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Posted: 23 December 2012 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 61 ]
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Sinful Song, to answer your question, I grew up in New York City where my casual observation is that “cut it with a scissors” is standard, or at least very common, usage.  But if your assertion (i.e.that such a construction is confined to Ireland) is even LARGELY true [“largely true” meaning that even if the usage is not strictly confined to Ireland its presence elsewhere is very limited, and certainly it is not found over an entire REGION of the United States, like the Northeast], then I’m puzzled.  Here’s why:  I’ve read a number of articles in my life that have discussed idiosyncrasies of New York speech and they’ve never mentioned (to my knowledge) that we New Yorkers are weirdly inserting an “a” before scissors in phrases like “cut it with a scissors”.  Instead they would chronicle at length how and why it is we say things like “standing on line” in lieu of “standing in line” as ‘normal’ Americans do.  But if I’m correct and it’s standard or at least common usage in New York City, and you’re correct that it can’t be standard usage in a region significantly larger than NYC without Sinful Song knowing about it, then the articles discussing NYC usage irregularities were seriously deficient in not mentioning ‘cut it with a scissors’ as an example of distinctive New York City speech. It would be surprising that such articles would miss an example like that. But the alternative, namely that they are NOT missing an example like that, would mean that the construction ‘cut it with a scissors’ is actually common usage in a region much larger than New York City. But if THAT were the case, would the savvy and sagacious Sinful Song have failed to observe the usage and mistakenly concluded it was confined to Ireland?  You can see why I’m puzzled.

Sinful Song ((better known in these parts by his Finnish moniker Syntinen Laulu—yes, after being intrigued each time I saw your nickname, I was finally galvanized into checking it out online) I may as well take this opportunity to explain to you why I said your allusion to Josephine Tey’s bit of dialogue was very clever and funny (I really did enjoy your invocation of it) but not apropos in your case.  In my “rant” as you termed it, I made a very clear distinction between a)those making venomous, belittling comments about me, and exhorting others to shun me, all in an attempt to drive me from the site and b)those who were merely reading along, and watching what unfolded from the sidelines.  While I did make a brief argument that those in the second group were not the innocent bystanders they felt themselves to be, not for an instant do I think they are fundamentally bad people, and nothing I said in that “rant” suggested otherwise.  I simply questioned Edmund Burke’s referring to such “watchers from the sidelines” as “good men doing nothing” (yeah, yeah, I know NOW that Edmund Burke didn’t actually say it).  I raised the point that if you are in the presence of evil and you CHOOSE to do nothing (we’re not talking about situations where it would be extremely dangerous to intervene), how ‘good’ are you really.  But not really being ‘good’ is a very long way from being a ‘monster’ (the operative word in your Tey quote).  Only those in Group A might possibly be that, and, though you may be a “regular”, you clearly were not in Group A, by virtue of your never having said a venomous, belittling word against me, or urged my ostracism.  Thus, if you were, at worst, a member of Group B, the Tey quote couldn’t apply to you.  Q.E.D.

P.S. It may interest you to know, Sinful Song, that I was so tickled by your excerpted snippet from The Franchise Affair that I’m reading the book right now—what an amusing creation the utterer of your quoted line of dialogue is!  God, do I hope I’m not ultimately disappointed in this book, as I am virtually every time I read a mystery.  The reason for my perpetual disappointment: if the book “mystifies” me throughout, as a satisfyingly clever mystery must, then almost inevitably it turns out the “mystification” was produced by absurd violation of either logic or the laws governing nature—human nature or Mother Nature.  So in retrospect its mystifying properties were unearned, illegitimate and you’re left feeling disappointed, or even furious and disgusted for having wasted your time.  But if it is perfectly free of the violations I just mentioned and makes perfect sense in every way, then inevitably I solve it 200 pages before the end!  And so the reading experience is disappointing for that reason.  It is the rare case that a mystery is both completely baffling to the very end and never violates any “natural” or logical laws.  Only one mystery that I’ve read in recent years falls into that very special and laudable category: The Poisoned Chocolates Case by Anthony Berkeley.  (Though I read it a few years ago, it’s actually from the 1930’s I believe.) I couldn’t recommend a mystery more highly than that one! Brilliant!

