A document contained a sentence by an applicant similar to:
The police searched my office and took a photo for me with [another person].
The context made it clear that they took a photo of him. Take a photo of me has at least two meanings, but take a photo for me probably has only one (the second is possibly possible, but I can’t think of a context in which it would be a reasonable interpretation).
In the movie Airplane!/Flying High!a group of reporters attends the airport’s control tower (looking very un-1979). After asking the flight controller some questions, the chief reporters says to his colleagues, “Okay, boys, let’s get some pictures”. They then physically remove some framed photos from the wall. Get some pictures has two meanings in that context, but I’m trying to think of whether it would in my original sentence: The police got some pictures of me.
with many cheerful facts about the square of the hypotenuse.
Hang on, shouldn’t that be on the hypotenuse? At least, that’s what I’ve always thought it was.
Apparently not. The two books on Gilbert and Sullivan’s operas I have both give of, and the video I linked above has it. But, in general, of and on seem to be interchangeable, with a recent preference for of.
There doesn’t seem to be an original Greek form of the theorem, whether formulated by Pythagoras or someone else. If there is a difference, it’s that the square on the hypotenuse is an actual square on an actual side of an actual triangle, and the square of the hypotenuse is a mathematical function of the length of that side. To the ancient Greeks, γεωμετρία (geometria) was literally about measuring the earth.
If you are a singer, use what you conductor provides or tells you. If you are a maths teacher, use what’s in your textbook. If you are anyone else, choose one and don’t worry about it.
I shouldn’t get up and browse Facebook when I wake up at 1 am, but I did. I followed a link from a friend’s page to humour-based page. One post there was:
Cops just left, they said if I’m gonna walk around my house naked, I have to do it inside.
Many words have multiple meanings, and many jokes exploit this. The usual and natural meaning of “walk around my house naked” is “to various parts in”, but the joke uses the meaning of “a circuit of the outside”. Walking around naked outside is either not recommended or actually illegal.
At the risk of over-analysing the joke, would our understanding of the sentence change if it said:
I walked around my house in my pajamas
I walked around my house in my tracksuit
Meanwhile, it is possible to think of perfectly ambiguous statements: “I put up Christmas lights around my house”.
Several weeks ago at the gym I heard a song which begins:
There’s a thousand miles between you and I.
Two years ago (to the day, coincidentally), I posted about the usage of the equivalent of you and I/me as subject, direct object and object of a preposition, so I wasn’t going to post just about that. (I seem to remember that the next song correctly had you and me after a verb or preposition.)
Yesterday I posted about the song Yesterday, and Batchman, who has been my number 1 commenter recently, said, among other things:
In general, using pop songs to illustrate grammar treads on risky ground. Think about all the songs with some variant of “for you and I” in them.
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.
I had seen several approving references to the book Origins of the specious: Myths and misconceptions of the English language by Patricia O’Connor and Stewart Kellerman, and last week saw a copy on sale, so I bought it. They generally do a very good job of explaining why most of the prescriptivists’ ‘rules’ are wrong (of course, I already knew about most of it), but I have to disagree with them on half of one point.
I agree with them that it’s a myth that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition. They trace the “final-preposition bugaboo” (their words) to John Dryden (who complained that Ben Johnson put “the Preposition in the end of the sentence: a common fault with him”) then add “The bee in Dryden’s bonnet later took up residence in the miter of an eighteenth-century Anglican bishop, Robert Lowth, who wrote the first popular grammar book to claim that a preposition didn’t belong at the end of a sentence in formal writing”.
No he didn’t.
Later, they write that he “condemned the preposition at the end of a sentence”.
No he didn’t.
Later again, they refer to Lowth as “the fellow who helped popularize the myth that it’s wrong to end a sentence with a preposition”.
If he did, if was because those who read his book misunderstood what he’d written.
Observation 1: The big parts of language are easy; the small parts are hard. Observation 2: Mistakes are often more interesting than correct answers.
My students have just finished the textbook and today was a revision day before the test tomorrow. One revision question was something like “My father (watch/watches/watching) television every day”. Several students chose watch. This is, of course, incorrect standard English, but only by a twist of history. There’s no particular reason why third-person singular verb forms have –s/–es. There’s no possibility of misunderstanding. Many languages exist quite happily with the equivalent of “My father watch television every day”. Indeed, some non-standard varieties of English exist quite happily with exactly that. Nothing would be lost and quite a bit would be gained by omitting 3sg –s/-es, but standard English includes it, so that’s what I’ve got to teach and that’s what’s my students have to learn. (Several hundred years ago, standard English lost 2sg –est, and no-one missed it.)
One student asked another how long he’s been in Australia. He replied ‘for year’ or maybe ‘four year’. (I know his language doesn’t have articles, compulsory plural marking and final fricatives.)
There are six possible interpretations:
for a year
for four years
The main way we tell for and four apart is how they are used in phrases: in this context, for a year cannot be four a year and for four years cannot be four for years. But that doesn’t help us in the case of for year/four year (both ungrammatical) and for years/four years (both grammatical).
Generally speaking, for can be, and often is, reduced to /fə/ or just /f/, but four can’t be: one, two, three, */fə/.
Sometimes language change attracts great discussion — because, like, reasons. Other times it attracts no discussion, and happens seemingly for no reason. A few days ago, I encountered either late in December or in late December, I can’t remember which way round, but that doesn’t affect the point of this post. I wondered whether I should change it to the other way round. I checked Google Ngrams, but before I tell you what that showed, take a moment to think about what you would say or write, and what change has happened in the past 100 years.Continue reading →
Somebody calls you
Someone is there
In the loved-by-some, loathed-by-othersElements of Style, William Strunk Jr and EB White say ‘Write with nouns and verbs, not with adjectives and adverbs’ and ‘Omit needless words’. Very well then …
I have taken that advice to its logical extreme and wielded the delate button on Lucy (in the sky) (with diamonds) by John Lennon and Paul McCartney. The result is possibly comprehensible if you already know the song and possibly not if you don’t. To be fair, Strunkandwhite don’t mention the other word classes, especially prepositions, but I’ve erred on the side of comprehensiveness.