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April 13, 2004

Posted by Teresa at 11:29 PM *

My e-mail has been in dreadful shape, effectively unusable, for days. It looks like Patrick has fixed it. He also cleaned out the accumulated spam. He is my hero.

This day is definitely improving.

Comments on Mail:
#1 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 12:04 AM:

We like him too.

I am so glad things are getting a little better for you this evening, and I hope things will be perfect tomorrow morning.

#2 ::: Mitch Wagner ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 01:40 AM:

I'm sorry about your head, Teresa, but I'm glad to see you seem to be feeling better.

#3 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:47 AM:

I hope you're feeling better. Cold compress?

#4 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:57 AM:

I know this is off-topic (but really, what is the topic here?), but I found myself to only be a "master" of English (re: particles-how grammatically sound are you?). Considering I'm originally from Oklahoma, I feel that I should receive extra credit and be a "Grammar God." After all, look at what I've come from. So I guess the question is, are YOU a Grammar God?

#5 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:59 AM:

S/he is my hero is one of the greatest things one can hear one spouse say about another.

#6 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:59 AM:

Aw, crap...did I have something grammatically incorrect in my last post? I'm filled with shame. I'll never post here again...

#7 ::: Elric ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 10:14 AM:

I'll take a moment to join the chorus of those hoping that you truly are feeling better now.

And thank you, I think, for posting the grammar quiz. As with so many of my fellows, with each question my barely conscious mind grew more and more confident that I was missing something truly basic and that I'd get some awful rating. I'm sure that any and all production people who feel insecure about what they do can understand the trepidation with which I told it to grade me.

I passed the test. I shall fade, and pass into the West, and still remain... Sorry. Wrong book.

But I do seem to have been established in the firmament with you and the other Grammar Gods out there. For now, anyway.

#8 ::: Zarina N Docken ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 10:39 AM:

I freaked out when my ex-fiance called me his hero. The pressure!

I'm sure Patrick looks better than I do in a cape and a pair of tights.

#9 ::: Lee Hauser ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 10:57 AM:

GRAMMAR GOD! I don't believe it!

Oh...Teresa, glad you're feeling better.

'Scuse me, must go defend the Language now. Who knew?

#10 ::: Jill Smith ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 11:06 AM:

Lee, I'm right there with you (oh dear - the pressure such an honor brings!).

Will be posting my godliness code to my website tomorrow. Thanks for the link, Teresa, and glad you are feeling better!

#11 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 11:20 AM:

I am a grammar god, at least as far as written English goes. My spoken English isn't up to the same standard.

#12 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 11:46 AM:

Was anyone else tremendously bothered by the typo in question #7?

Grammar God, BTW.

#13 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 11:47 AM:

I am a master of English, apparently.

My spoken English is also nowhere near the same standard. (The word "like" is far too prevalent. "And I was, like, 'Don't you people ever use your turn signals?'")

#14 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 12:06 PM:

PiscusFiche, the 4th Ed. of the American Heritage Dictionary has a long discussion of that use of 'like'. Actually the verb 'be like', which is used to introduce an indirect quote or characterize a verbal or nonverbal reaction. Have a look; it's fun.

#15 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 12:12 PM:

We seem to be developing a regular Grammar Pantheon here. Shall we all pick specialties? I could be the God of Advertant Paranomasia....

#16 ::: Bill Blum ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 12:17 PM:

I'll stick to MATLAB, not written English.

Oh wait. I'm actually supposed to write a senior thesis...

#17 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 12:31 PM:

PiscusFiche and I will form our own "Master of Grammar Associates, Light, and Power Ltd" club and keep our feet firmly planted on this planet, whilst you "Grammar Gods" talk about your lofty ideals and keep your heads in the clouds.
Grammar is overrated anyway...isn't it?

#18 ::: Skwid ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 01:10 PM:

The idea occurred to me earlier, Tom. I had decided on "God of the Past Perfect Participle," but as such I couldn't very well speak up first, could I?

#19 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 01:59 PM:

TNH was of course a "Grammar God." Sheesh.

#20 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:17 PM:

I, too, am a Grammar God.

Some of the questions were incorrect, however. The one about the puppy should have ended with "...had been without a home has been sold." Since it's been sold, it's no longer without a home, is it? I suppose you could use 'was' there, though I like the parallel sequence-of-tenses version. 'Is' is right out.

Hmm. I suppose it could have been sold to a restaurant, or Cruella DeVille, or something. An odd extension of the usual meaning of 'without a home' wrt puppies, however. But someone who would sell a puppy to a restaurant would be sufficiently depraved that mere grammatical perversity should not surprise us.

#21 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:23 PM:

Xopher, I think the problem is that the actual correct answer was not there. So I went with closest, and tried to pretend being told I was a Grammar God by someone who has dubious taste in grammar was a good thing. ;)

(Though, of course, if Teresa felt the test was worth being passed on, it obviously can't have sucked.)

