1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 22, 2016 10:07 am UTC

The additional meaning for "literally" is pretty cool. It's an intensifier, but one that can only be used for figurative speech. "I am cold" vs "I am literally cold" doesn't really make much sense, but "I am freezing to death" is less intense than "I am literally freezing to death."

I recently read a piece about the word "disaster" as used in newspapers. It has a core meaning as a 'serious bad event with dead people and lots of damage', but it also has a wider use as 'bad event' in general. Often bordering on the ironic, but not quite. Like 'fashion disaster'.

The study looked how these various uses are indicated in the text. For example, serious disasters can get a proper noun attached to them, but minor disasters don't. Hindenburg disaster, Krakatoa disaster. And on the other hand, intensifiers (in their data sample) were solely used for minor disasters. If someone writes "literal disaster" or "real disaster" or "true disaster", they mean that it was a minor disaster without dead people. And readers understand these rules, even if they never explicitly learned them.

These seem to be fairly hard rules of English, or at least of Proper English as used in newspapers. Grammar Nazis should, arguably, defend them. If someone says "literal disaster" for a disaster with dead people, then they are doing it wrong

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:46 am UTC

3rdtry wrote:I'm a bit fucking tired of Randall's regular, smug "anti-smugness" comics.
Literally no one in the world will mind if you simply stop reading them, then.

Also, why do you think "occasionally correcting others in private" is the grammar policing behavior the comic is talking about? That's not quite as ridiculous as thinking it's about "anyone who cares about grammar", but it is still pretty ridiculous.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby SDK » Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:18 pm UTC

Zamfir wrote:These seem to be fairly hard rules of English, or at least of Proper English as used in newspapers. Grammar Nazis should, arguably, defend them. If someone says "literal disaster" for a disaster with dead people, then they are doing it wrong

That is amusing.

It reminds me of the word "eh", commonly thought of as the quintessential Canadian word. Though many Canadians could not describe to you exactly how "eh" is used (and, indeed, use it horribly wrong when they're trying to over-use it to make fun of themselves), "eh" still manages to insert itself naturally in day-to-day speech without a single error. The rules of grammar are not only weird, they're often completely unknown to the average person even though they're followed to a tee.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:31 pm UTC

Noting that a rogue burnt out stellar core hurtling towards a (near?) intercept with Earth would truly be a disaster.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby 3rdtry » Thu Sep 22, 2016 1:45 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Literally no one in the world will mind if you simply stop reading them, then.


Yes, I've heard that before. Every time you voice your dislike something, there's the reply "well if you don't like it, just leave" or "let people enjoy things". No, I'm not trying to shut down xkcd, I'm allowed to give some negative feedback. It's not like this place has any other purpose than to voice random thoughts/feedback on comics. And I've made like 3 posts in 3 years so I'm not exactly spamming either.

gmalivuk wrote:Also, why do you think "occasionally correcting others in private" is the grammar policing behavior the comic is talking about? That's not quite as ridiculous as thinking it's about "anyone who cares about grammar", but it is still pretty ridiculous.


It's not about just one comic, it's a regular theme. Best example:

Image

(and just for the record, I'm actually a huge proponent of spelling reform and getting rid of archaic grammar rules)

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby SDK » Thu Sep 22, 2016 2:11 pm UTC

Your example is one of xkcd's best comics, in my opinion. At the end of the day, that's all this is: a comic. Smugness can be funny too.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 2:20 pm UTC

3rdtry wrote:It's not about just one comic, it's a regular theme. Best example:

If that's the best example you could find, it's clearly not a very regular theme. The comic explicitly acknowledges that the interlocutor might be offering genuine aid and thanks her for it. If you really just occasionally correct people's grammar in private, and if it's in situations where that's reasonable and appropriate, then you're doing the thing she thanks her friend for in the comic.

It's only if you're just mindlessly checking off false "grammar rules" you learned in school so you can "correct" people that Randall is criticizing you.

(and just for the record, I'm actually a huge proponent of spelling reform and getting rid of archaic grammar rules)

Spelling reform and getting rid of rules (rather than simply not trying to enforce nonexistent or archaic rules) are both the same sort of top-down prescriptivist poppycock that grammar police like. Doing it in the other direction doesn't make it right, it just makes it wrong in the other direction.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Zamfir » Thu Sep 22, 2016 2:58 pm UTC

SDK wrote:It reminds me of the word "eh", commonly thought of as the quintessential Canadian word. Though many Canadians could not describe to you exactly how "eh" is used (and, indeed, use it horribly wrong when they're trying to over-use it to make fun of themselves), "eh" still manages to insert itself naturally in day-to-day speech without a single error. The rules of grammar are not only weird, they're often completely unknown to the average person even though they're followed to a tee.