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Posted: 23 December 2012 05:17 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 62 ]
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Sinful Song, to answer your question, I grew up in New York City where my casual observation is that “cut it with a scissors” is standard, or at least very common, usage.  But if your assertion (i.e.that such a construction is confined to Ireland) is even LARGELY true [“largely true” meaning that even if the usage is not strictly confined to Ireland its presence elsewhere is very limited, and certainly it is not found over an entire REGION of the United States, like the Northeast], then I’m puzzled.

You know, graviton, that’s an illustration of some of the reasons why you’re getting so much grief on this board.

For one thing, you have ascribed to me (and then gone off on a rant about) an ‘assertion’ that I simply did not make. I never said that the construction was confined to Ireland; only that I had only heard it from there. If you put words into people’s mouths that they didn’t say (especially here, where the words that people say are the whole point), you will keep encountering hostility, believe me.

For another, if you had only clicked into my profile you’d have seen that I have clearly labelled my location as ‘SE England (born & bred in London)’, the better to clarify to everybody else on this board what my English-language knowledge base is. You’ll find that most of the regulars here do that, even if they don’t give any other information in their profile, just to put their contributions in context. I make no claims whatsoever to be familiar with US regional usage.

For a third, you have quite without evidence assumed that I am a man, which I’m not. 

Understand me: I’m not offended. I’m just telling you about things you’re doing which are liable to offend. If you would only simmer down and read everyone’s posts more carefully, take some time to work out what they really mean to say, and not make baseless assumptions about them (such as my being a Leftpondian male), you’d get a much less hostile reaction here.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 05:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 63 ]
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“If you would only simmer down and read everyone’s posts more carefully, take some time to work out what they really mean to say....”

Graviton, On the basis of ‘less-is-more,’ take the lesson of your own moniker, ‘Graviton.’ In US English, be ‘less vigorant.’ The observant may note the appropriateness of the this anagram!

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Posted: 23 December 2012 07:02 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 64 ]
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I just ran across an answer I gave a while back on AskMetaFilter which may be relevant here.  I was responding to this part of the question:

One of my closest friends is constantly correcting people. Grammar, pronunciation, word usage, fact checking, you name it. It’s one of his defining characteristics, being a smartass knowitall. He will interrupt you, derail the conversation, and publicly flog you for daring to be wrong in his presence. While to a certain extent I appreciate knowing my various mistakes, at this point I just roll my eyes at him and think to myself, ”jesus, I get it already, you’re smarter than everyone else. Give it a rest already.”

I said:

He’s not smarter, just more of a know-it-all, and know-it-alls are frequently wrong (as well as obnoxious). One of the pleasures of having spent so much of my life soaking up petty details about language is that I know things the know-it-alls don’t know, and if they’re being particularly obnoxious I’ll butt in and explain that they’re actually wrong about the “correct” pronunciation of forte or the plural of octopus or whatever they were going on about. I really can’t stand the use of language as a club to bully people with, and people like your friend need to be put in their place, if possible, so they’ll knock off that shit. (And yes, I think it’s OK to club bullies with facts, and no, I don’t think I’m being a bully when I do so.)

And frankly, that goes for all you “lines need to be drawn” people—I guarantee you that there are times when you confidently say what is in fact false, and you should be aware of that and take a little humility from that knowledge. What’s important is that people communicate well, not that they use the forms you personally think are superior. You are not the Guardian of the English Language; no one is, and that’s the beauty of it. It’s a collective creation, and all the more beautiful and various for that.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 05:46 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 65 ]
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People who correct your spelling or grammar are doing you a favour. Just thank them.

