Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Talk about things that are not necessarily related to music or the guitar.
User avatar
pogmoor
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9748
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:55 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by pogmoor » Thu May 09, 2019 10:34 am

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 10:45 pm
Does that help clarify that usage of "that"? It is actually extremely common, I think. Or, should I say, "it really is THAT common for people to use "that" as an adverb in the way that I have just explained!".
I'd agree with that for UK English - although my guess is it varies by region and educational level.
Eric from GuitarLoot
Renaissance and Baroque freak; classical guitars by Lester Backshall (2008), Ramirez (Guitarra del Tiempo 2017),
Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

gitgeezer
Posts: 2514
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by gitgeezer » Thu May 09, 2019 12:27 pm

I was never a fan of William Buckley, but I had to agree with him on one occasion. When he was invited to give the commencement address at Vassar, a student protest erupted that resulted in the withdrawal of the invitation. The controversy generated a great deal of written opinion in the Vassar newspaper, including this one from a Vassar professor of English:

“It was Buckley who offered pridefully in those days the cast of mind and insinuating attitudes toward academics which intellectually veneered the crudities of Joe McCarthy, and in so doing, fueled ‘McCarthyism’ at its most virulent pitch with respect to the academic community.”

Buckley's response:

“That the man who composed that sentence should be teaching English at Vassar rather than studying it suggests that Vassar has much, much deeper problems than coming up with a suitable Commencement speaker.”

musicbyandy
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:53 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by musicbyandy » Thu May 09, 2019 2:19 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Wed May 08, 2019 10:45 pm
musicbyandy wrote:
Tue Apr 30, 2019 8:16 pm
...I didn't ask my coworkers what is meant by the expression, "That's not that many." despite me often being confused by this usage of the word "THAT"....
In this instance, the word "that" (the second one, "...not that many") is being used as an adverb. When "that" is used as an adverb, it means: to such a degree; so. In other words, it expresses a relation of degree to the subject that it modifies (in this instance, "many [pieces of pizza]" is being modified). When "not" precedes "that" used as an adverb, it indicates a lesser degree.

Therefore, when your coworker said, "That's not that many [pieces of pizza]", what he or she meant was something like, "That's not very much pizza."

If "not" is not used, then "that" indicates a greater degree of the word it modifies, so that if you said, "It is that many", you would mean "It is a huge amount of pizza!".

Often, when a person speaks this word out loud (the adverbial "that"), they emphasize the word: "It isn't THAT bad", or, "Oh yes, it is THAT bad!!". When this emphasis is used, the person is often making a point to contradict whatever another person has just said: in your example, you were suggesting that you'd eaten too much pizza and should not be running around, but your coworker disagreed with your assessment, and suggested that it wasn't very much pizza at all, and you shouldn't worry about it.

Does that help clarify that usage of "that"? It is actually extremely common, I think. Or, should I say, "it really is THAT common for people to use "that" as an adverb in the way that I have just explained!".
In the past, I have expressed my confusion with the word "that". Your explanation is consistent with other explanations I have received.

Despite such explanations, I'm afraid I don't understand how "that" can function as an adverb. My understanding is "that" is a pronoun taking the place of something. I cannot understand how in the expression "that's not THAT much pizza." how can THAT mean so much as, "isn't much pizza and you should't worry about two slices of pizza interfering with your digestion."

On the occasion when I say something like:

Me: I'm full.
Person: How much did you eat?
Me: I ate two slices of pizza.
Person: Two slices isn't that much.
I reply: How much is two slices? I then hope the person will clarify how much is two slices.
Or I say: I don't understand what you mean by, "Two slices isn't that much." Two slices is two slices, neither more nor less.

In this scenario, if the person is using "that" to express "Two slices isn't a quantity of pizza conducive to being full" - I find "that" to be a confusing word to express such sentiment.

"When "not" precedes "that" used as an adverb, it indicates a lesser degree." I feel like "not" could theoretically indicate a greater degree in addition to a lesser degree.
Last edited by musicbyandy on Thu May 09, 2019 3:01 pm, edited 17 times in total.

musicbyandy
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:53 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by musicbyandy » Thu May 09, 2019 2:32 pm

mistake

musicbyandy
Posts: 334
Joined: Tue Mar 26, 2019 4:53 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by musicbyandy » Thu May 09, 2019 2:41 pm

mistake

Lovemyguitar
Posts: 3447
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:50 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by Lovemyguitar » Thu May 09, 2019 3:28 pm

musicbyandy wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 2:19 pm
...In the past, I have expressed my confusion with the word "that". Your explanation is consistent with other explanations I have received.

Despite such explanations, I'm afraid I don't understand how "that" can function as an adverb. My understanding is "that" is a pronoun taking the place of something...
I am sorry that it baffles you, but "that" does, in grammatical fact, function as an adverb, and as a pronoun, and as a conjunction, and as a determiner, depending on its context -- it is quite a multi-functional word! Any decent dictionary will give you the same information, usually with examples to demonstrate the various usages of the word, because not all words have a single meaning nor a single use.
musicbyandy wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 2:19 pm
...I feel like "not" could theoretically indicate a greater degree in addition to a lesser degree.
I am not sure why you "feel" that way. Again, maybe a dictionary would help. Or maybe, words just aren't your thing, and that's okay, too -- we all have different strengths!

ddray
Posts: 1238
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by ddray » Fri May 10, 2019 12:22 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 3:28 pm
...
I am not sure why you "feel" that way. Again, maybe a dictionary would help. Or maybe, words just aren't your thing, and that's okay, too -- we all have different strengths!
All of us who are able to do so use words, so in a sense they're everyone's "thing". Tact and graciousness, however, frequently require a little more work than reading a dictionary.

