Grammar: Prescriptive and Descriptive

HisWillness
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Grammar: Prescriptive and Descriptive

I know Thomathy is going to go insane at the mere mention of prescriptive grammar, but as a linguist, that is his prerogative (and not his "per-ogative" ).

Poor use of language annoys me, but not in the prescriptive sense. (For those of you who don't know what I mean, here's a quick definition of Prescriptive Grammar.)

Sad use of language, like mixing or compounding metaphors without irony (Wikipedia helpfully provides the cringe-worthy "He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns" ) is artless, and fairly annoying. But I admit that more annoying is the insistence that no sentence end with a preposition, even when it's a prepositional phrase. I have no problem with people who contort their language in order to make that happen for fun, but to insist on it is unreasonable. I probably will never say to someone, "the subject to which you are referring" when I can ask what they're talking about.

If you want to say, "He done good", fine. I couldn't care less ("... could care less" has the opposite meaning, much like "irregardless" ). You would be using a dialect, and everyone knows what you mean if they've spoken English for very long.

There are two circumstances when I will ask people to learn some prescriptive grammar:

1) Their English is so bad that I don't know what they're saying (not necessarily non-native speakers);

2) Their English is so artless that it hurts me to listen (e.g. Business English)

Scientists are often accused of having poor language skills, but I'm not going to jump on someone because their spelling is occasionally careless. If I have no idea what they're saying, I might, but not if we're talking a few mistakes here and there.

Business English, on the other hand, is an affront to language itself. It's akin to "Police English", wherein everyone is an "individual", and "myself" is interchangable with "me" and "I" disirregardless of the "situation". Business English, though, has special offenses, in that it seems designed to inflate the business person's idea of their own linguistical capacity, while reducing the esteem that educated people (those who enjoy reading) have for same.

A few offending words and phrases:

"On a go-forward/ongoing basis" (="from now on", a perfectly good English phrase that needed no replacement)

"garners" (="gets" )

"speak to" (="talk about" )

"utilize" (="use", for fuck's sake. Just "use"! )

"outside-the-box" (="I wouldn't know a creative person if I met one" )

"ROI" (="I'm sub-human. Shoot me twice in the chest and once in the head." )

 

On the other hand, I can be picky, especially when people try their hand at Latin. "Ek setra" or "Ex etra" or "Eggs and ham" or whatever the hell that is doesn't mean anything. "Et cetera" means "and other shit".  "Et" is "and", "cetera" is "other shit".

 

So the question is, where's the line for you?

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HisWillness wrote:I know

HisWillness wrote:
I know Thomathy is going to go insane at the mere mention of prescriptive grammar, but as a linguist, that is his prerogative (and not his "per-ogative" ).
Oh, Will, you thought you knew me so well.  I agree ...mostly.

That is, I agree with you that people need to be understood when they're talking or writing.  If they're not, we can analyze it, sure.  What good is that going to do, though, when what we need is to have a dialogue?  If a person cannot be understood then there is a problem with their language.  Such a problem, would, I think, extend beyond the bounds of descriptivism or prescriptivism.

When it comes to less than atrful langauge, or langauge completely devoid or art, I have my reservations.  Yeah, it hurts the ears.  Yes, the person speaking may not be saying much of anything (redundant or meaningless comes to mind).  That's problematic from an aesthetic point of view, perhaps, but is it hindering communication?  I mean, past the fact that you might really want to plug your ears or are too distracted by thinking outside of the box on an ongoing basis, can you understand what the person is saying (or writing, if they're actually 'saying' anything)?  If not, then it's not a problem of grammar, or of different approaches to its study or teaching, but a problem of a person who just needs to learn a little more effective communication skills and maybe some (real) self-esteem.  That said, I'd still like to shut those people up and re-educate them.

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My line is comprehension. If

My line is comprehension. If I can't make sense of it despite trying to for some time, then I demand a rewrite.

