English language peeves

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woodenhand
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Re: English language peeves

Post by woodenhand » Sun Sep 24, 2017 9:05 pm

When I looked at my news feed this morning, I was assaulted by this headline: "Are Americans Eating Healthy?" We seem to have a severe shortage (oops, should I say "massive shortage"?) of literate journalists and editors. Because "healthy" is functioning as an adjective, the least they could have done is change it to "healthily," if such a word exists. Of course it should be "healthfully."

Rasputin
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Sun Sep 24, 2017 11:06 pm

Because it's functioning as an adverb, you mean - I certainly used to get peeved by 'play nice' on that basis, but have softened a bit, and in fact have come to think that it is not necessarily functioning as an adverb. There was something about this in a book I was browsing - I think it was The Sense of Style by Steven Pinker, who is a big deal in the world of linguistics.

I often pass a sign that reads 'Think safe, work safe'. I have not made my mind up about that one. It definitely shouldn't be 'Think safely', which would mean 'make sure you do your thinking in a safe way'. I suppose you could argue for 'Think safety', but it sounds very stilted to me. I think 'Think safe' is probably right and is like 'act bad', which is correct and does not mean the same thing as 'act badly'. Same for 'feel bad' - I hate it when this is wrongly corrected to 'feel badly'. 'Work safe' is more difficult though and raises the same issue as 'eat healthy'. I think both turn out to be correct even though the high school analysis would say they are wrong. I only wish I could remember the details of what Pinker was saying.

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lagartija
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Re: English language peeves

Post by lagartija » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:45 am

Oh well... :roll: that will teach me not to make such a post using my phone. :lol: Sometimes I miss the "corrections" made by the predictive text function.
Sorry, poor proofreading on my part. I guess I don't get the job either. :-)

I think your analogy of language being like a garden is a very good one. However, some of us, myself included, seem to be tending it using very old and sometimes very rusty tools. That is why this thread exists. As we age and the language changes around us, we resist the breaking of old familiar rules and conventions. That is what leads to a list of peeves. A linguist might just accept the new usage as part of the life of a language, but I might find the new usage odd and not understand what was meant the first time I hear it.
The first time someone said to me, "I have a big ask", I thought I could not have heard the complete word that they really said. They have a big ...what? Task? My mind tried to fill in words that would make a familiar sentence. That sentence standing alone did not give sufficient context. After they followed it with a request that I do something, I realized what they meant and what word they used. You can judge me as slow to take up some of the changes, if you wish. I find it difficult to understand some text messages with things like 'gr8' in them, so perhaps the conventions and rules are there to help people like me.

Rasputin wrote:
Sun Sep 24, 2017 8:07 pm
Not what I said... I said that when we can, we should take off the straitjacket of rules are believed to exist but don't really, and even rules that do exist but shouldn't. I didn't say that we should ditch all the rules and go around naked.
Like it or not, your knowledge of language and its conventions is used to judge your level of education and ability to communicate effectively with others. If you are applying for a job where you would be expected to communicate with others, then your cover letter and resume becomes the sample representing your skill.
Yes, and it will be judged according to the recipient's understanding of the rules, which is why it is important be very conservative in this kind of situation, as I said. It could even be that you have to make deliberate errors sometimes to avoid being harshly judged. Imagine I was applying to you for a job and needed to use the word 'straitjacket'...
To make up my own rules about spelling and grammar would not be seen as "creativity", it would have been unprofessional.
Yes. Also, no-one would have known what you meant.
The rules and conventions of a language exist for a reason, and that reason is unambiguous communication.
You seem to be reasoning from the fact that unambiguous communication requires rules and conventions to the conclusion that all existing rules and conventions actually serve that purpose, but if so, that's false logic. The rules and conventions that do exist have not been designed by some infallible linguist - they have developed organically over a very long time. What I was saying is that if we care about our language it is important to tend the garden a bit and play our part in getting rid of the weeds and the dead wood. That doesn't mean torching it. In any case, many of the rules and conventions discussed in this thread don't really exist at all - they are perceived to exist by a substantial number but are not recognised in grammars or style guides. If we are conscientious gardeners we should be trying - except in the rare case where the made-up rule would actually be a good thing - to prevent these from taking root. Call out spurious peeves!
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Rasputin
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:17 am

lagartija wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:45 am
Oh well... :roll: that will teach me not to make such a post using my phone. :lol: Sometimes I miss the "corrections" made by the predictive text function.
Sorry, poor proofreading on my part. I guess I don't get the job either. :-)
:lol:
The first time someone said to me, "I have a big ask", I thought I could not have heard the complete word that they really said. They have a big ...what? Task? My mind tried to fill in words that would make a familiar sentence.
I know what you mean. I've had that reaction to things but in some cases it just needed a bit of processing and I eventually embraced them.

