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September 17, 2003

Copyeditorial update.
Posted by Teresa at 10:48 PM *

Comments on Copyeditorial update.:
#1 ::: Bruce Arthurs ::: (view all by) ::: September 19, 2003, 12:05 AM:

Brevity is.

#2 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2003, 09:05 PM:

I'm curious about your stated rule for the word "damnit/dammit." Why is the "n" retained when used as two words, but dropped and supplanted with an "m" when used as one? What's the origin of this spelling rule?

I'll hang up and listen for my answer.

#3 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2003, 09:21 PM:

The first explanation that comes to mind is "because that's the way it is." I don't know whether explanation #2 is true, or just logical, but if you'll say them both out loud, you should be able to hear the difference. "Damn it," two distinct words, you should be able to hear the ghost of the "n". "Dammit", one word, you can't.

#4 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 20, 2003, 09:25 PM:

I imagine that unlike me, Teresa probably does have an actual source for the rule, but here's why I agree with it:

"Damn it" is a phrase, using "damn" in its correct spelling as a curse.

"Dammit" is a colloquialism, a single word formed from running that phrase together in certain dialects, and is spelled at the most basic pronounciation level, as such things tend to be.

"Damnit" doesn't fit the second version because one could assume it was pronounced dam-nit, if one were expecting the sort of literal spelling that marks dialects. Dialects are spelled roughly phonetically, not "correctly".

#5 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 11:07 AM:

Well, I disagree with both of you. :) I've never seen "damnit" spelled "dammit" except in your blog. I'll go hunting for a source to back this up, and if I find one, I'll post it.

To me, if the "n" is silent in "damn," it stands to reason that it could remain equally silent when combined to spell "damnit." If anything, "dammit" could be seen as a colloquial spelling of "damnit," or an alternate spelling, but not necessarily correct merely by virtue of its phonetics. Following that logic, the original word would be "dam." "Column" would be "colum," etc. (and "columned" would become "colummed,").

Enjoying your blog, btw.

Yours in grammatical geekiness,

Toni, who finds source hunting for colloquialisms--in addition to blog-surfing--an excellent procrastination technqiue

#6 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 11:08 AM:

Here's one source, where, while not listing "damnit/dammit," keeps the "n" at the end for words such as "damning," (which would be "damming" under your logic), and "damned," (or "dammed").

#7 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 11:15 AM:

Via a Google for "damnit dammit," I found a random opinion that rather favors both of us (a nod to the "technical" correctness + a call for the more creative, phonetic in usage):

Yes, okay, technically it is "damn it", so obliterating the space between them implies a sense of urgency, potency, hurriedness. BUT, there's something lost in the spirit of writing out "damnit" as opposed to the colloquial "dammit".

The latter bespeaks a feeling of abandonment in the face of emotion; the former makes only a conciliatory nod to real passion, but within the confines of staid, dryasdust proper convention.

Staidly yours,


#8 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 03:14 PM:

Why, damme, it's too bad! I can't hear the ghost of an "n," but I can say categorically that "damnit" looks wrong, and "dammit" doesn't. (And sometimes one simply needs to trust one's native-speaker intuition, especially when it agrees with Teresa's.)

#9 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 04:04 PM:

(sticking out tongue): Brown-noser.

Wouldn't the logic of the spelling be, "I can't find my goddammed sock," then, too? I've never seen "God dammit" in print; it's usually "Goddamnit/God Damnit." Of course, this is reliance upon my admittedly faulty memory.

I'm thinking anyone could check this if they have a Stephen King novel handy. (waiting)

~Toni, knawing like a ferret on your favorite futon frame

#10 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 04:35 PM:

"Damning" is not dialect. Neither is "damned" or "bedamned". Damning is the natural present participle, damned is the natural past tense, bedamned is a fairly elderly adjective.

"Goddamned" IMO properly contains a hyphen, but a lot of compound words have their hyphens dropped. It's a descriptor, not a phrase like "Damn it", so it's a little different in origin. I maintain it's not a dialect so much as a twisted rule of grammar.

(Hey, I'm perfectly happy to defend my out-the-butt theory.)

#11 ::: Nathaniel Smith ::: (view all by) ::: September 21, 2003, 09:46 PM:

Well, if it's authority you're wanting... the OED comes down squarely on Teresa's side, with a real entry for dammit. "dammit - for 'damn it', esp. used in comparative phrases", it says, with quotations back to 1908.

