Cato's Grammar Grumble

Started by Cato, February 08, 2009, 05:00:18 PM

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Cato

My wife and I revisited the incredible Ferris Bueller's Day Off last weekend.

Usually we do not watch the "Special Features," but we decided to watch an interview with the cast recorded c. 5 years ago.

Director John Hughes, recently deceased, mentioned that one of the actresses, Mia Sara, at the time of the filming "had just graduated high school."   :o

I have noticed this phrase more and more: I would think that you cannot graduate anything much, unless you are a cylinder!   $:)

People should graduate from schools: they do not "graduate" the schools. 

The school can graduate you, but not vice versa.   0:)
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

karlhenning


Spotswood

#922
I recommend John McWhorter's "Our Marvelous Bastard Tongue" for thoughts on correct and incorrect usage. (Though it's about more about the history of the language than usage.) McWhorter argues that the rules of grammar are not rules at all (where do they come from? and who enforces them?), and that constructions we do not like (such as "graduated high school") change over time, just as the language does. Things that sound  natural to our ears now, such as the word "standpoint," for example, were opposed at one time with the same kinds of arguments we're seeing here --- illogicality, wordiness. In the 19th century, keepers of the style  gate said "standpoint" was illogical, because you're not actually standing at any point in space (really). "All the time" was also disapprobated, because it used three words where one word --- always --- would do. Same with split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions. Having read this book and similar articles over the years, I'm finding it harder and harder to get exercised over new locutions, especially since it's a losing battle.  By the time you hear the phrase in conversation, it is too late. McWhorter would argue (and I would agree) that "graduated high school" is fine, since it is now common usage, and everyone agrees on its meaning. 

The battle over "hopefully" has long since been given up.

Of course, I still say "he graduated from high school" out of habit, although to be absolutely correct, one should say "he was graduated from high school." It's not something you do yourself. It is an honor that is conferred on you once you complete the requirements.

But good luck, Cato. I'm rooting for you. ;)

karlhenning

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 10:22:04 AM
. . . Of course, I still say "he graduated from high school" out of habit, although to be absolutely correct, one should say "he was graduated from high school." It's not something you do yourself. It is an honor that is conferred on you once you complete the requirements.

I do feel like such a throwback, using that (traditionally-correct) usage.

Of course, I am not shy of seeming a throwback . . . .


Thanks for the McWhorter rec, Joe . . . I shall check it out.

Florestan

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 10:22:04 AM
"graduated high school" is fine, since it is now common usage, and everyone agrees on its meaning.

There are a lot of things that are common usage and everyone agrees on their meaning yet they are profoundly wrong and immoral.  Governmental bailouts, for instance. :D
"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue."  - Henri Matisse

Cato

Quote from: Florestan on January 26, 2010, 10:40:47 AM
There are a lot of things that are common usage and everyone agrees on their meaning yet they are profoundly wrong and immoral.  Governmental bailouts, for instance. :D

Lifeboats should be bailed out, but I am not so sure about intemperate banks and investment companies.   0:)

Yes, thanks to Joe Barron for the reference to the James McWhorter book!

And speaking of losing battles: I just revealed to my 6th Graders in Latin the difference between "who" and "whom."

Talk about tilting at windmills!   :o
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

Spotswood

#926
I think I might be the last person in the newsroom with a clear idea of the distinction between lay and lie. It has almost disappeared from spoken English, but I insist on sticking to it.

The McWhorter book achieved for me the rare feat of being very short and yet seeming twice as long as it needed to be. He makes the same points over and over, and he'll waste pages setting up strained metaphors. Still, the book contains some interesting information and useful ideas, and it's brief enough (despite being too long) that I didn't feel I wasted my time with it. I think it would have made a fine magazine article.

Spotswood

Quote from: k a rl h e nn i ng on January 26, 2010, 10:34:18 AM
I do feel like such a throwback, using that (traditionally-correct) usage.