#22 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:25 PM:

Randall P.: I'm not sure which thing in your first post you feared was ungrammatical. True, best practice would be to put 'that' after the word 'considering'. And your final sentence is somewhat colloquially punctuated.

Your penultimate one, which some might consider an issue, is in fact perfectly well-formed, since (as has been mentioned here before) a preposition is in fact a fine thing to end a sentence with. And 'found myself to only be' might be a bit awkward, but not strictly incorrect, since English speakers have an inalienable right to boldly split infinitives no one has split before.

In all, nothing worse than "yellow light" here. A highschool English teacher might fuss.

#23 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:26 PM:

Tina, I was hoping his rating would come with a comment box. In addition to the puppy one, there's an outright typo farther down.

#24 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:32 PM:

It appears that my Southern upbringing came through and I am a Grammar God.

Not that you could tell by some of my posts here.

#25 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 02:52 PM:

Xopher: In regards to your analysis of my post...


#26 ::: Dan R. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 03:52 PM:

I Became suspicious when all friends to whom the grammar URL was sent were elevated to deity status. I went back to the site and deliberately chose wrong answers: I was rated as average.

Methinks this quiz was developed to massage egos and encourage clicks.

#27 ::: adrienne ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 03:54 PM:

May I be the god of the past subjunctive? That would tickle me to no end.

Also, some of the answers are contingent on whether you follow British or American rules. And the typo made my teeth grind, fwiw.

#28 ::: G Jules ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 04:27 PM:

I also tried switching some answers. One changed answer made the difference between a "Student" and a "Grammer God," jumping right over "Master."

#29 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 04:34 PM:

"A Grammar God," too, and since I don't believe in gods, maybe that should be "A Grammar Wizard." Hmmm... Maybe "A Grammar Psychopomp." No! "A Grammar User."

#30 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 04:34 PM:

I'm glad you grammar gods are here, because last week the head of a high school English department called me asking that I diagram a sentence for them--the entire department was in a tizzy--to decided the function of the last clause/phrase in "Let's make a batch of cookies." Some junior high teacher had included it in a homework assignment. Students did not have to diagram; only identify parts of speech and function of each word. A fun workout, but we bet that the seventh grade teacher got it wrong. I was hoping to find a grammar god with whom to check my analysis, and here you are!

#31 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 05:08 PM:

"Of cookies" is clearly an adjectival prepositional phrase modifying the noun "batch". "a batch of cookies" is the direct object of the transitive verb "make". What's the problem, Barbara?

#32 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 05:19 PM:

I will only accept the title Grammar God if it comes with thunderbolts to hurl. Then I will arm wrestle anyone for the right to be Apostrophe Goddess. (One of my proofreaders at Minicon commented on my always correct use of it's/its.)


#33 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 05:40 PM:

Wrestling the subject back to the penultimate clauses of the original posting, is it my imagination or has the spam been getting worse this week? I was off-net for six days at Concourse (Blackpool has not yet heard of the internet, it would seem), and got back to find 46 legitimate emails and 855 pieces of spam. Three false positives, two false negatives ... why do I bother?

#34 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 05:52 PM:

By the way Charlie, as this is the only place our paths cross, congratulations on the Hugo nominations for Singularity Sky and Nightfall.

#35 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 05:55 PM:

OK, Mary Kay, you can have apostrophes if you will allow me the title Tutelary Spirit of Obsessive use of Parentheses.

#36 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 06:15 PM:

Randall P.: Jes' joshin'.

#37 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 06:52 PM:

Yes, congratulations to Charlie, even if the New York Times does think he's a "Scot."

#38 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 07:27 PM:

What I would have loved to see was a description of which (if any) of the questions I got wrong, and what the correct answer was. There were several where I wasn't sure if I was right. In some cases I felt like all the answers were at least slightly wrong; in others, I felt there were at least 2 "correct" answers.

My godly powers were probably enhanced by reading a bit about linguistics recently on Scott Martens' blog. There was one fun paper linked to in his comments section which demonstrated a grammatical parsing of the phrase "the a are of I", and quoted from "The Hobbit" for an example of an unusual, but grammatical, construction. The paper Scott links to (which I haven't read yet) discusses Chomsky's "furious green ideas sleep soundlessly".

#39 ::: Graydon ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 07:38 PM:

Charlie --

319 messages since Monday, of which 19 were spam; one false negative, no false positives.

That seems about typical for me; I don't know if this is because I'm net.shy&retiring or because my service provider is doing something right, but that's about the usual rate at which spam gets delivered.

#40 ::: jo. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 07:52 PM:

I got 'student' -- which is amusing, as I'm a PhD bearing academic. I must admit, I teach lit courses, not grammar or effective writing courses, which means that the divide between which and that is fuzzier to me than to people who spend their time banging verb/subject agreement into students's heads.

