Pet Peeve Day Three

My peevishness is aroused when people use transitive verbs as if they were intransitive, particularly “display” and “complete.”

Enough jargon. Here’s a definition by example:

When you display, you display something. When you complete, you complete something.

Back to jargon: That word “something” is called a direct object, and transitive verbs always have one. Intransitive verbs don’t have to have one: you can think, you can suppose, you can walk, you can appear or disappear (in a puff of smoke, perhaps), all without having to put something after them. That’s intransitive.

Here’s an article where they (The National Oceanography Centre in the UK) do it wrong in the headline, then do it right in the article (with a different verb, but you get the point):

The COMICS expedition completes

The COMICS team  The first COMICS expedition reached a conclusion just before Christmas, having collected a great data set on biological carbon in the Ocean’s twilight zone.

I suppose we grammar curmudgeons will have to get used to this solecism, especially the one with “display,” because computer instructions are so common. But when you press Enter, the window doesn’t display, it appears!

Harrumpf.

 

Pet Peeve of the Day: Prior

Priority is when something has to come first because of importance or its place in a series of steps. For example, “my wife has a prior claim on my affections.”

If all you mean is earlier of before, say that. Here’s an example of this misuse of prior. Two, actually:

Using our system, we detect anti-adblockers on 30.5% of the Alexa top-10K websites which is 5-52 times more than reported in prior literature. Unlike prior work which is limited to detecting visible reactions (e.g., warning messages) by anti-adblockers, our system can discover attempts to detect adblockers even when there is no visible reaction.

All they mean is earlier. I’m pretty sure these folks aren’t suggesting that the earlier literature and work are more important or ought to be read first.

Should I also mention their misuse of “which” when they should use “that”?  Nah, I already covered that.

Academics can be so pretentious. Harrumph.

Pet Peeves Make for Easy Posts

My pet peeve for today, class, it the phrase “glossary of terms.”

A glossary is always of terms, so adding “of terms” is unnecessary (read “redundant”). You may, however, use “terms” if you include a limiting adjective. You might say “glossary of unnecessary terms,” for instance.

I like the strip Pajama Diaries. Once a month, though, Terri Libenson makes me cringe with her once-a-month series of that title. Here’s the latest:

If you care to see the whole series, here’s a link to them all. I think.

And “glossary” all by itself is just fine. Harrumpf.

PS: Did you notice that I repeated myself in that sentence just ahead of the comic? I don’t normally do that (it’s redundant), but it was a good chance to use the phrase “once a month” both as a compound adjective, and not.

 

 

What we did Before TV and Radio

We read! (Okay, we talked, and played music, too.) And since the language itself was a large part of the entertainment, and we had the time to reflect on what we read, the writing could afford to be rather more complicated (or tedious) than we’re willing to tolerate in our faster-paced world.

When I started reading this comic, I figured I’d go get my copy of Milton and quote a few sentences as examples, but I see I don’t need to to give you the idea. Besides, I quoted some other elderly English several posts back.

Wanna try your hand at a sentence like that?

A Poem I Enjoy

Seems everybody is gloomy and pessimistic about the state of our culture. I first ran into this poem more than 50 years ago. (I suppose I ought to add a verse of my own, eh?) I ran into a couple variations of it; I think it dates to the early 1900’s. Okay, I thought about it. The first two lines are mine. (My grandad was president of the National Livestock Exchange.)

My granddad, with his livestock hogs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad, viewing earth’s worn cogs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in his house of logs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in the Flemish bogs.
Said things were going to the dogs;
His granddad in his old skin togs,
Said things were going to the dogs;
So here’s one thing I have to state –
Those dogs have had a good long wait!

So don’t give up!

Correct, but not Good

Many people write perfectly grammatical sentences that aren’t very good. Unnecessary words, modifiers out of place, that sort of thing. Here’s a (ahem) good example. Look at the item about the pencil:

Believe it or Not has long been a favorite of mine, and I don’t often find solecisms in it. This sentence has two!

Here’s the sentence:

The metal sleeve on a pencil, which holds the eraser, is called the ferrule

  • First, the comma before “which” is correct. But the remark is not an aside! They should have written “the metal sleeve on a pencil that holds the eraser…”
  • Also, they got things in the wrong order. The pencil engineering is more accurate if you say “The metal sleeve that holds the eraser on a pencil…”

Smoother, now, isn’t it?

Can Anything be More Important than Good Spelling?

Well, according to Perry Bible Fellowship, the Orca thinks not…

Unless the cartoonist is suggesting that reality is more important than spelling. On closer examination I see the Orca got the whole group of penguins, not just the lecturer. Hmm.

Two comics about spelling in one day! How can I resist???

By the way, don’t trust your spell checker a whole lot.

Why But?

English has a type of word called  a coordinating conjunction. Coordinating conjunctions go between two parts of a sentence, and they imply that the two parts are more or less equivalent, at least grammatically. You know coordinating conjunctions as “and” and “but.”

“But” is interesting because it connects the two things and implies some kind of opposition between the two things. For example,

I am sick, but I don’t think I’m contagious.

We think of contagiousness as going with sickness, so the sentence uses “but” to contradict this usual circumstance.

If I may digress a bit, I attended a sales class once in which the instructor said to avoid using but, because it’s negative.

It’s a fine encyclopedia, but it’s inexpensive.

should be

It’s a fine encyclopedia, and it’s inexpensive.

Hmm. Try getting rid of some buts and see how it feels. (It feels funny, but/and interesting.)

And that leads to my intended object lesson for this post, compliments of Curtis, which hinges on the kid ignoring the implied contradiction between corniness and the feeling of love in his dad’s statement, which definitely needs the but.

The lesson: Pay attention to your buts.

Another Wrong Word

I see this goof often enough that I think we’re going to lose this battle, (but if you write anything the least bit expository (you know—when you explain something (which this blog is about, after all))) you should use the correct word, regardless of what everybody else does. (Okay, I could have written a less convoluted sentence there, but I thought it would be fun to nest a couple parentheses.)

Anyway, the bad word is nauseous. At least it is when you mean nauseated.

Piranha Club - 12/27/2017

The rule: nauseous means you (or something) makes people want to throw up. Nauseated means you (or someone) feels like throwing up.

Don’t be nauseous to us who know better! We don’t like to feel nauseated!

 

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.”