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Author Topic: Grammar quirks  (Read 139871 times)

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Oh Joy

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #345 on: October 07, 2012, 08:18:02 AM »
Decimate. It's misused all the time. Ie the town was decimated in the bushfire. Means it was reduced by 1/10th. What they really mean was that the town was razed. Decimate does not mean destroyed.

Decimated means, according to Merriam Webster:
   
1- Kill, destroy, or remove a large percentage of.
2- Drastically reduce the strength or effectiveness of (something): "plant viruses that can decimate yields".

Its origins is, as you said, to reduce by 10%. Or, better yet, to punish an army by killing 1 out of 10 men, drawn by lot. However, over the centuries, it has developed new meanings. Insisting that it can only have the original meaning is a little pedantic, in my view. Or else we need to admit that forging should only be used to describe something shaped by hammering or compression (so no deal can be forged), that glass can only refer to the material and not to items made of it (drinking glass, eye glasses), that a snowflake is only something that falls from the sky and not a very special person, etc.

Decimate irks me, too.  It's one thing to create new meanings and nuances for a word, and another thing to have a word misused until the misuse becomes accepted as an official definition. 

Sure, it happens to plenty of words, and I'm lucky if it's the biggest irritation in my day, but I do cringe when I hear it come out of a newscaster's mouth!   ;)

starry diadem

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #346 on: October 07, 2012, 10:15:40 AM »
~quote tree snipped~

Decimate irks me, too.  It's one thing to create new meanings and nuances for a word, and another thing to have a word misused until the misuse becomes accepted as an official definition. 

Sure, it happens to plenty of words, and I'm lucky if it's the biggest irritation in my day, but I do cringe when I hear it come out of a newscaster's mouth!   ;)

This reflects a major change in how we view language. 

Dictionaries are not prescriptive.  They were once, when they were the the repository of standard usage, standard spelling and grammatical rules: a tool to try and fix language, give words an absolute definition and usage that was considered the 'pure' and 'correct' use.  But language isn't something that can be fixed.  It's constantly evolving and changing, and now dictionaries seek to be descriptive instead - they show language as it's being used.  Definitions are slipping and changing.  Usage is slipping and changing.  Dictionaries reflect that.  Don't look to a dictionary for a definitive "this is right" ruling.  It will describe all the different usages for you, instead.

That's probably been the case for the last century, but we're all still hung up on a fixed definition, fixed spelling and fixed rules.  We like order and structure.  Language, being the slippery beast it is, doesn't much care for either as long as it gets the meaning across.

Like you, I prefer to use 'decimate' in the old, fixed way, but I acknowledge that the meaning has morphed and changed.  Other, similar, changes in words and usage will gradually take on the same level of 'rightness' as the old standard  - the misuse of 'lay' where 'lie' should be used ("Come and lay down beside me," coaxed John is a sentence that makes me shudder) is so widespread, that I don't believe there's a hope of reversing that trend.  It will still make me shudder, but eventually it will become the norm and language will have moved on another step in its evolution.  Whether that's a forwards or backwards step depends on your point of view.
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25wishes

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #347 on: October 07, 2012, 04:32:56 PM »
I don't believe this has been mentioned yet -

She called me out of my name -- meaning

She called me a name.

First one makes NO sense, second one says it exactly. Can't figure it out.

Shoo

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #348 on: October 07, 2012, 04:59:14 PM »
I don't believe this has been mentioned yet -

She called me out of my name -- meaning

She called me a name.

First one makes NO sense, second one says it exactly. Can't figure it out.

Is it just one person you've heard say this, or many people?  I have never heard it before.  Honestly, it is so utterly bizarre I can't even imagine someone saying it.  It makes absolutely NO sense.

demarco

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #349 on: October 07, 2012, 09:40:31 PM »
I don't believe this has been mentioned yet -

She called me out of my name -- meaning

She called me a name.

First one makes NO sense, second one says it exactly. Can't figure it out.

Is it just one person you've heard say this, or many people?  I have never heard it before.  Honestly, it is so utterly bizarre I can't even imagine someone saying it.  It makes absolutely NO sense.

I have come across this phrase a few times starting maybe thirty or more years ago.  I agree, it makes no sense.  I had the hardest time figuring out what it meant, even in context.

squeakers

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #350 on: October 08, 2012, 08:07:27 AM »
I don't believe this has been mentioned yet -

She called me out of my name -- meaning

She called me a name.