One of the problems is that grammar is pretty elastic: it mutates. Many of the questions are on the fuzzy line of mutation. All right and a lot are technically correct -- but alright and alot are common practice, and as such are fine. Ditto the split infintive red herring ('boldly go'). Most of the hideosities in my students's papers are, well, basic stuff -- subject/verb disagreement, misplaced modifiers, dangling participles, sentence fragments and run-on sentences.

Most of the stuff that drives me witless is usuage rather than grammar -- 'at this moment in time' rather than 'now', 'utilize' for 'use'.

#41 ::: Randall P. ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:11 PM:

Xopher...Are you sure you're not from Oklahoma, too? I thought only Oklahomans used the word "joshin'"...

In fact, I don't think enough people in this world use the word "joshin'"...

In fact, I don't think I've ever even seen the word "joshin'" actually spelled out...

You and I could become fast friends...

#42 ::: PiscusFiche ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:26 PM:

Actually I think if I'd taken this test in high school or junior high, I would have scored better. My seventh and ninth grade English teachers were diagramming freaks--they would start us off with tiny sentence trees and then work us up to the compound sentence from hell. I blame the interweb though--my homonyms started colliding a lot more after I got online regularly. And my spelling....*makes a whistling noise*...downhill in a wheelbarrow. My tendancy towards run-on sentences and misplaced modifiers comes from my speech patterns, I think, so the web is innocent there. I talk too much and too often.

MaryKay: I love it's/its. (If I've messed them up here, it's probably because I was typing quickly.)

Can somebody explain the difference between continual and continuous again? I forgot somewhere between here and 11th grade.

#43 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:37 PM:

I'm sorry, but I can't support the rank heresy that 'alot', being common usage, is 'fine'. Because the next item on that slope is the inclusion of an apostrophe in all word's ending with 's, and I can't s'tomach that thought.

There is no difference between 'continual' and 'continuous'. Ask the OED.

As I've never known anyone from Oklahoma or been there, I must sadly disillusion people that "joshin'" is confined to that state. I grew up saying it.
Okay, more seriously: continual may mean that there is some sort of interval, that is, it does not need to be non-stop, only regular. Continuous implies non-stop.

#44 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:38 PM:

*peers at her post* Okay, somehow when I was adding something, something else got deleted. There's more on the 'continual' thing (it was there before! The gremlins ate it!):

Okay, more seriously: continual may mean that there is some sort of interval, that is, it does not need to be non-stop, only regular. Continuous implies non-stop.

#46 ::: Barbara ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:55 PM:

Tom: Subject: you. Verb: let Ind. obj: us . Make is not transitive here. My argument was that "make" is an eliptical infinitive, and that "us" is the subject of the infinitive clause, which can have an objective form of the pronoun for a subject according to my ancient grammar text. It's a grammar text which devotes extensive coverage of the subjunctive, so you know how ancient.

Jo: You didn't mention the non-parallel constructions.

On the wall of my room were two signs. One said "Alot is anono" and the other said, "Alright isn't" The battle we're losing is the lie/lay battle, but I'll ne'er give up trying. It's a rare thing to hear it used correctly on television.

#47 ::: Alice Keezer ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 08:58 PM:

Xopher: Your real name must not be Josh. And somehow you've made it this far without knowing any Joshes. That's my best guess.

The first time I teased my husband (whose name is Josh) with, "I was just joshin' you," I worried, for a moment, for my well-being. Fortunately, he's not a violent man, and instead explained to me, between clenched teeth, that if anyone said that to him ever again, he'd scream. This of course prompted a friend, who'd overheard the comment, to jump in with, "So no joshin'?" And then Josh DID scream.

Apparently, he heard it a lot growing up. Every time he's heard it since, it's been from the sort of people who think they're being funny and original when they ask a tall person, "How's the weather up there?"

He grew up in a coastal Maine village, by the way.

#48 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 09:38 PM:

If an AI owns an object, isn't it "it's" object?

That is, an AI is a person (if he/she/it has a good enough lawyer, anyway)...

#49 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 09:40 PM:

Jeremy Leader:

Didn't Chomsky discuss:

"colorless ideas sleep furiously"?

#50 ::: redfox ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 09:53 PM:

Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

#51 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 14, 2004, 10:42 PM:

JvP, no, it isn't. It's its object.

Note, please, the possessive pronouns of English: my/mine, our, your, his, her, its. What do these words all have in common? That's right, they lack apostrophes. Mnemonic trick: substitute his. "Isn't it his object?" not "Isn't it he's object?" Thus "Isn't it its object?"

The second person ones, and the third feminine, append 's' when used predicatively. But never apostrophe 's': "That purse is hers." not "That purse is her's." Thus also with it. But I can't think of an example where 'its' occurs predicatively; anyone else?

Randall P.: It's been established that "joshin'" isn't confined to OK, but us being fast friends sounds fine to me. I was really aiming for the sharpest possible contrast to the self-parodying pedantry of my previous post.