In the UK people will use 'a big ask' as an equivalent of 'a lot to ask', e.g.

'Recovering from that first leg defeat was always going to be a big ask, but they can go home knowing they gave it everything they had.'

I think this fair enough because it is just a form of nominalisation and there is no existing word which means quite the same thing as the nominalised 'ask'.

Once accepted in that construction, the nominalised form is bound to escape into the wild and turn up in all sorts of other places.

If I had first come across it in a sentence like 'excuse me, I have an ask', I would have processed it as meaning 'question' and my reaction would have been one of peevishness. I don't like it at all when perfectly good words are replaced with others that mean exactly the same thing. It's pointless and seems childish somehow, like a play language. On the other hand when nominalisation gives us new words that do have a different shade of meaning, I think it's a good thing. That seems to be the case here, at least going by UK usage. Does it mean the same thing in the States?

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Re: English language peeves

Post by Jeffrey Armbruster » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:37 am

"I don't like it at all when perfectly good words are replaced with others that mean exactly the same thing. It's pointless and seems childish somehow, like a play language"

I wonder if there's something else here too. People who use this sort of language are usually self-identifying with others who also speak this way. My guess is it's mostly young people. "We have a different way of speaking that's creative and breaks the rules". This is grammatical slang, if you will. After a while, it may seem like a tic, and become annoying. "I have a big ask" will date the speaker eventually, and seem so 2016. "If you know what I mean".
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Rasputin
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:10 am

Yes, that's exactly why I don't like it - but I was suggesting that 'I have a big ask' may not be in that category. In fact I see it has made it into the Collins online dictionary, which defines it as:

British, Australian and New Zealand informal
a task which is difficult to fulfil

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Re: English language peeves

Post by Mickmac » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:02 am

My pet peeve is when people (usually politicians) say "refute" when they mean "reject".

e.g. "I refute that allegation."

To refute something you need proof.

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Andrew Fryer
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Andrew Fryer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:10 am

I hate the expression "let's be honest" when no-one was being dishonest.
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lagartija
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Re: English language peeves

Post by lagartija » Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:15 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:10 am
Yes, that's exactly why I don't like it - but I was suggesting that 'I have a big ask' may not be in that category. In fact I see it has made it into the Collins online dictionary, which defines it as:

British, Australian and New Zealand informal
a task which is difficult to fulfil
When I first heard the expression here in the Eastern US, "ask" was replacing "request" in the context of the situation. Surprisingly, it was uttered not by a young person, but someone of my own age group who works with children. :shock: I don't know if she was influenced by the speech of the children, or she was now teaching them this usage of the word. Was this a case of someone who was a caretaker of children using "baby talk" so that her charges would understand and it entered her language with adults? I don't know. I only know that it sounded like she was addressing toddlers and not adults.
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Rasputin
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:49 pm

Mickmac wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:02 am
My pet peeve is when people (usually politicians) say "refute" when they mean "reject".

e.g. "I refute that allegation."

To refute something you need proof.
I hate that too, but when I looked it up a good while back I found out that 'refute' can just mean 'reject'. It is a typical politician's answer because it sounds as though they are saying they can demonstrate the other person is wrong, but if it comes to it they can say they only ever meant they disagreed.

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pogmoor
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Re: English language peeves

Post by pogmoor » Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:51 pm

Rasputin wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:49 pm
Mickmac wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 8:02 am
My pet peeve is when people (usually politicians) say "refute" when they mean "reject".

e.g. "I refute that allegation."

To refute something you need proof.
I hate that too, but when I looked it up a good while back I found out that 'refute' can just mean 'reject'. It is a typical politician's answer because it sounds as though they are saying they can demonstrate the other person is wrong, but if it comes to it they can say they only ever meant they disagreed.
Nobody seems to use the word 'rebut' these days - this seems to me to be the word required instead of the incorrect use of "refute".
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Andrew Fryer
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Andrew Fryer » Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:51 pm

rebut, refute, reject
This was mentioned in my MA induction workshop. I forget what conclusion we reached, lol.

