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Thread: Really trivial stuff that bugs you

  1. #361
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I have to disagree here. True, in Latin, "datum" is singular and "data" is plural. But we're not speaking Latin, we're using one of many words that we appropriated from Latin (and other languages). In English "data" is generally treated as an uncountable noun, because that is how it works best.

    For similar reasons I don't have a problem with "spectrums" as a plural of "spectrum"
    I've never heard the term "spectrums," only spectra. Maybe "spectrums" hadn't penetrated into the engineering acoustics crowd that was in the neighboring cubicles. Maybe it's just cropped up in the past couple of years.
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  2. 2012-Aug-04, 11:22 AM

  3. #362
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    I'm afraid I do. This trend is attributable to ignorance of the language, and I think streamlining languages removes some colour.
    (My bold.) Which language? I'm aware that the plural of -um is -a in Latin, and the plural of -um is -ums in English (bums, chums, drums, tums); with some exceptions, the addition of an s or es is used to form plurals in English. But, repeating the point I made in #359, are we talking in Latin or English? I think it is sensible and practical to acknowledge that we have taken a foreign word and given it a specific meaning (which may or may not be its original foreign meaning) and, in effect, appropriated it as an English word. Therefore it's reasonable to expect it to follow English rules.

    "Café" is taken from the French. Is it okay to say, "I'll meet you at the café" or should we say "le café"? Similarly, "gateau". The French word means cakes in general, whereas we tend to use it to refer to an especially sumptuous cake. So, should the plural be "gateaus" or "gateaux"?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    What's wrong with having various ways of forming a plural?
    I said I don't have a problem with people using "spectrums" as a plural of "spectrum"; I did not say I had a problem with people using "spectra" as the plural. Similarly, I have no problem with "octopuses" or "octupi" [typo: I meant "octopi"], although an insistence on non-s plurals can sound affected.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    You seem to have a remarkably flexible attitude to English (which is merely an observation).
    In some ways yes, in other ways, no. As an English language teacher I have come to accept that there is no English standard that can be referred to in order to sort out arguments, and "correct" English is the one that people use to understand each other. English does evolve constantly; on the other hand I absolutely refuse to accept this as an excuse for errors that clearly are errors (the wrong "its/it's", "there/their/they're"; "physician/physicist", "inbreeding/interbreeding" and many, many more) that (at best) look clumsy and inelegant and (at worst) form a barrier to communication.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    Tell me this: a friend of mine once arrived late to dinner and excused himself with "sorry, the wife took far too long manicuring her toenails". When I laughed, he crossly accused me of being pedantic. Do you think I was?
    No I don't. Manicure and pedicure have precise meanings. If one is to use the more formal term for "clipping" they should use the correct one.

    Actually it reminds me of a story I read in which someone used an axe* to decapitate someone's legs. I believe that's called a howler.

    *Ax in the U.S.
    Last edited by Paul Beardsley; 2012-Aug-04 at 03:12 PM.

  4. #363
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    I've never heard the term "spectrums," only spectra. Maybe "spectrums" hadn't penetrated into the engineering acoustics crowd that was in the neighboring cubicles. Maybe it's just cropped up in the past couple of years.
    I think I remember an engineering lecturer writing it on the board in about 1983. By that time, Sir Clive Sinclair's ZX Spectrum was to be found in many homes, and they were generally called Spectrums in the plural.

  5. #364
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    Quote Originally Posted by Extravoice View Post
    On the topic of catapults, the term Pumpkin Chunkin' annoys me.

    Where I come from to "chuck" means to throw, so it should be "Pumpkin Chuckin'"

    Maybe Chunkin' has a meaning I'm missing, but my brain refuses accept the term as being correct (even if it rhymes).
    I guess that's an East Coast Problem. Out here, we have the Snohomish Pumpkin Hurl and the Burlington Pumpkin Pitch.

