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I do

Yesterday I went to the wedding of my equal-favourite niece and the man of her dreams. Inevitably, there was a linguistic point.

One of the clichés about wedding services is that they involves saying “I do” (see the movie Four Weddings and Funeral, for example) . At all of the wedding services I’ve ever been to (including yesterday’s) people have said  “I will”. The question is “[Name], will you have [Name] to be your husband/wife?”. Other Christian denominations may have different wordings, which might involve the question “Do you take [Name] to be your husband?”, to which the answer is “I do”. (We could also ask “Will you take …?” but not “Do you have …?”) 

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Eff it!

Yesterday one of my colleagues said something close enough to ineffable, which led to me paraphrase Douglas Adam’s line: “Let’s think the unthinkable, let’s do the undoable. Let us prepare to grapple with the ineffable itself, and see if we may not eff it after all.” (Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency)

We got talking about this strange word, and soon after he quoted the hymn O worship the King, all glorious above, the last verse of which begins O measureless might! Ineffable love! Today he added Crown him with many crowns, which contains the lines Creator of the rolling spheres, Ineffably sublime.

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Botany Bay

The topic of Botany Bay as a penal colony cropped up twice today. The first was at a service commemorating the 200th anniversary of the laying of the foundation stone of heritage church building in Sydney. The settlement/colonisation/invasion of Australia started in 1788, so no building in Australia is older than 231 years, and only a handful are older than 200 (a lot depends on definitions – some buildings were originally built then but have been extensively rebuilt since then).

Alongside some psalm anthems and a hymn of the time, we sang a rollicking song which I had not previously encountered, which exhorts young virgins, frolic and fair, to trip it away to Botany Bay to join the bold convicts, from whom they may chuse a man and attend procreation. Google shows that the poem was written in 1801, at which time the convict colony was a miserable place. It didn’t start improving until the arrival of Governor Macquarie in 1810. 

This evening my wife and I went to see the movie Downton Abbey, set in 1927. The servants of the household get their their noses out of joint at being pushed around by the servants of the King and Queen, who are visiting, so they plot to temporarily remove them from the situation. One of them mutters “We’ll be sent to Botany Bay”. Well, no, for two reasons. Firstly, the convict colony at Botany Bay lasted only 10 or so days before Governor Phillip discovered that Port Jackson/Sydney Harbour was far nicer, so only the convicts on the ships of the First Fleet were sent to Botany Bay. But the name stuck, either for the colony, alongside the official name, New South Wales, and as the destination for convicts. Secondly, transportation to New South Wales was abolished in 1850 (and to anywhere in Australia in 1868), so no-one would have been transported here in 1927. I think the character was being hyperbolic, anyway.

Sunni and Shia

A document was discussing Islam and rendered Shia as sheer, Shias as shares and she is, and Sunni as SUNY, which in any other context is the State University of New York. There were a number of other clangers as well. I guess that it was produced by automated voice to text, but didn’t anyone proofread it before it was released?

I mentioned this to my colleagues and one of them responded with:

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Sometimes they just jump out at me

I don’t go looking for grammatical errors in internationally acclaimed, best-selling novels. Sometimes they just jump out at me. I am reading a set of books originally written in another language and translated into English. It is not my intention to name and shame, so I won’t. But I was bowled over by two grammatical errors – first that they had happened without anyone in the editorial process noticing, and second that I had spotted them.

The first is too many pronouns in a sentence – three when there should be two. There are two possible wordings of the sentence, using the first pronoun in one place or the other, but not both. The second is a clanger of a missing verb ‘be’ – the most common and important verb in English.

I know I make mistakes in my posts – sometimes I browse back through previous posts and notice clangers, and just spotted that I had written “The first is two many pronouns” in the previous paragraphs. But then I don’t have a full-time editor and proofreader at my disposal.

known for their loyalty

I had occasion to consult the Wikipedia entry for the Basij, a paramilitary volunteer militia in Iran. (Don’t ask why.) The following sentence jumped out at me:
(1) The Basij are subordinate to and receive their orders from the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and the Supreme Leader of Iran, to whom they are known for their loyalty. (emphasis added)

I think I know what they’re trying to say, but I think what I think they’re actually saying isn’t what I think they’re trying to say. 

The second half of the sentence might mean three things:
(a) They are known to the IRGC and the Supreme Leader for their loyalty to the IRGC and the Supreme Leader.
(b) They are known to the IRGC and the Supreme Leader for their loyalty to everyone in general. 
(c) They are known to everyone in general for their loyalty to the IRGC and the Supreme Leader. 

I think they mean 3., but I think they actually say 1.

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