Language police - error-hunting mindset Grauniad article
Posted: 17 December 2011 12:10 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Here.

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Posted: 17 December 2011 12:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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A nice piece, and it introduced me to the “can I get” shibboleth, hitherto unknown to me.  Amazing what people find to get wrought up about!

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Posted: 17 December 2011 08:41 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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It seems odd to describe it as “error-hunting”. Astute people detect errors automatically when reading something casually.

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Posted: 18 December 2011 08:12 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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OP, how many of the 100 deliberate errors in the Williams’ link did you spot casually? Is this paper well known in linguistic circles? It is none too kind about Strunk, Fowler and Orwell who have been attacked at wordorigins often.

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Posted: 18 December 2011 08:37 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Astute people detect errors automatically when reading something casually.

That’s simply not true.  Read the linked article and you’ll see for yourself.

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Posted: 18 December 2011 01:59 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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That Williams article is brilliant. I’d never actually read it before, although I’ve seen it referenced.

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Posted: 19 December 2011 04:12 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I’d never heard of any objection to “can I get” before. To me it seems quite direct and logical.

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Posted: 19 December 2011 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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There’s the notion that can refers only to ability; one should use may for permission.  Not that I believe it, but it is there.

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Posted: 20 December 2011 05:51 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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But even if that were the case, it makes sense for him to ask whether it is possible for him to obtain it. He’s not asking permission: he wants the person to bring him something.

I suppose the most direct thing would be to say “Bring me a” or “Please bring me a”.

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Posted: 20 December 2011 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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There‚Äôs the notion that can refers only to ability; one should use may for permission.  Not that I believe it, but it is there.

May I have and can I have are different registers; the latter being more informal. There’s nothing “wrong” about saying can I have; it’s just not quite as polite (but far from impolite).

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Posted: 20 December 2011 07:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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In my youth adults would get on our cases for using can when they thought we should use may.  One of the little things that I believe foreshadowed my interest in words and language.  I noticed that they themselves generally used can in the very context they were at us about.  The only time I heard it used the way they thought it should be used was in the game we called “Mother may i?”.

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Posted: 20 December 2011 09:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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When a teacher at my benighted school was asked “Can I go to the the toilet, sir?” he would reply “I’m sure you can. The question is whether you may.” How we laughed. I used to have to ask my parents “Please may I leave the table?” - received manners. What do kids now say? “I’m done here. Splitsville?”

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Posted: 22 December 2011 03:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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venomousbede - 20 December 2011 09:26 AM

I used to have to ask my parents “Please may I leave the table?” - received manners. What do kids now say? “I’m done here. Splitsville?”

I think kids now just eat whatever they can reach without taking both hands off the Xbox controller, so no dialogue (or table) is necessary.

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