Jim A.

Changing the language and usage

35 posts in this topic

One of my pet peeves in life is when somehow, "somewhen", somebody injects a new word or phrase into the English (or any) language without checking to see if it is linquistically or grammatically correct or not.

Does anybody else have this problem?

Examples I think of right off are:

"Went missing"--For most of my life, anchorpersons and others used the phrase "became missing" or "was reported missing"; when did the phrase change to "went missing", and who decided to do that?

"Party" as a legitimate verb--for instance, "They went to Las Vegas to party all night long"; again, for most of my years, the word "party" was always a noun. However, somewhere, sometime, somebody decided to make it a verb and that change was accepted by most people.

"Heroine" being applied to actual female heroes; I always thought that the word "heroine" applied only to female heroes in a fictional work of literature, not to real people; real-life women heroes were exactly that--heroes.

This might sound picky, but anytime the language--of any country--is changed through the back door, it disturbs me.

Anyway, can anyone think of any other examples?

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But all languages change with time, and you have to understand that just because a language is changing it doesn't mean it is necessarily degrading.

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I take the view that language is a function, not a form. It is a tool used to communicate. It naturally changes and to try and prevent such changes would involve using more energy than it takes to just stay current on the new usage and phrases.

On another note, I think language change is fascinating to study. It's a back door to studying our history.

Language, being a natural residue of our thinking, is a medium of expression and it's natural that we want to be creative with it.

Unwritten rules are there and they are what allow us to understand what a person means when they say "party" as a verb. Written rules serve a purpose but to treat them as absolute laws would be as absurd and making up similar rules about paiting and music.

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There has been a big shift. The classical English we have today come to us through educated men such a Shakespeare, Samuel Johnson and Caxton. They actually set the standards, along with traditionalists who put the "b" in debt, so to speak. It is not so much the changes that bother me, as the changes being made by the most ignorant. Ghetto language for example.

There are other common usages that grate. Instead of saying something was more fun than imagined, they say "funner". Another that bothers me is "impact" the verb, as, 'impact on the results'. Whatever happened to "affect?" Mostly, it is the disintegration of English through laziness and ignorance that grieves me, not the gradual evolution led by the standard setters.

The irony is that while I can see this lack of standards, I was at the bottom of my class at school; put back two years in fact. I expected to always be able to look upward from that position, being comfortable that others would always be there to set the standards. Now there is no spelling, no grammar and no phonetics in many schools.

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I disagree with the view (expressed in post #3) that it is all right to be "creative" with language. Being creative with language is certainly appropriate in poetry and works of fiction such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But I believe language as a tool, not just of communication, but primarily of cognition, is to be protected at all rational costs.

The character of Syme in Nineteen Eighty-Four was a warning to all of us; there are people out there who truly want to destroy language. Granted, there are many more people who destroy the language by daily habit and default, but nevertheless I don't think it is ever safe to be sloppy about language and grammar. We need language to express our thoughts, precisely and clearly, and we need grammar (e.g., punctuation) to enable us to separate, sub-divide and organize the thoughts we express in sentence form. Language is to communication like mathematics is to the creative architect--his creation will not stand long without a sound mathematics, with absolute laws, to support it. Without a sound language--with rules--whatever we wish to communicate, over time, will deteriorate.

But, most importantly, it is our minds that we protect from the Symes of the world when we preserve and maintain the language we use to think with.

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I think there is a long history of nouns being appropriated for use as a verb. I think there is a specific name for that, but I can't think of it. I don't have any problem with the verb "party." It serves a useful purpose. What other word would describe what such people are doing?

What bothers me is when people create words that are completely superfluous, just to seem clever. I saw Joe Kernan, on CNBC, a while ago, just ecstatically announcing that the pseudo-word "ginormous" had been put into some dictionary or other. He uses that non-word, and thinks it's clever, when it is simply idiotic. He, and others, simply combine "gigantic" and "enormous" for no discernible reason, and use it in place of "gigantic" or "enormous" or "huge", any one of which would be perfectly adequate.