I'm an above average speller, and don't fuck up my grammar too often unless intentionally (which is often Sticking out tongue), but I don't hold others to the same standard. After spending as many years working with as much paperwork as I have done, I have come to the conclusion that being a spelling/grammar nazi is counterproductive. The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors. And when compared to legibility of handwriting, working through errors in grammar and spelling is childs play.

Not to mention the fact that every language is constantly subject to multiple evolutionary pressures in multiple theatres.

Unless of course someone else is being a spelling/grammar nazi, in which case it is most enjoyable to point out their own errors.

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Vastet wrote:The vast

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.


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Thomathy wrote:Vastet

Thomathy wrote:

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.

Was that a tisk? Did you just tisk?

And what the hell, where are the non-Canadians?

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Maybe only Canadians care

Maybe only Canadians care enough. lol. It would make a certain twisted sense, since we spend so much time filtering out the inability for any American to spell simple words like colour.

 

Sticking out tongue

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Thomathy wrote:Vastet

Thomathy wrote:

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.

LMAO - it's do not or don't 'care enough', Vas, because majority refers to a number of people.

You impossible grammar nazis!

 

I think I might be guilty of some of those things on Will's list of faux pas. But seriously Will, those particular uglies (of such that mea culpa), to which you are referring, well... aren't you just utilising exaggerated selectivity to garner louse eggs a bit there? I'm just saying....

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HisWillness wrote:Thomathy

HisWillness wrote:

Thomathy wrote:

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.

Was that a tisk? Did you just tisk?

And what the hell, where are the non-Canadians?

Now that Eloise has broken the Canadians-only rule, I can say:

He didn't tisk. Vastet's ironic grammar fail simply reduced Tomathy's language skills down to grunting.

 

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Quote:Sad use of language,

Quote:

Sad use of language, like mixing or compounding metaphors without irony (Wikipedia helpfully provides the cringe-worthy "He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns" ) is artless, and fairly annoying.

Oh, hell. That's nothing. I can garner some far better examples to utilize in this conversation (these examples clearly demonstrate out of the box thinking not constrained by the way the metaphors are supposed to be utilized) such as "Mr. Asquith will have to walk over many dead bodies, his own included" or "the clay feet of Germany will be exposed when we take off the gloves" (both from WWI British politicians) or "as I write this, I have a pistol in one hand and a sword in the other" (from the infamous Sir Boyle Roche). Roche had an inadvertent talent for mixing metaphors in an absurd way. During a debate in the House of Commons on the French Revolution, he said "If those Gallicans should invade us, sir...perhaps the murderous martial law men would break in, cut us into joints, and throw our bleeding heads on the table to stare at us in the face". One of the most astounding examples of mangling idioms however, does not come from Roche. Unfortunately, I cannot remember where it is from, although it is real. "Thus, the black lie, issuing from his base throat, becomes a boomerang to his hand, and he is hoist by his own petard, and he finds himself a marked man".

"Physical reality” isn’t some arbitrary demarcation. It is defined in terms of what we can systematically investigate, directly or not, by means of our senses. It is preposterous to assert that the process of systematic scientific reasoning arbitrarily excludes “non-physical explanations” because the very notion of “non-physical explanation” is contradictory.

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HisWillness wrote:I know

HisWillness wrote:

I know Thomathy is going to go insane at the mere mention of prescriptive grammar, but as a linguist, that is his prerogative (and not his "per-ogative" ).

Poor use of language annoys me, but not in the prescriptive sense. (For those of you who don't know what I mean, here's a quick definition of Prescriptive Grammar.)

Sad use of language, like mixing or compounding metaphors without irony (Wikipedia helpfully provides the cringe-worthy "He stepped up to the plate and grabbed the bull by the horns" ) is artless, and fairly annoying. But I admit that more annoying is the insistence that no sentence end with a preposition, even when it's a prepositional phrase. I have no problem with people who contort their language in order to make that happen for fun, but to insist on it is unreasonable. I probably will never say to someone, "the subject to which you are referring" when I can ask what they're talking about.

