Words we hate because, well, they AREN'T WORDS!
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And if you will be with me "momentarily" that's unfortunate, because it will take more than a moment to dispose of the business on account of which I am here. I would much prefer if you were simply with me "in a moment."
And just a quick trip over to dictionary.com will show you that "momentarily" can mean either "for a moment" or "in a moment."
*edit: Actually, I take that last bit back. Dictionary.com contains a usage note that 59% of some panel finds that extending "momentarily" to mean "in a moment" is unacceptable. Interesting news, but I doubt I'm going to start using "imminently" instead.
And momentarily has only come to mean "in a moment" over the last ten years, and has done so through the same mechanism by which all new words come into being (for instance, the use of the word 'google' in a verb form). "Momentarily," meaning "for a moment", was used incorrectly so frequently, and a critical mass of English speakers were so ignorant of the correct usage, that the very meaning of the word changed to include the incorrect usage.
So yes, I concede that "momentarily" now also means "in a moment," because a language is defined by common conceptualization of ideas, and it is conceptualized by enough people that it was assimilated. In other words, it only means "in a moment" because the stoopid peepul overwhelmed the very language itself.
But that doesn't mean I have to stop being pissy about it.
It seems like I get into this argument every week in this group. Among a group of so many smart, well-informed people, who, to judge from the group's name, share an interest in the history of languages and how they CHANGE, it is absolutely baffling how many of our members consider it a righteous calling to stop the meanings of words from changing any further.
I won't vouch for the IQ of each and every person who misuses your beloved "momentarily," but you're being presumptuous, classless, and insulting to place them summarily and categorically beneath you in a class of "stoopid peepul." The rules of usage are not imposed by an oligarchy of the intellectual elite; if you'd prefer that they were, go learn Esperanto and leave the English language alone.
My mother could use queer to mean peculiar and gay to mean jolly, roughly; I cannot, but I have other words.
Misuse has taken away my use of the word literal. Until it is replaced, I will protest its loss.
Thanks for that. For some reason a group purportedly about linguistics spends a lot of time moaning about usage.
And on the subject, I can only direct people to Mr. Stephen Fry's reformed views: http://www.stephenfry.com/blog/2008/11/04/don%E2%80%99t-mind-your-language%E2%80...
I don't care if linedog was joking. I was objecting as much to his incivility as I was to his position. If anybody wants to have a civil discourse about the relative merits of prescriptivism and descriptivism, I'm all for it. But if instead all we want to do is make mockeries and engage in name-calling about people who use words in ways that we ourselves would not, then we deserve to be brusquely admonished.
With that out of my system, I'll respond to the substance of what you wrote, Robert. The problem I have with the idea that a linguistic innovation remains an error "until the change is complete," is that it's confoundingly difficult to determine when the change is, in fact, complete. In practice, it seems like we consider the change incomplete until such time as the prescriptivists stop carping about it, which often feels like an eternity. E.g., there's been a recent thread in this group bemoaning the loss of the supposed distinction between "like" and "as": a distinction, I might add, that has probably not been respected in spoken English for a century or more, if it ever was.
I prefer to avoid drawing such a line (between complete and incomplete language changes) altogether, and cling instead to the notion that, in language, anything goes, as long as what you've said expresses what you meant in as clear a manner as you had intended.
*edited for typo
I used to work next to someone who said that every day.
I wanted to grab her and say "Precisely which ocean are you referring people to?"
Language changing is only 'bad' when it's other people doing it...we all change language either consciously or unconsciously to respond to changing contexts, describe new phenomena, or simply prioritize one meaning over another. You can't have a completely static language unless you live in a completely static world.
That said, I'm terribly interested in the way we perceive these changes or 'mistakes' and how they influence our opinions of the people using them. And I think it's probably important as speakers to be aware of the effect our words have on others. (The hapless user of 'irrespective', for example, is probably unaware that he's just alienated half his audience who objects to the term. If he were, he might choose to use a different word – not because it's 'wrong', but because we use words to communicate, and in this case it's not doing him any favors.)
