Back to previous post: Woke up, it was a Hormel morning

Go to Making Light's front page.

Forward to next post: Social control

Subscribe (via RSS) to this post's comment thread. (What does this mean? Here's a quick introduction.)

June 18, 2006

You Hate To See That Kind Of Thing At This Level Of Play
Posted by Patrick at 11:33 AM *

American’s Stay In The Hunt.

Comments on You Hate To See That Kind Of Thing At This Level Of Play:
#2 ::: Anatoly ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 11:44 AM:

The temptation to even the score, to balance it out... its irresistible.

#3 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 11:44 AM:

Got it on the third look.

Oh, the ignominy!

#4 ::: Larry Brennan ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 11:50 AM:

One of those pretty young things who came to question you about your neighbor's death must be doing website copywriting now.

#5 ::: Erik V. Olson ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 11:52 AM:

No, they're talking about the American's stay, you know, the forestay, the one that's run from the mast to the hunt. The comment is merely telling us that the US has managed to jury rig a mast, and despite their damage, aren't yet finished (though they are very close to elimination.)

Yeah, that's the ticket!

#6 ::: Patrick Nielsen Hayden ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:16 PM:

I considered that.

#7 ::: Lizzy L ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:23 PM:

*Wince*

The error's on the website, so presumably it can be corrected...?

#8 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:32 PM:

I see this all the time, alas. And none of the young people who confuse genitive and plural seem to care. Tne NYT, however, should.

#9 ::: Anatoly ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:36 PM:

I really honestly thought they'd fix it within two minutes, or something.

It's still there, right on the homepage.

*shakes head*

#10 ::: Andy Perrin ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:42 PM:

I think this mistake might be more embarrassing, when you consider the context. (Nullipara means, "A woman (or, rarely, other female animal) who has never given birth." It was spelled correctly in the article.)

#11 ::: Wrye ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:47 PM:

I strongly recommend that "Against School" link over on the sidebar. Excellent catch, Patrick.

#12 ::: Randolph Fritz ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 12:55 PM:

Good grief. It's the New Royk Times.

#13 ::: Writerious ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 01:08 PM:

Hmm... you could almost make it grammatical if you read it as, "An American's Stay in the Hunt" -- sort of. If you squint enough.

#14 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 01:19 PM:

I also read the against school link and liked it. I have a three-year-old son, and I'm dreading putting him through the same horrific schooling that I went through, but I don't have the skills nor the discipline, to educate him at home. I've pondered this dilemma the past few years: What should I do to keep my son entertained and learning?

I remember reading about a guy who took his family on a journey walking around the world. It took them years. I wonder what happened to those kids?

#15 ::: Marc Willner ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 01:28 PM:

If you allow them the use of "America" to mean the the American soccer team, it makes perfect sense.

If they are commenting on the team's accommidations at a hotel called the Hunt.

Which they are not.

#16 ::: pat greene ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 01:54 PM:

Yikes. I saw a similar misuse of the possessive in the title of an article in the Marietta [Georgia] Daily Journal yesterday, but I would think that the Times could afford to pay for better proofreaders.

#17 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:01 PM:

"I would think that the Times could afford to pay for better proofreaders."

Ability to pay should not be mistaken for willingness to pay.

#18 ::: Matt P ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:28 PM:

A serious question for the commenters I respect most on all the Internets: Am I alone in finding, after years of reading unedited electronic content, that my own ability to get pairs like your/you're, its/it's and so on has been compromised?

I never got them confused at all, and winced at those who did mix them up, until midway through my undergraduate career. Then, to my horror, I would noticed things like "Your going to need to call them directly." slipping into an occasional email. Now, ten years later, I find that I have to scour just about anything I've written to pick out the dread solecisms.

Since I should have been more likely to make those mistakes when younger but am actually much more likely to make them now, I seriously do blame over-exposure to poor usage through online communication. Is it just me? (I kind of hope it is.)

#19 ::: Malthus ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:37 PM:

No, Marc, then it would be "Americans'."

Incidentally, I always learned that punctuation goes inside quotes no matter what. But in this case, it looks funny. Anyone want to comment?

#20 ::: Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:46 PM:

Matt: no, it's not just you. I have a friend who calls this phenomenon the "Internet Brain Virus" (or IBV).

Really, it's not that surprising. One of the ways that those of us who can spell and employ grammar properly learn to do so is by reading properly-edited writing, being exposed to correct usage. But what works in one direction can also work in the other! The more incorrect usage you read, the weaker the internal link between context and the right word is going to become.