If you want to say, "He done good", fine. I couldn't care less ("... could care less" has the opposite meaning, much like "irregardless" ). You would be using a dialect, and everyone knows what you mean if they've spoken English for very long.

There are two circumstances when I will ask people to learn some prescriptive grammar:

1) Their English is so bad that I don't know what they're saying (not necessarily non-native speakers);

2) Their English is so artless that it hurts me to listen (e.g. Business English)

Scientists are often accused of having poor language skills, but I'm not going to jump on someone because their spelling is occasionally careless. If I have no idea what they're saying, I might, but not if we're talking a few mistakes here and there.

Business English, on the other hand, is an affront to language itself. It's akin to "Police English", wherein everyone is an "individual", and "myself" is interchangable with "me" and "I" disirregardless of the "situation". Business English, though, has special offenses, in that it seems designed to inflate the business person's idea of their own linguistical capacity, while reducing the esteem that educated people (those who enjoy reading) have for same.

A few offending words and phrases:

"On a go-forward/ongoing basis" (="from now on", a perfectly good English phrase that needed no replacement)

"garners" (="gets" )

"speak to" (="talk about" )

"utilize" (="use", for fuck's sake. Just "use"! )

"outside-the-box" (="I wouldn't know a creative person if I met one" )

"ROI" (="I'm sub-human. Shoot me twice in the chest and once in the head." )

 

On the other hand, I can be picky, especially when people try their hand at Latin. "Ek setra" or "Ex etra" or "Eggs and ham" or whatever the hell that is doesn't mean anything. "Et cetera" means "and other shit".  "Et" is "and", "cetera" is "other shit".

 

So the question is, where's the line for you?

A reqirement for prescriptive grammar would effectively eliminate Pantheism.


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HisWillness wrote:Was that a

HisWillness wrote:
Was that a tisk? Did you just tisk?

Eloise wrote:
You impossible grammar nazis!

JillSwift wrote:
He didn't tisk. Vastet's ironic grammar fail simply reduced Tomathy's language skills down to grunting.

I was effectively saying, 'No.'  I just couldn't pass up the opportunity, the irony was too ...yeah.

BigUniverse wrote,

"Well the things that happen less often are more likely to be the result of the supper natural. A thing like loosing my keys in the morning is not likely supper natural, but finding a thousand dollars or meeting a celebrity might be."


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I like the word "utilize" it

I like the word "utilize" it sounds like you're doing something more important than just using some shit.

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Eloise wrote:Thomathy

Eloise wrote:

Thomathy wrote:

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.

LMAO - it's do not or don't 'care enough', Vas, because majority refers to a number of people.

Before everyone jumps on Vastet, his mistake is debatable, at least in Canada, where we're stuck between British and American English.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences#Formal_and_notional_agreement


 

 

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Gauche wrote:I like the word

Gauche wrote:

I like the word "utilize" it sounds like you're doing something more important than just using some shit.

Yeah. Your first language is French, isn't it? (Continental or Québécois?) I'm sure you have words and phrases that are just as annoying in any of the languages you might speak. "Utilize" is one that everyone uses. USES, GODDAMNIT!

"Utilize" is used so much in English that people using the word "use" actually seem more intelligent to me. And "utilize" is the rough equivalent of writing "douchebag" on your forehead in marker.

I'm having some rage, I admit it.

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HisWillness wrote:So the

HisWillness wrote:

So the question is, where's the line for you?

The line is not perfectly clear cut for me, either.

I find absurd mixed analogies hilarious, they can't bother me when I am laughing as hard as I do in that situation, and I really couldn't care less if the author wasn't intentionally being ironic in writing it 'cause it's still riotously funny in it's own right.

I have a few pet peeves. Like Will, I don't believe people who are ignorant of latin should have a go at spelling out etcetera, the result is often ludicrous.

