English

Take vs Bring: Location, location, location

Posted on November 2, 2015. Filed under: English, grammar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

“I brought it to Abby,” said the Autopsy Gremlin to Special Agent Gibbs (NCIS series), in reference to the cadaver samples forensics would decipher.  From a communication standpoint, we all know what he meant.  From a word usage view, it just ain’t right:  the forensic lab is on an upper floor, albeit in the same building, while the autopsy room where the Gremlin is speaking is a basement site.

Tony echoes this misspeak:  “I already brought it to her” and “I am bringing it to her…”  In both instances, Abby is not “here.”  She is a distance away in her lab.  When it comes to women, Tony has a real problem with the small things.

Your words for the day (according to Dean):

  • bring = transport an object from another location to here
  • take = transport an object from here to another location.

It is really quite simple:  The Autopsy Gremlin should have said, “I TOOK it to Abby…” as in FROM here (autopsy) TO there (Abby’s lab).  If the Gremlin were in Abby’s lab, then he could have said, “I brought it to Abby.”

Very Special Agent DiNozzo, are you following this dialogue?  If you are here with the object, TAKE it over there.  If someone else is THERE with the object, you want her to BRING it to you.  If you delivered the object and you are with the recipient of the object, you BROUGHT it to her.  If you are explaining yourself to the Boss  — Gibbs — in his cubical, you would say, “I took it to her.”

It is not hard.  In the future, should you have trouble remembering which is which, just think of all the time you wasted reading this little article.  It should become perfectly clear in a flash.

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Further vs. Farther: Distance Matters

Posted on April 3, 2015. Filed under: English, grammar | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

 

 

Time for some more word games in my ongoing campaign to straighten up the English language as spoken in front of me…   I mean, “…as spoken in America.”

English can be confusing — even to native speakers — what with all the words that are spelled or pronounced the same, even though they have different meanings.  As we grow, our impressionable minds absorb all that verbal ambiguity, thusly setting the stage for poor scores on all those spelling tests in high school English…   and, sadly, I’m afraid, for poor word usage in collegiate and professional endeavors…   most notably, that ubiquitous field of journalism.

My current pet peeve is hearing the word “further” used in television programs and commercial advertising in place of the word “farther” when farther is the correct term.

Your words for the day:

  • far, farther, farthest = we are talking relative distances, folks.  These three are ADVERBS
  • further = to advance an argument or hypothesis.  It is a VERB.
  • LIARS = Learned Individual(s) Ascribing Refinement to Self

How FAR did Johnny go?  Johnny went FARTHER than either Seth or Beth.  That means that Johnny went the FARTHEST of the three.

In a comparative sense, FAR is a three-dimensional word.

Further, on the other hand, is one-dimensional — it has no other degree of consideration.  There is not fur, further, or furthest…   because further is NOT an adverb!  It is a VERB.  It is a statement that an argument is being extended or advanced.  Furthermore simply means “I have more to say in support of my argument/hypothesis.”

Their phonetic similarity and abstract relationships to distance causes many users to substitute further for farther.  Even dictionary “experts” have been beguiled into giving it legitimacy as an alternate to the comparative and superlative extensions of “far,” quite possibly due to post-adolescent trauma acquired by the forced attendance in high school English classes.  Or, maybe they have just graduated to the LIARS club, an exalted social station that grants unquestioned respect from the unwashed masses (yeah, that be us, the general public) for their learned pronouncements.

This mixed usage no doubt comes about by the abstract relationship they share:  both words take “something” and carry it to another point.  In the case of farther, you are taking a physical object and moving it to another geographical location.  If you are expanding on an argument or concept, you mentally move it along a path of logic to further its implications or meaning.

If these words were truly interchangeable, we should frequently hear such as “I need to farther this concept…” and, “farthermore, we must evaluate the effects of these events.”

  • If you have a compendium of concepts in your hand (before the digital age, we just called those books) that you carried from your car to the class room, that is how far you took it.  To present your report, you took the book farther up to the podium.  Once there, you opened the book and began presenting your view on the meanings of a particular concept or argument.  Your intent was to expand on the written argument and further its reach to include the general public

When a speaker or writer uses further to mean farther, he/she (or she/he) is simply furthering the public’s linguistic ignorance, taking us just a little farther from the concept of clear communication.

_______________

Dedicated to the Ford Motor Company for their ad exhorting the public to “go further in a Ford” and to their competitor (RAM?) who correctly* exhorts their customers to go farther.

 

 

*According to Dean — that be me.

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The Three Faces of Ho

Posted on July 16, 2014. Filed under: English, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

This is a meaningless exercise in free association, so don’t expect too much.

Looks like another dry spell in my campaign to improve the attitudes and perceptions of you, the general public.  WAIT A SECOND!  What is that down here in the bottom of my trash can?  Let me un-wad this paper and see what we got.  O-kay…   there!

…it’s the word “ho.”

That’s all — just one word like a single drop of water in an empty desert.  It was part of a thought train a few months ago that passed its station without stopping to take on passengers.  Hmm!  Maybe it has fermented a little, and I can get some squeezing’s from it.  Let’s give it a shot.