My personal bugaboo is "discreet/discrete". Not that I have to use it all that often, but it's annoying as hell that when I do use it, I now have to stop and THINK about the context and which one I need, a determination that used to be automatic. Shamefully, I've even seen that one creep into professionally-published books; there's one by Mercedes Lackey where, out of 3 uses, it's spelled correctly once and incorrectly twice!

#21 ::: Renatus ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 02:52 PM:

Matt P: I do find myself doing those your/you're type mistakes much more often than I used to, and I do think that to some extent being exposed to them has made them somewhat 'valid' in my head so that they're more prone to slipping out. However, for myself I've noticed that how often I make those mistakes also directly corrolates to how much I write, period; ten years ago I didn't have a computer at home and only wrote for school papers, and never made that mistake, five years ago I only wrote occasional blog entries and chatted on IRC, and occasionally made that mistake, and now I write frequent blog entries, chat on IM, and write fiction every day, and catch myself making that mistake - well, not often as such, but enough that it's caught my attention and worried me a little. However, I've also gotten much more casual in IM conversation for speed's sake, so that probably has something to do with it as well.

For what it's worth!

#22 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 03:05 PM:

Malthus: the punctuation/quote rule varies between jurisdictions. In the UK, it's often the case that the period goes "after the closing quote". (Sic.)

Furthermore, to those of us who've spent any length of time at all up to the elbows in any programming language, it is intuitively obvious that quotes surround static strings (or similar) and punctuation delimits expressions; the "punctuation inside the quote" rule is flagged as a syntax error.

#23 ::: Greg London ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 03:12 PM:

those of us who've spent any length of time at all up to the elbows in any programming language, it is intuitively obvious that quotes surround static strings (or similar) and punctuation delimits expressions;

Yes; It's also fairly obvious that people don't write sentences ending in periods; Ever; All standalone statements end with a semicolon;

# comments describing the statements are preceded
# by a pound mark and continue until the end
# of the line. comments also have the advantage
# of not being required to follow syntax rules

{ Lastly, large blocks of statements may be enclosed in curly braces; This is the programming equivalent of a "paragraph", I believe; Or perhaps a "chapter"; }


#24 ::: Clifton Royston ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 03:15 PM:

Charlie: Yep, I find it like fingernails on a blackboard for me to put punctuation inside quotes as I'm supposed to by the local rules. Furthermore, it's a different rule for parentheses, and that makes no sense at all.

#25 ::: John M. Ford ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 04:28 PM:

The error's on the website, so presumably it can be corrected...?

"When I sodding get to it. My hole's rather backed up at the moment, if you'll excuse the vernacular."
-- 5079 Smith W

#26 ::: Zonk ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 04:42 PM:

This is the sort of thing up with which one should not put.

#27 ::: Fragano Ledgister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 05:14 PM:

John M. Ford: Doubleplusungood duckspeak.

#28 ::: squeech ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 05:25 PM:

I'm an old programmer, with a day job that still requires me to work in Cobol, where sentences do end with periods. And comments are indicated by asterisks in column 7 of the card image, at least on IBM mainframes.

And I don't think semicolons end sentences in C and its cognates, I think rather they separate sentences, as they do in human languages.

#29 ::: John Stanning ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 05:30 PM:

See the Economist style guide for the mainstream UK convention on punctuation in quotations.

#30 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 05:37 PM:

You Hate To See That Kind Of Thing At This Level Of Play

Do'nt you just?

#31 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 05:44 PM:

Clearly they're talking about an American woman, owner of an antique corset with whalebone stays. There's a treasure hunt (possibly a geocaching one), and she donated a stay to the cause.

What this has to do with the World Cup I cannot imagine.

#32 ::: Linkmeister ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 06:11 PM:

Or, Xopher, there are a bunch of red-coated fat guys on horses looking for that very lively stay. No word on what breeds of dog are involved.

#33 ::: JC ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 06:18 PM:

And I don't think semicolons end sentences in C and its cognates, I think rather they separate sentences, as they do in human languages.

Actually, in C, the semicolon functions as a statement terminator. The semicolon is a statement separator in Pascal which is what I think you're referring to. (e.g., the last statement of a block in C requires a semicolon whereas the last statement of a block in Pascal does not.)

#34 ::: Kevin Riggle ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 08:04 PM:

squeech: And I don't think semicolons end sentences in C and its cognates, I think rather they separate sentences, as they do in human languages.