The jokes I get are all about my last name. "You're the man, Hatton." Ha ha. Now I'll tell you the one about the pig. We all would do better to assume that if we can think of a joke about someone's name, they've probably heard it for (however old they are minus 5) years.

I've been guilty of this, of course. There's a kid who works at the gym I go to; his name is Yotom, with the accent on the second syllable. I made an obvious joke, and got the usual reaction. Later I said I was going to TRY to make it up to him, and said: "If you were playing in a percussion ensemble, and picked up the wrong instrument, the leader might say to you 'Yo! Yotom! Tom-tom.'" He admitted he'd never heard that one before.

But of course, I never forgot his name, because the silly joke is also a mnemonic.

Chomsky was attempting to create a grammatically well-formed sentence without any semantic content. He failed, because that's a contradiction. Just because something can't happen in the real world doesn't mean it has no symantics, and contradiction ('colorless green') simply leads to a metaphoric reading of one or both sides.

One possible reading: The ideas of the inexperienced are often without much interest, but there's a rage to them, even as they lie dormant. A pretty strange thing to say, but not by any means symantics-free.

#52 ::: Mary Kay ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 02:47 AM:

Randall: No, no, no. I'm the token Okie in these parts. Well, former. Haven't actually lived there since 1984 but I keep going back to visit family.

Omnes: My maiden name was pronounced as if it were spelled flex. You most certainly don't want to know what junior high kids can do with that. I never, ever, ever make jokes about peoples' names. In fact I often don't get jokes other people make about names because the blind spot is so, well, blind.

Also: Doesn't anybody want to have control of commas? Everyone says I don't use enough commas so I'd like someone to pray to for guidance.


#53 ::: Mel Sherman ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 03:48 AM:

it SAID I was a grammar god...but everyone here always sounds so much smarter than

#54 ::: Epacris ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 03:54 AM:

The trick I was told to remember which "its" gets the apostrophe is to try substituting "it is".

The apostrophe follows the pattern of words like "that's" or "he's", as in "That (is) all folks" or "he (is) not there".

But there's a lot of the other grammar I've forgotten over the years ...

#55 ::: colleen @ del rey ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 09:13 AM:

It's good to have heroes.

#56 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 09:46 AM:

Mary Kay, I'll happily be the Comma Goddess. I got a manuscript back where the editor took out the final commas in all my series-of-three, and I put them back. Whether they'll stay put back is another question entirely, of course. When you would naturally pause when speaking, you need a comma! Darn it!

How long do you have to live in Oklahoma to be a non-token Okie? Is it like New England, where you can live there for twenty years and still be an outsider? Have I been away long enough to be considered only a token Pittsburger? I find I don't say gumband anymore...

#57 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 10:42 AM:

Going a little off topic here, but hopefully not too much, as surely grammar gods and editing gods imbibe their ambrosia in neighboring villas on Dunmanifestin...

I am perhaps foolishly embarking on editing a collection of scholarly essays. Is Arthur Plotnik's The Elements of Editing a good place to start learning the basics? Is there something else or something better I should look at? Should I run away now, before I offend someone by suggesting that their writing is not as professional as expected? Should I close my eyes in holy dread and vow never to edit another collection ever again?

#58 ::: Faren Miller ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 11:19 AM:

I didn't take the test, so I don't know if I'm a grammar goddess or a shivering lackey, but I would certainly like to see a Goddess of Correct Usage zapping everyone who misuses "comprise" (the majority these days). Back in college long ago, someone drilled it into me: remember "comprised" as "embraced" -- and never follow it with "of"!

#59 ::: Tom Whitmore ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 11:51 AM:

Barbara: "let" is an odd verb, in that it generally requires both an indirect object and a (transitive) verbal phrase as direct object. "Make" is (IMO, and I am _not_ a trained linguist!) a transitive verb in this context, as it has a direct object ("a batch of cookies"). "Now let us all praise famous men" has exactly the problem you're looking at (and is a better reference anyway). Replacing "praise" with "to praise" (or "make" with "to make") results in something I'd consider Grammatically Wrong. That's why I don't see it as an implicit/elliptical infinitive. The problem here is what arguments does the word "let" require.

#60 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 12:23 PM:

'Let us' is a sort of first-person-plural command form. Don't confuse it with the verb 'to let'. This is easier to see if you just exclude the speaker from the suggested action: "Praise famous men" and "Bake cookies" are both obvious commands.

Going the other way, "Hear ye!" or more modern "Hear!" (replicated after someone says something good), if the speaker wants to include hirself, becomes "Let's hear," or even "Let's hear it."

#61 ::: Tina ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 12:37 PM:

One of the things that bothers me the most -- especially since where I usually find it is allegedly professionally edited fiction -- is the use of "Here! Here!" instead of "Hear! Hear!"

