Per Again

The most common type of persons who make this mistake are ones who want to be formal, but don’t know how to do it right, so they do it wrong, and end up being pretentious instead of formal.

Don’t write “as per”!!! It’s wrong! It’s a pretentiousism. Harrumpf.

Here’s the comic. Comics are a good place for this poor grammar, and it fits rather well into this guy’s persona.

Sally Forth - 12/26/2017

He had so many ways to say this correctly: according to, in line with, as we traditionally do, as usual; even just end the sentence after “Thanksgiving.”

 

 

My Email got into the Funnies!

‘Nuff said. It’s the holidays.

Barney and Clyde for Dec 23.

I am kind of a party pooper, so I googled “derivation of curmudgeon.” Here’s what I got:

curmudgeon. 1570s, of unknown origin; the suggestion, based on a misreading of a garbled note from Johnson, that it is from French coeur mechant “evil heart” is not taken seriously; the first syllable may be cur “dog.”

Who, not whom!

You can pretty easily find grammar posts that tell you to use “whom” when your instinct tells you to use “who.” These mainly contain dire warnings about direct objects and objects of prepositions.

Well, sometimes the word in question isn’t an object, it’s a subject! Take a look at this Hi and Lois, last panel:

Hi and Lois - 12/23/2017

Does that sixth grade English teacher in you tell you it should be “whom”? I hope not, because “who” is correct!

Let’s analyze the sentence. First, look at the verbs:

  • think (okay, “do think,” but you can ignore the “do.” “Do” just makes it emphatic.)
  • asked
  • to fill
  • gets

Wow! Four verbs! Not bad for a sentence in a comic. Now, figure out which words are the subjects of those verbs:

  • you think
  • ? asked
  • me to fill (subjects of infinitives are in the objective case. See an earlier post.)
  • he gets

The only possible candidate is who, so don’t be afraid to use “who” when it’s a subject.

Counting to Two

Some words imply two of something. “Pair,” and “second,” for example. And we say “lesser of two evils.” You can be between two things, but if you you have more than two, you are among them.

A few other words imply two-ness and sometimes we get them wrong. Here’s an example:

Some puzzles require a mind for math, others a keen eye. Then there are brainteasers that are so nonsensical the biggest challenge is saying them with a straight face. The “cows and chickens” riddle falls into the latter group.

That next-to-last word should be “last.” “Latter” means “second of two,” and he’s got three types of riddle here.

The rule: count both your blessings only if you have two of them, and use the right word when you do have exactly two of something.

PS—”nonsensical” should have a comma after it.

Commas at the Beginning

You might find this post boring. It’s a straight-out grammar lesson.

Here are the rules:

  • Separate interjections (such as “However, …”) and direct address (someone’s name or title) from the sentence with a comma.
  • Separate an introductory clause from the rest of the sentence with a comma.
  • Separate an introductory prepositional phrase from the rest of the sentence if it contains five or more words.
  • Some common shorter prepositional phrases, such as “for example,” get the comma, too. This rule is flexible. If you have a short prepositional phrase, and it feels as if it needs a comma, go for it.

Okay, take a look at this:

However, the Coppersmith’s algorithm allows quite a lot of flexibility. Tom, you can’t do that!

Easy enough. Now how about this one:

To speed up the prime number generation, smart card manufacturers implement various optimisations.

(British spelling. Ignore that). The sentence starts with “to.” Prepositional phrase, right? Well, no. It’s actually an infinitive. Infinitives are verbs. If it has a verb, it’s a clause. So I could rewrite this as:

To speed things up, smart card manufacturers implement various optimisations.

Fewer than five words, still gets the comma. If fact, look at a sentence I just wrote:

If it has a verb, it’s a clause.

“Has” is a verb, so you have a clause. A lot of introductory clauses start with words like “if” and “when.” We call them introductory adverbs. In fact, if you got rid of that introductory adverb, you’d have a complete sentence, which requires a period, not a comma. If you write:

It has a verb, it’s a clause.

Get rid of that comma! Use a period! Two independent sentences separated by a comma is called a comma splice, and that’s a no-no.