    ETA: Gee, I'm glad I looked up those links. Snohomish is a week earlier than I expected, leaving two weeks between events. That's making me a little worried about the availability of "ammunition"! But it does mean I'll have two weeks to fix anything I break.
    Last edited by Trebuchet; 2012-Aug-04 at 03:06 PM.
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  6. #365
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    (My bold.) Which language? .
    I meant English - I wasn't questioning your knowledge of Latin endings


    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I said I don't have a problem with people using "spectrums" as a plural of "spectrum"; I did not say I had a problem with people using "spectra" as the plural..
    I kind of assumed that you would only accept one form of plural. I personally don't see why there should be a choice.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Similarly, I have no problem with "octopuses" or "octupi", although an insistence on non-s plurals can sound affected...
    This is where it gets interesting (for some), because which ever way you look at it, 'octupi' is painfully wrong. It is taken directly from the Greek oktopous, which would have oktopodes as a plural, so there is no reason why it should have an -i ending. These different etymologies prevent any form of consistency, unless you accept a plural ending of all -us words to be -i just for simplicity. In which case you might as well accept all plurals to end in -s for even more simplicity. But I think the language loses something on the way. Again, I mean English.


    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    No I don't. Manicure and pedicure have precise meanings. If one is to use the more formal term for "clipping" they should use the correct one.

    Actually it reminds me of a story I read in which someone used an axe* to decapitate someone's legs. I believe that's called a howler.
    I'm glad you said that, and yes, nice howler.

  7. #366
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I think it is sensible and practical to acknowledge that we have taken a foreign word and given it a specific meaning (which may or may not be its original foreign meaning) and, in effect, appropriated it as an English word. Therefore it's reasonable to expect it to follow English rules.
    I agree completely. Although I would say: expect it can follow English rules (rather than must). We have enough irregular plurals (even from Anglo-Saxon) that introducing more isn't a problem (1). I suspect most words with accepted plural forms based on the original Latin or Greek were borrowed (2) when most literate people were familiar with the source language. Now that is no longer true, it is probably more likely that standard -s plurals will be used (3).

    (1) Panini as a singular used to grate on me. I had just about got over it until I saw paninies as the plural. eek.

    (2) Isn't it about time we gave them back?

    (3) One of the longest running and bitterest arguments on sci.lang.japan used to be whether the plural, in English, of kanji (a Sino-Japanese character) should be kanji (4) or kanjis (5)(6). Man, you should have seen those linguists go.

    (4) Based on the fact that Japanese doesn't mark plurals.

    (5) Based on the argument that it is being used as an English word.

    (6) Obviously, the correct plural is kanji.

  8. #367
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    I meant English - I wasn't questioning your knowledge of Latin endings
    So why do you think it should have a non-English ending?

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    I kind of assumed that you would only accept one form of plural. I personally don't see why there should be a choice.
    I don't particularly want a choice, I just don't have a problem with there being one. Just as some words have variant spellings - "story" or "storey" for floors of a building, for instance. But when a word is appropriated from another language, I think there is a tendency to treat it as a foreign word for an interim period - and since different people accept it at different times, there will be a (possibly long) period when some treat it as foreign, some treat it as English.

    We see a similar thing with new words introduced through technology. "e-mail" and "email", for instance. We accept "phone" as a verb meaning to call someone on the telephone now, but in some not-especially-old books, you see an apostrophe used in place of the "tele" - "Yes, I 'phoned him today."

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    This is where it gets interesting (for some), because which ever way you look at it, 'octupi' is painfully wrong.
    [Note, this was my misprint for "octopi".] I was taught that "octopi" was the correct plural...

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    It is taken directly from the Greek oktopous, which would have oktopodes as a plural, so there is no reason why it should have an -i ending.
    ...and I discovered today, as a result of this thread, that I was misinformed.

    Still, I generally don't have any reason to use the plural of "octopus". I've only ever been attacked by one octopus (in 2004, on a beach in Turkey). Of course, if I were ever to be attacked by another octopus, I would have to make a decision about plurals in order to tell people about it. Assuming I survived the encounter, of course.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    These different etymologies prevent any form of consistency, unless you accept a plural ending of all -us words to be -i just for simplicity. In which case you might as well accept all plurals to end in -s for even more simplicity. But I think the language loses something on the way. Again, I mean English.
    So should we stand up and challenge the lack of consistent plurals? Or should we just follow like sheeps?


    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    I'm glad you said that, and yes, nice howler.
    Thank you.

  9. #368
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    Footnotes that generate further footnotes sometimes bug me, sometimes amuse me, depending what mood I'm in and what's demanded of me at the time.