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I disagree with the view (expressed in post #3) that it is all right to be "creative" with language. Being creative with language is certainly appropriate in poetry and works of fiction such as The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. But I believe language as a tool, not just of communication, but primarily of cognition, is to be protected at all rational costs.

Language is a tool - and the way it is being used today is akin to hammering in a nail with a precision microscope. You can do it, but you damage the microscope irreparably with each blow. As time passes the precision and meaning of words disappear, and with them the ability to use them in thought.

"Don’t set out to raze all shrines—you’ll frighten men. Enshrine mediocrity, and the shrines are razed." - and so it goes with language.

(quote of Ellsworth Toohey).

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What bothers me is when people create words that are completely superfluous, just to seem clever. I saw Joe Kernan, on CNBC, a while ago, just ecstatically announcing that the pseudo-word "ginormous" had been put into some dictionary or other. He uses that non-word, and thinks it's clever, when it is simply idiotic. He, and others, simply combine "gigantic" and "enormous" for no discernible reason, and use it in place of "gigantic" or "enormous" or "huge", any one of which would be perfectly adequate.

That example particularly bothers me, too. The people who use it advertise to the world (unknowingly, which compounds the effect) that they are unaware of the differences in connotation and meaning between the two words and don't care. I have seen other examples of combining two synonyms into one word, usually used matter-of-factly with no apparent reasons justifying the new "word".

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What bothers me is when people create words that are completely superfluous, just to seem clever. I saw Joe Kernan, on CNBC, a while ago, just ecstatically announcing that the pseudo-word "ginormous" had been put into some dictionary or other. He uses that non-word, and thinks it's clever, when it is simply idiotic. He, and others, simply combine "gigantic" and "enormous" for no discernible reason, and use it in place of "gigantic" or "enormous" or "huge", any one of which would be perfectly adequate.

That example particularly bothers me, too. The people who use it advertise to the world (unknowingly, which compounds the effect) that they are unaware of the differences in connotation and meaning between the two words and don't care. I have seen other examples of combining two synonyms into one word, usually used matter-of-factly with no apparent reasons justifying the new "word".

I've noticed over the past couple of years that we are losing the term, "take." School children in my area all say "bring" when they should use "take," such as: "Can we bring it when we go to school tomorrow?"

Recently, I saw this error in a TV commercial!

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My feeling is that people should, at least, _know_ correct usage. Of course, correct usage has changed over time. But, today, there is an objectively correct way to use the language. If that changes in the future, fine. What annoys me is people speaking without any knowledge that they're using a word (or syntax) incorrectly.

Tangentially, the culture is currently trying find a replacement for gender specific pronouns - "One small step for man". Besides the irrational multi-culturalists who want to change the language, I think there needs to be a better way to refer to unknown individuals. Signs like "Men Working", or a phrase like "someone lost his keys" grate on my ears.

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One by one last to first:

The gender thing: Maybe someday this can be addressed, but I think this can occur in a natural way after the culture is more rational. Right now, this problem is too prone to be taken up by the concrete-bound egalitarian mentality.

Can't one bring something to school? I'm sure it's fine to take it, but it seems to me that one also brings it. I don't see how that's an 'error.'

I find ginormous to be funny. It does have (to me) a connotation that's useful, i.e. I always think it means -- "bigger than either of those" (gigantic or enormous). I have, however, never used this one myself. I might be persuaded that it shouldn't be put in the dictionary, except that language does evolve, and that evolution is not always determined by the most educated. Consistent popular usage over a long period of time often (not always) means that people find a term to be legitimately useful.

Impact on the results does seems little explosive. ;)

I don't know if there is more, but I have to stop here - for now. I'm out of time.

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The gender thing: Maybe someday this can be addressed, but I think this can occur in a natural way after the culture is more rational. Right now, this problem is too prone to be taken up by the concrete-bound egalitarian mentality.

I'll bet "they their" is the replacement. I realize that it really rubs some the wrong way, but my ears are becoming very accustomed to "Someone lost their keys".