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Posted: 23 December 2012 06:54 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 66 ]
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Sinful Song (aka Syntinen Laulu), my oh my, where oh where to begin?  [For those of you following this madness, this pertains to Sinful’s question to me in #60, my response to her (when I still thought she was a he) in #61, and her response to me in #62.]

A long time ago, Mary McCarthy and Lillian Hellman (since I now know you’re a Brit, let me just say that the two women were American literary figures) had an intense feud, over many years, and, at the time I’m speaking of, they were quite elderly ladies, but no less impassioned because of it.  They truly despised one another.  Well, McCarthy appeared on a TV talk show, and when asked about Hellman, said, approximately, “Every word she says is a lie, including “and” and “the”.”

In reading your #62, I thought, “Every word she wrote is UNFAIR, including “and” and “the”.” Because “and” and “the” help make your unfair comment intelligible, they are, therefore, culpable accessories to unfairness.

Sinful, you say I should “read everyone’s posts more carefully”.  Well, I’m going to read your post VERY carefully.

Let’s begin with what might be called your ‘global unfairness’.  You asked me a question in #60, and I took the time to give you a careful response to it, and threw in a lengthy response to a prior comment of yours.  Even if I misconstrued your #60 and drew an improper inference, look at how you lashed out at me in #62!  For goodness’ sake, Sinful Song!!  If I’d been formulating a decent, appropriate response for you in #62, I’d have said, “Graviton, thank you for your considered response to my question, and for an even more considered response to the Tey quote business. And, hey, thanks for the book recommendation!  Wow, it was 6 AM in NYC, and you probably had places to go, so I appreciate your answering me at all.  Now, I think you inferred where I didn’t imply....”

Where is the basic civility in your actual #62, Sinful?

Now let’s examine the substance of your various charges.  First you say, “you have ascribed to me (and then gone off on a rant about) an ‘assertion’ that I simply did not make. I never said that the construction was confined to Ireland; only that I had only heard it from there.”

Sinful, first, you’ve almost been present since the creation of this site, so it’s reasonable for me to presume that you’re knowledgeable about usage.  Second, your very posing of the question to me implies that you believe the usage is confined to Ireland.  Why?  Because if you had no knowledge of its use elsewhere in the world (outside the British Isles), why would you even be curious about it?  Only if you’d formed the tentative conclusion it was an Irishism and didn’t think I was Irish would it make sense for you to ask me.  So that explains my inference.  I’ll acknowledge that instead of saying “your assertion” I should have said, “you seem to believe...”

Next, you fault me for not performing due diligence: “if you had only clicked into my profile you’d have seen...” Sinful, despite the ostracism of me by most regulars, plenty of people have commented, and since I believe in responding to civil commenters, I’ve had my hands full both composing Enlightened Prescriptivism-defending posts and answering my many critics.  Up until now, you and I have had very little interaction.  So why would I have even thought of checking your profile?  In fact, I’ve only checked one person’s profile, languagehat, because he and I have interacted a great deal.

My next outrage? “you have quite without evidence assumed that I am a man, which I’m not.” What is “evidence”, Sinful?  The overwhelming majority of regulars appear to be men, and you have chosen a nickname that even when translated gives no clue as to your sex.  Are you familiar with inductive reasoning Sinful—if you’ve seen 1000 swans and they’ve all been white, and you see a swan behind a screen, is it unreasonable to think it’s white?  All I did was inductively decide a random regular was likely a man, see you were a regular, and conclude you were likely a man. 

