Sites for Sore Eyes
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So far, in addition to the usage I use as a title, I've observed 'line of site', referring to surveying details for a site, and I've seen in a thesis the phrase 'sighted references' when 'cited references' would be appropriate.
Do people read any more? If so, what's their level of 'understanding'?
Makes me think of trying to pronounce a word you've never heard spoken, only seen written.
Sounds like a classic "eggcorn" (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Eggcorn): "Eggcorns often involve replacing an unfamiliar, archaic, or obscure word with a more common or modern word ('baited breath' for 'bated breath')". Or, then again, could be also be a typographical mistake :)
I mean, "sighted references" instead of "cited" maybe isn't right in context, but it makes me grin to think of a lazy writer using that instead of properly citing. Oh, yeah, prof, these are the articles I saw when I was putting that paper together...
And then a "site" can also be a "sight," which means a "sight for sore eyes" would obviously have soothing colors and perhaps dim lighting - unless it's a website, where it would be grey with large black text, no?
Now that it's occurred to me, I think I'm going to have to sit here and try to think of more ways that sight/site/cite could be interchanged and still make some kind of sense.
#2: trying to pronounce a word you've never heard spoken. I hate to admit this but I was into my 20s before I knew how to say "misled" I always used to say "my-zled". Those electronic dictionaries that say the word when you click on it can be helpful with some very unusual words.
How many times have I heard the like of: 'the dangerous situation has been "diffused"'? Surely that makes the situation MORE dangerous, not less.
Those of us who can use words correctly but not say them right suffer from the opposite problem -- having expanded our vocabulary primarily through reading, rather than through conversation. My downfall was fatigue, which at age eight or so I pronounced "fat-i-gew," much to the amusement of my dad, to whom I'd been reading.
"All intensive purposes," anyone?
I love that one. I've seen similar ones in the news crawls. I may have to start collecting them.
I can see going for the simpler spelling of "site", "nite", etc., but I really wonder how many who use the former know there's a difference between "site" and "sight".
I suppose you could "sight" references if you were just glancing at them in passing. . .
Oh, you are so right. I read an entire novel where every instance of "its" and "it's" was reversed. I wanted to slap the copy editor upside the monitor with a global search/replace.
Well, there was also "monotonous" and "mischievous" that I learned from L.M.Montgomery and managed to totally mangle when I was twelve.
But I also thought of another eggcorn that drives me batty: from worst to worst. It seems to come about because "worse to" sounds a lot like "worst to" when you say it out loud.
Propagated by Billy Joel: "worst comes to worst". (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNQ8l7e-lKc)
As far as the original post, I think a huge part of my being able to spell and differentiate similar-sounding or similarly-spelled words is reading, reading, and more reading, not just to learn isolated words, but to familiarize myself with how they appear in context, or should I say, many different contexts. Many people just haven't done the same, or haven't had the same opportunities. I don't think it's as simple as calling people sloppy, although, when it comes to my more highly educated (Ph.D. as opposed to my lowly master's) and much more highly paid coworkers who can't get its/it's, sight/site, lose/loose, or your/you're correct, I have to wonder what went wrong.
Now I work in a field where I have frequent occasion to write the word "disburse," and it's not at all uncommon to read reports where people meant "disburse," but came up instead with "disperse."
has just reminded me that discrete/discreet must be included in this thread...
I had a friend who would always pronounce the w in sword.
Similar to "all intensive purposes" is "to WRECK havoc" for "to wreak havoc" (emphasis added.) It was common in the 60s and 70s; havenʻt heard or read it lately. Has a certain weird logic to it, as "all intensive purposes" does, though I suppose that isnʻt why these stretchers get said. The 2 phrases, even in their correct form, sound as if they "should" have something to do with "wrecking" or "intensity".
Websterʻs Collegiate labels "wreak" as archaic. The primary use, Webster says, is always connected with punishment or revenge. The sense of "to give free play to..." is called secondary. Iʻm assuming that "wreak" is obsolete, other than in he phrase "to wreak havoc".
Thanks for the reminder about opening line of "Sir Gawain and the Green Knight". Itʻs another of the books that Iʻve been intending for a long time to read. My middle English is also rusty; in fact, ,no formal study of it, Iʻm only self-taught.
From what I know, your philology and WillSteedʻs (m/26) is right.
Actually, I don't think that this is entirely the case. In previous generations, the unskilled were more or less totally illiterate: now there are few illiterates, but a larger proportion of the population with a modicum of education. What is increasing is the access of the linguistically inept to mass communication media: you no longer have to be able to write properly before you can disseminate your scrawlings to the public.
In the case of word-confusion, computer spell-checkers also have a lot to answer for. But I often find myself writing "there" in a hurry, and have to go back and correct it to "their".
I see a lot of "loose" for "lose". Also "loathe" for "loath".
