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debritz


Member

Posted Sun Jan 18th, 2009 12:28pm Post subject: Our unique language
I confess to being a pedant about our language, especially when it comes to the use of the correct word. To disobey the rules is to diminish the language and to create a barrier to effective and clear communication. One example: the misuse of the word "unique". To use "unique" when you merely mean "rare" is to rob the language of a unique word with a unique meaning. Similarly, it annoys me when people use "refute" when they mean "deny". They are not interchangeable.
P.S. Given "Muphry's Law" (and I mean Muphry not Murphy), I've probably committed some heinous language crime in the above.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Wed Jan 21st, 2009 8:44pm Post subject: Our unique language
I have to agree with a lot of what you said. I find it difficult to turn off the editor when I read my emails, bills, billboards, store signs and the like. I've been a copy editor for years so I blame my profession for my pendantry. I do believe language has to evolve as we discover more and more about our world, but I do agree rules should be followed as much as possible, just so we're all starting from the same place.

The wittiest, most informative and heartfelt communications I have ever received have been those from writers who took the time to choose the right words and phrases to say precisely what they mean. These communications didn't necessarily contain 4-syllable words or multiple clauses, either. They were simply well-written.

But many people won't agree, and that's fine. I guess. And I'm sure I've made some sort of error in the previous statements, so please forgive me if you find it.
Pam

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joan


Member

Posted Thu Jan 22nd, 2009 5:44am Post subject: Our unique language
I agree that our language should be used correctly, but how can people do this when they have not been taught how? Try explaining why it is wrong to say 'between you and I' to someone who doesn't know what a preposition is. Try explaining why 'I could of done something' is wrong, to someone who doesn't understand what a verb is.

All I can do is say what is correct, and give a few examples, but it is an uphill struggle. So many regular mistakes are made. My current frustration is directed against people who use 'decimated' for something that is much more than 10% destroyed.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Thu Jan 22nd, 2009 4:44pm Post subject: Our unique language
I agree that our language should be used correctly, but how can people do this when they have not been taught how? Try explaining why it is wrong to say 'between you and I' to someone who doesn't know what a preposition is. Try explaining why 'I could of done something' is wrong, to someone who doesn't understand what a verb is.

All I can do is say what is correct, and give a few examples, but it is an uphill struggle. So many regular mistakes are made. My current frustration is directed against people who use 'decimated' for something that is much more than 10% destroyed.

Again, I must agree. People must be taught how to use language, but if they 1) are not, and 2) don't care, then it's an uphill battle, just as you say.

In the example of the word decimated, I suppose that's how the word has evolved. Now people use it to indicate wholesale destruction and that's what most people think the word means. Technically, it's the wrong usage. But if I told someone a tornado decimated my hometown, most people would consider the town damaged beyond comprehension. Evolution of the word or incorrect usage? Perhaps a little of both.

Pam

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joan


Member

Posted Fri Jan 23rd, 2009 8:02am Post subject: Our unique language
Yes, I have to concede defeat on the word 'decimated'. I guess language trumps maths in this case. It is like double negatives: I discussed their illogicality with a linguistics professor, and he said we have to accept them, as the subject is language not maths.

I refuse to ever use such illogical expressions myself though.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Fri Jan 23rd, 2009 7:28pm Post subject: Our unique language
Yes, I have to concede defeat on the word 'decimated'. I guess language trumps maths in this case. It is like double negatives: I discussed their illogicality with a linguistics professor, and he said we have to accept them, as the subject is language not maths.

I refuse to ever use such illogical expressions myself though.

That's how we fight back, quietly and with respect to our own inclinations. My sister has taken to using many double negatives. I don't know why. Our mother always corrected us when we did that. She's the only one of we five who has adopted the habit. But I'm not sure she knows she's doing it. We would both be embarrassed if I corrected her, and anyway, it's not my business to do it.

And for all Mr. Fry says about not being pendantic, there's a funny YouTube video for the show QI, where he corrects Alan Davies in his usage of "none works" vs. "none work." Very funny.

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sevil


Member

Posted Wed Feb 25th, 2009 1:26am Post subject: Our unique language
The wittiest, most informative and heartfelt communications I have ever received have been those from writers who took the time to choose the right words and phrases to say precisely what they mean. These communications didn't necessarily contain 4-syllable words or multiple clauses, either. They were simply well-written.

Just my experience. I always try to do the same but I sometimes wonder if I could be more experimental, more innovative. But why should I invent something if there already is an expression which does say exactly what I mean and I just have to take the time to find it? I make myself sound incredibly dull, but I don't often feel the need to say something so shockingly new that I can't find words to describe it properly. OK, so I sometimes take expressions from other languages (english mostly, seeing as if I'm german), but still.