JC: Actually, in C, the semicolon functions as a statement terminator. The semicolon is a statement separator in Pascal which is what I think you're referring to. (e.g., the last statement of a block in C requires a semicolon whereas the last statement of a block in Pascal does not.)

I think Mr. London was actually referring to Perl -- that exact combination of syntax characters is rather distinctive, especially when you get paid to stare at it. :-) (Pascal delimits blocks with 'begin' and 'end', not C-style braces.) In Perl, semicolons do in fact separate statements rather than terminate them. Omitting the last semicolon in a block is perfectly acceptable to the interpreter, although it's bad practice. You're only really likely to care about this when you're writing one-liners.

#35 ::: Charlie Stross ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 08:30 PM:

Kevin:

use "Language" qw(Correctly) or die;

#36 ::: Marilee ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 09:18 PM:

The WashPost had the same kind of apostrophe this week. And the local NBC News station *must* hire a chiron operator who can spell. Last night -- quick persuit.

#37 ::: adamsj ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 09:19 PM:

Is it jury-rigged or jerry-rigged? I've always assumed it was the latter (at least originally), and that it came back from WW I Europe as a variation on the foul racist version with the internal rhyme one still hears. I figured jury-rigged came later.

Also, a note for Charlie.

#38 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 09:44 PM:

adamsj: "jerry" as a slur certainly predates WWI; cf Yeomen of the Guard (approximately) "Jailer that jailed'st not, or, if he did, 'twas such jerry-jailing...". I won't answer for the speech's matching the operetta's setting (London, 1530), but Gilbert writing in 1888 thought the term plausible, which suggests that it was recognized at least that far back. Wikipedia has a cite for "jury rig" as a naval term in 1852, but says that "jerry-built" is a separate term; from their uses one could argue that jury can mean whatever you can do as a temporary substitute while jerry means just sloppy.

#39 ::: Seth Breidbart ::: (view all by) ::: June 18, 2006, 11:52 PM:

Punctuation inside quotes had good reasons back in the days of hot lead typesetting. Now, I prefer to do it logically: if the stuff inside the quotes has punctuation, its punctuation goes inside. If not, the punctuation goes outside. If a sentence ends with a quote and there's punctation inside, elide the ending period (but not stronger marks).

E.g.

Did he really say to his boss "You moron!"?

Jon said "Don't read Usenet. It will eat your life."

#40 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 12:02 AM:

I am reminded of Damon Knight's long war against the apostrophe; what are the odds that he's looking down on this with a curmudgeonly grin on his face?

#41 ::: Dave Bell ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 04:01 AM:

Does this mean that there's still a chance of America going down 5-0 to France in the final?

(I wonder what would happen if Florida-2000 had gone to a penalty shoot-out?)

#42 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 04:26 AM:

(I wonder what would happen if Florida-2000 had gone to a penalty shoot-out?)

Dick Cheney would have shot someone in the face.

#43 ::: Vian ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 05:09 AM:

I spent a little time, for my sins, in academe. On a colleague's 50th birthday, someone made her a special stamp describing in mintue detail, and even more minute writing, the difference between posessive "its" and the contraction of "it is". I gather she has worn it out (5 years later - whether this is a good or bad thing shall be left as an exercise for the reader) and is bothering the person who gave it to her for another.

She's also requested a your/you're and a their/they're/there set. And this is at tertiary level, in an Arts degree.

Oh crisp battered vegetables! Oh eels!

#44 ::: Zeynep ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 08:26 AM:

Gah! *twitch*

Matt and others: I'm also relieved to find that I'm not the only one who has started making the (thankfully, so far very) occasional mistake of that sort recently. If it's being exposed to it too much that does it... Well, then I know what to do.

#45 ::: Sean Bosker ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 10:42 AM:

Just curious, what to do you folks thing of the whole prescriptivist vs. descriptivist debate?

I was firmly on the prescriptivist side, having been raised by a German language teacher. But my linguist friends have converted me to descriptivism.

Wiki on prescriptivism (with an obvious descriptivist bias).

#46 ::: Susan ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 10:58 AM:

Clearly they're talking about an American woman, owner of an antique corset with whalebone stays. There's a treasure hunt (possibly a geocaching one), and she donated a stay to the cause.

*brightly* My stay is in my car.

(...so I remember to take it to the fabric store so I can purchase casing-ribbon that fits it for a new cage crinoline to give as an engagement present.)

