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Profile: ValerieK
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User Name: ValerieK
Forum Rank: Member
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Joined: Monday, March 16, 2009
Last Visit: Monday, April 13, 2009 8:05:44 PM
Number of Posts: 12
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  Last 10 Posts
Topic: Legal words
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:15:49 PM
Curiously, I'm more annoyed by the way people use words in legal correspondence than with the language in contracts, pleadings, etc. I've finally caved and started using "Please advise status" or "please advise" with no object at all, but it still sets my teeth on edge. I'm less bothered by "Yours of February 10th," meaning "your letter," but it drives a friend of mine completely nuts.

And then there's just plain misuse. I've given up on ever convincing my boss that "Absent your response by March 10" cannot be the subject of a sentence.
Topic: people who don't know they're bad at writing.
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:08:31 PM
wordnerd: Yikes! That poor guy is an extreme example, but I do find that a lot of people have trouble internalizing grammar rules. They have to think about them consciously each time, or at least consciously build a habit. And the habit is by rote, without a solid understanding of why the rule works, so the result can't help being stilted.
Topic: "Untrue to salt?"
Posted: Monday, March 30, 2009 10:00:15 PM
I saw this subject line, and it reminded of the folktale Cap O'Rushes, in which the king's youngest daughter (in the same scenario as the opening scene of King Lear) tells her father she loves him "as meat loves salt." He reacts as poorly as Lear does to Cordelia's answer, which is pretty ungrateful considering the tale was being told in a time when salt was a necessity for preserving meat!

If that had still been the case when the "untrue to salt" phrase was borrowed into English, I wonder if it might be in wider use now?
Topic: use of poetic license.
Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:30:59 PM
prolixitysquared -- Your favorite has a term of its very own! It's called a portmanteau.

I think my personal favorite is intentionally using one part of speech for another. It's instant eccentricity that is still almost certain to be comprehensible to the audience. Shakespeare used it a lot, which makes it oddly appropriate that it's mostly the province of TV writers these days. My favorite recent example was in the Leverage pilot: Hardison's description of Parker as "twenty pounds of crazy in a five-pound sack."
Topic: people who don't know they're bad at writing.
Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:18:50 PM
A bit of Devil's Advocate here: Many excellent writers, including some of my favorites (as evidenced by their blog postings), have serious weaknesses in spelling and grammar. The people who are strong in those areas are good editors. Some people are both; some are not. I'm more inclined to judge those who are not by their wisdom in recognizing that they need editors to produce finished work.

As for spellcheck? One of those tools one has to use wisely. I hadn't heard the "buttbuttination" story before -- *splorfle!* -- but I've seen my share of head-scratchy forum substitutions. The old "The Bronze" posting board for Buffy fans substituted "cork" for "cock," resulting in the mangling of guest star Todd Babcock's name every time someone mentioned him.

And thanks to a certain boilerplate letter commonly used in my day job, I've wondered at least twice a week for the past five and half years why Microsoft Word thinks "progress" is plural.
Topic: Congratulations, you just killed the patient!
Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:08:58 PM
Oh, yes. I was staying away from the CPR pet peeve because it isn't a language thing, but I am right there with you! Invest in a dummy, people!

A friend once wondered aloud if they were avoiding liability by showing it wrong (in the same vein as MacGyver always leaving out at least one ingredient or step in things that would go *boom*). But if someone were to actually attempt CPR solely from what that saw on TV, they'd be pretty equally likely to cause injury either way.
Topic: Is there a missing word
Posted: Sunday, March 22, 2009 4:02:43 PM
I've generally heard the phrase as "...shout fire in a crowded theater," but I'm guessing the missing word you're looking for is "falsely." Oliver Wendell Holmes, in the (unanimous) majority opinion in Schenck v. United States, 1919.

Of course, the results are likely to be messy and injurious even if there is an actual fire, but nobody's likely to hold that against you. Angel
Topic: Congratulations, you just killed the patient!
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:30:49 PM
My mother is a nurse, and sitting with her to watch any TV show involving medical procedures is always entertaining. Mostly the indignant squawks or uproarious laughter come from the characters doing it wrong, but sometimes they're saying it wrong. Either the actors are mispronouncing the term, or the writers have misused it, or sometimes both!

I'm blanking on examples at the moment, of course, but I'm sure someone here has some. What's the funniest blunder you've ever heard a TV doctor make?
Topic: Counterintuitive computing terms
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:20:09 PM
"Right-click" seems to give a lot of people trouble. I think maybe it's because "right" and "left" are so completely associated with our hands, and of course everything we do with a mouse, we do with the right hand. So "the button on the right" isn't necessarily as obvious as it should be.

I've had one training situation where I had to make sure I used the "official" term that essentially nobody does: Referring to "worksheets" in Excel instead of "tabs." There was also a language complication, as the trainee was Deaf, and we were working in a combination of ASL and written notes (due to the rustiness of my ASL). So using the same English word to refer to both the worksheet tabs and the tab key, when she was trying digest a whole lot of new information, was a big headache. I had to remind myself every single time to refer to worksheets.

And then there are the intuitive terms people invent on their own. I'm fascinated by the office I've worked in for several years, where most say they "X out of" a window instead of closing it, but nobody seems to know where it started.
Topic: Prescriptivist or Descriptivist?
Posted: Tuesday, March 17, 2009 9:04:09 PM
krmiller, you beat me to it! (Meaning no offense to the OP.) Although my linguistics-student days are going on 20 years past, so I'm looking forward to more cool insights from you here.

I'm definitely a descriptivist: The rules of a language describe how it works. In a prescriptivist view, the rules tell you how you are allowed to use it.