Author Topic: Cato's Grammar Grumble  (Read 554204 times)

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Offline Sarastro

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #60 on: February 09, 2009, 06:01:01 PM »
Another pet peeve:  using "was" instead of "were" in conditionals, i.e. "If I wasn't a gentleman, I'd tie your tongue in knots."  Obviously the speaker is NOT a gentleman.  If he were a gentleman, he would use the subjunctive case!

Oh, maybe the speaker is implicitly admitting that he might not be a gentleman. Anyway, when I asked my teacher about the subjunctive mood and if we were going to learn it, she replied that many students did not even know what it was, which meant they would never use it and therefore would never make mistakes. :D

Would anyone kindly explain how to use the construction "but for"? I learned it but have forgotten. "But for the dog, the house would be robbed"? Had I known I would move to an English-speaking country, I would have concentrated on more on grammar. But, like, it's not like too widely spread amongst students, this subjunctive mood, you know.

Offline Cato

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #61 on: February 09, 2009, 06:34:43 PM »
Oh, maybe the speaker is implicitly admitting that he might not be a gentleman. Anyway, when I asked my teacher about the subjunctive mood and if we were going to learn it, she replied that many students did not even know what it was, which meant they would never use it and therefore would never make mistakes. :D

Would anyone kindly explain how to use the construction "but for"? I learned it but have forgotten. "But for the dog, the house would be robbed"? Had I known I would move to an English-speaking country, I would have concentrated on more on grammar. But, like, it's not like too widely spread amongst students, this subjunctive mood, you know.

That kind of teacher represents the morons against whom I have struggled throughout my career!   $:)

"But for" = If it were not/had not been for...

"If it were not for the (presence of the) dog, the house would be robbed" = We in fact have a dog, and are therefore never robbed.

Or: "If we did not have a dog, the house would be robbed."

Contrary-to-Fact uses the Subjunctive and assumes an unreal opposite to show a potential future.
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Offline Dancing Divertimentian

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #62 on: February 09, 2009, 07:44:30 PM »
This appears all the world like a page (nay, running thread!!) straight out of Vroon's American Record Guide. ;D

But, yes, I sympathize with all the grammar grumbling.

But I'd happily trade a little bad grammar for the complete elimination of fad clichés. Clichés that leach onto the English (American?) language and won't let go. One such is "pushing the envelope". That darling media phrase which became so overused I wanted to pull my hair/teeth/whatever out.

Luckily for my sanity it's on the decline.

Though I wonder what's lurking... :)
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Offline Brian

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #63 on: February 09, 2009, 07:44:56 PM »
Was it my teacher, I would find another.'
No grammar grumble would be complete without a post by an apostrophe.

imperfection

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #64 on: February 09, 2009, 08:27:46 PM »
I have suffered far too long the slings and narrow-mindedness of outrageous morons mangling the English language!   $:)

Now Cato says: "Hold, enough!"  And undammed shall be the comments: let them flood in!

Cato is no doctrinaire scold: he will at times be inconsistent and contradictory in his grammar grumbles, since it is in the nature of languages to be so.  Yet ex cathedra will be his pronouncements!   0:)

My complaints shall arrive in no particular order, so let me just start, and you can see if you agree!

People trying to sound smart by using "I" all the time, even when it means it makes them wrong: the ubiquitous "just between you and I" is moronic.  "Between" is a preposition and therefore needs an object form, not a subject form.  Would you say "That package is for I" or "He stood in front of I" ? 

Then stop using "I" with the word "between" or any other preposition!!!    :P     8)    The script for the movie "Becoming Jane" contained the monstrosity "...by your father and I" at whose author the real Jane would have flung her inkpot, and maybe even that other pot in her chamber!   $:)

East Coasters and people on PBS using "Absolutely" instead of "Yes" drive me to the brink of pantocide!   >:D 
But I'll keep my shirt on!   :o 

People pronouncing the indefinite article "a" as if they were Canadians saying "eh?" make me want to throw bricks at nuns!   0:)  "That is eh very good book."  "This is eh book you must read."  Completely impossible pronunciation!   $:) 

It is the counterpart to "the = thee" being used in front of everything: "thee" for "the" is permissible only before vowels. 

Why are such things happening?  One can blame schools with hemidemisemiliterate teachers leading the ignorant into a perpetual wilderness of pseudo-educated ignorance.  One can blame a relativist society, where everyone is correct, especially in language, since aren't all grammar rules just "opinions" anyway?  Don't grammar rules stand in the way of personal expression and personal creativity?  Aren't grammar rules even perhaps ways to oppress people in the lower classes?   :o

The result of course is the growth of incoherence in private and public discourse, recent examples being past and present occupants of the White House in the last 20 years, Caroline Schlossberg and her infamous 99 "you knows" within 2 minutes of speaking, practically every "movie star" or "personality" jabbering on TV, etc.