Plain bad grammar like using an adverb for preposition (ie then for than) aside, I dislike extraneous prepositions especially "of" such as in: "off of"

Moreover, I get itchy to delete the "of"  in phrases like "not that big of a deal". What's with the useless information? an adjective is already, by definition, "of a" noun I don't need that spelled out separately in the sentence.

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HisWillness wrote:Eloise

HisWillness wrote:

Eloise wrote:

Thomathy wrote:

Vastet wrote:
The vast majority simply doesn't care enough to address errors.
Uh-uh.

LMAO - it's do not or don't 'care enough', Vas, because majority refers to a number of people.

Before everyone jumps on Vastet, his mistake is debatable, at least in Canada, where we're stuck between British and American English.

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/American_and_British_English_differences#Formal_and_notional_agreement

 

 

 

What section of that article speaks to* your point, Will.

 

 

 

 

(*yes, I did)

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Eloise

What section of that article speaks to* your point, Will.

What? It's in the "Formal and notional agreement" section!

Wiki wrote:

BrE: The Clash are a well-known band; AmE: The Clash is a well-known band.
BrE: Pittsburgh are the champions; AmE: Pittsburgh is the champion.

Canadian English: Pick one, because not even Canadian magazine editors can decide.

So, smarty-pantses, Vastet didn't make an error, he just pointed out a weird cultural thing.

Eloise wrote:
(*yes, I did)

Oh no you di-ent!

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HisWillness wrote:Gauche

HisWillness wrote:

Gauche wrote:

I like the word "utilize" it sounds like you're doing something more important than just using some shit.

Yeah. Your first language is French, isn't it? (Continental or Québécois?) I'm sure you have words and phrases that are just as annoying in any of the languages you might speak. "Utilize" is one that everyone uses. USES, GODDAMNIT!

"Utilize" is used so much in English that people using the word "use" actually seem more intelligent to me. And "utilize" is the rough equivalent of writing "douchebag" on your forehead in marker.

I'm having some rage, I admit it.

I was kind of just joking but yeah. I've never been to Canada and I learned english in the eastern United States. I can see how things can become anoying when said excessively but isn't use just short for utilize? I think they're both derived from utiliser. It seems like it means the exact same thing.

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Eloise wrote:Plain bad

Eloise wrote:

Plain bad grammar like using an adverb for preposition (ie then for than) aside, I dislike extraneous prepositions especially "of" such as in: "off of"

Moreover, I get itchy to delete the "of"  in phrases like "not that big of a deal". What's with the useless information? an adjective is already, by definition, "of a" noun I don't need that spelled out separately in the sentence.

This article considers those odd insertions/subtractions "ruralisms":

http://blogsarchive.newsobserver.com/grammar/index.php?title=too_big_a_deal&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

 

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HisWillness wrote:Eloise

HisWillness wrote:

What section of that article speaks to* your point, Will.

What?

So now we're back and forth at this then are we?

Which section, ok! Damn Grammar threads to oblivion, I [email protected]!$&

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HisWillness wrote:Eloise

HisWillness wrote:

Eloise wrote:

Plain bad grammar like using an adverb for preposition (ie then for than) aside, I dislike extraneous prepositions especially "of" such as in: "off of"

Moreover, I get itchy to delete the "of"  in phrases like "not that big of a deal". What's with the useless information? an adjective is already, by definition, "of a" noun I don't need that spelled out separately in the sentence.

This article considers those odd insertions/subtractions "ruralisms":

http://blogsarchive.newsobserver.com/grammar/index.php?title=too_big_a_deal&more=1&c=1&tb=1&pb=1

 

I could care less, and so I probably should, that an excuse for it exists, it's just plain irritating.

(I'm about 2 shy of working your whole list into my replies. FTW!)

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Gauche wrote:I was kind of

Gauche wrote:
I was kind of just joking but yeah.

Oh, I know. You've just found something that annoys me, that's all.

Gauche wrote:
I can see how things can become anoying when said excessively but isn't use just short for utilize?

but here's the annoying part: it's Middle English usen from Old French user from the Latin usus (participle). That's fine.