Yes, definitely, classism and racism and other -isms are without a doubt factors.
Of course, the alternative is that it's so blindingly obvious in context that I've never even noticed it.
One that irritates me more than that is the loss of the verb "orient". How often do you hear/read it used? No one seems to orient him/herself any more; it's usually "orientate", which not that long ago did not exist as a word.
I also mourn the loss of the word "gay". There is NOT a good substitute. And "fairy" has become touchy as well.
I don't know if the OP is correct in his assertion that "momentarily" as "in a moment" has only emerged in the last 10 years, but I don't remember ever--aside from in books and movies--hearing anyone use the "correct" term "presently." If I did, I'd probably assume they were putting on airs or had just returned from an extended stay in the UK.
On a side note: Many people will pull their hair out and run screaming into the night when they open their dictionaries and see an entry for...
"The evidence, scanty as it is, suggests that at the beginning of the 20th century momentarily and momently were uncommon words that were used more or less interchangeably in several senses. In the years since, momently has continued to be uncommon, while momentarily has come into frequent use, first in its sense "for a moment" and soon afterward in its sense "at any moment; in a moment." These two senses have coexisted in American English for many decades (in British English, "at any moment" is rare). Neither one is inherently superior to the other, and neither one detracts in any way from the other. The meaning of each is always made clear by the context in which it occurs."
M-W acknowledges that a small but inexorable group continues to protest the "in a moment" usage, but states: "We hope, though, that they will consider a trip to the nearest library, where any number of good dictionaries will tell them that the "in a moment" meaning is standard English."
For example, here's MW on the disinterested/uninterested distinction (via John Hodgeman yesterday, actually): http://books.google.com/books?id=2yJusP0vrdgC&pg=PA352&lpg=PA350&dq=...
I still use orient rather than orientate: Omit Needless Syllables! Though when I use it, I don't usually want to know which way is east, so language purity fanatics can still accuse me of corrupting the language and encouraging the downfall of civilisation as we know it.
If you don't know it already, try Language Log, especially Prescriptivist Poppycock.
"Orientate" is another one that I've never heard used except humorously. According to Wiktionary, though, it's perfectly standard UK English: "Widely used in the UK, but widely considered an error in American English, where orient is preferred. American English prescriptivists criticize it as a backformation from orientation (compare interpretate from interpretation); it is attested since the mid-19th century."
It just seems a waste to spend so much time complaining about how others speak, when it's perfectly obvious that there are plenty of "correct" ways to use language, and how one chooses to use it is informed by where he is, where he's from, and to whom he's speaking.
I live in a farm town, but come from a family of city-born intellectuals. (Most of my friends were the first people in their families to graduate college. Some, high school. Meanwhile, my mom has a Master's, and my dad has a PhD. Unheard of!)
Anyway, I was taught to speak "properly." But my very favorite thing is hearing the language of the people around me. "Brung" is the thing that comes to mind - there are so many weird verb conjugations they use - and the accent, everything, I LOVE it. And it's not because I feel superior. I actually feel inferior sometimes. After all, who doesn't know the phrase "Knee-high by the Fourth of July"?! I can't believe you've never heard that! - you get that enough, and you start to realize it's you who doesn't speak the right language.
I have to take issue with the contention that there are words that are not words. A word may be clumsy, ugly, unclear, or illogical. Its use may be frowned upon from all quarters. "Irregardless" is ugly, it's illogical, and many people don't like it, but it is a word and has been since its first use. In elementary school I often heard "Ain't ain't in the dictionary because ain't ain't a word." Of course were it really not a word, that sentence wouldn't make sense because it would lack meaning. Besides, ain't has been in every English language dictionary I've tried to find it in.
Also, there is no such thing as "incorrect" or "non-standard" English. This is because there is no such thing as "Standard English". StE is only a concept, not a reality. So, "ya'll" and "yunz" and "youse guys" (sp?) are unconventional forms of English (i.e., do not comply with conventional written English), but are not "incorrect".