Well, mathematically speaking, there is 1(ho), 2(ho), 3(ho), ho+x, x+ho.  X would be a variable like in an algebra formula.*  Ho, by itself, actually has several uses:

  • An attention getter as in “land ho!”
  • Something you throw, as in “heave ho.”
  • A socially derogatory term used either literally or euphemistically for somewhat indiscriminate social behavior, and can be applied to either gender.
  • The symbol for the metallic element holmium (Ho) which has an atomic weight of 67 if your are interested.

Sometimes, a single ho will act…   well…   like a ho…   and consort with unsavory types.  Such as the disrespecting hum:

  • ho-hum (ho+x) = “Oh, really?” or “Am I supposed to believe that?” or “Groan.  That is so boring.”

And those x + ho’s:

  • gung-ho, a trait of insufferable zealot-ism.
  • yo-ho = pirate talk, as in “Yo ho ho and a bottle of rum.”  After a bottle of rum, I would wager that makes perfect sense.
  • heigh ho = a word with identity issues.  Miriam Webster says it is “used to express boredom, weariness or sadness,” while Dictionary.com says it is “used to call attention to or give encouragement.”  So, exactly what were those seven dwarfs** trying to convey?

Twin ho’s — 2(ho) — come in a variety pack:

  • ho ho = identical twins; happy ones, too.
  • oh ho = mirror twins.  They mean:  “What th…?”*** or “Caught you, didn’t I?”
  • Ho Ho = a really sweet couple (it’s a brand name)
  • ho…   ho! = estranged twins;  “Was that supposed to be funny?”

Ho times 3 has only one use:

  • Santa’s standard answer to the seasonal question, “What are you doing in my bedroom?”***

 

I think my station is coming up, so I’m getting off this train.

 

__________________________________

* I could have said algorithm, but, that sounds — erroneously — like I am invoking the Great Father of the internet, Al Gore, whose famous Al Gore ithm, “I created the internet,” was the joke of the 20th century.

** Of Snow White/Walt Disney fame

*** That would be “WTF?!” to those ubiquitous Children of the Thumbs (the texting generation)

 

 

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English: Split Infinitives and Egos

Posted on February 7, 2013. Filed under: English, grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • infinitive = the word “to” followed by a “verb form” (e.g., to go)
  • split infinitive = an infinitive verb form with an element, usually an adverb, interposed between to and the verb form (e.g., to boldly go)

To improve my smarts before opening my mouth, I went to the web to see what the Great Learned had to say on the subject.  From search results, I clicked on a Yahoo! item which was sponsored by a Yahoo! affiliate Houghton Mifflin.  Since this article defined my subject AND ALSO echoed my rhetoric about the Great Learned‘s LIARS status (LIARS, Feb 24, 2012)…   that’s as far as I researched.  Don’t rock the boat ‘n’ all that.

How luscious.  That article provided two delightful fruits for my cynic’s taste buds:

  • Usage History.  The split infinitive has been around since the 14th century.
  • Ruled out.  The Great Learned gave it a name and condemned its use in the 19th century.

It took 500 years for the Great Learned to get snooty about the argot of the Great Unwashed (i.e., all those ignorant Not Great Learned…   the General Public).  Noting that the claimed impetus for this pre-emptive action was grounded in the Latin usage for the derivative, Mifflin‘s article stated that “English is not Latin” and is premised differently.  The ruling, then, is arbitrary and incorrectly applied.  That appraisal also coincides with my earlier assertions in Why Not Me? Feb 27, 2012.

It is possibly NOT a coincidence that a number of famous writers are cited in the article as being perpetrators of this heinous infarction…   infraction…   heinous infraction of infinitive usage, which really wasn’t an infraction until the Great Learned said that it was…   after considering it for 500 years.

Published writings became widely available and popular in the 18th and 19th centuries, and, authors who, by and large, were NOT university scholars became the Madonnas and Justin Biebers of then pop-icon-ism (stay with me; I make ’em up as I go).  Until then, it was the educated scholars of recognized universities who were the darlings of media offerings, which, if you don’t count the town crier, was pretty much limited to printed stuff. Distressingly for The Learned, about all this new breed needed to become a published somebody was basic understanding of a written language, some knowledge about the selected subject, and a commercial appeal to make it sellable.  Those works were fiction and human interest, and, as such, not subject to being criticized on procedural or technical grounds. 

The famous authors cited in the Mifflin article delighted in the use of the split infinitive and utilized it to turn a neat phrase and make their offerings more picturesque.  The scholarly Great Learned, who had entered at the ground floor of the university and spent their whole lives making their way upward into the musty attic of the academic ivory tower, were no longer the sole beneficiaries of public adoration.  Disgustingly, they had to share that limelight with upstart, under-educated “writers.”

These Great Learned, basically, had an institutionalized mentality and found it difficult to think “outside the box.”  Eventually, one  of them observed that it was the impressive and descriptive use of English that made the new darlings shine.  So, to redirect the spotlight, the Great Learned cornered a popular and long-lived grammatical construction, labeled it a “split infinitive” and summarily declared it “unacceptable.”  The Great Learned’s new mantra:  “Split infinitive bad;  famous writers not so hot.”

…that would be the same motivation as a toddler banging a metal spoon against a metal pot:  “Look at me; look at me!”

The Mifflin article concludes that split infinitives are fine (and colorful) so long as one does not displace the adverbs; too close to the wrong noun, and, the intended meaning of the sentence can be changed.  With that, I gotta split from this article.

___________________________

Next up:  Puppet Masters?  Knee Jerks?  Arrogance?  Decisions, decisions…

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