Going by the internet examples, Canadian 'eh' is almost exactly like Dutch 'he'. I wonder if that holds in the details, if I could use 'eh' without breaking the implicit rules that Canadians apparently know.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby trpmb6 » Thu Sep 22, 2016 4:17 pm UTC

3rdtry wrote: And I've made like 3 posts in 3 years so I'm not exactly spamming either.




At the risk of turning into gmal and being a jerk.. I'd just like to point out that "like 3 posts" is really "exactly 153 posts, including this one"

That's a pretty big exaggeration... Especially for information so readily available...
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 4:48 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:
3rdtry wrote: And I've made like 3 posts in 3 years so I'm not exactly spamming either.




At the risk of turning into gmal and being a jerk.. I'd just like to point out that "like 3 posts" is really "exactly 153 posts, including this one"

That's a pretty big exaggeration... Especially for information so readily available...

To be fair, it looks like only 90 are within the last three years.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby YTPrenewed » Thu Sep 22, 2016 8:44 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Clearly, for successful communication to occur, it is important above all else that we know who to blame.

Yes. Yes it is. Otherwise, people could deliberately undermine successful communication with impunity.


Copper Bezel wrote:Your semicolon abuse made me twitch, but in precisely the same way as encountering someone wearing hot pink and salmon in the same outfit. I can understand both of you perfectly well, I'm merely disinclined.

Oh, I never intended to claim my grammar is perfect. I'm well aware that it's far from perfect.

But we shouldn't let the flaws of one's critics be used to deflect criticism either.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby DaBigCheez » Thu Sep 22, 2016 9:04 pm UTC

Most of the times I've seen complaints leveled at "grammar police", it's been cases where there *weren't* real and significant ambiguities in communication that needed to be cleared up to clarify what a person was saying. More often, it's a nitpick at some minor point that had no real impact on the conveyance of their message.

Things like "its" vs. "it's" - when it was clearly being used as a possessive, and there would be no antecedent for the verb form to apply to, the meaning is perfectly clear regardless of whether the apostrophe is there or not. Is it more "correct" without the apostrophe? Yes. Does bringing the conversation to a halt to stick one's nose into the air and insist that it's impossible to know any aspect of what the other person's talking about until the apostrophe is removed actually *help* that instance of communication? No.*

It's first and foremost an attempt to feel superior to the person who "misused the rule", and only secondarily an attempt to clear up communication. Heck, it might even be as low as tertiary. But I feel that's what's meant by the term "grammar police" - focusing primarily on strict enforcement of the rules in and of themselves, rather than on the underlying *purpose* of clear communication.

*It can help ensure that they don't engender confusion in a future conversation where there *is* real ambiguity, perhaps, but a) that's still unlikely to be the primary purpose in the instances I'm thinking of and b) that warrants at most a brief parenthetical aside, not bringing a conversation to a screeching halt until it's corrected.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby YTPrenewed » Thu Sep 22, 2016 9:15 pm UTC

DaBigCheez wrote:*It can help ensure that they don't engender confusion in a future conversation where there *is* real ambiguity, perhaps, but a) that's still unlikely to be the primary purpose in the instances I'm thinking of and b) that warrants at most a brief parenthetical aside, not bringing a conversation to a screeching halt until it's corrected.

It doesn't require bringing the conversation to a screeching halt. It can always be treated as a sidenote.

Regardless of anyone's motives, the point still applies. One needs to avoid falling into a habit of bad grammar to avoid future ambiguity. We can't always tell a genuine misunderstanding apart from a deliberate straw-man, either, so we shouldn't count on being able to guess anyone's motives.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Thu Sep 22, 2016 10:30 pm UTC

The types of rules grammar police harp on about generally aren't the sort that can lead to real ambiguity, though. Or when they can, it's with no higher probability than formally correct grammar can be ambiguous.

With most arguments I've seen, the ambiguity issue is really a red herring, because there wasn't actually ambiguity in the utterance under discussion, and there only rarely would be in other utterances, except for the specific ones picked by the grammar cop to illustrate why breaking that particular rule is a no-no.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Angua » Thu Sep 22, 2016 10:46 pm UTC

Also, with its vs it's and they're there their, given that they are homophones, you wouldn't even know which was which if you were having an irl conversation.