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One by one last to first:

The gender thing: Maybe someday this can be addressed, but I think this can occur in a natural way after the culture is more rational. Right now, this problem is too prone to be taken up by the concrete-bound egalitarian mentality.

Can't one bring something to school? I'm sure it's fine to take it, but it seems to me that one also brings it. I don't see how that's an 'error.'

I find ginormous to be funny. It does have (to me) a connotation that's useful, i.e. I always think it means -- "bigger than either of those" (gigantic or enormous). I have, however, never used this one myself. I might be persuaded that it shouldn't be put in the dictionary, except that language does evolve, and that evolution is not always determined by the most educated. Consistent popular usage over a long period of time often (not always) means that people find a term to be legitimately useful.

Impact on the results does seems little explosive. ;)

I don't know if there is more, but I have to stop here - for now. I'm out of time.

Yes, lol: You had better bring your homework when you come to school tomorrow...if that is said by someone who is, at the time they speak, at school! If the speaker is at home, they must say the student had better take his homework to school.

Just for the record: "Bring" transports something to where the speaker is at the time he speaks. "Take" transports something from where the speaker is at the time he speaks, elsewhere. If the statement is so elaborate as to say from where the transporter is leaving and to where he is going, "take" fits.

Do you make the distinction differently?

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One by one last to first:

The gender thing: Maybe someday this can be addressed, but I think this can occur in a natural way after the culture is more rational. Right now, this problem is too prone to be taken up by the concrete-bound egalitarian mentality.

Can't one bring something to school? I'm sure it's fine to take it, but it seems to me that one also brings it. I don't see how that's an 'error.'

I find ginormous to be funny. It does have (to me) a connotation that's useful, i.e. I always think it means -- "bigger than either of those" (gigantic or enormous). I have, however, never used this one myself. I might be persuaded that it shouldn't be put in the dictionary, except that language does evolve, and that evolution is not always determined by the most educated. Consistent popular usage over a long period of time often (not always) means that people find a term to be legitimately useful.

Impact on the results does seems little explosive. ;)

I don't know if there is more, but I have to stop here - for now. I'm out of time.

Yes, lol: You had better bring your homework when you come to school tomorrow...if that is said by someone who is, at the time they speak, at school! If the speaker is at home, they must say the student had better take his homework to school.

Just for the record: "Bring" transports something to where the speaker is at the time he speaks. "Take" transports something from where the speaker is at the time he speaks, elsewhere. If the statement is so elaborate as to say from where the transporter is leaving and to where he is going, "take" fits.

Do you make the distinction differently?

I'm new to this site, and couldn't find an edit button. My last statement needs qualification. Instead of an abstract characterization, I think a set of examples would be good:

Erroneous uses of "bring:" "Bring your shoes to your room, they are in the way here."

"When you go to camp, bring your toothbrush."

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One by one last to first:

Can't one bring something to school? I'm sure it's fine to take it, but it seems to me that one also brings it. I don't see how that's an 'error.'

Yes, lol: You had better bring your homework when you come to school tomorrow...if that is said by someone who is, at the time they speak, at school! If the speaker is at home, they must say the student had better take his homework to school.

Just for the record: "Bring" transports something to where the speaker is at the time he speaks. "Take" transports something from where the speaker is at the time he speaks, elsewhere. If the statement is so elaborate as to say from where the transporter is leaving and to where he is going, "take" fits.

Do you make the distinction differently?

No, I just didn't know what the distinction was, so thanks Mindy, for the information. I love folks who know this kind of thing, so I hope to hear more from you. It's even possible that I've been told this before, and that it didn't stick. In any case, thanks again for the answer.

It might have helped if I'd just looked up the words in the dictionary. But even after I read your answer, and thought of looking them up, I didn't want to, because I knew these would be words where the definitions would go on and on and on. I did, however, look up bring. And I was pleased to find that although the definition did go on and on (one and a half 10" x 2.25" columns of ~ eight point type in Webster's Intl., 2nd Ed.) the distinction between bring and take is right there in the beginning, where it ought to be. Well I'll be...