Then you finish with a nice sweeping indictment: “If you would only simmer down and read everyone’s posts more carefully, take some time to work out what they really mean to say, and not make baseless assumptions about them...” Even if I had been so negligent with you, which I wasn’t, what basis do you have for saying it’s characteristic of me in this thread?  On the contrary, I’ve been careful to read, analyze, quote from the comment when criticizing, etc.  On the other hand, practically everybody criticizing me has been very careless indeed.  You, for instance, in protesting my saying that your Tey quote was funny but not apropos, didn’t read my original post carefully or you’d have known the Tey quote wasn’t apropos, and you didn’t carefully read my first reply to your complaint about my saying it wasn’t apropos.  Only now, with my #61, do you finally grasp why the Tey quote wasn’t apropos—with the delay caused by your not “reading my posts carefully, taking some time to work out what they really mean to say”--I’m quoting you here, of course, criticizing me!

Overall, would you admit your comment #62 was just a trifle unfair?  And I break into a cold sweat thinking how you’d have been if it weren’t Christmas!!!

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Posted: 24 December 2012 05:27 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 67 ]
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Flaming Norah.

I would be gravely offended by the constellation of sexist assumptions here, if the whole post hadn’t finally convinced me that, even allowing for any imaginable level of cognitive dissonance, this person is, as we Londoners who can’t be expected to have heard of American literary luminaries would say, completely Dagenham.

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Posted: 24 December 2012 06:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 68 ]
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Where they swimmin’?

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Posted: 24 December 2012 07:01 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 69 ]
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completely Dagenham.

Had to look it up. “two stops beyond Barking” Love it.

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Posted: 24 December 2012 08:04 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 70 ]
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Colleagues: A professional involvement in Quality Assurance left me with a penchant for statistics. So, here goes:
This thread now contains, by my reckoning, just under 11,000 words posted by graviton (for comparison: the Gettysburg Address has 272 words; the Song of Solomon [KJV], 2,658). Of these (tips tiny hat to Microsoft Word), 275 are “I”, 424 are “me”, 144 are “my”. I suggest that we are confronted here with an ego rather too large for the framework in which we operate, and one certainly far too loquacious for comfort. For my part, I intend to follow Dave’s policy, stated earlier in this thread - as i see several earlier posters have already done.

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Posted: 26 December 2012 03:30 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 71 ]
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REGULARS OF THIS SITE REJOICE!!!!!!  I have some very good news for you!  Now that I know the Enlightened Prescriptivism debate will not take place, there’s no reason for me to linger.  So I’m departing, or will be departing after (just barely possibly) one final comment, which I’ll post in the next few days in the unlikely event that I decide to write it.  And then everyone will be free to go back to discussing em dashes and en dashes to their heart’s content without the sinister presence of graviton hovering over the proceedings!

To wrap up unfinished business:

Syntinen Laulu, you suggested that my identifying Lillian Hellman and Mary McCarthy as “American literary figures” is unspeakably patronizing by implying Brits can’t be expected to know “American literary luminaries”. 

Well, it was really only Mary McCarthy I felt I needed to identify.  I would hesitate to call McCarthy even in her prime (more than half a century ago!) a “literary luminary”.  Even Mary, as grandiose as she sometimes was, would have hesitated!  NOW, she’s completely forgotten, especially among younger people--and I mean younger Americans, her fellow countrymen.  I asked at a huge family Christmas gathering (and almost every adult there had attended college) “Who is Mary McCarthy?”, and not one of the younger ones had the slightest idea.  The closest any of them came was “gourmet cook on TV”.  So how many Brits these days, of any age, would know Mary McCarthy, a distinctly American figure of long ago?  If you, Syntinen Laulu, knew McCarthy, congrats on your impressive breadth of knowledge, and may I consult you on the application of the Schrodinger equation to Bose-Einstein condensates??  Hellman is certainly better known, but long gone from the scene, so as long as I was identifying McCarthy, why not add Hellman, which required the merest flick of my left ring finger—appending an “s” in my phrase “American literary figure”--a clearly crazy impulse of mine which I now deeply regret! 

Re your Dagenham reference:  As someone once (almost) said, If this be lunacy, then lunacy becomes me!!

