grammar

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.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

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.

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

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…

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

English: Gerunds, Fantasy, And The Splits

Posted on February 6, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • gerund = noun formed from a verb (verb + ing) 
  • gerund phrase = the gerund with modifiers
  • if-were = supposition of that which cannot be
  • unwieldy = unmanageable due to size or complexity

Before tackling those split ends, let’s rib a Gulf Coast newspaper that thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  That would be The Houston Chronicle, down in Houston, Texas.  Its issue of January 16, 2013, thoughtfully provided several goofs on one page.  Section B, page 1, is the site that caught my sight.

In the lower half of the page, there is an article featuring statements from U.S. Senator John Cornyn (Republican Whip, Texas) about the possibility of defaults in federal spending obligations.  This article is credited to Joe Holley of the Chronicle.  So, right off, I point at the article title.

The title Cornyn assures ‘we’re not going to default.’  Double marks are used for a quote; single marks are used for a quote within a quote.  The single marks used in this title get caught up with that apostrophe and give it a real funky look.  And, yet, within the story, double marks are used for direct quotes.  The title of the article just below this one also uses single marks while using double marks in the story itself.  Maybe you guys are using singles in the title to save space, but that doesn’t make it correct.

How ’bout the gerund phrase?  Here, it is exerpted from the sentence:  “…will not allow an impasse over raising the debt ceiling to result in the federal government defaulting on its spending obligations.”  “Defaulting” is the noun; “federal government” identifies the owner of the act of defaulting — possessive case.  That phrase should read:

  • “…result in the federal government’s defaulting on…”

Commas get a little difficult to manage, too.  This sentence, “I will tell you unequivocally, we’re not going to default,” has either l comma too few or 1 comma too many.  As it is, it is a single sentence — not a compound sentence — and needs no comma.  If the word “unequivocally” is being emphasized, there should also be a comma after “you.”

The article below “Cornyn” also has a couple of missteps (according to me).  It is actually a eulogy for a local celebrity, so my nit-picking should not be construed to reflect on him.  This article is the handiwork of that wordsmith, David Barron, also of the Chronicle.  Lets start with the “unwieldy” thing:

  • Brown came to Houston in 1972 to work for Channel 11 but spent the bulk of his 50-year career in television at Channel 13, where he worked from 1972 through 2008, most of that time as a fixture on the station’s “good Morning, Houston” program and on its morning newscasts.

Take a breath.  That was one sentence, one paragraph, and 51 words.  Yes, there are a couple of commas missing from it.

The if-were tandem failed to make the cut in this article.  Right after the 50-word sentence, the paragraph starts, “If there was some way for Doug to bottle his attitude and sell it, he could get rich.”  The author is quoting another eulogy for Brown, but, he should have caught this.  Hypothetical postulations about what can not or did not happen use the if-were tandem.  That sentence should start, “If there were some way…”

These missteps belong to the allegedly PROFFESSIONAL writers and proofreaders presenting this stuff.   If you’re gonna play in Texas, you gotta have a fiddle in the band.*  You EXPERTS want to act superior to the rest of the citizenry, but, you are way too often deficient in the use of the very tool upon which you rely.  You presumptively ridicule, conduct kangaroo courts in your “reporting,” assume holier-than-thou postures, ostracize, humiliate, endanger lives…   I’m going to need a bigger soapbox from which to express my distaste.  If you insist on being society’s judge and teacher, at least FIND THAT DAMN FIDDLE AND FIGURE OUT HOW TO PLAY IT!

 _________________________

*A song by the group Alabama (Al Gore’s information highway wouldn’t give the name of the author, but there is a ton of videos for Alabama.)

Next up:  Maybe it will be about that split-infinitive thing

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 2 so far )

English: Case Of The Abandoned Preposition

Posted on February 4, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism, language | Tags: , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • to = a preposition that sends the action of a verb to an object
  • preposition = a word that is used before a noun (as in pre position)
  • orphaned = bereft of purpose or guidance (crossword creators can make ’em up; so can I)

My C.I. (Clueless Informant):  that same Parade Magazine (Sunday, December 30, 2012) providing grist for my previous post.

Scene of the Crime:  A product advertisement touting…   well…   so far as I could tell, it was touting touts about a book on nutrition  that it was…   well…   touting.  I mean, it was a list of 37 touts about stuff like stopping the aging process, making arteries “smooth and bendy,” and “a stick of gum can save the cost of a day in the hospital.”  No real information.  Just teasers enticing you to get your snake oil…   er…   valuable reference book.  As I perused this recipe for immortality, the poor orphaned “to,” all alone in the midst of many, gained my pity.