#62 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 12:43 PM:

Yes, that bugs me too. What the heck do they think that means? "Ooh, ooh, teacher, call on me!"?

#63 ::: Lee Hauser ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 01:42 PM:

The grammar test site appears to have given me and a coworker a case of adware (on Win2K). My coworker took the test twice (trying in vain to elevate herself from "master" to "goddess) and got it worse than I did. Yet another coworker took it and appears not to be infected. Can't say for sure this is what caused it, but so far is the only thing my infected neighbor and I did in common at about the same time...

#64 ::: Jeremy Leader ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 02:36 PM:

redfox, you're right, the item I linked to quoted Chomsky's sentence the way you have it. That's what I get for posting in a hurry.

#65 ::: eric ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 04:50 PM:

re: Colorless green ideas sleep furiously.

I'm not sure about colorless green ideas, but I've seen housecats sleep furiously. And what's more, I could believe that they're sleeping furiously at something.

I don't believe that grammar test, owing to the "grammar god" status it gave me. I'm clearly not one of the godlike in that department. But then again, I can usually keep it, it's and its straight.

#66 ::: teep ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:28 PM:

For adware on Windows systems, I've had really excellent luck with Ad-Aware and Spybot Search & Destroy. Both are free, nicely written, and reasonably capable when run with the defaults. For problems that persist beyond the scope of those two programs, HijackThis is informative and usually helpful.

#67 ::: Scorpio ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:32 PM:

My Nutbar shirts arrived, hoorah!


#68 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:35 PM:

The grammar test is pornography for us prescriptivists, and I certainly got my jollies. Being accused of deity was a big boost for a moment, but I almost immediately started questioning my integrity.

The crisis was on number #6. "Take" and "bring" mean different things; either may be correct, mostly depending on whether the teacher is in room 22 when she says it. I selected "either" on that basis, but I have come to reject that answer. Only one word can be right, depending on what the teacher is intending to say, so there is no circumstance in which either would be correct.* I now believe "take" is correct, on the assumption that the teacher does not know whether she is (any more than we know).

I immediately accused myself of crass testmanship, choosing my answer for the grade rather than for outright perfection. This tarnished my godhead far more than being called a bastardization (sic) would have done. Now that I know that this kind of godhead is not as absolute as I had assumed, I'm tempted to go back and see if I would have been cast down for a better answer.

And no, I didn't notice the typo, either. Some kind of god I'd make. --------------------- * Well, hardly ever! Imagine Chrissy not knowing where the teacher is calling from: the teacher could say "bring" or "take". They are still not equivalent utterances--one tells Chrissy where the teacher is and the other doesn't--but they are both correct. I wish I could remember what a bungerhop is, because I feel that I'm matching slyness with that teacher.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 05:44 PM:

Silly, they MEAN different things, but that doesn't mean one is WRONG. And the teacher need not be IN the room to say bring; s/he could be anticipating being there when the child arrives. What matters is the deictic center of the action.

There are apparently some interesting variations of these linguistic phenomena in the dialects of Modern Greek spoken on Lesbos. The most prominent paper, whose author's name escapes me, is Deixis in the Lesbian Dialects.

#70 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 10:49 PM:

Barbara: I also get irritable about lay/lie, but the battle may have been lost a long time ago; I recall reading about a phrasebook (provided for U.S. soldiers no later than World War II) which rendered the English as "I was laying on the bed" on the grounds that more of the intended audience would understand it. (The mention didn't say why that sentence was supposed to be useful in a basic phrasebook, which now makes me a bit suspicious of the story....)

#71 ::: Paula Helm Murray ::: (view all by) ::: April 15, 2004, 11:57 PM:

After a letter-slagging from Marion Zimmer Bradley after using the verb "lay" wrong (and one more letter about a horror/fantasy story that stated, this is a good story, but I can't publish one or another, in the bad old days when you had to spend postage out and back, before cheap printing and sacrificial short story manuscripts), I personally try not to use it. When I saw to consecutive questions about that dread verb, I bolted out of the test, certain that I would be found lacking.

When I finally sold the story to a friend who was the Owner/Editor of Eldritch Tales, i'd probably spent about $150 on postage out and back, with lots of nice letters saying either "this is a really nice story but I can only publish fantasy, it's too much horror" or the reverse of that. Every time I went, "well, if it is a really nice story, just buy it and publish it. And deal with those who arge about it. Maybe they won't."

#72 ::: BSD ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:00 AM:

Oh god. Comprised.
I got God on the text as well. But that was largely due to a well-developed feel for english sentence structure -- I can't tell you half the rules, but I use, when being careful, who/whom lie/lay wrong one time out of fifty, perhaps, because my ear tells me so.
1: A grammar test comprising
a series of questions;
a grading system for grading said questions
a plurality of rankings based upon the results
of said grading system.
2: a test according to claim 1, where the questions are multiple choice

#73 ::: Madeleine Robins ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 01:11 AM:

Alas, I am no Grammar God; I am too hasty and too slapdash. However, my daughter (who is far hastier and more slapdash than I) tells me I am a Grammar Nag, which is far less glorious.

