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(a) serious condition
Posted: 08 October 2015 10:27 AM   [ Ignore ]
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No, not the first of my points :)

I found this on the CBS news site:

Airman 1st Class Spencer Stone, who helped subdue an attacker on a French train in August, was stabbed in California and is in serious condition, officials said.

Air Force spokesman Lt. Col. Christopher Karns said the stabbing was being handled by local law enforcement officials.

The University of California Davis Health System said in a statement that Stone was in serious condition.

Stone was stabbed four times in an altercation outside a bar, sources told CBS News.

I enclose these four ‘internet paragraphs’ as the adjective+noun combo I first thought was a typo, or that I had misread (1st bold bit), then actually occurs again near the end (2nd bold bit) leading me to (probably correctly) deduce that this is current usage in Leftpondia.

I’m going firstly on pure instinct here when I say the same combo would be preceded by an indefinite article in Rightpondia.

Contrastingly, for example, I would also leave out the ‘a’ if it was serious danger, or serious trouble as these are nouns quite different to ‘condition’ as ‘condition’ almost requires an adjective in a similar sentence.

But rather than live in ignorance I thought I would put it to you lot here, in LP, RP and anywhere elsePondia. Is it really just an oversight? Twice??

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Posted: 08 October 2015 10:38 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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The omission of the indefinite article in these examples is normal in US English, and to say “in a serious condition” would sound odd and unidiomatic.

OTOH, if you were using the phrase to characterize a specific disease (without “in...") it would be normal: “Diabetes is a serious condition.”

Edit: the article-less construction is used with other adjectives as well, when discussing medical status.  One can be in satisfactory, stable, or critical condition, for instance.

[ Edited: 08 October 2015 10:43 AM by Dr. Techie ]
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Posted: 08 October 2015 10:58 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Here’s the Wikipedia explanation of American ”Medical states.”

Serious - Vital signs may be unstable and not within normal limits. Patient is seriously ill. Indicators are questionable.

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Posted: 08 October 2015 12:01 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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Yes, in the UK it would be idiomatic to use the article and odd-sounding without it. It brings to mind the British-English usage in hospital rather than the American in the hospital, which is just the reverse really of the practice in the usage under discussion. No rhyme nor reason to it. Custom is king.

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Posted: 08 October 2015 12:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Custom is the king.

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Posted: 08 October 2015 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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Yes, in the UK it would be idiomatic to use the article and odd-sounding without it.

The problem with this idea, for me, is that in the United States, using the article changes the meaning of the phrase.

You could say that a plan has a serious flaw, in which case the word “serious” does not refer to any specific flaw.

However, when you say a patient is in serious condition, the word “serious” does refer to a specific condition.

The patient is not in a condition that is serious, he is in a specific condition that has the title of “serious.” The fact that you could also describe that condition as being serious is beside the point.

Jewelry is not made from a yellow gold, it’s made from yellow gold. Same idea. The article changes the meaning.

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Posted: 08 October 2015 01:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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I suspect this is an instance peculiar to medical situations; in other circumstances, wouldn’t both Right- and Leftpondians omit the article: “the football pitch / the horse / the sprinter / is in good / bad condition”. I don’t know if “serious” is an admissible condition for the items I’ve mentioned.

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Posted: 08 October 2015 03:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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Dr. Techie - 08 October 2015 12:28 PM

Custom is the king.

Perfect! Off to bed chuckling.

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Posted: 09 October 2015 03:34 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Not to mention the in hospital / in the hospital difference, where Right/Leftpondian usage is the opposite of that in serious condition.

Articles are surprisingly tricky things. I had a revelatory experience teaching English composition this summer. Normally I teach “Critical Writing about Literature,” which is a requirement for an English degree at one of U of T’s satellite campuses, and the students come into the class with a good grounding in the basics of English grammar. But the summer course was a non-degree program in writing. None of the students were English majors, and a good portion did not have English as their native language. One such student was Russian and totally baffled by English articles—Russian has no articles. Other than the occasional dialectal difference, like in [a] serious condition, I had never given any thought to how articles are used. How to use articles is just something that “everyone knows.” In trying to teach this student, I kept discovering more complications about article usage—things native speakers never need to think about.