Hyphens are not needed between adverbs that end in "ly" and the adjectives they modify. Yeesh! What's this country coming to?

Florestan

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 11:24:05 AM
What's this country coming to?

As a character in American Beauty puts it: This country's going straight to hell!. :D
"What I dream of is an art of balance, of purity and serenity, devoid of troubling or depressing subject-matter, a soothing, calming influence on the mind, something like a good armchair which provides relaxation from physical fatigue."  - Henri Matisse

Spotswood

FTR: It's John McWhorter, not James. Corrected in my original post.

Cato

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 11:22:38 AM
I think I might be the last person in the newsroom with a clear idea of the distinction between lay and lie. It has almost disappeared from spoken English, but I insist on sticking to it.

The McWhorter book achieved for me the rare feat of being very short and yet seeming twice as long as it needed to be. He makes the same points over and over, and he'll waste pages setting up strained metaphors. Still, the book contains some interesting information and useful ideas, and it's brief enough (despite being too long) that I didn't feel I wasted my time with it. I think it would have made a fine magazine article.

When I taught German, "lay" vs. "lie" often arose for discussion: I gave the students the image of the "hen lays the egg," and I emphasized the movement of the egg into the nest.  After that the egg just   l i e s   there, not moving.  For some, that worked to keep it straight.

For others, they did not care!   :o
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

karlhenning

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 11:24:05 AM
Hyphens are not needed between adverbs that end in "ly" and the adjectives they modify. Yeesh! What's this country coming to?

Sorry to have hyper-hyphenated . . . .

Spotswood

#932
Quote from: Cato on January 26, 2010, 12:08:36 PM
When I taught German, "lay" vs. "lie" often arose for discussion: I gave the students the image of the "hen lays the egg," and I emphasized the movement of the egg into the nest.  After that the egg just   l i e s   there, not moving.  For some, that worked to keep it straight.

Garrison Keillor years ago did a funny bit about a grammar school teacher who drilled the distinction into kids' heads by rhyming lay with place and lie with recline, over and over and over. That did it for me. I've never confused them since, but I have noticed that lay takes an object and lie does not. That's the way I keep them straight now.

Of course, the fact that lay is also the past tense of lie makes it even more confusing, but that's a whole other bucket of worms.

karlhenning

There's a strange way in which knowing that the simple past of lie is also lay, made the whole thing easier for me to subdue.


Spotswood

Quote from: Beethovenian on January 26, 2010, 02:43:36 PM
All these people have my deepest symphony.

Very funny. I remember once in high school a kid ragging on me about the fact that I liked Beethovien. He tried to put me on, wanting me to believe he was into the music, too, but he kept saying he liked Beethoven's Sympathies and Concellos. I wasn't fooled.

MN Dave

Quote from: Joe Barron on January 26, 2010, 02:47:31 PM
Very funny. I remember once in high school a kid ragging on me about the fact that I liked Beethovien. He tried to put me on, wanting me to believe he was into the music, too, but he kept saying he liked Beethoven's Sympathies and Concellos. I wasn't fooled.

Oh, and the snottas!

knight66

I was once told he was the guy who wrote the "Erotica Symphony".

Mike
DavidW: Yeah Mike doesn't get angry, he gets even.
I wasted time: and time wasted me.

Cato

Quote from: knight on January 30, 2010, 01:39:01 AM
I was once told he was the guy who wrote the "Erotica Symphony".

Mike

In the movie Psycho, there is a scene where Vera Miles is snooping around the bedroom of Mrs. Bates.  A quick shot of an old record player with the "EROICA" symphony is seen.

Hitchcock said he put that in, believing that most of the audience would mis-read it as "EROTICA," since there is an underlying theme of (disturbed) sexuality in the movie.  I have read reports that many people insist the record does indeed say "EROTICA."
"Meet Miss Ruth Sherwood, from Columbus, Ohio, the Middle of the Universe!"

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

karlhenning