(And I can understand your dilemma with editing everything in sight. Not that I am a professional editor [or whatever you call the one who looks over a text before publishing it english], but I do a lot of editing on the internet, for fanfictions and stuff like that)

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PamJH


Member

Posted Wed Feb 25th, 2009 3:31am Post subject: Our unique language
But why should I invent something if there already is an expression which does say exactly what I mean and I just have to take the time to find it?

You do it because you can. But the beauty part is, you don't have to. I say, do what you like but mean what you say.

I love discussions such as these.

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sevil


Member

Posted Wed Feb 25th, 2009 12:47pm Post subject: Our unique language
I do as well. So for the sake of it, let's pretend I am not 100% sure you are right (you never can be, can you?) and let me ask you this: If you invent something just because you can, do others still understand you?

I mean, there is this famous poem where a man calls his desk chair, his chair clock, his clock door and so on and he ends up dying alone because no one understands him anymore and after a time nobody even cares to try.

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PamJH


Member

Posted Wed Feb 25th, 2009 2:20pm Post subject: Our unique language
I do as well. So for the sake of it, let's pretend I am not 100% sure you are right (you never can be, can you?) and let me ask you this: If you invent something just because you can, do others still understand you?

I mean, there is this famous poem where a man calls his desk chair, his chair clock, his clock door and so on and he ends up dying alone because no one understands him anymore and after a time nobody even cares to try.

Maybe the trick is not to invent everything all at once. The man in the poem clearly went overboard. And I suppose it depends upon whether we want people to understand us.

But I think if you come up with a new word and people can tell what it means, well, then that just enriches the language. I think one of Stephen Fry's columns (found in Paperweight) talked about this very thing. He and Hugh Laurie were recording something and the microphone didn't have one of those spongy little covers that has something to do with sound distortion (I think). Mr. Laurie asked for one of those "spoffle" things and the technician knew right away what he meant. And that was a made-up word. Cute story, I think.

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sevil


Member

Posted Wed Feb 25th, 2009 4:58pm Post subject: Our unique language
I see what you mean, but that is not inventing words just because you can, it's more like inventing words because there is no adequate expression for it (or you can't find it at the moment), isn't it?

I love it when people can do that. I recall an incident where Max Goldt (german essayist) called girls who are so thin they might be suspected of anorexia "Memento-mori-M├Ądchen" (Memento mori girls). But it was also because no one had ever tried to name them before, so it also doesn't count in the "because I can"-category, does it?

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joan


Member

Posted Sat Feb 28th, 2009 12:21am Post subject: Our unique language
Often we pinch words from another language because we don't have the right word ourselves. 'Shadenfreude' comes to mind - we simply don't have an equivalent word in English.

Most families have a little batch of made up words, usually from small children getting it wrong. Luncheon meat from a roll will always be 'circle sausage' in my family, from my then 2 year old's description.

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Inkbottle


Member

Posted Mon Mar 2nd, 2009 3:26am Post subject: Our unique language
Listening to Fry's latest podgram was as near as one could get to privately working one's way through an box of Godiva's flown in from Zurich. Thrice yummy. Television (which I do love sometimes) mostly just grinds away in the background with layers of noise and fuss ruining my ears, and to sit by the computer and to listen to the tempered seductive ballotin that is the beribboned Fry is just glory in a box.

Plus, it made me notice how much I liked stretching the linguistic dough before it pulled apart. Freedom to the tongue!

Lovely in the best possible sense.

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Frances144


Member

Posted Wed Mar 4th, 2009 8:41pm Post subject: Our unique language
Language is fun and there to obviously be used but to let it evolve through lazyness just doesn't work for me as an argument.

I am pedant about punctuation and its uses (profuse apologies if anything is wrong here!), but I cannot be persuaded to let a language evolve through ignorance or lack of a basic foundation education.

Once you have a good grasp of language, then by all means play with it and enjoy it but that is not being taught at school now. You can hand in essays and, as long as they have the right "key words" then you pass. No one marks an exam essay for writing, style, punctuation or grammar these days and I find that very sad.

My youngest daughter writes a great deal. She loves it and I asked her about punctuation. She said if she couldn't use it, she runs out of things to say! I found that an interesting take on it. She is 13. Coincidentally, she also loves Latin and its structure as a language.

I think language is important and needs to evolve and to be played with because then it moves with our times, but not through sloppyness IMHO!

We are also a family who change words, use them to describe stupid things - in effect, we have our own language. Being brought up with Spike Milligan I think might have helped! Now he played with language but it was very clever, very precise and he had every right to.

Best of all, he made you smile with it and that must be one of the most important things!

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joan


Member

Posted Thu Mar 5th, 2009 3:38am Post subject: Our unique language
It is great that your daughter loves Latin - she will always understand how language works because of the Latin grammar she is learning. I must confess, I found the rules of English grammar difficult until I started Latin at age 12.

I fell in love with Ancient Rome, and still love reading about those days, and especially love it when 'Time Team' dig up Roman sites.

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