  • The sentence of abandonment:  “Breakthrough research reveals you can slow — even reverse — the aging process with certain foods and activities that our bodies respond to with vibrant good health!”

Right off, I will agree that this construction sounds pleasing to the ear and does not seem to possess incongruity.  It is a grammatical format that all of us utilize without hesitation.  BUT…

That poor little “to” wants mightily to point to something.  That is why it exists.  It would point to “foods and activities,” but that other preposition, with, is hogging all of their attention, and, tauntingly, has even corralled “vibrant good health” right under “to’s” nose.  Oh, the pain to must feel.

Fortunately, “to’s” plight can be corrected.  A simple cosmetic procedure on that sentence will salvage little “to” and return it to a full and useful life of pointing.  Voila:

  • “Breakthrough research reveals you can slow — even reverse — the aging process with certain foods and activities to which our bodies respond with vibrant good health!”  (“Which” is a stunt double for foods and activities.)

We speak in the vernacular without giving a lot of thought to grammatical constructions.  Professional wordsmiths, on the other hand, supposedly give every word and gist careful thought.  Experts, at least those well aware of their expert status, irritate me with their better-than-everybody-else airs.  To impress me, PROFESSIONAL WORDSMITHS gotta do better than this.  Hey, you guys might take a peak at Nezza’s work at Hella@Sydney.  Talk about “smooth and bendy.”  Ouch!

Okay!  This is a short posting.  I promised more than I could deliver today.

Next up:  More grammatical finger-pointing.

 

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( None so far )

English: It Ain’t That Hard

Posted on January 29, 2013. Filed under: grammar, Journalism | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , |

Your words for the day:

  • ain’t = is not; am not; are not; have not; has not (it’s a lot like that Hawaiian word aloha, but a lot more informal — non-snooty if you like)
  • aloha = hello, goodbye, nice to see you, bon voyage, have a good time, long time no see…   you get it
  • wordsmith = somebody who uses words skillfully, such as a professional writer or journalist
  • poetaster = a writer of bad poetry (Not relevent to this article, but it showed up as a synonym of “wordsmith.”  It sounds to me like an antonym, but, either way, I could have used this one in my previous article)

A December 30, 2012, printing (Parade Magazine, a Sunday newspaper insert) had an item that caught my eye…   eyes…   both of my eyes.  The subject was “subject/verb” disagreement…  not the subject of the article…   the subject of what my eyes caught.

The feat of grammatical peaceful coexistence, according to on-line articles posted by some of the Great Learned, hinges upon identifying the subject of the verb.  In keeping with that principle, I will (ala the Great Learned) condescendingly point out selected subject/verb pairs throughout this article, which I have kindly kept short.  (condescending hint:  they will be paired in brackets.  They would be underlined, but this program does not permit underlining.)

Sir Scott (as I am sure [all] of his buds [call] him) was answering the socially burning question (from a faithful reader) of whether [more] than one couple from the Bachelor/Bachelorette* series [have done] the matrimony bit.  The answer, Faithful Reader, is a resounding “YES!”  Sir Scott’s count is that [all] of three (3) [have joined] in wedded bliss.  Here, count ’em:

  1. Ashley and J.P.
  2. Jason and Molly
  3. Trista and Ryan

Hmmmph!  Only needed one hand for that.

In haste, I must point out that Sir [Scott]  [has imparted] much more knowledge about those reality* shows than [I] would ever [have sought] on my own.

Speaking of haste, let me move on to the obligatory finger-pointing.  Responding to the faithful reader’s inquiry.  Sir Scott’s [verbage] [reveals] that [Trista and Ryan] [did indeed tie] the knot, and now…   “the couple live in Colorado.”  (Give him a raspberry.)

Since couple is singular, that should read “the couple lives in Colorado.”

Don’t fret, Scott, you old professional wordsmith, you.  I’m sure you have a fully staffed back-up team of professional proof-readers more than happy to say, “WE goofed!”  One must keep that professional image spotless.

_______________________

*You know…   those real life courtship dramas in which a stable-full of hopefuls —  under the watchful eyes of dozens of cameras and directors and narrators and make-up specialists — spontaneously generate tears and emotions while navigating a marathon of competitive winner-take-all contests…   interludes…   while navigating a series of “romantic interludes.”

Next up:  2 for 1:  Gerund phrase, if-were tandem, 50-word sentence…   ??…   maybe 3 for 1. 

 And, a split infinitive.  A 4-fer?

Read Full Post | Make a Comment ( 1 so far )

Liked it here?
Why not try sites on the blogroll...