Can graduating students be expected to exceed the skills of their mentors? Ad, since it is these students who form the pool from which future teachers are drawn, is there an alternative to decline?
Kids these days, change, hell, hand-basket, aaargh. There: that ought to sum it up ;p
Seriously, people: what is the problem? Going from spelling pronunciations and eggcorns à la "cited/sighted reference" to decline (a much-loved word in this group) of teaching standards, and indeed literacy and society at large is too silly for words. Inferring "linguistically inept" from occasional spelling pronunciations and eggorns is equally silly. And if I may say so in all honesty: People who claim such things take themselves or the values they stand for much too seriously, in my opinion.
Typos and eggcorns are relatively frequent, quite natural, and, indeed, to be expected from people who write a lot and who are, therefore, likely to frequently use homonyms. When people write, they are primarily concerned with the contents of what they're writing, with arranging thoughts and ideas, and possibly the speed with which they are producing their text. Substituting one homonym or -graph for another is very often nothing but a case of muscle memory (there/their/they're is a case in point). Correcting such errors is done at the editing stage -- provided the text genre is one that needs editing.
That said, I seriously wonder if is there any factual evidence for this alleged increase of eggcorns and sundry errors? Between, say, the seventies and now? I'm not talking about anecdotal evidence and forty-years-old memories, but about a statistical comparison of comparable genres across decades. Does anyone know of such a study? Of course, relevant social changes in that period need to be taken into account, such as the heavy stress on formal academic prose as the standard for all writing that has become a lot less dominant -- thank God. And of course, the advent of the web just allowed a greater portion of the public to get their comments and their writings out where others could see them; so a decline in writing standards would have to involve a proportionate increase in eggcorns, not just a numerical one.
Much of this so-called "decline" might be due to the recency illusion (things you've just noticed appear to be recent, even though they were around when you weren't noticing them or experiencing them directly), and to the fact that anything you pay attention to will automatically increase in perceived frequency and importance. Not to mention societal changes and the explosion of informal, editing-free text genres, and changing attitudes towards the status and the range of applicable contexts for the Standard Language and formal academic writing (people are a lot more relaxed about RP, for instance, than they were in the seventies). In all, writing standards today are not that different from those in the seventies; but standards in the seventies did not apply to, say, emails, texting, tweeting, IRC, etc, and these genres can and should not be compared to formal essay writing. Not on the content level, and not on the spelling and editing level either.
I don't believe in a general societal decline in literacy, or in blaming teachers for pupils' attitudes towards writing (whatever those may be). In this day and age, more people go to school every year than the year before; more books are being published every year; and the sheer amount of texts produced increases steadily as well. How any of this can spell "decline" or "linguistic ineptitude" is beyond me.
edited for incorrect quote
I do typing and data entry for my dad, and he occasionally does math workshops for elementary school teachers in hopes of improving their math teaching. I type the teachers' end-of-course comments, and hear over and over again - "I never learned this as an education student in (whatever year)," "I haven't done algebra for 20 years," "Re-learning calculus has made me reconsider my approach to teaching my third-graders."
Theoretically these teachers, who clearly benefit from a math refresher, could use an English refresher as well, although I think it's probably less of a problem because of the right-brained/left-brained thing - people who go into elementary teaching are probably not born mathematicians.
That said, I know in my elementary school we did a lot with homonyms and I have never had a problem with them, even though every time I see the word "loose" I think "loose like a goose" and want to tear my brain out of my skull and kick it repeatedly.
But there are a ton of words I don't know how to pronounce because I've only ever read them.
(Written under the influence of Jack&Coke at a high altitude.)
I am living with it. But I don't like it. Maybe I'm wrong in assuming others can't be bothered to persist reading the thoughts of someone who can't be bothered to be precise. I read and enjoyed the thoughts of Petroglyph because that writer HAS bothered, even if every word didn't have to be chiselled into the rock!
There's a big difference between odd mistakes (I made one myself once! LoL) and chronic ignorance.
The quantity of written word emerging daily before our eyes seems to be expanding dramatically in the modern electronic age. Do we not owe it to future generations to teach them how to get their thoughts across?
32>Factual evidence - first, I'm a natural proofreader. That is, when I read something, I see and notice the errors. Usually it doesn't bother me, especially if it's a good book (I'm talking here primarily of fiction, and mostly science fiction/fantasy because that's what I read most), but I notice it. I just read two books in quick succession - Finding Magic by Tanya Huff, published 2007; excellent book, great stories (it's a collection), lots and lots of typos including ones that a spell-check would have found. i.e.: 'a sliver swirl of fish', 'standing a mid a group', 'stripped to their breaches' - that's what I found in 10 pages of two stories (none of the spell-check ones, though). Next I read The Generals' President by John Dalmas, published 1988. Although the book wasn't nearly as good, I didn't notice a single typo in it. Admittedly not by the same publisher, but I read a lot of recent books from Baen (who published The Generals' President) and the typo level is about what I saw in Finding Magic. So - current experience of 1988 vs 2007 level of proofreading in a published work.