So it can't be that unclear.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Soupspoon » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:09 pm UTC

trpmb6 wrote:At the risk of turning into gmal and being a jerk.. I'd just like to point out that "like 3 posts" is really "exactly 153 posts, including this one"

That's a pretty big exaggeration... Especially for information so readily available...
Exaggeration? Might 'subaggeration' might be a better appellation for such a gross* understatement..? ;)

* Plus half a dozen!

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby YTPrenewed » Thu Sep 22, 2016 11:36 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:The types of rules grammar police harp on about generally aren't the sort that can lead to real ambiguity, though. Or when they can, it's with no higher probability than formally correct grammar can be ambiguous.

There will always be some bare minimum level of ambiguity.

With proper grammar, that low level of ambiguity maintains a finite range of reasonable interpretations of what was said. People can't meaningfully use interpretations outside that range to backpedal; even if they misspoke, it's their own fault. Likewise, everyone else can't reasonably claim to know whether or not someone meant anything outside that range, let alone what interpretation within that range is the correct one.

Without proper grammar, anything can be interpreted any way people arbitrarily choose; or pretend to choose, for that matter. Not all sites that are loose on grammar are prone to accusing person X of trash-talking online relationships after person X called a particular online relationship awesome. Nor are they all prone to accusing person X of complaining about different people's interpretation of the same statement after person X simply expressed interest in the subject. However, sites prone to such things tend to be ones that are loose on grammar. So it's possible that there might be something else limiting people's tendency to put words in others' mouths, but until we know what that is, grammar will have to do.


Angua wrote:Also, with its vs it's and they're there their, given that they are homophones, you wouldn't even know which was which if you were having an irl conversation.

So it can't be that unclear.

The concerns I raised in my reply to gmalivuk don't seem to be as applicable to offline conversations as they are to the Internet. I base this on both offline conversations I've seen in person and offline conversations I've seen published online or on TV after they were recorded.

Which science would be responsible for keeping track of this sort of thing anyway?

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Copper Bezel » Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:12 am UTC

Angua wrote:Also, with its vs it's and they're there their, given that they are homophones, you wouldn't even know which was which if you were having an irl conversation.

So it can't be that unclear.

Well, speech and writing have different sets of cues to prevent ambiguity. If you take both sets away, it does take more work on the part of the reader to sort it out. The extreme would be writing English (or any other very loosely phonetic language) in IPA without punctuation. Homophone errors can definitely force me to have to reread a sentence.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:26 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Homophone errors can definitely force me to have to reread a sentence.
Especially true when it leads one down the garden path.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 23, 2016 12:44 am UTC

YTPrenewed wrote:With proper grammar, that low level of ambiguity maintains a finite range of reasonable interpretations of what was said. People can't meaningfully use interpretations outside that range to backpedal; even if they misspoke, it's their own fault.
This is false.

The only thing that separates "proper grammar" from all the other varieties of a language is the social convention that it's the "standard" variety. That doesn't make it inherently any less prone to ambiguity than any other variety. Sure, there are ambiguities possible in nonstandard uses that can be clarified by using proper grammar, but there are also ambiguities in standard grammar that could be cleared up by using something nonstandard. In English, for example, nonstandard varieties include such disambiguating features as a distinct plural second-person pronoun or habitual "be".

Sure, there are also standard ways of clearing up those ambiguities, but that is also not unique to standard English. Ambiguity can be created or avoided in every dialect of every language, and I'd need to see some actual research before I'd be willing to believe that it's significantly easier to avoid by using "proper grammar".

(I suspect the actual case is that people who make an effort to use standard English are paying closer attention to their language use in general, and it is this attention that helps them avoid ambiguity, rather than the mere fact of using the standard.)
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby omgryebread » Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:20 am UTC

YTPrenewed wrote:If anything, fashion police and grammar police are opposites.

Fashion police are putting their views on style ahead of pragmatism. The time and money spent on things that are considered fashionable can come at the expense of more practical things. (Not to say there can't be value in wearing them on special occasions from time to time, but jobs that make a suit and tie the norm are pushing it.)

Grammar police, on the other hand, are defending something much more pragmatic. Improper grammar; if you let it become a habit; has plenty of potential for causing misunderstandings. The rules of grammar help make it a little more obvious who to blame for such misunderstandings.