#74 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 01:37 AM:
Xopher: Silly, they MEAN different things, but that doesn't mean one is WRONG.

I keep telling myself that, but my INTJJJJJ soul says it couldn't possibly be.

And the teacher need not be IN the room to say bring; s/he could be anticipating being there when the child arrives. What matters is the deictic center of the action.

Well, faux my pas. I gotta think on that, but it might have some bearing on why I was totally convinced the question hinged on whether the teacher was going to be there to receive the book in room 22. And I wrote all that argumentation about losing my integrity over where the teacher was going to be, and then rewrote it about where the teacher said it. The gift of infallibility is more trouble than it's worth. Still, thanks for pointing me to the deictic consideration.

Meanwhile, I imagined, "The teacher told Chrissy to bring the book to room 22."

Chrissy replied, "What the hell game you playing, Teach? You aren't in room 22, you aren't going to be in room 22, you're never going to go near room 22, and if room 22 ever swam into your deictic center, you'd puke. So are you being dialectic, or informal, or lapsilingual, or erroneous, or are you just trying to mess with my poor prescriptivist mind?"

None of the above--the teacher was supplementing her meager income by spreading spyware on commission. Don't cry for me, havoc, just release the gods of grammer.

#75 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 03:07 AM:

It would be inappropriate for me to aspire to deityhoodliness of any sort whatsoever, as its intersection with my much noted status as an Intransigent Vampire would cause what Thomas Aquinas called a praeclarus farblondjete tsimmis magna.

Though I do have to maintain my standards as that other thing, and note that "Grammer" is the guy who played Dr. Frasier Crane. Or possibly one of your parents' mother, if you come from the right part of the country.

#76 ::: Sara ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 08:15 AM:

If the teacher called on the intercom or communicated via a note, both would be correct for Chrissy. If the teacher and Chrissy were both moving from one place to another, both would be correct. The assumptions are that with "bring" the teacher will be there to accept the book and with "take" the book is destined for someone else.


#77 ::: Virge ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 10:52 AM:

Since I was already a Grammar God by the fifth day of this month, I exercised my divine prerogative to change the rules on the sixth day. On the seventh I took a nap.

Of every quiz on the web thou mayest freely partake: But on the quiz of the knowledge of good and evil grammar, thou shalt not click on it: for in the day that thou clickest thereon thou shalt surely die.

#78 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 12:12 PM:

Sara, not quite. The teacher could be identifying with the recipient of the book. "Gosh, Chuck is going to love this book. He's even more going to love the fact that I wrote 'With fond wishes, Katherine' on the title page. Who can I trust to deliver this? Chrissy's always been a good kid."

How is Linguistics like Endocrinology? You sometimes have to make a story out of remarkably little information.

#79 ::: Lee Hauser ::: (view all by) ::: April 16, 2004, 01:16 PM:

Teep, thanks for the spyware advice. I used Adaware with partial success on my machine, and will be using it on my coworker's machine today. I'd never heard of HijackThis, so I'll look at it as well.

#80 ::: Dan Hoey ::: (view all by) ::: April 20, 2004, 06:34 PM:

The best take on Chomsky's sentence I've seen comes from the literary competition to contextualize it so as to make sense. Several examples have been floating around the net since the 1980s. My favorite is

It can only be the thought of verdure to come, which prompts us in the autumn to buy these dormant white lumps of vegetable matter covered by a brown papery skin, and lovingly to plant them and care for them. It is a marvel to me that under this cover they are labouring unseen at such a rate within to give us the sudden awesome beauty of spring flowering bulbs.

While winter reigns the earth reposes but these colourless green ideas sleep furiously.

C. M. Street

The earliest mention on the net I've seen is a 1985 ailist digest quoting a message from the Stanford bboard. Several later references say that this was a Stanford literary competition, but I'm not sure whether to believe them.

#81 ::: Lakshmi Narayan ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 07:16 AM:

Honourable Sir,
With kind respect to you, I like to say some thing before you :
I am author of the book “Believe in God But not in Religion!”. Besides this 10 books are written by me (names are mentioned in enclosed letter) which need publication. Therefore ,please be helpful ,guide even instrumental in publication of the books .
I assure you these books will fetch us good earnings as well as popularity .So , whatever and whenever you feel necessity for details kindly intimate me .
In hope of your kind response
Yours very sincerely
Lakshmi Narayan

Address for correspondence
Lakshmi Narayan
Qr.No-622 , Shastri nagar
P.O. Shastri nagar
Phone_no 0612 - 2283797