Oh, and entirely seriously, a hearty word of appreciation to you for, however inadvertently, leading me to The Franchise Affair.  I’m only a quarter of the way through it, but so far I’m genuinely enjoying it.  Tey does what I love authors’ doing, and is rare in a ‘genre’ writer: she frequently makes tiny but astute observations about her characters.  For example,

“He picked up the glass of sherry that she had set down beside him, took a mouthful, and was astonished to find it admirable.
She smiled a little at him and said, “We economize, but not on wine.” and he flushed slightly, wondering if his surprise had been as obvious as that.”

Isn’t that a nice little observation?  So I’m glad you have such good taste in mysteries, Syntinen Laulu!  A merry (happy? cheery?) Boxing Day!

Re comment #70 Lionello, you didn’t mention that the p-value of your analysis is .000003, so that your proof of my Eye-Popping Egomania is highly statistically significant!!!

Re comment #63, by Skibberoo.  I must applaud you for your novel mode of criticism!  It’s official: I’ve now been taken to task anagramatically!  Yes, Skibberoo has converted “graviton” into “vigorant” and advised me to be less vigorant!  Excellent!  Skibberoo, did you know that the old-time talk show host Dick Cavett got into a little bit of trouble a long time ago for an anagram he produced of the name of a controversial American vice president?  In his defense he said that he couldn’t help it—without his bidding it, his mind rearranges the letters of words and names.  Are you the same way?

And finally: Farewell, languagehat, and kudos for having had the guts to come to my defense, however briefly.

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Posted: 26 December 2012 03:55 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 72 ]
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People who correct your spelling or grammar are doing you a favour. Just thank them.

People who correct my spelling or grammar without my asking are being assholes. I tell them so.

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Posted: 26 December 2012 05:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 73 ]
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People who correct my spelling or grammar without my asking are being assholes. I tell them so.

unless they’re editors (with props to LH)

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Posted: 26 December 2012 07:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 74 ]
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graviton - 26 December 2012 03:30 AM

REGULARS OF THIS SITE REJOICE!!!!!!  I have some very good news for you!  Now that I know the Enlightened Prescriptivism debate will not take place, there’s no reason for me to linger.  So I’m departing, or will be departing after (just barely possibly) one final comment, which I’ll post in the next few days in the unlikely event that I decide to write it.  And then everyone will be free to go back to discussing em dashes and en dashes to their heart’s content without the sinister presence of graviton hovering over the proceedings!


When I analyze the mysterious events I see in this world, I sometimes ask, what if the order of events were time-reversed? How would the relationship be different? How would it stay the same?

So I asked, what if one were to announce one’s arrival at a website in roughly the same tone that you, graviton, have announced your departure?

It might look something like this:

REGULARS OF THIS SITE REJOICE!!!!!! I have some very good news for you! I perceive that there is room enough among the discussioning of em-dashes and en-dashes and hypehens that I’ve been seeing here for a debate on the topic of Enlightened Prescriptivism!!!!! There is therefore reason enough for me to arrive!!!! I’ll post here in the next few days in the unlikely event that I decide not to join this forum!!! And then everyone will be free to discuss Enlightened Prescriptivism rather than boring old em-dashes and en-dashes and hyphens to their heart’s content with the sinister presence of graviton hovering over the proceedings!

I don’t think things would have turned out much differently. Except, I suppose, your IP address might have been preemptively banned.

As far as I can tell, nobody here has asked you to leave.

I haven’t.

YMMV

I came here in search of intelligent life on the internet and to learn about the English language. I have both learned about the English language (and others as well) and found intelligent life.

I humbly recommend that you try a similar approach.

.

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Posted: 26 December 2012 08:29 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 75 ]
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happydog - 26 December 2012 03:55 PM

People who correct your spelling or grammar are doing you a favour. Just thank them.

People who correct my spelling or grammar without my asking are being assholes. I tell them so.

Well, it takes all sorts. I’m grateful when people help me out.

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