As for the racial angle, it wouldn't surprise me if some ethnic groups associated with poverty correlated with a poor education in grammar. However, this doesn't require you to choose between blaming grammar and blaming that ethnic group. And I suppose it's possible that other ethnic groups associated with having a first language that isn't English could be associated with poor grammar as well. Again, though, that wouldn't make it a problem with grammar, but rather with the circumstances said group is in.

Though given the amount of improper grammar even among middle-class white people, I'm not sure we should assume either of the above.
I can argue the exact opposite!

Proper grammar rules are rarely pragmatic. No significant (unintended) confusion is ever caused by the passive voice, or a split infinitive, or ending a sentence in a proposition.

Let's take my boss. People pay hundreds of dollars an hour to have him advise them on things that could affect millions of dollars. When he gets dressed, it's incredibly important that the clothes he wears presents an air of someone who is a Big Deal, knows and has money, and cares about his presentation. If he went out and bought a suit straight of the rack at Men's Wearhouse, people would notice. He would be presenting himself in a manner that isn't befitting his role or what the client expects of him.

On the other hand, I'm not sure he could pass a 9th grade English grammar test. Because if a client sends him an email to ask a quick question, they don't really care if he makes some grammar mistake. Extra commas aren't going to bother them that much. Frequently, the emails he gets are worse. And when he's communicating in office, he barely tries. Today I got an email: "u set up a meeting w/ ******** at T 330? thx rach" It doesn't matter in the least. I can understand it, he knows I can. And if he needs to write something more professional, then he has me for that. I would freak the hell out if he ever sent a letter without dictating it to me or someone else.


Strict fashion is far more useful than strict grammar. With good fashion sense, it's virtually impossible to commit a serious error that causes a social or professional problem, and you can quite easily increase your social or professional advantages in a public setting. Proper English grammar (and the grammar of any actual language) still has an enormous amount of room for mistakes, ambiguities, and missteps.



The big mistake of both grammar and fashion police is missing a broader point of language and dress. Both are incredible ways of expressing oneself, and both have vast subtleties and are a complex mix of function, emotion, and aesthetics. If dress were simple practicality, we'd all wear jumpsuits. (Oppa Pyongyang Style), and if language was, we'd all speak Lojban. Instead, dress, and language allow us ways to express ourselves. Sometimes that includes breaking the rules. Dropping a double negative or splitting an infinitive can make a sentence so much better, just as mixing prints can make you stand out in a good way.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:57 am UTC

Adhering to a standard, any standard is largely what reduces ambiguity (though the details of the standard can, in turn, further reduce ambiguity, but that's not the point here). People speaking the same "non-standard" dialect, to the extent that it has become a "standardized" non-standard dialect (standardized within the linguistic community that uses it), get the benefits of reduced ambiguity by adhering to that (non-standard) standard. There being more standards and fractious linguistic communities makes it more likely that two random people will not be adhering to the same standard when they communicate, even if they are each adhering to some (different) standard, increasing the room for ambiguity and misunderstanding; so it's better for everyone, toward the end of clear communication at least, if more people adhere to the same standard more often. There's room for argument on how to decide on what standard to adhere to, and anyone who's been here a while knows my opinion on that and I don't want to argue about it again (suffice to say that it has nothing to do with which is popular or not with whoever is socially dominant or not), but I don't see how anyone can argue that it wouldn't be better for purposes of clear communication if everyone always spoke and wrote in the same dialect, whatever that was; and trends toward that ideal thus proportionally good, and away from it proportionally bad.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 23, 2016 2:25 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:I don't see how anyone can argue that it wouldn't be better for purposes of clear communication if everyone always spoke and wrote in the same dialect
I can certainly argue that, but I don't really need to because omgryebread already did:
omgryebread wrote:The big mistake of both grammar and fashion police is missing a broader point of language and dress. Both are incredible ways of expressing oneself, and both have vast subtleties and are a complex mix of function, emotion, and aesthetics. If dress were simple practicality, we'd all wear jumpsuits. (Oppa Pyongyang Style), and if language was, we'd all speak Lojban.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Pfhorrest » Fri Sep 23, 2016 2:39 am UTC

That's not arguing that it wouldn't be better for purposes of clear communication as I said (and you quoted). That's arguing that there are other purposes.