Sorry—it’s pretty hard to find a comic about commas.

PS—Wouldn’t you know! I ran into one at Saturday Morning Breakfast Cereal:

Correct Use of the Subjunctive

We use the subjunctive when we want to express something contrary to reality. (Greek has a mood called the optative, which is a step farther back than the subjunctive; it expresses a wish. In English we would say something like “would that I were dead”—but I digress.) Okay, this being contrary to reality poses a problem for this guy, in a way, and therein lies the humor.

(This is Scary Gary (the vampire on the left) for May 2, 2017.)

Owen the ghost feels alive, so for him, being dead is contrary to reality, hence the subjunctive. The humor, of course, is in his misinterpretation of Gary’s question. But his grammar is perfect.

What I’d like to know is how Gary can balance a full coffee cup on the arm of an overstuffed sofa.

Quantum Mechanics in a Grammar Post?

Well, sort of. Really it’s about Latin plurals.

I’m learning that people prefer these posts to be short and (heh) sweet. Grammar does tend to get complicated at times, so I’ll try not to put so much, um, content into my posts.

Here’s a really short one about quantum mechanics, that should be doable, right?

Here’s the quote, from an article in This Day in History:

Planck’s theory held that radiant energy is made up of particle-like components, known as “quantum.”

Alas, the writer got his Latin plural wrong. The sentence should end with “quanta.” “Quanta” is like “data” and “criteria.” Those are plurals, and their singulars are “quantum,” “datum,” and “criterion.”

How’s that for short—only quantum mechanics and Latin plurals.

A Tiny Typographical Trick

You know what an x looks like, right? Among other things, it often signifies closing something; that’s why you see one in the upper right corners of a lot of computer windows.  But x’s have another common use that’s incorrect! Incorrect of you know the trick, anyway.

Many houses are built at least partly out of 2×4 lumber, right? You said “two by four” when you read that, right?

I hate to tell you this, (Actually, I’m delighted to tell you this. It’s the whole point of this post.) but that’s not supposed to be an x between the 2 and the 4. It’s supposed to be a times sign! (Multiplication symbol if you want to be fancy.) This is a pretty common mistake. Even the guru of computer security, Bruce Schneier has made it at least once. I quote:

Tracking clients embed a line of code in the body of an email­ — usually in a 1×1 pixel image, so tiny it’s invisible, but also in elements like hyperlinks and custom fonts.

We have a pretty good excuse: They typical keyboard doesn’t have a key for the times sign. Herein lies your trick:

Hold down the Alt key and type 0215 on the numeric keypad. Release the Alt key. There’s your times sign!

Now you can have typographically correct lumber, dimensions, and equations. Go for it.

An Entirely Grammar-Driven Comic

Dan Dougherty said it all; I don’t need to say anything. Um, you do know the difference between “may” and “can,” right?

The lesson: Be careful about correcting others’ English.

Good Old Like and As

“Like” and “as” are easy to get mixed up. It doesn’t help a lot to say that “as” is an adverb and “like” is a preposition. Too complicated. You might find it easier to remember, perhaps, that “as” goes with verbs, and “like” goes with nouns and pronouns.

Here’s a guy who sounds right both times, uses two different constructions, and we understand him, but he’s wrong! Take a look at the second panel in the Dec 9, 2017 edition of Mr. Fitz:

“Think like I do” sounds right. That’s because you have the verb “do,” that goes with “I.” But technically, it should be “think as I do.” By the way, it’s a good idea to include that “do” in this sort of construction; doing so removes ambiguity.

Then he hauls off and says, “think like me.” And that also sounds correct! It sounds correct because “like” feels like a preposition with that “me” all by itself after it. Well, “like” is a preposition. But he’s modifying a verb (think) with an adjective phrase. That’s a no-no. Take the book title “Black Like Me.” The color, black, an adjective, goes with the pronoun “me.” That’s correct. If he had said “a thinker like me,” since “thinker” is a noun, he would be correct, at least grammatically.

Heavy-duty grammar lesson today. Sorry.