(There are languages, however, where there is a "right" and "wrong" form. Germany (& Austria? & Switzerland?) has (have) officially standardized spellings and grammar, and so the dialectal forms are no longer "correct".)
Is it primarily used today for humour: "She ain't what she used to be.", or for emphasis: "That just ain't so!", or has it become part of a purely regional dialect.
First of all, I never said I was smart or well-informed, so don't go accusing me of that! I just said I LIKE TO THINK THAT I'm smart. There's an enormous difference.
In fact, if you talked to people who know me, I think you'd find that your second characterization, "presumptuous, classless, and insulting," to be much more plausible.
And of course languages evolve. And of course that occurs in ways that mutate usage and form. And of course even a language like the loosely defined "Black American English," though vastly different than the equally loosely defined "Standard American English," abide by strict, though different, syntactic and grammatical rules just as the mother language does or did.
But the idiosyncrasies of personality that lead to the innovation and use of words such as "gription" to describe what tires get by contacting a road are the same type of idiosyncrasies that lead others of us to cringe when we hear them, and both are worthy of mockery and ridicule, but neither is worthy of getting one's feathers ruffled, sport.
So I consider myself "brusquely admonished" for my incivility at calling names, but please don't mistake this to mean that you (or I, for that matter) are necessarily not a big doodie-head.
Oh, and "acclimatize" instead of "acclimate." Once again, yes, I do know it's a real word in real dictionaries. It still bugs me.
Dictionary.com these gems:*
Acclimate: to grow accustomed to changing environment, etc. . .
Acclimatize: to acclimate
I mean, come on! That's just dumb, man!
* Yes, I just used "dictionary.com" as an imperative verb, and yes, I do appreciate the irony of my own hypocrisy, and no, I'm still not sorry for calling other people stupid for doing things which I am aware I also do. At least I have the thick skin to be able to make fun of myself. I used to think I had the ego-strength to handle criticism in an anonymous forum by a person who, in all likelihood, I will never meet, but seeing as I wrote a response to that criticism. . .hmmm. . .well, I guess not.
There are words that I hate even though they are real words, including many that end in "cious," especially those that contain an "l"--"delicious" I find abominable even though it's been around a long time and it probably isn't going anywhere anytime soon.
I personally think someone should start an actual grammar/usage group. I've spent hours reading newsgroups and forums where Germans argue about word choice and syntax, and sometimes the conversations can get pretty heated. I'd much rather read heated arguments about words and grammar than about politics.
Something I've noticed about the German groups is that when someone posts a usage question or a "how do I say" question, people will often respond by correcting the grammar in the original post without actually answering the original poster's question.
Regarding irregardless, there is a restaurant in Raleigh NC called The Irregardless Cafe and I just can't bring myself to go there.
My 15-year old daughter has started using "gi-normous" lately. Moderately irritating but not the end ofthe world.
(Sorry, I don't know how to indicate an accent mark on LT.)
I have a sneaking suspicion that more and more people are using the former when they speak, too, but I had been giving the benefit of the doubt until I started seeing the latter in e-mails, etc.
You would find this page useful, "HTML Codes - Characters and symbols".
One shows ignorance, the other shows creativity.
edited for nasty typoo
I guess the problem is that "walla" looks like English, so I would never think to apply the very French "ah" to the final syllable instead of the very English "uh." It's definitely a case where the error hopelessly obscures the meaning of the word.
ä ü ö ß
That's the problem, IMHO ... "regardless" already has one negation marker ("-less") so it doesn't need the second "ir-."
People think I'm absolutely insane because I keep my computer set to the International Spanish Keyboard (ISO). But I can do é and ë and è without having to think - plus I have a ç and an ñ. But man, people sit down to my computer and they whine, whine, whine. "Maria, where's the quotation mark?" "Oh, where the @ symbol is." "Maria, where's the question mark?" "Where the _ is."