I agree that there's a lot more casual writing that's available for others to see nowadays, including some that deliberately misspells to save space (chat, Twitter - l337 doesn't count). But that shouldn't affect - shouldn't be allowed to affect - more formal work.
And I definitely agree with Noisy (msg 35). Just for fiction reading, if I have to go back and reread a sentence to figure out what the author _meant_ to say, it's almost guaranteed to throw me out of the story - which makes me less likely to finish the book and _much_ less likely to buy anything by that author/from that publisher again. And when that sort of thing gets into technical work - that's just not acceptable.
ETA - though Petroglyph's first bit made me laugh. I love that Petrarch has (among) the first (written, surviving) complaint along the lines of 'children these days have no manners, not like when _we_ were young...'.
You're asking spell check to do a job for which it is not designed. "Sliver" and "breaches" are a perfectly good, properly spelled words; it's only the context that makes them wrong. Same with "a" and "mid"; two perfectly good words, just inappropriate in that spot. Spell check doesn't catch homonyms and it doesn't know or care if you meant "its" or "it's." Grammar checkers may help, but there is no substitute for a good set of eyes. (The writer's eyes don't usually help; the brain behind those eyes reads what it knows is supposed to be there :-)
ones that a spell-check would have found. i.e.: 'a sliver swirl of fish', 'standing a mid a group', 'stripped to their breaches' - that's what I found in 10 pages of two stories (none of the spell-check ones, though)
When I went back to get some examples, I didn't find (in my two-minute scan of a few pages) any of the ones that spell-check should have found. When reading the book, however, I noticed several not-a-word typos.
And yes, the examples I gave required someone who didn't know the stories to actually read the book and look at the words in it. But shouldn't that be SOP for a publisher? I know funds have been tight and are getting tighter, but skipping that sort of read-through is getting into the sloppy mindset that this whole thread is complaining about.
It used to be, but not no more.
I think my son (high school senior) is going to be pulled into helping with his school's literary magazine this year. He went in a day or two after the last issue was published and pointed a few out to the teacher advisor that she had missed. But Steven reads a lot, and I have to correct his pronunciation of words quite often.
i But Steven reads a lot, and I have to correct his pronunciation of words quite often
Today, in a conversation with a New Zealander, the word antipodean came up -- which, it turned out, I'd been pronouncing the wrong way, because I'd only ever seen it in writing. I pronounced it with the primary stress on -po- and the secondary on an-, rather than placing the primary stress on -de-, with a secondary stress on -ti-.
It is my humble personal opinion that this stress pattern makes no real sense when compared to the (non-English) morphology: the stress isn't on the word stems, 'anti and 'podis, but on what originally was an affix. But then again, Latin is, for almost all intents & purposes, a dead language, (and who knows about the antipodes anyway?) so it is only to be expected that rare words borrowed from Latin are subject to odd pronunciations.
More to the point, so is Greek :)
I think probably the English pronunciation of "antipodean" preserves the Greek pronunciation, rather than deviates from it. The Greek word from which it derives would have been something like antipodos. The ancient Greek system of accented syllables differs from the English one in several respects, one of them being that it uses the same pattern of stresses whether a word is made up of affix + root, or just root. So Xenophon's classic, the Anabasis, made up of ana + basis, is actually pronounced an-A-ba-sis, not AN-a-BA-sis, the way that we English-speakers would pronounce a similar word.
If I remember correctly, in words of four or more syllables, (ancient) Greek wants to place the stress on the third to last syllable. In words with two or three syllables, it wants to place the stress on the second to last syllable. Thus, an-TI-po-dos, not AN-ti-PO-dos. From there getting to our pronunciation of "antipodean" is easy.
ἀντίπους is an adjective meaning with the feet opposite, or of one at the Antipodes. Pous, sometimes podos is the word for foot in Ancient Greek.
"off center base"? Presumably it's an eggcorn, but of what?
The second? I haven't really a clue; but I'd suspect it's a conflation of "off center" and "off base."
I suppose #55: msladylib has it right, "off center base" is indecision between "off center" and "off base".
What drives me crazy, though, is "advice" and "advise." Though the other examples given resonate with me as well. I've always been an avid reader - but was too shy to talk much until high school - so that probably saved me from embarrassment. My father pronounced everything in his own special way (think Archie Bunker - his pronunciation, not his view of the world).
I've also know several people who say "abdomen" abDOmen instead of my usual ABdomen. And then there's the student who received a corrected paper from one of my colleagues who commented on her "hyperbole" She asked him later "What is a hyperBOWL?"