"damnit", on the other hand, is mentioned only once in the whole dictionary, and it's buried in the middle of the quotes for shoo, v.: "1819 W. TENNANT Papistry Storm'd iii. (1827) 106 Think alswa How to rebut and schue awa Thir damnit faes."

And usage, for once, agrees with authority; Google finds ~3x as many hits on "dammit" as on "damnit".

#12 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 12:15 PM:


Please tell me you don't have the OED sitting around your home. (Mine's still sitting in boxes from the move 2 years ago).

While I still disagree with the spelling as far as it making logical sense (it doesn't), I'm not too proud to eat crow in learning that it's a common usage rule, which, in the English language, is equally valid and more often than not, the norm. :)

(grumble grumble)

~Toni, who would throw her coat over a puddle for someone who takes the time to consult the OED.

#13 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 04:16 PM:

It's easier when one has access to the online version, of course.

(Which I do, as I work for the company that hosts it. I shall miss it when I inevitably leave said company, sometime down the road.)

Which leaves the question: why did I not think of that? It's usually my first choice for etymology.

#14 ::: Anne ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 04:48 PM:

Toni: God damn it, I hate being transparent. No, seriously--I don't give a good goddamn about any of this, and if I don't finish my God-damned (or, as I would say were I a polytheist, gods-damned) work I'll never get out of my office. Again, I know I'm right, but I'm damned if I know why. (Isn't it Heinlein who writes "Damfino" occasionally? I remember it confusing me, back before I knew how to cuss.) You may perhaps wish to ignore me, as I am mightily stoned on DayQuil. Zounds!!

#15 ::: Toni ::: (view all by) ::: September 22, 2003, 08:31 PM:

Whoa, Anne. You might not want to toke on the Nyquil via hookah next time. Teaspoons, teaspoons!

Hope you feel better, and see Nathanial's entry above; he dusted off his OED and found that dammit is indeed the proper form, in usage.

~Toni, who "just says no" to Nyquil, as it tends to send her to other, less friendly, dimensions

#16 ::: Brooks Moses ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 03:59 PM:

The latter bespeaks a feeling of abandonment in the face of emotion; the former makes only a conciliatory nod to real passion, but within the confines of staid, dryasdust proper convention.

Problem is, sometimes I'd want an option that makes a concilatory nod to real passion within the confines of dryness -- which means, for me, it's a bit unfortunate that "damnit" is apparently not considered a real word.

Of course, I also tend to use "grey" and "gray" depending on mood, so I suppose a natural consistency of wordchoice isn't my strong suit.

#17 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: September 24, 2003, 06:53 PM:

Nathaniel, I'd bet two dozen doughnuts in a hungry morning meeting that in the example they cite from Tennant's "Papistry Storm'd" -- "Think alswa How to rebut and schue awa Thir damnit faes" -- the word "damnit" was pronounced with an audible "n". Unfortunately, it's not the same word. William Tennant was born at Anstruther (pronounced "Anster") in Fife, and his mother tongue was Lallans Scots. That "damnit" is his simple past tense of "damn".

I'm late coming in on this, but I want to register my disagreement with the characterization of "damn it" as being necessarily dry as dust. For instance, "Damn it, Ralph, I told you to turn the oven off before we left!" is not a dispassionate utterance.

Anne, "Damfino" works because it duplicates a specific vernacular pronunciation. There are lots of ways to say "Damned if I know," but "Damfino" is specific: one word, pitch goes up on "fi", signifies utter bafflement plus no expectation that it will ever be cleared up.

It's like the only time I've ever seen cutesy special characters used to good effect in text, in one of Steve Brust's Vlad Taltos novels. Vlad, irritated but trying to remain patient, says to his office staff "I'm waiting." On either side of that sentence was that dingbat that's made of two linked quarter-notes, the second about a full step above the first -- I'm sure you've seen it. The minute you saw those notes, you knew that "wait-" was pitched a lot higher than the syllables to either side of it, and was held twice as long as it normally would be.

You can get away with that stuff if you have the ear. Lord knows Steve does.

#18 ::: JB ::: (view all by) ::: November 29, 2003, 05:45 PM:

Bedamned, La Schwah !

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