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Tangentially, the culture is currently trying find a replacement for gender specific pronouns - "One small step for man". Besides the irrational multi-culturalists who want to change the language, I think there needs to be a better way to refer to unknown individuals. Signs like "Men Working", or a phrase like "someone lost his keys" grate on my ears.
Why? It is not unusual for English words to have more than one meaning; "his" is simply one of those words. Should a phrase like "this is a hot topic" grate on my ears because a topic doens't actually have a temperature?

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[...] can anyone think of any other examples?

I've seen a lot of back constructions from nouns to verbs, usually with that "ate" suffix, which wipe out the correct verb, like "administrate" instead of "administer," "interpretate" instead of "interpret," and four or five others.

The preposition is being destroyed, particularly "of," which is usually replaced by "for," i.e., "We calculated the height of each step" is now "We calculated the height for each step." "Couple of" is usually now just "couple." "He drank a couple Cokes." Prepositions that usually followed verbs are leaving the language. "Graduated college" used to be "graduated from college." "Departing the airport" used to be "departing from the airport."

The distinction between "it's" and "its" seems to be disappearing, I suspect due to the Microsoft spell checker. Carrying that further, I've even seen "her's."

On the other hand, there are some cute new terms like "grandmacita." But that's a growth of English, not a brutalization.

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"Couple of" is usually now just "couple." "He drank a couple Cokes." Prepositions that usually followed verbs are leaving the language. "Graduated college" used to be "graduated from college." "Departing the airport" used to be "departing from the airport."

The disappearance of "of" and "from" in the above contexts omits a word while retaining all of the meaning. Since the purpose of concepts and words is unit economy, I think the elimination of unnecessary words is actually good.

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"Couple of" is usually now just "couple." "He drank a couple Cokes." Prepositions that usually followed verbs are leaving the language. "Graduated college" used to be "graduated from college." "Departing the airport" used to be "departing from the airport."

The disappearance of "of" and "from" in the above contexts omits a word while retaining all of the meaning. Since the purpose of concepts and words is unit economy, I think the elimination of unnecessary words is actually good.

There is a problem with making that kind of justification, Betsy. Grammatical rules are eroded if we don't follow them even in particular cases in which they don't make a difference.

Of course, these changes are in particular phrases, almost idioms, one might say. But until they become as solid in the public mind as idioms, they teach and exercize us in violating rules we very much need for our language to be capable, as a tool, of doing as much as possible.

Especially in the case of philosophy, where fine distinctions are sometimes of the utmost importance, the ability to think straight and especially to communicate subtleties depends on our having a full-fledged, fully articulated grammar. Take a phrase such as, "That than which nothing greater can be conceived..." it takes a well-developed agility of grammar to grasp it without a bit of analysis.

Mindy

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I want to repeat what I said earlier:

But all languages change with time, and you have to understand that just because a language is changing it doesn't mean it is necessarily degrading.

You really need to differentiate between what is simply the language evolving with time vs an actual slow destruction of the language through poor education. And I say this as someone whose best friend for several years has been a PhD student in historical linguistics!

Many people end sentences with prepositions when that is supposedly a bad thing, but the whole rule of "don't end a sentence with a preposition" was artificially tacked on by snooty scholars as an attempt to standardize English in a way inspired by Latin. So you could fairly say this is something we shouldn't have a problem with ;)

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Many people end sentences with prepositions when that is supposedly a bad thing, but the whole rule of "don't end a sentence with a preposition" was artificially tacked on by snooty scholars as an attempt to standardize English in a way inspired by Latin. So you could fairly say this is something we shouldn't have a problem with ;)
There are times when trying to avoid ending a sentence with a preposition creates unnecessary and awkward phrasing. For example, Winston Churchill once reportedly exclaimed, "That is the sort of thing up with which I will not put!" to mock someone who criticized him for ending a sentence with a preposition.

L

O

L

From: http://www.yourdictionary.com/grammar-rule...reposition.html

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The disappearance of "of" and "from" in the above contexts omits a word while retaining all of the meaning. Since the purpose of concepts and words is unit economy, I think the elimination of unnecessary words is actually good.