An almost absolute parallel construction (meanings and intentions are different with the negations) of "ravel" and "regard" would be either:
"ravel" > "unravel"
"regard" > "disregard"
"ravel" > "ravel-less" !?
"regard" > "regardless"
Yay! for inflectional morphology!
Also "gi-normous" is an example of splicing.
Also, I say incorrect up above (regarding the double negation), because one of the underlying rules of English structure (most varieties, any way) is that double negatives are incorrect.
For instance, if you met someone who in good faith thought that the sentence, "You don't know nothing," meant the same thing as "You do know something," you would probably assume that such a person had not yet mastered the English language. You certainly would not say to yourself, "That man understands English perfectly."
I don't think that a double negation is incorrect or ungrammatical; I think it's just informal.
We have weird, and perfectly grammatical constructions like the double genitive: "That dog of yours" means the same thing as "your dog." Why not "That dog of you"? If language were regular, you would expect the object of the preposition "of" to come in the objective case ("you"), but instead it comes as genitive ("yours").
And singular subjects take singular verbs, except in the case of a conditional clause, where they take plural verbs. It's "If I were you..." not "If I was you..." Again, if English were regular, and words worked the same way no matter what words came around them, singular subjects would take singular verbs even in a conditional clause.
*edited for grammar, funnily enough.
The 'were' in the conditional clause is not a plural, it is a subjunctive, a not quite dead mode in English. I still like to use it but shy away from contructions like 'if it be...' where a philistine holds the purse strings.
I'm actually not sure about this, and that's why I ask. I can't think of any subjunctive verb form that doesn't occur (with a different meaning) as an indicative. And I'm absolutely sure that when I was in high school, the rule I learned was "Use a plural verb form with singular subjects in conditional clauses." A gross simplifcation, as you point out, but I can never recall it having steered me wrong.
Two, the emphasized double negation (I just made up that term) , i.e "That is not impossible to implement", is also not what I was talking about. To negate an action, the under-lying grammatical structure of English uses merely one negating element, whether a particle ("not"), or an inflection ("-less", "un-", "-im", etc.). Note that I said most varieties.
Three, I dislike tying certain forms ("You don't know nothin(g)" vs. "You know nothing" or "You don't know anything") to class. Language is certainly affected by social interaction, but I feel that home-life is just as important. Some people, regardless of status, use . . . "non-standard English" (keeping in mind that there is no standard). It is ingrained in their speech center to use certain forms, and that is unaffected by class/status.
This then applies to education, which one person in my class on Pidgins and Creoles rightly objected to using as a replacement for "class" given that, like class, education does not necessarily affect speech.
I think that a speaker of the more conventional (not the "standard") variety are more likely to place a higher value on education, but this is not always true.
Four, subjunctive is fun. And screws with most people. (What? I were?)
Five, "That dog of yours" is not necessarily a double-genitive construction.
Note: "die Mutter" (the mother) and "der Mann" (the man)
"Roberts Mutter" (Robert's mother)(possessive construction) (I changed this per post #60) but "die Mutter des Mannes" (genitive construction)
(I am allowed to use German since English is considered a Germanic language.)
There are other residual German elements in English, so this isn't an unreasonable connection. (Other connections: German has verbs with separable prefixes, and English has verbs with attached "prepositions" without any prepositional phrase "I will not put up with that". Also, our infinitive constructions are similar.)
>52 KromesTomes: See three, above, and know that I do not mean it in the same manner. Also, know that the very people who criticize others for lack of education are themselves uneducated in language formation, etc.
>53 polutropon: The informal vs. formal argument is blah. I understand that some people change their language drastically given the situation, but I do not.