  10. #369
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    I teach astronomy informally and I prefer using the incorrect plurals:
    --nebulas
    --supernovas
    --planetariums

  11. #370
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    Nearly EVERY food advert featuring a pretty woman biting into something, or opening her mouth to take a bite of something.

    Sorry, I'm not a lesbian.

  12. #371
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    Quote Originally Posted by Buttercup View Post
    Sorry, I'm not a lesbian.
    Apology accepted. Grudgingly.

    <wink>

  13. #372
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    So why do you think it should have a non-English ending?
    Well, what is English? It is an accumulation derived from other languages, continually developing, so who is to say what an English ending is?


    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I don't particularly want a choice, I just don't have a problem with there being one. Just as some words have variant spellings - "story" or "storey" for floors of a building, for instance. But when a word is appropriated from another language, I think there is a tendency to treat it as a foreign word for an interim period - and since different people accept it at different times, there will be a (possibly long) period when some treat it as foreign, some treat it as English.
    Very good point.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    I've only ever been attacked by one octopus (in 2004, on a beach in Turkey).
    You might have liked to say "thank goodness it wasn't a whole team of octo...." There again, perhaps it would not have been advisable to use Greek endings in Turkey.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    [Note, this was my misprint for "octopi".] .
    I didn't notice the misprint, my spelling is terrible and I was concentrating on the endings. Oddly, I copied your typo.

    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    So should we stand up and challenge the lack of consistent plurals? Or should we just follow like sheeps?.
    Ah well, this is the real question. It is impossible to be entirely consistent unless we follow like sheeps. So some sensible compromise is needed. Since English grammar is descriptive, not prescriptive, I'm afraid we have little control.

    Your 'howler' brings up the issue of the fluidity of language. There was a time when 'a dilapidated wooden hut' would also have been a howler, but things moved on from having had stones removed and began to mean run down, ruined. Another example is the irritating 'decimated' which now seems to have taken on the meaning of reduced to 10%, instead of reduced by 10%, or both.

    How many people I wonder would say "The spaghetti have been boiling for 10 minutes"?

  14. #373
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    Well, what is English? It is an accumulation derived from other languages, continually developing, so who is to say what an English ending is?
    Well, given that nearly all plurals are -s or -es, it seems perverse to favour alternatives without a good reason.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    You might have liked to say "thank goodness it wasn't a whole team of octo...." There again, perhaps it would not have been advisable to use Greek endings in Turkey.
    But octopus is a Latin wor... oh, right!

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    Your 'howler' brings up the issue of the fluidity of language. There was a time when 'a dilapidated wooden hut' would also have been a howler, but things moved on from having had stones removed and began to mean run down, ruined.
    I didn't know that. I seem to be learning a lot on this thread.

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    Another example is the irritating 'decimated' which now seems to have taken on the meaning of reduced to 10%, instead of reduced by 10%, or both.
    I had an idea of doing a cartoon featuring 10 Roman soldiers. Eight are looking ashen-faced, one is dead and bleeding on the ground, and one is looking very cheerful, saying, "Hey, this decimation is nowhere near as bad as I was led to believe!"

    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    How many people I wonder would say "The spaghetti have been boiling for 10 minutes"?
    I don't know how many of my students could handle the present perfect continuous passive without knowing "spaghetti" is uncountable.

  15. #374
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    Well, given that nearly all plurals are -s or -es, it seems perverse to favour alternatives without a good reason.
    In general the reason is that they've been introduced recent enough that they're still foreign words.

    Which should by extrapolation mean that for every foreign import there will come a time when -s/-es is the correct plural.
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  16. #375
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    Well, what is English? It is an accumulation derived from other languages, continually developing, so who is to say what an English ending is?
    ...
    How many people I wonder would say "The spaghetti have been boiling for 10 minutes"?
    Once I told soneone "Uh, you seem to have a spaghettum hanging from your chin," and he was still put off.

  17. #376
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    Quote Originally Posted by DonM435 View Post
    Once I told soneone "Uh, you seem to have a spaghettum hanging from your chin," and he was still put off.
    You might have tried the correct singular, spaghetto, which would probably have made no difference. <grin>

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    People who yawn with vocal sounds (groaning, moaning, etc.). In other words, "Oh, I'm so tired. I have to really complain so have pity for me" - give me a break and keep your yawns to yourself - I'm not interested or even care!