There is a problem with making that kind of justification, Betsy. Grammatical rules are eroded if we don't follow them even in particular cases in which they don't make a difference.

I'm not a linguistic anarchist. I also support grammatical standards because they evolved for a good reason and they have persisted and been used by literate writers because they well serve the purposes of clear thinking and effective communication.

I am open, however, to changing standards if there is a good reason to do so and unit economy is such a reason. That is how "horseless carriage" changed to "automobile" to "auto" to "car." Communicating effectively is what led Winston Churchill to rebel against the rule that one must never end a sentence with a preposition and declare: "This is the sort of pedantic nonsense up with which I will not put."

My standard is: What most effectively communicates exactly what I want to say to my intended audience? As a result, I am more likely to follow grammatical rules when writing than when speaking and when addressing educated adults in an intellectual setting than when talking to children or having a casual conversation with friends.

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"Couple of" is usually now just "couple." "He drank a couple Cokes." Prepositions that usually followed verbs are leaving the language. "Graduated college" used to be "graduated from college." "Departing the airport" used to be "departing from the airport."

The disappearance of "of" and "from" in the above contexts omits a word while retaining all of the meaning. Since the purpose of concepts and words is unit economy, I think the elimination of unnecessary words is actually good.

There is a problem with making that kind of justification, Betsy. Grammatical rules are eroded if we don't follow them even in particular cases in which they don't make a difference. [...]

In the examples la zafada provided, the meanings remain the same whether those words are omitted or included. The purpose of language is not to adhere to rules which exist in outdated style guides but to express concepts in a way understandable to others. Whenever two independent clauses can be reduced to one, unnecessary capitalization avoided, and sentences distilled so that the meaning is understood better and faster as above, changes in a language are good.

Pop lyrics and some poetry rely on changing grammar rules to convey meaning. "But if this ever-changing world in which we live in makes you give in and cry..." "I can't light no more of your darkness..." What makes sense to the intended recipient - for the communication medium and context - should prevail, and does.

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Reading la zafada's post reminded me of a grammar question I have: If I want to show possession for one, is it "ones" or "one's?" I was thinking it was the latter, but then I saw someone else write "ones." Somehow I'm aware that it's 'hers,' not 'her's,' and 'its' not 'it's,' even though I occasionally make a mistake with 'its.' But for some reason, I'm not clear on 'one,' maybe because I use it less often than the others. Given the pattern for the other pronouns, I'll guess (now) that it should be 'ones.'

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I want to repeat what I said earlier:
But all languages change with time, and you have to understand that just because a language is changing it doesn't mean it is necessarily degrading.

You really need to differentiate between what is simply the language evolving with time vs an actual slow destruction of the language through poor education. And I say this as someone whose best friend for several years has been a PhD student in historical linguistics!

Many people end sentences with prepositions when that is supposedly a bad thing, but the whole rule of "don't end a sentence with a preposition" was artificially tacked on by snooty scholars as an attempt to standardize English in a way inspired by Latin. So you could fairly say this is something we shouldn't have a problem with ;)

I am not in disagreement with this post. I thought, though, that I hadn't, maybe, made myself clear in my earlier, related one.

Grammar is a man-made set of rules, and it is only by practicing them that we keep them in existence. There's a great little book called "Twice as Less," that observes that the grammar of some minority groups renders them incapable of working certain math problems, due to their idiosyncratic substitutes for normal grammar, such as "twice as less." That's an extreme example, but it does illustrate the point. It also brings up the consideration that children learn language from us, and the more inconsistent our useage is, the more confusing grammar is to them, and the harder it is for them to warm to, to understand, and to master this important tool.

Like a political system, which must be defended and preserved by right-thinking people, grammar, and thus our language, and thus our ability to think beyond a very limited level, must be preserved if it is to remain the asset it is.

So, I'm against practices that violate needed rules of grammar. It's a question of use-it-or-lose-it. We ought to trouble ourselves to follow valid rules and practices, or those rules may not be there when we need them.

Mindy

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