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Alright
Posted: 26 March 2007 11:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 16 ]
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To expound on the idea of avoiding a particular usage because a significant number might object, one reason for avoiding such usages is to keep readers focused on what you are saying, not how you are saying it. Whenever a reader goes, “Ooh! That’s a usage error,” you have lost them.

By avoiding such “errors” you improve communication. Not because the indivdiual “errors” are inherently confusing, but because to many they are distracting.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 11:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 17 ]
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Well, well, well!  Dave Wilton, you’re one of us!  ("Us" being a very exclusive group comprising Dr Techie and Significant Others from time to time).

(I still don’t like alright.  I don’t care how many people say it - I don’t like it.  All right?)

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Posted: 26 March 2007 12:14 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 18 ]
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Dr. Techie - 26 March 2007 10:21 AM

I’ve previously expressed my preference for making a distinction in usage of the sort that Richard describes, so I trust I won’t be taken for a hidebound reactionary if I point out that writers of usage advice sometimes have to be descriptivists about prescriptivism, so to speak.  People read usage manuals because, among other reasons, they don’t want their writing to contain what will be seen as errors.  A writer of usage advice might feel that there is nothing wrong with “alright”, but if he is scrupulous he will have to warn his readers that there are still significant numbers of people who consider it an error, and that the teacher, editor, or potential employer that the reader might be writing for (or to) could be one of them.

I have no problem with a usage manual that explains the issue and points out that some people will, regardless of facts and logic, still consider the usage an error.  Is there such a usage manual available?  Why yes, there is.  Here’ s hint:  it is not by Bryan Garner.

A usage manual has more than one function.  Yes, advising how to avoid the appearance of error (as contrasted with actual error) is high on the list.  But people also use these things to judge others and to defend their judgments of others.  Give these people a usage manual chock-full-o-facts (lets, hypothetically, call this book “MWDEU") and they will be encouraged to think about the subject rationally; at least they won’t be given ammunition to use against others.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 12:18 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 19 ]
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Eliza, I dont like alright either, but only because it looks all wrong.  However, I suspect it only looks wrong because I’ve been told it’s wrong and so it goes on, yea, even unto the seventh generation.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 12:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 20 ]
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Dave Wilton - 26 March 2007 11:04 AM

To expound on the idea of avoiding a particular usage because a significant number might object, one reason for avoiding such usages is to keep readers focused on what you are saying, not how you are saying it. Whenever a reader goes, “Ooh! That’s a usage error,” you have lost them.

By avoiding such “errors” you improve communication. Not because the indivdiual “errors” are inherently confusing, but because to many they are distracting.

As a rule of thumb this is good advice.  But we also need to know when we can stop worrying about a particular pseudo-error.  It would be silly to carefully edit yourself to avoid the passive progressive construction.  Not even the most arch-conservative considers that an error.  How about split infinitives or terminal prepositions?  The “respectable” usage manuals consider these acceptable (albeit sometimes with visible reluctance) but there are any number of people out there who haven’t gotten the word yet.  Sentence adverb “hopefully”?  Few under the age of thirty (to pick a number more or less at random) care, but what about the dreaded Human Resources Director looking for reasons to not hire you?  When you decide to play down to the most ignorant, you will rapidly find that this is ignorant indeed.  This is before we even get into idiosyncratic rules people invent for their own enjoyment.

As a practical matter you are right to a point.  I sometimes find myself changing “which” to “that”, even though it is not necessary in my idiolect.  I have a short list of such items that I will worry about in some contexts.  But I don’t lose sleep over it.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 12:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 21 ]
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But we also need to know when we can stop worrying about a particular pseudo-error.

I couldn’t agree more. I’m not saying every pseudo-error is worth worrying about. And if you have good reason for making the pseudo-error you should go ahead and so so. What distracts a reader is one, but only one, factor in deciding what words to use.

Is there such a usage manual available?  Why yes, there is.  Here’ s hint:  it is not by Bryan Garner.

Can you be more clear on which manual you mean? If you mean MWDEU, I’m not entirely with you. Don’t get me wrong. I love MWDEU and for researching the history behind a particular usage it has no rivals. But it is not a good manual for quick consultations. If I’m writing something and I just want a quick reminder about whether or not its okay to use “alright,” I don’t want to wade through two dense pages to get an answer.

I’ve been tempted to write just such a usage manual as you decribe, only with very short entries designed for hurried lookups.

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Posted: 26 March 2007 02:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 22 ]
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I get it!  At last!!!  None of you likes to be told what to say or, more to the point, how to say it, even if you need to be told!!!!  Now why didn’t you all just say that at first without me having to wade through the last umpteen posts?  Well, to save you all a lot of time arguing, I’ll tell you what - if you lot have any issues with style, just ask me in future.  Before you put pen to paper, just think:  would Eliza approve?  Would she understand me or would I have to go through life misunderstood?  If I use “alright”, what will Eliza think of me?* If I were to badly split my infinitive, would she recoil in horror?** In other words, is she sitting in judgment?*** And will I ever get it right?****

*That you can’t spell, actually.
**Yes.
***Yes again.
****Only if you do exactly as I say.  Who needs facts when your helpful critic is always on hand?

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Posted: 04 May 2007 01:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 23 ]
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but how long is a piece of string?

And how long can a thread be?

People have been wondering this at least since the time Theseus invaded the cave of the Minotaur. The Dutch, being thrifty as well as practical, must have decided to limit the length of a rope to the reaches of the Lijnbaansgracht, a pretty street in the Jordaan neighborhood.

http://www.mapquest.com/maps/map.adp?address=Lijnbaansgracht%20314&city=Amsterdam&state=&zipcode=1017&country=NL&geodiff=1

But then they figured out how to do a virtual extension around the world:

http://www.sailwx.info/shiptrack/shipposition.phtml?call=PFQJ

(The putative origin of the street name was “rope-street-canal”, where they used to make rope for the shipping trades and apparently would extend the ropes along the length of the canal or “gracht” during manufacturing.)

Too right! The Dutch are evidence that all’s right with the world and that’s alright by me.

[ Edited: 04 May 2007 01:40 AM by foolscap ]
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