Honourable Sir,
With kind respect to you, I have to say that regarding my first book Believe in God But not in Religion!(second edition,ISBN-81-269-0019-9) some comments from higher intellectual circle have come, which are as followings : Oxford University “…it is very eloquent ….” ,British Library London “…This is very much appreciated ….” ,Oxford University Press Oxford ”…which is very specialist nature .The book would be better published by a company with a broader religion list ….” . Jason S.Cangialosi says “Your subject is one that will strike a nerve in the present spiritual crisis the world is undergoing. Religion has darkened the light in which we need, I hope your book finds a path the troubled minds.” And,to quote Hon'ble President of India Mr.A.P.J.Abdul Kalam , “…Indeed the book gives a good analysis .Religions are beautiful islands .How do we connect it so that peace arrives with love .It is indeed a big mission .…”. In current International affairs the book fascinates impartial observers .And, it is also useful for academicians and general readers
Demand is on increase. Copies of the books are likely to be shortage. Therefore, I want that third edition of the book (about 50 pages additional may be added in this edition)like other works should be published through reputable International Publishing Houses like yours.
Besides above-mentioned published book some books are written by me which need publication. These are:
1.Hypocracy of the Hinduism
(Stark- Realism cannot be overlooked.)
2.Gandhism- Not Appealing to Indians!
(Only caricature of Gandhism is going on in India.)
3.Indian Democracy- Is still Aristo-Autocracy!
(Merely pompous shows of democracy are visible in India.)
4.India -The Land of Exploiters!
(Panorama of startling hidden harsh realities of India.)
5.How Politicians Rob the Public!
(The work is dedicated to the people of the world ,who are suffering directly or indirectly at hand of politicians.)
6.Great Thieves-Greater Respects!
(Hollowness of the value system-which acknowledges the commanding-respects of great thieves.)
7.Sports wise-Education foolish!
8.Ministers – in India supposed to be Angels!
9.Indian constitution –befools common people!
10.Americans: You can win the worlds! If you do so…?
(The book may serve as catalytic guiding spirits for Americans: for gaining and wining mind and heart of people of the globe and also for establishing for inter-planetary civilization).The list of some article of this book also enclosed
And, still more than nine works are in progress.
I like that reputable International Publishing Houses like yours should publish these books.
Immediately I like to send soon preface and content of two books namely Gandhism-Not Appealing to Indians! and Indian Democracy- Is still Aristo-Autocracy! to yours prestigious Publication for consideration.
I hope you will be kind enough to accede to my earnest request and by sending your valuable recommendation/order.
For this I will remain grateful to honourable Sir, forever .
In hope of your kind response

Yours very sincerely
Lakshmi Narayan

Address for correspondence
Lakshmi Narayan
Qr.No-622 , Shastri nagar
P.O. Shastri nagar
Phone_no 0612 - 2283797

Some articles of the book Americans :You can win the worlds !If you do so….?
1.Your Constitutional-constituents are well designed: Imitative for others

2.Your democracy: not pompous, if not ideal but is more matured, and superior to other democracies

3.Indeed freedom of press is in your country

4.What to say of your renowned Judiciary!
i. Appreciable to peep into your legal sphere
ii. Your magnanimous Supreme Court –‘balance wheel’ of the Constitution
5.International Law is the cornerstone of your Law
6. No political interference in internal administration.
7 Your secularism is excellent :Ideal for others
8.Indeed dignity of manual labour is in your country :Others should imbibe this
9.Your culture is forceful not rejecting progressive thoughts: Tending towards to be universal in outlook
10. Your Constitution: not at all, to be meant for political ends
11.Your country: Fine abode of new ideas
12. Progressive worldview of yours
13.You rose to No 1 world power
14.How significance for world ,is President of your country
15.You unnecessary clash over ideological differences, as you known ideology is subordinate to nationalism
16.Two faces of your country: Lovable and Hateable
17.Proud of success in war prompted you to commit blunders
18. Think seriously about blunders of your Government in International affairs:
i. Trouble creating cum destructive attitude of yours Government , which painted an image of yours as an exporter of wars and conflicts
ii. The land of liberty lacked foresight either in moving or unmoving ‘to act against the larger humanity – by the horrors that claimed millions of lives from Vietnam to West Asia: from Sarajevo, Macedonia and Lebanon to Congo, Rwanda and Sierra Leone’
iii. You pampered militarized Pakistan in the name of nursing democracy who later on became terrorist state, deceiving others and checkmating even you
iv. Ignoring the appeal of others to combat terrorism but when you where attacked then determined to fight terrorism
19. Need for mode of rethinking over global role of your country
20.Learn from history: Mighty empires of yesterday are forgotten but theirs imprints are not so easily..
21.You can be saga for mankind
22. Capitalism not communism appeals to conscience of mankind: You can score the game:
i. Ideology of Marxism or Communism is seems to be utopian
ii. In practice Communism means somewhat dictatorship: so withering away of statehood is farce
iii. Communism lacks sublime likings of human’s instinct: That’s why, there is regimentation or standardization
23. Can you face the music: The Complete disarmament, which seems to be still ‘A mater Utopia’
24. Your major collaboration can eradicate poverty of the world
25.You can devote service of Science for betterment of humanity: Through Science you can bring vitally impressive and shaping influence on man’s social, economic, material, moral and cultural life :
i. Through Science you can bring marvelous social consequence
ii. Through Science you can take major role in eradication of poverty of world
26.Your feats in outer space:
i. You are the first, to place man on the moon
ii. You can much contribute in establishing inter-planetary civilization

#82 ::: Teresa Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 09:47 AM:

Dear Lakshmi Narayan:

While I appreciate your vigorous and original proposal, this weblog does not publish books. If you are evaluating potential publishers, I recommend you to this site.