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    If anyone is expecting grammar arbitration from Gillian, you'll have to wait until tomorrow evening, as she's currently out standing in someone's field. Along with lots of other folks. I went down and said "Hi" this morning!

    In the "stuff that bugs you" department: How can you have all that lovely medieval stuff and not a single trebuchet?
    Last edited by Trebuchet; 2012-Aug-04 at 11:25 PM. Reason: Misspelled "trebuchet"! How on earth could I do that?
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by HenrikOlsen View Post
    In general the reason is that they've been introduced recent enough that they're still foreign words.

    Which should by extrapolation mean that for every foreign import there will come a time when -s/-es is the correct plural.
    I don't know. We still have words like oxen and children, among many other irregular plurals that have survived for hundreds of years.

  21. #380
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    Quote Originally Posted by Strange View Post
    I don't know. We still have words like oxen and children, among many other irregular plurals that have survived for hundreds of years.
    You mean oxes and childs. Horrifyingly, Firefox's spellchecker did not flag "oxes."

    I'm still trying to figure out what to call one member of the genus Bos without knowing whether it's young (calf), female that has not been bred (heifer), female that has been bred (cow), male (bull), or castrated male (steer). One cattle just seems so wrong ;-)
    Information about American English usage here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

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  22. #381
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    You mean oxes and childs. Horrifyingly, Firefox's spellchecker did not flag "oxes."

    I'm still trying to figure out what to call one member of the genus Bos without knowing whether it's young (calf), female that has not been bred (heifer), female that has been bred (cow), male (bull), or castrated male (steer). One cattle just seems so wrong ;-)
    If you hire some men to ride on horses and herd those assorted critters, they're never calf-boys, heifer-boys, bull-boys, or steer-boys. Just cowboys. Therefore "cow" is good enough for me.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    If you hire some men to ride on horses and herd those assorted critters, they're never calf-boys, heifer-boys, bull-boys, or steer-boys. Just cowboys. Therefore "cow" is good enough for me.
    So what do you call cattle herders who do a shoddy job? Are they cowboy cowboys?

  24. #383
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    Quote Originally Posted by swampyankee View Post
    One cattle just seems so wrong
    That's because 'cattle' is a plurale tantum. I find it trivially annoying that there is no epicene word for the species.

  25. #384
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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    That's because 'cattle' is a plurale tantum. I find it trivially annoying that there is no epicene word for the species.
    Probably one of those words lost when the French (Guillaume le Conquerant was French, in the same way that Rudy Giuliani is American) conquered England.
    Information about American English usage here. Floating point issues? Please read this before posting.

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  26. #385
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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Therefore "cow" is good enough for me.
    And me. It's unusual for the female word for an animal to become the generic term.

    And, of course, the plural of cow is kine.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    You might have tried the correct singular, spaghetto, which would probably have made no difference. <grin>
    What can I say? I don't know Italian, so I went back to Latin.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Perikles View Post
    You might have tried the correct singular, spaghetto, which would probably have made no difference. <grin>
    So what's the singular for pasta in general? Pastum? Pasto? Noodle? The latter is probably what I'd have used for the one hanging on someone's chin!

    My definition of the difference between noodles and pasta: Poor folks and Asians eat noodles. Better-off folks and Europeans eat pasta.
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

  29. #388
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    Quote Originally Posted by Paul Beardsley View Post
    So what do you call cattle herders who do a shoddy job? Are they cowboy cowboys?
    You seem to be using "cowboy" as a pejorative. Them's fightin' words 'round these parts, pardner!
    Cum catapultae proscriptae erunt tum soli proscript catapultas habebunt.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    So what's the singular for pasta in general? .
    pasta is a singular, from the Latin for dough. Lots of feminine singular Latin words end in -a

    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    You seem to be using "cowboy" as a pejorative.
    That's quite normal in the UK, where we are at a safe distance from the real ones.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Trebuchet View Post
    Better-off folks and Europeans eat pasta.
    I'm European and I'm not exactly poor but I don't eat pasta because I loathe it.

    You needed to know that, didn't you?

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