#47 ::: rhandir ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 10:58 AM:

Sean, I'm a mostly descriptivist. Prescriptivist-type getting excited about rule-breaking doesn't interest me. Being able to write to a specific set of cultural standards so that I am understood/respected in that milleu is important to me, but that's a social skill, not a linguistic perspective. I'll note that rule following in the sense of adhering to the pattern of a subculture is pretty important if you ever want to say something funny or shocking through clever rule breaking. Randomly breaking rules of grammar/punctuation/usage just makes you look like an idiot.

Some examples of really funny rule breaking are dimly forming in my mind - maybe someone can cite a few for us? Oscar Wilde and Odgen Nash come to mind. So far I haven't seen much ironic "high speech" amongst the low" in online chat. (Something in the form of ZOMG! L0L R0XORZ ESTEEMED FELLOW!!!!111!!!)

-R.

#48 ::: Claude Muncey ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 11:10 AM:

I am bothered by the time I needed to finally figure out what was wrong. Embarassing.

#49 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 12:58 PM:

Along the lines of us all getting corrupted apostrophe-wise by reading Usenet and blogs, I'm beginning to wonder if a serious case should be made against the NYTimes. Their stylebook has apostrophes in places where none should ever be, most egregiously for the plurals of acronyms. Anybody else's "TV" becomes their "T.V." and in the plural it morphs into "T.V.'s". (I defy anyone to put the period inside the quotes in that example.) If we literate types keep seeing stuff like that in sources that are traditionally supposed to be impeccable, bad style osmosis might be a bit hard to avoid.

#50 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 01:06 PM:

Claude Muncey: I am bothered by the time I needed to finally figure out what was wrong. Embarassing.

We're talking about gur hfr bs gur unaqf, I assume?

Re: Embarassment. I'm a fan of Guy Billout's 'cartoons', published in The Atlantic. Some have taken me a second ( or third ) look to catch the joke.

Here is a link to a representative illustration on his portfolio page.

I couldn't find a link to one of my favorites. A stately home with an ornate fountain ( like the illustration above ), with birds flocking about. Looking carefully, you see that one of the birds is perched on one of the water jets, resting like birds do typically on phone lines.

#51 ::: Hamadryad ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 03:18 PM:

For the longest time I didn't see what the problem was because I just couldn't understand what they were trying to say.

#52 ::: Dan Lewis ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 03:21 PM:

I find myself wondering where to begin and end hyperlinks in much the same way that I think about using quotation marks. When I worked for a textbook company, the punctuation in our texts matched the face of the word that preceded it (such as bold comma after bold word; the major exception was roman punctuation after italic math). I suppose I know a rule, but it grates against my sensibilities. Incidentally, that's a microcosm of the debate between prescriptivists and descriptivists.

Here's the fun Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy article on quotation. Quotation, as it happens, is a live, wriggling, slippery topic in the philosophy of language.

#53 ::: Michelle K ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 04:18 PM:

Doug,

That was both perfect and vicious.

I loved it.

#54 ::: Doug ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 06:23 PM:

Thank's!

;)

#55 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 19, 2006, 07:40 PM:

Vian Oh crisp battered vegetables! Oh eels!

Oh, you are lucky I'd just \finished/ swallowing....

#56 ::: sara ::: (view all by) ::: June 20, 2006, 10:43 PM:

Last year, I was reading Eats, Shoots, and Leaves and feeling discombobulated because the punctuation was British, including closing periods after quotation marks. "Like this".

I was traumatized years ago by editing the punctuation of my dissertation and realizing that I had acquired some British punctuation habits because my field (Classics) is still dominated by British scholarship (in English).

The final comma in a series also drives me crazy -- there doesn't seem to be a fixed rule for it any more, and I've had editors ask to remove them because they don't want the text to swarm with commas.

#57 ::: Dawno ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2006, 12:26 AM:

Spend a goodly percentage of your work day trying to decipher emails and you will start to distrust every apostrophe and most unusual looking spelling. I work in high tech, and although I don't know if this is a problem in other industries, it is overwhelming where I work - and have worked at the same company for 8 years, so I'm thoroughly corrupted now.

As a work-related aside I have been asked to stop using semi-colons because it confuses people. I was also asked to put many, more commas, into my work, however. I think the person who made the request, feels that, any time he needs to, breathe, there should, be a comma. I think he's asthmatic.

#58 ::: Anne Sheller ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2006, 10:12 AM:

Dawno, oh, my, goodness. I, sup, pose, we, could, take, it, fur, ther. T, h, i, s, i, s, t, o, o, f, a, r.