Another thought came as I was checking this post for clarity/accuracy/etc. was that one possible definition for a "higher" (see "Hochdeutsch") or more "standard" form (when there is no standard form) is the variety most easily understood by all speakers of a particular language community. "Standard English" doesn't exist, but most, if not all, speakers would understand a speaker of a variety close to Conventional English (which is closely tied to writing). Going back to German, Hochdeutsch is determined by Duden, but all Germans understand Hochdeutsch. Not all Germans, however, even partially understand certain dialects, Bayerische especially (Bayerische is Bavarian German).
Edited to fix an unfinished thought.
Edited for German grammar.
On your "the man's mother" example: In German it would be "Des Mannes Mutter" or "Die Mutter des Mannes," but never "Der Manns Mutter."
On a side note, Des Mannes Mutter is not a nice construction. I shall forever avoid it.
In any case, you all have done a reasonably good job of refuting the periphery of my argument from #54, but not the fundamental point I argued in #53. If you were teaching someone English as a second language, and he understood (to borrow KromesTomes' example) "I don't have no milk," to mean, "I have some milk," would you applaud his understanding of the the *logic* of double negation, or would you gently correct him as to what this sequence of words means when used together? I submit that it would be outright mean to let the poor guy go along thinking that people were saying the opposite of what they were actually saying.
An example of code-switching (from Black American English):
"He a bad nigga" (isn't this lovely?) - "He is a bad person"
"He a ba-ad nigga" - "He is a wonderful person" (from the original example, the speaker was talking about a runaway slave)
The spoken difference is slight primarily voice inflection, and to those unused to such distinctions the phrases are exactly the same.
(By the bye, the BAE examples above are old examples, from many years ago.)
Code-switching can also be adopting phrases from another language/culture in order to perhaps identify with that culture.
Double negations *are* tricky enough that they can fool you in other languages even if they exist in your own. Just anecdotally, when I was learning Greek, we were reading a passage of Herodotus (I think it was) in which a double negation was used for emphasis. Everyone in the class mistranslated it as a logical double negation, even though we were familiar with the English emphatic double negative.
Furthermore, I'd be really surprised if the way I learned to distinguish logical double negatives from emphatic double negatives had anything to do with either rote memory or instruction. It seems to me that this is just one of those things that children learn by osmosis as they absorb the rest of their native grammar.
In fact, it is English - but not with that meaning.
I see what you're getting at but isn't that the foundation of evolution? That whatever changes serve the greater good of the greater number survive, go forth and multiply?
(Just read #4 after writing this;basically says the same thing (I think)).
Ther is one 'word' that is constantly misuded and has been since I was at school, then through tertiary and past.
Given there is an "orientate". Given there is an "orienteer". What on Earth, someone pray tell, is "oriention" - someone turning Japanese, perhaps?
I have seen this in places and heard it from people who should know far better, including dry-as-dust academic tomes, respected (and, obviously, not-so-respected) newsreaders, lecturers...aaahhhhhh!
And I must admit I'm not entirely happy with the use "orienting" but its use has become far more widespread and familiarity, when it doesn't breed contempt, often engenders contentment, does it not?
"PC feminism is the politics of rage that depicts men as political enemies of women. It replaces reasoned argument with ad hominem onslaught and has sparked a hate-filled backlash at the fringes of the Men's Rights Movement, where women are hated as a class in tit-for-tat fashion."
Smirk, giggle, giggle (dare I say "titter"). Sorry, straight face, this is serious.
I believe, in certain situations, there is. Humans, as with most, if not all 'higher' animals, resort to non-verbals in times of physical, emotional and intellectual stress.
In Freudian terms, the body is largely freed from the constraints of socially-dictated mores of the superego and the self-aggrandisement of the ego; instinct largely takes over.
This, it seems to me, is the most 'honest', most 'correct' language.
It is simply because it's easier for a camel to pass through the eye of a needle than for infinitives to be split in the language of nobs and scholars who dictated its rules up to and including Dr. Johnson - Latin.
Talk about a hangover!