Best of luck.

#83 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 11:41 AM:

Re: "Let" as a strange verb

A friend of mine was earning his PhD in Cultural Anthropology, and spent much time in Kalimantan (the giant island of Indonesia). He spoke with people of many ethnic groups, Dayak, and other indigenous tribal people in the archipelago.

Once he got in an extended discussion, puzzled, about how the indigene seemed to confuse "let" with "make."

"Let it happen, make it happen, allow it to happen, what's the difference? It happened, right?"

In their languages, the notion of causality was different enough from standard Euro-American that human intention was excluded.

I suppose that might be parallel to the song written by Jay Livingston and Ray Evans, as sung by Doris Day:

Que sera, sera
Whatever will be, will be
The future's not ours to see
Que sera, sera
What will be, will be

only extended to "the future's not our to LET."

#84 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 11:51 AM:

Just to avoid argument:

This song -- "Que Sera, Sera" -- was written for
Alfred Hitchcock's 1956 re-make of his 1934 film "The Man Who Knew Too Much" starring Doris Day & Jimmy Stewart.

Unless John M. Ford disagrees, in which case I preemptively bow to his Hollywood God status. That, in turn, is why he has a love-hate relationship with Hollywood -- he is The Man Who Knew Too Much. Too much about how things really work there. Too much about actual Literature. Too much about the deeper nature of words, as proven by his extraordinary poetry.

Too bad there are so few songs in Thrillers now. Would love to see Harrison Ford or Val Kilmer or Denzel Washington break into lyrics in mid- gunflight or -car chase.

#86 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 12:28 PM:


Two Neurochemistry links of literary connection:

Blum, Ralph: "The Simultaneous Man" (1970). Project Beta is a government experiment that, through neurochemistry and hypnosis, combines the minds of a respected research scientist and of a convicted murderer in one body.


"Prynne's is a poetry that has always been concerned with much more than the way the individual self understands its relation to the social and natural environments; right at the centre of the reading experience it offers is an encounter with the languages and findings of various disciplines that coincide in demonstrating how the self is formed by processes that often lie beyond the grasp of individual perception and cognition. These might locate humankind in relation to geological time scales or to the infinitesimal events of neurochemistry, to the migration patterns of other species or to the systems logic of information technology. Such an array of different kinds of knowledge and discourse could never be reduced to the scope of the familiar, speaking voice without submitting to an illusion of control and conscious orientation."

An Introduction to the Poetry of J.H.Prynne, by Rod Mengham and John Kinsella

This piece first appeared in the Bloodaxe Books catalogue advertising the Collected Poems of J.H.Prynne (1999), and on John Kinsella's Internet homepage. Jacket thanks Bloodaxe Books and John Kinsella for permission to reprint.

#87 ::: Jonathan Vos Post ::: (view all by) ::: April 30, 2004, 12:40 PM:

And also, re: neurochemistry and poetry:

"Despite grounding his poetry in such extra-literary discourses as natural history, astronomy and neurochemistry, [Christopher] Dewdney can be considered a poet of consciousness, fundamentally concerned with perceptual epistemology, memory, the linguistically determined possibilities of conceptualization, and the self-mystifying movements of the mind. I do not wish to suggest that Dewdney confines his poetic inquiries exclusively to an investigation of the limits of consciousness and the phenomenological impact of the external world on the mind of the percipient. Rather, these are single yet intertwined motifs in the complex weave of Dewdney's work that have been previously neglected. Criticism of Dewdney's poetry customarily calls attention to its newness, or its otherness. In an incidental comment on Dewdney, Robert Kroetsch mentions a 'new cosmology, located in science,' that dynamically emerges in A Palaeozoic Geology of London, Ontario (1973) and Fovea Centralis (1975). Stan Dragland claims that Dewdney releases 'a thoroughly realized alternative cosmos out of certain dormant seeds in our own.' One should perhaps suspect the alterity of any cosmos that issues organically from our own, especially when that literary cosmos so clearly resembles the world we inhabit."

The Dream of Self: Perception and Consciousness in Dewiney's Poetry
by Allan Hepburn

The page linked-to has a difference between the poet's name in the title and in the text, btw.

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