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comprised of
Posted: 06 February 2015 06:41 AM   [ Ignore ]
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http://junkee.com/grammar-obsessive-makes-47000-edits-to-change-incorrect-phrase-on-wikipedia-turns-out-he-may-have-been-wrong/50589

Grammar Obsessive Makes 47,000 Edits To Change Incorrect Phrase On Wikipedia; Turns Out He May Have Been Wrong
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The phrase the hyperpedant objected to was “comprised of”. I have to say, I have never considered that a controversial phrase.”.

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Posted: 06 February 2015 07:33 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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"To dream the impossible dream. To fight the unbeatable foe. To bear with unbearable sorrow...”

I saw an article this week about this guy from another source.  A prescriptivist’s prescriptivist.  I suppose we all have our own grammatical pet peeves (mine is the phrase, “one of the only"), but speaking as a life-long windmill-tilter, this is taking things to a whole other level.

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Posted: 06 February 2015 08:28 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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"Comprised of” is one of my peeves. I don’t use it myself. But then, I don’t correct my students when they use it, at least not most of the time.

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Posted: 06 February 2015 04:21 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I occasionally try to reason out whether it is, in fact, wrong but always end up with no decision

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Posted: 06 February 2015 04:57 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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xkcd has a nice idea

quotative_like.png

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Posted: 07 February 2015 07:08 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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An excellent refutation.

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Posted: 07 February 2015 08:13 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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When to ‘correct’ and when not to. I know several on this board edit and proof-read on a regular basis and the question must arise time and time again. Let us say, for instance, that the zealous wiki editor had changed 60,000 ’would of‘s (my own bête noire and a solecism which is widespread) to ’would have‘s. Would he have found general support? And if so wherein lies the difference?

I envy not the task of editor!

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Posted: 07 February 2015 01:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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This seems to be the crux of the matter (from the linked article):

Many people do not accept ‘comprised of’ as a valid English phrase for any meaning. The argument goes that ‘to comprise’ means to include, as in ‘the 9th district comprises all of Centerville and parts of Easton and Weston.’ And thus, ‘the 9th district is comprised of ...’ is gibberish. The phrase apparently originated as a confusion of “to comprise” and “to be composed of”.

The point is we need a phrase in English that means “composed of” or “made up of” but for whatever reason we did not like these alternatives and so we landed illogically on “comprised of”. It doesn’t take much to see that this is “wrong” since the original French meaning (I am not at all fluent in French) is something closer to “including”. It’s close, but no cigar.

There must be a term in linguistics for some meaningful space in a language that is occupied by a word or phrase, as in the instant case, where it doesn’t really matter what the phrase is, so long as it is there.

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Posted: 08 February 2015 04:00 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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When to ‘correct’ and when not to.

First, is it your job to edit? If you are a teacher or copyeditor or voluntarily taking up the role of Wikipedia editor, then you should consider correcting people. But if you are not fulfilling an official role, then you should just let it go.

If it is your role to do so, usually it’s pretty clear when something is an error and when it is not. The two examples are clear ones. The comprise = compose include sense is over two centuries old and well established. The only reasonable justification for “correcting” it is that some readers will peevishly react badly to it. At the other end of the spectrum, would of is definitely an error, an incorrect reanalysis of would’ve. Maybe a century or two hence it will be considered okay, but we’re not there yet. There are questionable cases where you could go either way, but these two aren’t among them. A good questionable case might be use of they as a singular, gender-neutral pronoun. (I think it’s often a good choice, but the use is relatively new and a consensus has yet to coalesce.)

Questionable cases are often arbitrated by a style guide. I don’t know if Wikipedia has one, but they should. The editors collectively decide what Wikipedia’s style regarding, say singular they, should be and then spell it out for the other contributors.

[ Edited: 08 February 2015 10:19 AM by Dave Wilton ]
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Posted: 08 February 2015 06:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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It doesn’t take much to see that this is “wrong” since the original French meaning (I am not at all fluent in French) is something closer to “including”

The “original French meaning” has nothing to do with what it means in English.  I urge you to read the refutation I linked to if you haven’t already done so; it’s clear, thorough, and convincing.

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Posted: 08 February 2015 08:23 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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The comprise = include sense is over two centuries old and well established.

The comprise = include sense is not the controversial one.  It’s the comprise = compose sense that is criticized.

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Posted: 08 February 2015 10:22 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Brainfart. I’ve corrected it.

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Posted: 08 February 2015 10:32 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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The “original French meaning” has nothing to do with what it means in English. 

Oh, I agree, it has nothing to do with the English meaning today. I should have said “the original meaning when it was borrowed from French” or just “the original meaning in English.” My main point is there seems to be a gap left in the language if you take out “comprised of,” because people apparently aren’t willing to use “composed of.” So that actually supports the argument in favor of its use. On a structural level, it is hard to get people to do without something that performs a useful, everyday function unless you offer a replacement.

The issue of French usage isn’t entirely irrelevant, though its relevancy is more honored in the breach. The majority of educated speakers and writers in England one or two centuries ago were at least schooled in, if not fluent in, French, whereas the vast majority of writers who are getting their words out there in English today are not. This may help to explain why this new meaning has not been quashed.

Yes, it’s a good article and it offers an excellent analysis of both this problem and how to approach any usage debate. I think what’s conclusive, however, is the tide of usage rather than any argument pro or con.

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Posted: 08 February 2015 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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IP: I don’t agree that there is a gap left if you take out “comprised of”, nor is there a _need_ for it, per se. It is just one of several common, well established phrases that basically mean the same thing. Seriously, though, before I read about this particular wikilooney I was unaware that there are people who object to “comprised of”.

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Posted: 09 February 2015 06:35 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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OP, true enough. Without it we’d be saying “composed of.” There’s also “consisting of.” There seem to be a lot of people who want to use “comprised of” for some reason.

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Posted: 09 February 2015 03:52 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Iron Pyrite - 09 February 2015 06:35 AM

OP, true enough. Without it we’d be saying “composed of.” There’s also “consisting of.” There seem to be a lot of people who want to use “comprised of” for some reason.

And there are a lot of people who want to say “made up of” or “composed of” or “consisting of” for some reason. It’s great to have options. FREEDOM!

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