As a codicil to this whinge, what kind of genii insist on grafting Latin grammatics on a language composed of borrowings & shavings from German, Scandinavian, Italian, Hindi, Chinese and Greek, not to mention geek (as in computerese, legalese, etc.). ?
Wikipedia exemplars the Bible( "… no ordinary city." Acts 21:39 (NIV), as well as common usage ("I couldn't disagree less." (double litotes) and, "He was not unfamiliar with the work.").
Each to his own
To each his own
I say the latter, my sister says the former and we argue about it regularly (not acrimoniously, it nearly always ends with each of us saying ours and shrugging). I'm wondering if there are regional (US/UK? Regional US?) differences in the usage, or time differences, or one of us just made it up, or what.
Yes, my sister and I could have regional differences in speech. We grew up traveling around the world, with as many British teachers as American, and our parents are East Coast and Midwest (New Jersey and Michigan, specifically). We've got a lot of differences in word choice and accents depending on what we picked up from who.
There is a meaning difference if you look at the actual words. The usage is identical.
Opinions? (like I need to ask, here.)
I say the latter. Never heard the former.
(NW Indiana - Chicagoland)
"each to his own" - 485,000
"to each his own" - 990,000
"each to their own" - 452,000
"to each their own" - 361,000
"each to her own" - 25,500
"to each her own" - 39,300
I've never heard the "each to X own" variety before (or never paid attention to it). My first thought is that it might be more flexible within a syntactic context, whereas "to each X own" is mostly used an independent sentence. But this doesn't seem to be a determining factor in the Google results, even for the differently-gendered variants. This impression may just be an artifact of Google ranking: "Each to his own" appears to be a popular title for op-eds.
Made up by second grade teachers because they think their students are too dumb to know what "estimate" means.
Guess. Estimate. One or the other, not both.
I've both heard and used the latter (Southern United States). I'm aware that the former is the more common, idiomatic version, but as >80 jjmcgaffey: pointed out, the two versions connote subtly different things, and the variation can be useful.
"To each his own," means something like, "Each person should be given what he wants."
"Each to his own," means something like, "Each person should go get what he wants."
I'm not so naive as to think that every person who uses, "Each to his own," recognizes this distinction, or that he may have missed the idiom he was reaching for. On the other hand, I don't find it particularly troubling, even if it is used in error, since--unlike "I could care less" in place of "I couldn't care less"--the purported mal-usage doesn't result in a person saying the precise opposite of what he means.
Presumably 'Chacun a son Gout' is the French equivalent. Any helpful nuances there?
It is interesting that the French neglects the "own" ... by which i mean that the phase isn't "Chacun a son propre gout" - "Each has his own taste". This doesn't exactly pertain to the matter at hand, but it is interesting to note the lack of possessive.
#80 and others - never heard of 'to each his own' in the approximate meaning of "do as you like"/"whatever", although I think the phrase is 'each to their own (liking?)' anyway. in case that was unclear, i might say "each to their own.." and roll my eyes if someone chose to put tomato ketcup in their cappuccino. I'm not sure if this is the meaning everyone is after. Oh and I represent the English view to the matter, so perhaps the isogloss lies in the atlantic.
i'm not sure what the intended point of the google comparison (#85) was, but I disapprove of its use to prove the correctness of anything at all: at best you can find out that X is indeed a common misconception. For instance, I have witnessed a lecturer doing a GoogleFight to see which was correct, "different from", "different to" or "different than", seemingly unaware that different variants are used in different parts of the world, and the American variant is likely to win a GoogleFight. That made my blood boil. It is true, though, that if your suggestion doesn't have any results, it's probably wrong!
In this instance, Google showed that "to each" are "each to" are both frequently used. That's useful information in the context of this discussion, it reminds us that "I never heard it said that way" isn't a good reason to say that something is wrong.
This year some advertisers got in trouble by unthinkingly using a version of the phrase to peddle coffee products. http://is.gd/K92n
That probably has nothing to do with the English "to each his own," except indirectly, as a reminder that historical events can color the meaning of words and phrases.