Worse is the lack of music in their words: the most recent and risible public example was heard on January 20th in Washington D.C., a "poem" which was merely a concatenation of the most trite and unmusical syllables ever heard in decades. 

The lady's poetic license needs to be revoked!   :o

Another thing that drives Cato nutzoid are people referring to themselves in the 3rd person!    :o

So I will not really be doing that!   0:)

Feel free to list your own pet punctuation or pronunciation peeves: I will probably agree with you!



Offline Coopmv

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #65 on: February 09, 2009, 08:44:55 PM »
Don't think so;  these instances of sloppy grammar/usage have been rampant among US anglophones.  If anything, I find that non-native speakers who have immigrated, are rather more careful with their grammar.

That is if they speak English at all ...

Offline Jay F

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #66 on: February 09, 2009, 08:49:07 PM »
Oh, maybe the speaker is implicitly admitting that he might not be a gentleman. Anyway, when I asked my teacher about the subjunctive mood and if we were going to learn it, she replied that many students did not even know what it was, which meant they would never use it and therefore would never make mistakes. :D

Would anyone kindly explain how to use the construction "but for"? I learned it but have forgotten. "But for the dog, the house would be robbed"? Had I known I would move to an English-speaking country, I would have concentrated on more on grammar. But, like, it's not like too widely spread amongst students, this subjunctive mood, you know.
Where are you from?

I prefer to say "If it weren't for the dog..." or "If it hadn't been for the dog..."

karlhenning

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #67 on: February 10, 2009, 04:23:49 AM »
I prefer to say "If it weren't for the dog..." or "If it hadn't been for the dog..."

That's fine. My ear is accustomed also to Had it not been for the dog . . . .

Offline DavidRoss

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #68 on: February 10, 2009, 04:30:16 AM »
That's fine. My ear is accustomed also to Had it not been for the dog . . . .
And to what might the dog's ear be accustomed?  Presuming, of course, that there actually had been a dog, and that said dog were present on the occasion in question?

(We are being paid by the word, aren't we?)
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Offline Herman

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #69 on: February 10, 2009, 04:39:41 AM »
But I'd happily trade a little bad grammar for the complete elimination of fad clichés. Clichés that leach onto the English (American?) language and won't let go. One such is "pushing the envelope". That darling media phrase which became so overused I wanted to pull my hair/teeth/whatever out.

Luckily for my sanity it's on the decline.

Though I wonder what's lurking... :)

the envelope has already been pushed out by the box, as in: "thinking outside the box" as was clearly demonstrated by the election races last year. While McCain was pushing the envelope  Obama was thinking outside the box.

Offline Cato

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #70 on: February 10, 2009, 05:09:53 AM »
Guardians of English (aka the Unicorn Hunters) at Lake Superior State University in the Upper Peninsula of Michigan publishes a list of abuses every year:

http://www.lssu.edu/banished/current.php

My favorite: "Winner of 5 Nominations!!!"

Orwell would love our era!

Thinking outside the box prevents you from knowing what might lurk inside the box!   0:)
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Offline Jay F

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #71 on: February 10, 2009, 05:27:02 AM »
the envelope has already been pushed out by the box, as in: "thinking outside the box" as was clearly demonstrated by the election races last year. While McCain was pushing the envelope  Obama was thinking outside the box.
Who uses boxes for thinking in the first place?

And if your thinking should happen to fall outside the box, presumably the box is full, so shouldn't you go get another box to put your latest thoughts in?
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 05:30:21 AM by nicht schleppend »

Offline Florestan

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #72 on: February 10, 2009, 06:01:46 AM »
Orwell would love our era!

Linguistically speaking, he predicted it fairly accurate...
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DavidW

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #73 on: February 10, 2009, 06:16:25 AM »
What about "indeed"? Everywhere on GMG: indeed!

That's just me!  I'll tell you how it started: when I was an undergrad my roommate and I started saying it like hella because it was funny.  Hold on I need to infuriate the other posters on this board... it was like you know, like totally awesome, like how cool is it to use a cool word over and over? ;D

To other posters on the thread:
If you are an English teacher, you have plenty of opportunities to teach grammatical lessons even if you teach literature.  If you prefer to not do that and simply view your students' poor grammar as a private joke for you to snicker at, what does that make you exactly?  Not an educator, that's for sure.

I suffer from the same problem that my students do, and that was that we never received formal education in grammar.  It's all the fad to completely skip teaching grammar to race on to less important issues, such as symbolism in literature (btw there is a difference between appreciating common symbols, and thinking that fine literature spells out a secret code, and the true meaning only lies in the code).  Whether it's the fault of English teachers (pre-college level), or administrators making decisions that they force the teachers to, I can't say.  I can say that one of the two, if not both, are incompetent boobs that need to be held accountable for a decline in standards.


karlhenning

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #74 on: February 10, 2009, 06:23:26 AM »
Rumble in the Grumble!
(Jethro Tull?)

Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #75 on: February 10, 2009, 06:34:58 AM »
Yes, I do!  "Which" refers to the dictionaries, and opens the subordinate clause "Which accept this."  Not a misuse!   0:)  If "that" is a conjunction, what then is the subject of "accept" ???

A very pure purist would say that "that" should only be used for indirect discourse, and never as a relative pronoun, which (!) is what "that" still is in your version.

But the very pure purists are not around!   $:)
I don't think you quite understand the implications. If you meant there to be a subsidiary clause your sentence means: I don't care if you can find dictionaries - but should you find one then it will accept this. Fortunately Microsoft Word has this right in its grammar checker and generally insists you but a comma before your clause. One useful rule is that if the 'which' clause is removed the sentence must still make sense, indeed it must be a sentence. Failure to leave a meaningful sentence is where most errors occur but in cases like the one we are looking at the meaning can be quite different to what was intended. I'm sure you meant that there are dictionaries that accept the point in question but that there are also others that do not.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #76 on: February 10, 2009, 06:38:57 AM »

To other posters on the thread:
If you are an English teacher, you have plenty of opportunities to teach grammatical lessons even if you teach literature.  If you prefer to not do that and simply view your students' poor grammar as a private joke for you to snicker at, what does that make you exactly?  Not an educator, that's for sure.

I suffer from the same problem that my students do, and that was that we never received formal education in grammar.  It's all the fad to completely skip teaching grammar to race on to less important issues, such as symbolism in literature (btw there is a difference between appreciating common symbols, and thinking that fine literature spells out a secret code, and the true meaning only lies in the code).  Whether it's the fault of English teachers (pre-college level), or administrators making decisions that they force the teachers to, I can't say.  I can say that one of the two, if not both, are incompetent boobs that need to be held accountable for a decline in standards.



Cato's Rule of Education #3: Educational administrators are usually failed teachers, or coaches, who should be horse-whipped and sent to bag groceries at Kroger's.

I have come across too many "English" teachers who do not know grammar on the higher levels, and who lack any creativity in teaching technique, so that they can make grammar interesting: rules and charts will not enthuse students.

You are quite right: grammar can and should be approached by looking at the stories and essays of great stylists.  Instead, too often the teacher worries about pushing a certain political agenda through "interpretation" of the stories, or (more often) just wants to get through the day by going through the motions.

I have seen schools where English teachers relied on A-B-C-D tests, where the students rarely to never wrote anything themselves.   :o

But this was also true for History, Science, and other courses where students should be writing essays and reports.
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Offline Cato

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #77 on: February 10, 2009, 06:44:23 AM »
I don't think you quite understand the implications. If you meant there to be a subsidiary clause your sentence means: I don't care if you can find dictionaries - but should you find one then it will accept this. Fortunately Microsoft Word has this right in its grammar checker and generally insists you but a comma before your clause. One useful rule is that if the 'which' clause is removed the sentence must still make sense, indeed it must be a sentence. Failure to leave a meaningful sentence is where most errors occur but in cases like the one we are looking at the meaning can be quite different to what was intended. I'm sure you meant that there are dictionaries that accept the point in question but that there are also others that do not.

Bold I: Yes, I do!   0:)

Bold II: Sure!   0:)

Please review my previous comments on "which" vs. "that".  In German the comma rule is absolute: commas in English in my opinion can be a matter of the musical flow of a sentence, and not an absolute: inconsistencies can sometimes result therefore, but that is because musical flows are not the same!
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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Offline Ten thumbs

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #78 on: February 10, 2009, 06:52:30 AM »
Bold I: Yes, I do!   0:)

Bold II: Sure!   0:)

Please review my previous comments on "which" vs. "that".  In German the comma rule is absolute: commas in English in my opinion can be a matter of the musical flow of a sentence, and not an absolute: inconsistencies can sometimes result therefore, but that is because musical flows are not the same!
This is precisely why you should have used 'that' instead of writing as you did:
I don't care if you can find dictionaries - but should you find one then it will accept this.
A day may be a destiny; for life
Lives in but little—but that little teems
With some one chance, the balance of all time:
A look—a word—and we are wholly changed.

Offline Cato

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Re: Cato's Grammar Grumble
« Reply #79 on: February 10, 2009, 08:31:30 AM »
This is precisely why you should have used 'that' instead of writing as you did:

No, I disagree!   $:)  I know that you are talking about the old distinction between restrictive and non-restrictive clauses.  I see my sentence as talking about theoretical - yet specific - dictionaries which might lend support.

But thanks for the discussion!   0:)

Today's Vocabulary building word: persiflage    8)

Trifling, watercooler talk!  Fluffy stuff found on other websites: not here!!!   0:)
« Last Edit: February 10, 2009, 11:13:19 AM by Cato »
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

- Brian Aherne introducing Rosalind Russell in  My Sister Eileen (1942)