#59 ::: Lori Coulson ::: (view all by) ::: June 21, 2006, 12:29 PM:

Dawno -- the guy who has the final say on the reports our offices release has never met a comma he didn't like.

The man may be a great auditor, but he couldn't write his way out of a paper bag...

#60 ::: Jenny Lee ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 07:13 AM:

My personal favorite is the misuse of I and me. Dear public--if in doubt use the pronoun me--misuse of I sounds much clumsier. I cring every time some movie or song does this.

Punctuation inside the quotes has always bugged me. The quote, it seems should have its punctuation included inside the quotation marks but the sentence containing the quote is a separate thing...so much for logic.

#61 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 08:09 AM:

Jenny Lee - it's a printing rule, historically. At this point periods outside double quotes just look stoopid to me.

#62 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 11:45 AM:

NYT blew it in the print edition the other day. Talking about Tiffany putting in a store on Wall Street, they managed to state that necklaces and rings would be on "discrete display".

#63 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 12:11 PM:

joann, welllll they could have meant each one would be displayed in a separate window.

But I bet they didn't.

#64 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 12:28 PM:

Xopher, I was wondering if Bad Things would happen on Wall Street if necklaces and rings were allowed to hang out together. Bacchanals, rings strung out or (worse) strung up...it would tarnish the brand.

#65 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 12:39 PM:

I'm with Jenny Lee: punctuation inside quotes, if it wasn't in the original, looks *wrong*. I've known the rule for decades, and it still looks wrong, and probably always will.

Here's a question: you're reading a sentence in which someone is quoting from something, and the sentence ends with the period outside the quotes. My assumption, when I see that, is that the original quote stops before the end of its sentence, though it works here to end the sentence. Is this safe to assume, allow, or do myself?

#66 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 12:52 PM:

Andrew: yes, no, and no.

#67 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 03:08 PM:

OK, since the issue of punctuation and quotes has come up again, presumably because I did it, I'd better clear myself by mentioning that my first programming class was in 1969. I had a bunch of them later and then got paid for it for way too long.

My personal take is that if I'm quoting something (and by that I mean *not* indicating conversation in a fiction-type situation) I will put the sentence-level period, comma, dash or semicolon outside the quotation marks, partly because of that programming experience. For conversation, they go inside, because conversation is, somehow or other, different. Although it just occurrred to me to wonder just why the comma before a conversational quotation--e.g., John said, "Why are we doing this?"--isn't also included within the quotation marks.

#68 ::: Janet Brennan Croft ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 03:11 PM:

I also really liked the particle on education. We started homeschooling precisely because the kindergarten our daughter was in made it all too clear their goal was turning out good little robots, not finding and encouraging gifts. The fact that we were called in to a conference because she was working ahead in her math book -- and it was considered a BAD thing!--still blows my mind.

Sean Bosker, don't be scared of home schooling. In my rather biased opinion, it's the best thing you could ever do for a child, short of fomenting a massive revolution in the entire educational system. There's plenty of support out there, though it's a little harder to find if you aren't homeschooling for religious reasons -- like the Homeschooling Legal Defense Association http://www.hslda.org/Default.asp?bhcp=1 which will alert you to all the legal ramifications but had a definite religious agenda. Try http://www.unschooling.com/index.shtml for something more unstructured and supportive of a non-religious approach. There are also lots of relatively traditional distance ed programs out there, like Calvert School http://www.calvertschool.org/engine/content.do, which would give you a classic structured textbook program to work from, but at your own pace and without all the "socialization" agenda of a public school. We tried that the first year, then struck out on our own with the E.D. Hirsch "What your *th Grader Should Know" books as a guide. Now she's in a distance ed high school program http://ouilhs.ou.edu/ which is accredited and eligible for a state scholarship program. The biggest problem is not the parent's education level but the committment of both parent and child, and the willingness to give up an income so one parent can teach.

#69 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 03:14 PM:

Because a quote never begins with a comma. I might have known you were a programmer. Computer languages are logic systems. Human languages are logic-intuition hybrid systems of great complexity. While there really is a reason for everything, the best answer to most of these questions is "it's just a rule."

I mean, this is the language that gave you "The tough coughs as he ploughs through the dough." And yet you expect consistency?!?!

Computers are little minds filled with hobgoblins; don't expect human languages to dumb down to match!

#70 ::: Andrew ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 03:47 PM:

Xopher, woe is me: I am unsafe.

