.

Mar 6, 3:09am Top

>116 thorold: & >117 Novak:
I first came across the meaning of "Tort" and "Tortious" in the 1980s. I was doing a due diligence review on a small company (two brothers) that had developed a piece of software that enabled users to copy files and programmes on micro computers. (We had not started calling them PCs at that stage.)

During that process the company was taken to court by someone else. While the company was not found guilty of breaching copyright it was found guilty of the Tort of enticing people to make copies of copyrighted material. Their product/intention was found to be tortious.

Mar 6, 7:44am Top

Two words that seem to get confused are "systemic" and "systematic". I first came across "systemic" in connection with weedkillers — ones that got taken up into the plant and disrupted the inner workings. But in recent years it seems to be used where "systematic" is meant.

Mar 6, 8:50am Top

>119 PossMan: My Shorter OED notes the use of systemic to mean systematic and vice-versa as late-19th-century in both cases. But it marks them both as "rare". I think you're probably right that the confusion is increasing, maybe because "systemic" is getting more visible outside a strictly scientific context.

Mar 6, 8:57am Top

>118 pgmcc: Yes, that's what I dimly remember — a tort is a wrong in civil law, as opposed to a breach of contract or a criminal offence. The famous snail in Donoghue vs. Stevenson.

Edited: Mar 6, 9:14am Top

>121 thorold: The famous snail in Donoghue vs. Stevenson.

Well now, you have given me something to look up in my spare time. :-)

E.T.A.: Also known as the Paisley Snail, I see.

I had a case like this with a client (I was a management consultant; not a lawyer) who manufactured snack foods in Dublin. A customer claimed that her son had found an Irish florin in a diet pack of the company's main branded snack. She was adamant that the coin had been in the packet before it was opened and that her son could have choke on it.

The Marketing Director handled this personally. He invited her into the boardroom and apologised most profusely that this might have happened. He asked her for more detail and she told her story again and even produced the florin in question. He told her he was amazed that this had happened and most upset about it. He was also confused as to how it could have happened as the snack in question was made and packed in The Netherlands and that he was very surprised that an Irish florin would be found in a factory in The Netherlands, let alone find its way into a packet of crisps bound for Dublin.

At that point she said, "Well, it could have fallen off the car dashboard into the packet."

He sent her home with a box of crisps and wished her well.

Mar 6, 9:11am Top

>122 pgmcc: Full disclosure: I had to Google "snail" and "ginger beer" to get the name of the case. But however many years it is since you studied it, you don't forget the snail...

Mar 6, 9:15am Top

>122 pgmcc: you don't forget the snail...

Yes! I can see it is one of those hooks that will help people to remember it. Thanks to you I will have it with me for the rest of my life. :-)

Mar 6, 9:25am Top

Hmmm. Rather puts one off ginger beer.

Mar 6, 11:16am Top

The same person responsible for the tortuous gradient has now also explained that the Chorley cake is a “current filled pastry”. As any fule kno, you can’t fill a pastry with current: he obviously meant “charge”...

Mar 6, 11:39am Top

>126 thorold: Shocking! (An obvious response, but somebody had to do it.)

Mar 6, 4:58pm Top

Is it a currently filled (but later to be emptied) pastry?

Mar 7, 6:10am Top

>128 dtw42: A good point. Thank you for raisin it.

Mar 15, 4:56am Top

On a more serious note, I wonder if future generations will see the Coronavirus outbreak as the moment when the battle for the word epicentre was lost for good? The association with “epidemic” seems to be irresistible to journalists. (I wonder if we’ll start seeing *pancentre ?)

Edited: Mar 15, 12:40pm Top

Tim Dowling (Weekend Column) (15 03 2020)

... “Miaow!” the cat says, standing in front of the cupboard where the cat food is kept.
"I know you’ve been fed,” I say, “because it was me that fed you, you idiot.” ...

or even "I know you've been fed," I say, "because I fed you."

Tim's been in Britain too long and it shows. In Britain, they just don't know a fucking thing about good English and, worse, they don't give a fuck that they don't know. That ought to be scandalous.

Mar 17, 10:45am Top

They're calling the coronavirus measures put in place in the California Bay Area counties "shelter in place.". Shelter in place is when a gunman is at your workplace or school and you need to find a safe place to hide. They should be calling it shelter at home.

Mar 17, 11:07am Top

>132 jjwilson61:

That's because the California Bay Area is "ground-zero" of Cloud-cuckoo Land.

Mar 26, 7:28am Top

Miguel Almaguer of laughable NBC News

reporting on the Covid-19 case-load in NYC, he says,

"While the explosion of New York (city) cases are growing" ...

Really?, Miguel?

"the explosion are growing" ?

Group: Pedants' corner

168 members

7,451 messages


This topic is not marked as primarily about any work, author or other topic.

About | Contact | Privacy/Terms | Help/FAQs | Blog | Store | APIs | TinyCat | Legacy Libraries | Early Reviewers | Common Knowledge | 143,929,775 books! | Top bar: Always visible