Utilize, on the other hand, is from the French utiliser, 19th century, as you noted. The reason I say "annoying" is that English is always importing French words and turning them into pretentious or feminine hygiene words. "Douche" goes from "shower" to "female vinegar cleansing", "tampon" from being a sink plug (yes, that's right, girls) or a blotter to being, uh, I guess pretty much the same. "Petite" is just "short". "Soirée" is "evening", but in English it's a fancy party, sometimes not even in the evening. "Genre" just means "type", but once it's used by an English speaker, it means "artsy type".

My favourite (where's Hamby?) is when North American restaurants have things "au gratin", which means "with too much goddamned cheese on it".

Gauche wrote:
It seems like it means the exact same thing.

It would be, but for the problem that only dickheads say "utilize".

(All my French is Montreal French, from my dad, who went to high school with the guy who shows up consistently in your avatar)

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Eloise wrote:I could care

Eloise wrote:

I could care less, and so I probably should, that an excuse for it exists, it's just plain irritating.

(I'm about 2 shy of working your whole list into my replies. FTW!)

Ah! Stop it! Have mercy! I used to work in an office!

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HisWillness wrote:It would

HisWillness wrote:

It would be, but for the problem that only dickheads say "utilize".

 

Touche!

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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I think the word "anything"

I think the word "anything" is kind of annoying. I mean you could want a thing, or you can want something, or everything,  or nothing (that makes sense). But if you say that you want anything it's like saying the opposite. You don't want any thing in particular so you're basically saying it's not important. So why not just say it's not important?

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I don't generally have too

I don't generally have too many peeves when having a verbal conversation with someone - but, to be honest, I do have so many pets.

I love Scottish dialect and Virginian dialect (Al Gore is maybe my most favorite speaker ever - not only because of what content he might bring to the table, but because I could listen to his voice all day long) in particular, though Australian is definitely a close second. Russian and German are just fun-sounding, so they're right up there too.

 

When it comes to written stuff... I can't stand adjectives or adverbs. They just get in the way. Clive Cussler can go to Hell; his novels are composed of almost nothing but useless little descriptors (Clive, I don't fucking care how he was running. I don't care that he was running 'swiftly' or 'awkwardly' or 'merrily' or... just cut out the Goddamn adverbs, okay?).

Grammar isn't a big deal to me (Hell, my grammar's pretty bad). Cadence and conciseness are what I most appreciate.

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"Natasha has just come up to the window from the courtyard and opened it wider so that the air may enter more freely into my room. I can see the bright green strip of grass beneath the wall, and the clear blue sky above the wall, and sunlight everywhere. Life is beautiful. Let the future generations cleanse it of all evil, oppression and violence, and enjoy it to the full."

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Gauche wrote:I think the

Gauche wrote:

I think the word "anything" is kind of annoying. I mean you could want a thing, or you can want something, or everything,  or nothing (that makes sense). But if you say that you want anything it's like saying the opposite. You don't want any thing in particular so you're basically saying it's not important. So why not just say it's not important?

Oh, you mean in the sense of being offered something and responding "anything"? C'est la meme chose que "n'importe quoi", non? Actually, I suppose that's more like "whatever".

"Anything" in that sense, I've only actually seen on American film and television. It would be rude among my friends, but teenagers might say it. But then, "whatever" is rude, too.

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*Awards Hiswillness with a

*Awards HisWillness with a small Panda trophy, surprised that he was the only one in the topic to put two and two together, and then added another two for extreme pwnage*

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Vastet wrote:*Awards

Vastet wrote:

*Awards HisWillness with a small Panda trophy, surprised that he was the only one in the topic to put two and two together, and then added another two for extreme pwnage*

AH! Your Panda trophy burns my hands! What unholy magic your Panda idolatry produces!

Fools! Only the Moose can make sense of any of this, as His is the only worldview that is internally coherent and logical!

Saint Will: no gyration without funkstification.
fabulae! nil satis firmi video quam ob rem accipere hunc mi expediat metum. - Terence