A similar thing is the idiocy you get on the internet, thus: -

"A DESTROOOOOOOOOOOOOYS B".

What that usually means is, the conversation went like this: -
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
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Rasputin
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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:17 pm

Andrew Fryer wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 4:51 pm
A similar thing is the idiocy you get on the internet, thus: -

"A DESTROOOOOOOOOOOOOYS B".

What that usually means is, the conversation went like this: -
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
B: "blah blah blah"
A: "No, you're wrong"
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pogmoor wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 3:51 pm
Rasputin wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 2:49 pm


I hate that too, but when I looked it up a good while back I found out that 'refute' can just mean 'reject'. It is a typical politician's answer because it sounds as though they are saying they can demonstrate the other person is wrong, but if it comes to it they can say they only ever meant they disagreed.
Nobody seems to use the word 'rebut' these days - this seems to me to be the word required instead of the incorrect use of "refute".
Well, some of us do. Anyway is not incorrect to use 'refute' in this sense, just that it can also mean 'reject'. The Merriam Webster definition for example is:

1 :to prove wrong by argument or evidence :show to be false or erroneous
2 :to deny the truth or accuracy of refuted the allegations

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Re: English language peeves

Post by Rasputin » Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:31 pm

lagartija wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:15 pm
When I first heard the expression here in the Eastern US, "ask" was replacing "request" in the context of the situation. Surprisingly, it was uttered not by a young person, but someone of my own age group who works with children. :shock: I don't know if she was influenced by the speech of the children, or she was now teaching them this usage of the word. Was this a case of someone who was a caretaker of children using "baby talk" so that her charges would understand and it entered her language with adults? I don't know. I only know that it sounded like she was addressing toddlers and not adults.
The Cambridge online dictionary definition is:

a big ask

informal
something you ask someone to do that will be difficult for them:
It's a big ask, I know, but we need the project finished by June.

That's nearer to the one I came up with and seems to be the sense in which it was being used in your example. I had wondered if it was a parallel development, but actually I think it is a case of commonwealth English being used in the States. I think it just seemed as though it must have come from the kids because you weren't aware that it was used quite commonly in other parts of the world. I did find an example from a Chicago paper talking about a UN summit which was held there in (I think) 2012, and example to do with US sports - which would seem to support that.

I don't think it can be that new or it wouldn't be common to the UK, Australia and NZ, and it probably wouldn't be down in both dictionaries as informal rather than slang... so this peeve comes down to the fact that you speak a global language.

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lagartija
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Re: English language peeves

Post by lagartija » Mon Sep 25, 2017 9:46 pm

One of my favorite language sites is Wordreference.com. It is an international translators' forum and I usually use it for Spanish, but I noticed that in the English section they have a thread on the phrase 'big ask". I see that as recently as 2016, I'm not the only person in the US unfamiliar with the phrase. :-)
Rasputin wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 7:31 pm
lagartija wrote:
Mon Sep 25, 2017 12:15 pm
When I first heard the expression here in the Eastern US, "ask" was replacing "request" in the context of the situation. Surprisingly, it was uttered not by a young person, but someone of my own age group who works with children. :shock: I don't know if she was influenced by the speech of the children, or she was now teaching them this usage of the word. Was this a case of someone who was a caretaker of children using "baby talk" so that her charges would understand and it entered her language with adults? I don't know. I only know that it sounded like she was addressing toddlers and not adults.
The Cambridge online dictionary definition is:

a big ask

informal
something you ask someone to do that will be difficult for them:
It's a big ask, I know, but we need the project finished by June.

That's nearer to the one I came up with and seems to be the sense in which it was being used in your example. I had wondered if it was a parallel development, but actually I think it is a case of commonwealth English being used in the States. I think it just seemed as though it must have come from the kids because you weren't aware that it was used quite commonly in other parts of the world. I did find an example from a Chicago paper talking about a UN summit which was held there in (I think) 2012, and example to do with US sports - which would seem to support that.

I don't think it can be that new or it wouldn't be common to the UK, Australia and NZ, and it probably wouldn't be down in both dictionaries as informal rather than slang... so this peeve comes down to the fact that you speak a global language.
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