If I am pulling a partial phrase or saying and putting it in quotes at the end of my sentence, putting a period inside the quotes looks so wrong, and using an ellipsis to indicate the partial even worse.

It usually gets "fixed" to follow proper American English rules in the final edit. I gather the Queen's English has differing views on this subject, but as I can claim no English ancestors, this isn't an "out". Um, "out."

#71 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 04:08 PM:

Xopher, you forgot "hiccough".

#72 ::: Xopher ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 04:13 PM:

joann, you're right. But then, I spell that 'hiccup', and also 'plow' is more current. But hey.

#73 ::: joann ::: (view all by) ::: June 23, 2006, 04:17 PM:

Xopher, so do I. But it was too good to pass up.

#74 ::: CHip ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2006, 09:26 AM:

Xopher: you also forgot "through", which I'd guess as the commonest pronounciation.

Computers are little minds filled with hobgoblins;

That's not simply harsh, it's just plain wrong. Computers can work at high speed \because/ there is no ambiguity in communication between parts of a program, or between one program and another; there's nothing "foolish" about it. (Like Joann, my first computer class was in 1969; but it wasn't until ~1981 that coding was part of my paid duties. I don't know how much of my desire to disambiguate English comes from that and how much from far earlier drilling.) And as for rules -- whose rules are they, and do they actually have anything to do with the complex evolution of the language that you point out, rather than the prescriptions of individual cranks? See Teresa on (e.g.) the split infinitive.

#75 ::: Clark E Myers ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2006, 12:17 PM:

Computers can work at high speed \because/ there is no ambiguity in communication between parts of a program, or between one program and another

But there is indeed such ambiguity. One well known and well documented example is the classic wing design/airflow model with values very close to unity and lots of iteration. The problem was that approximating 1 with .99999 repeating and iterating led to declining values and approximating 1 with 1.000000000000.....1 and iterating led to increasing values. The classic is that the researcher then approximated 1 with .5 + .5 and got good results for a time until he ran into an optimizing compiler ("between one program and another") which replaced .5 + .5 with an approximation of one. The model showed different results and therefore the wing designs were good or bad depending on the hardware/compiler it was run on. There are loads of path dependent results in the literature. In the old days a good calculator would often run higher precision than a real computer.

I've had a great deal more sympathy for superstition ever since I caught myself with what was actually a null operation in a simple doodled program - I did something I mistakenly thought was a good idea then without remembering why I had done it in the first place undid it later to ultimately no effect. And I reused the code!

Optimizing for interleaf on a hard drive has nothing on timing for a drum memory to come around. Lots of programs originally optimized for drum rotation and other such hardware or undocumented issues leading to some ambiguous issues - given that comments usually missing aren't part of the program.

Somehow I am reminded of long ago typing French homework for a Polish woman as a favor (I had a rare at the time PC) - she'd been secretary to the American Cultural Attache in Warsaw and knew a great many Eastern European/ Warsaw bloc languages. Her essays in French were somehow simultaneously impeccable by the rules of her textbooks and obviously internally translated - nothing quite like a native speaker. There are rules and rules.

#76 ::: Rob Rusick ::: (view all by) ::: June 24, 2006, 10:01 PM:

Clark E Myers: Optimizing for interleaf on a hard drive has nothing on timing for a drum memory to come around. Lots of programs originally optimized for drum rotation and other such hardware or undocumented issues leading to some ambiguous issues - given that comments usually missing aren't part of the program.

Your comment sparked a thought, and if you're remembering drum memory, maybe the story will resonate with you too.

Had a copy of The Psychology of Computer Programming ( the link is for an Amazon page of a 25th Anniversary reprinting in 2001 ). Talking about personality types in computer programming projects, the story was told of a math student who had a clever idea how to handle a drum memory problem. His co-workers appreciated the cleverness of the solution, but the student went on and on about how dim they had been to miss this answer, how much better he was because he had the foundation in mathematical principles, etc.

Later, on some other project, he made a simple mistake . . . but his co-workers did make a big deal about teasing him about it, paying him back for his lectures about his skills.

The man became alienated, and drifted away from the group.

Was this the first published description of Ted Kaczynski?

Choose:
Smaller type (our default)
Larger type
Even larger type, with serifs

Dire legal notice
Making Light copyright 2001, 2002, 2003, 2004, 2005, 2006, 2007, 2008, 2009, 2010, 2011, 2012, 2013, 2014, 2015, 2016, 2017 by Patrick & Teresa Nielsen Hayden. All rights reserved.