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Posted: 09 October 2015 03:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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In my job I occasionally get to proofread/copyedit engineering reports, some of which have been written in China and sent on to India for rewrite before I see them.  I don’t know how Hinglish handles articles but Hindi doesn’t have them and Chinese doesn’t either, so the result is a mishmash of article usage.  Since I was generally on a serious time limit and had many other matters to attend to in my copyediting I just decided that we were going to have to get used to odd article use.  I would correct anything that caused severe confusion in SWE.

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Posted: 09 October 2015 08:15 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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I used to copyedit (mostly) medical journal manuscripts by (mostly) Japanese researchers, and it was a similar story.  Since I was doing it piece-rate, and wanted the authors to ask for me again, I did my best to make it sound like standard American English. (I wanted to avoid any peer-reviewers complaining about the English.)

However, an episode from my grad school days taught me that there was lots of individual variation even in that. My adviser was a big believer in the “Omit needless words” dictum, and he regarded most articles as needless.  While he frequently had a point, he frequently pushed it to the point where, to my ears, it sounded like Tarzan or Tonto had written the sentences.  Once we were writing a paper in collaboration with another scientist in Quebec, and although he was not a native Quebecois, being surround by French seemed to have affected his English: he put articles everywhere.  After a couple rounds of my adviser taking articles out and the other putting them back in, I just followed my own preferences and told each of them that the other had insisted on that phrasing.

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Posted: 09 October 2015 11:40 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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Dr. Techie - 09 October 2015 08:15 AM

My adviser was a big believer in the “Omit needless words” dictum, and he regarded most articles as needless.  While he frequently had a point, he frequently pushed it to the point where, to my ears, it sounded like Tarzan or Tonto had written the sentences.

Perhaps he was Russian ;-)

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Posted: 10 October 2015 04:55 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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After a couple rounds of my adviser taking articles out and the other putting them back in, I just followed my own preferences and told each of them that the other had insisted on that phrasing.

there are times, Doc, when you sound like a reincarnation of Cardinal Richeiieu. A man to be reckoned with......

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Posted: 10 October 2015 05:36 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Dave Wilton - 09 October 2015 03:34 AM

Not to mention the in hospital / in the hospital difference, where Right/Leftpondian usage is the opposite of that in serious condition.

I wouldn’t say the opposite; the content of the predicate expression is different: “in (the) hospital” has no adjective attached to the noun.

Dave Wilton - 09 October 2015 03:34 AM

Articles are surprisingly tricky things. I had a revelatory experience teaching English composition this summer. Normally I teach “Critical Writing about Literature,” which is a requirement for an English degree at one of U of T’s satellite campuses, and the students come into the class with a good grounding in the basics of English grammar. But the summer course was a non-degree program in writing. None of the students were English majors, and a good portion did not have English as their native language. One such student was Russian and totally baffled by English articles—Russian has no articles. Other than the occasional dialectal difference, like in [a] serious condition, I had never given any thought to how articles are used. How to use articles is just something that “everyone knows.” In trying to teach this student, I kept discovering more complications about article usage—things native speakers never need to think about.

Articles are hell and make you paranoid. This the considered judgment of someone who has done much translation work and proofreading for websites over the years. Out of the languages I am to some degree familiar with (all Indo-European children), I am constantly amazed by the way for example French is so demanding of them, Dutch so whimsical, English so fickle and Russian so dismissive.

But they are at the heart of sentences and understanding. And deserve a lot more attention than they are getting. In opinion of greying Scot.

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Posted: 11 October 2015 03:07 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 14 ]
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Of course there are some phrases in which the omission of the article really does reverse the meaning. “I’ve seen a few of those in my time.” “I’ve seen few of those in my time.”

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Posted: 11 October 2015 11:20 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 15 ]
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Of course there are some phrases in which the omission of the article really does reverse the meaning. “I’ve seen a few of those in my time.” “I’ve seen few of those in my time.”

As well, if the wrong article is used it can change the meaning of a sentence: “The man who ran away threw the rock at the window.” “A man who ran away threw the rock at the window.”

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