Lovemyguitar
Posts: 3447
Joined: Mon Oct 17, 2011 5:50 pm
Location: Canada

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by Lovemyguitar » Fri May 10, 2019 4:41 pm

ddray wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 12:22 pm
Lovemyguitar wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 3:28 pm
...maybe a dictionary would help...
All of us who are able to do so use words, so in a sense they're everyone's "thing". Tact and graciousness, however, frequently require a little more work than reading a dictionary.
I certainly did not mean anything disrespectful -- I use dictionaries all the time, almost every day! Whenever I come across an unfamiliar word, or a usage of a word with which I'm not familiar, or simply to remind myself of the different nuances of a word to be sure that I'm using it correctly, I will look it up in a dictionary. That's the primary way that I increase and maintain knowledge of words and how they're used. I love dictionaries, and I genuinely thought that it might be helpful to suggest it to a person who is not familiar with the usage of a particular word. I am truly sorry if my remarks sounded "tactless...", that was not at all my intention.

ddray
Posts: 1238
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by ddray » Fri May 10, 2019 9:40 pm

Lovemyguitar wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 4:41 pm
ddray wrote:
Fri May 10, 2019 12:22 pm
Lovemyguitar wrote:
Thu May 09, 2019 3:28 pm
...maybe a dictionary would help...
All of us who are able to do so use words, so in a sense they're everyone's "thing". Tact and graciousness, however, frequently require a little more work than reading a dictionary.
I certainly did not mean anything disrespectful -- I use dictionaries all the time, almost every day! Whenever I come across an unfamiliar word, or a usage of a word with which I'm not familiar, or simply to remind myself of the different nuances of a word to be sure that I'm using it correctly, I will look it up in a dictionary. That's the primary way that I increase and maintain knowledge of words and how they're used. I love dictionaries, and I genuinely thought that it might be helpful to suggest it to a person who is not familiar with the usage of a particular word. I am truly sorry if my remarks sounded "tactless...", that was not at all my intention.
Nothing personal, and I wasn't referring only to your exchange here. I'm aware that it's a problem or fault that I often struggle with as well...maybe not choosing words wisely enough.

ddray
Posts: 1238
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by ddray » Fri May 10, 2019 11:54 pm

...

ddray
Posts: 1238
Joined: Sun Apr 23, 2017 3:10 pm

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by ddray » Mon May 20, 2019 7:08 am

"Speaking truth to power" coming out of the mouths and pens and keyboards of people who are "the power". Sorry to get semi-political here, but that's always irked me, from wherever on the political spectrum it comes. I know this comment would probably be more appropriate for a "hackneyed expressions" thread too, but pfffft.

User avatar
pogmoor
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9748
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:55 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by pogmoor » Mon May 20, 2019 4:38 pm

A usage I rather dislike is 'from the ground up'. This is what all software developers seem to say when they have written a few new lines of code to give a computer program a new look.
Eric from GuitarLoot
Renaissance and Baroque freak; classical guitars by Lester Backshall (2008), Ramirez (Guitarra del Tiempo 2017),
Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

gitgeezer
Posts: 2514
Joined: Tue Nov 08, 2011 8:09 pm
Location: Southeastern U.S.

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by gitgeezer » Fri Jun 07, 2019 2:48 am

I've noticed a more frequent use of the expression "a handful of" used in ways that make no sense. Every time I see it, I mentally substitute "a few" and it always sounds better. In an AP article today on mountain climbing, the writer managed to use it twice:

"He joined India’s state-owned airline to travel around the world to speak about the endeavor, which, at the time, had only been attempted by a handful of people. . . . Many mountaineers have lost their lives on the mountain, which has only been successfully climbed a handful of times."

kirolak
Posts: 480
Joined: Fri Oct 16, 2015 5:04 pm
Location: South Africa

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by kirolak » Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:16 pm

Would it be because English is not their mother tongue? I am constantly puzzled here by people who say such things as, "Pass me that earrings", "I am going to buy me a shoe", and my possible favourite, "I rubbed my son's chest out when he had a cold" . . .

User avatar
pogmoor
Moderator
Moderator
Posts: 9748
Joined: Mon Nov 22, 2004 10:55 am
Location: Oxfordshire, UK

Re: Syntax and Usages That Don't Make Sense

Post by pogmoor » Fri Jun 07, 2019 8:30 pm

kirolak wrote:
Fri Jun 07, 2019 6:16 pm
Would it be because English is not their mother tongue?
I don't think so, "a handful" is quite a common UK English usage.
Eric from GuitarLoot
Renaissance and Baroque freak; classical guitars by Lester Backshall (2008), Ramirez (Guitarra del Tiempo 2017),
Yamaha (SLG 130NW silent classical guitar 2014).

Return to “The Café”