First one makes NO sense, second one says it exactly. Can't figure it out.

I kind of "get" the first one.

"She called me John".  John is my name.

"She called me a stupid git." Stupid git is not my name. By calling me stupid git she has taken away my name.  "Calling out" means to say/to speak.. so.. still convoluted but makes a little sense.

Sort of reminds me of the tribes who believed taking a photo of them would take their souls away from them. http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/archive/index.php/t-559163.html
"I feel sarcasm is the lowest form of wit." "It is so low, in fact, that Miss Manners feels sure you would not want to resort to it yourself, even in your own defense. We do not believe in retaliatory rudeness." Judith Martin

scotcat60

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #351 on: October 08, 2012, 10:47:33 AM »
For awhile, I'm not sure why, when referring to a king-making ceremony, the trend was to refer to the process as "coronating

"Edward Eighth soon abdicated/So George the sixth was coronated"

A line from a poem helping you to remember the order of the Kings of England/GB beginning "Willy, Willy, Harry,Ste, Harry, wingadingdingy, John, Harry three...."etc.

As for the use of Might and May: it's not regional as far as I know

Giggity

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #352 on: October 08, 2012, 11:03:29 AM »
Why not use "crowning" instead of "coronating"? It's shorter, and it's less pretentious. (I do tend toward the Anglo-Saxon word over the Romance one, in almost every word-choice situation. I'm not sure why.)

I also would strike "foundational" in favor of "fundamental."
Words mean things.

25wishes

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #353 on: October 08, 2012, 11:45:52 AM »
I don't believe this has been mentioned yet -

She called me out of my name -- meaning

She called me a name.

First one makes NO sense, second one says it exactly. Can't figure it out.

Is it just one person you've heard say this, or many people?  I have never heard it before.  Honestly, it is so utterly bizarre I can't even imagine someone saying it.  It makes absolutely NO sense.

I have heard it many times on television. No one I know says it.

Oh Joy

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #354 on: October 08, 2012, 11:46:49 AM »
Why not use "crowning" instead of "coronating"? It's shorter, and it's less pretentious.
...

I don't know...I gave birth to our second child six days ago, and can't quite associate that word with a dignified royal event!   ;)  But I do think a pretentious word is totally appropriate for that momentous of an occasion.

In general I am a big fan of the plain language movement.  I've been following this thread, but don't recall anyone pointing to this website: http://www.plainlanguage.gov/whatisPL/index.cfm

Slartibartfast

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #355 on: October 08, 2012, 12:19:42 PM »
My brain is breaking over the word "contracepting," which has been showing up in the political sphere recently.  On the one hand, it's not a word!  On the other hand, there's no quick and snappy verb meaning "using contraception," so I can understand why.  There's no good way to say "We're contracepting ourselves out of existence!" unless you make up the word "contracepting."

Diane AKA Traska

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #356 on: October 08, 2012, 01:54:18 PM »
My brain is breaking over the word "contracepting," which has been showing up in the political sphere recently.  On the one hand, it's not a word!  On the other hand, there's no quick and snappy verb meaning "using contraception," so I can understand why.  There's no good way to say "We're contracepting ourselves out of existence!" unless you make up the word "contracepting."

I... actually like the word.  It's a clean word that makes sense, not only in the term "using contraception", but also when you actually break the word down, as in "actively trying not to conceive".  I can understand the opposition due to it not being a real word, but no word is a real word until it's invented, right?
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Slartibartfast

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #357 on: October 08, 2012, 05:28:09 PM »
My brain is breaking over the word "contracepting," which has been showing up in the political sphere recently.  On the one hand, it's not a word!  On the other hand, there's no quick and snappy verb meaning "using contraception," so I can understand why.  There's no good way to say "We're contracepting ourselves out of existence!" unless you make up the word "contracepting."

I... actually like the word.  It's a clean word that makes sense, not only in the term "using contraception", but also when you actually break the word down, as in "actively trying not to conceive".  I can understand the opposition due to it not being a real word, but no word is a real word until it's invented, right?

That's about the conclusion I've grudgingly come to, but it still makes my head hurt  :P

Free Range Hippy Chick

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #358 on: October 09, 2012, 03:36:36 AM »
Should it not be 'contraceiving'?

Diane AKA Traska

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Re: Grammar quirks
« Reply #359 on: October 09, 2012, 09:35:09 AM »
To be completely grammatically correct, yes.  But, the root is contraception, and trying to get people to move past that would be difficult at best.
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