And sure, clear communication is not the only purpose of language, but it's a very important purpose of it, and while I have no objection to sometimes setting aside that purpose and breaking what should normally be the rules to serve other purposes -- I have no objection to Huck Finn being written the way it is, for example, for the purposes of literary art -- too many people too frequently neglecting that purpose in the language they share (and by using, shape) with other people undermines the ability of other people to use it for that purpose.

To use the fashion police analogy here, which is not a perfect analogy so this isn't perfect either, it'd be something like if highly impractical but socially popular and artistically interesting fashion trends made the kind of clothes generally available (or socially acceptable) for everyone trend toward less practical overall. Sure, social fashion and fashion art are valuable things, and a world of all jumpsuits would be dull, but at the end of the day you most need clothes to protect your body, and if it gets harder to do that because of other people's impractical fashion, that sucks for everybody involved. There's probably a real-life example of this to be found in the market for women's shoes. Possibly also in men's business dress codes with origins in cold parts of Europe when applied to places with much warmer weather.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 23, 2016 3:31 am UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That's not arguing that it wouldn't be better for purposes of clear communication as I said (and you quoted). That's arguing that there are other purposes.
4.5 years ago, I wrote:What I mean to [communicate] to people with a speech act is never solely the barest literal logical proposition denoted by the words I use. If one has any goals beyond the audience understanding a simple logical proposition, which I contend is always the case, then those other goals are also relevant in judging the [communicative effectiveness] of an utterance.
I don't mean there are purposes of language beyond communication, I mean there are purposes of communication beyond the kind of thing that is always aided by moving toward homogeneity.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Karantalsis » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:05 am UTC

This comic and thread made me think of some discussions I've been having with some friends recently (a general conversation about dialect, in our differing languages). In my native English dialect there is a second person plural pronoun, much like 'Ihr' (German) or 'Vous' (French). This pronoun is 'Yous', there are also two first person possessive pronouns with distinct uses that mark either possession or relatedness 'Me' and 'Our' respectively. All of this is clearly none standard English, but actually adds clarity to speech.

For example if I were to say to some friends 'Are yous coming?' its clear I am talking to a group and similarly if I asked an individual friend 'What were yous up to last night?' it would be clear that I was talking about them and the other people they were with in a way standard English can not easily convey.

Likewise with the possessive pronouns, particularly 'Our'. If the person I am speaking with and myself share an acquaintance called Kelly and my sister is also called Kelly then I could say 'Our Kelly was out last night.' this construction would mean I was talking about my sister. If I said 'Kelly was out last night.' there is a much higher chance I am talking about our mutual acquaintance. This then, whilst being non standard, still conveys information more clearly than standard grammar. I am pretty sure the Grammar Nazis referred to in the comic would not care about the extra clarity, but would strongly dislike the use of the dialectal variant.

That's not to say I would write fully in dialectal English, I do, however, think that adding some elements of that dialect to my writing would sometimes and somewhat improve its clarity, even for people who don't speak it natively. Particularly the use of 'Yous', the meaning of which I would think is both obvious and useful.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby HES » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:10 am UTC

Karantalsis wrote:For example if I were to say to some friends 'Are yous coming?' its clear I am talking to a group and similarly if I asked an individual friend 'What were yous up to last night?' it would be clear that I was talking about them and the other people they were with in a way standard English can not easily convey.

"Are you guys coming?"
"What were you lot up to last night?"
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Karantalsis » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:21 am UTC

HES wrote:
Karantalsis wrote:For example if I were to say to some friends 'Are yous coming?' its clear I am talking to a group and similarly if I asked an individual friend 'What were yous up to last night?' it would be clear that I was talking about them and the other people they were with in a way standard English can not easily convey.

"Are you guys coming?"
"What were you lot up to last night?"


Quite right, other dialectal phrases can serve the same purpose. Nice examples. A wide range of English dialects have developed plural second person markers, for utility. I, personally, think the single word rather than phrasal versions tend to greater clarity.

Standard English would be something like "What were all of you doing last night?" or "What were you and (y)our friends doing last night?" both of which are harder to parse I think. The first construction feels wrong when talking to an individual, the second has the added wrinkle of needing to pick our or your, which has further social signalling implications and, in my opinion, has a soft scolding tone. On top of that both are longer and simply put have a less obvious structure.

EDIT: I keep editing as I think of things.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby netsplit » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:43 am UTC

YTPrenewed wrote:With proper grammar, that low level of ambiguity maintains a finite range of reasonable interpretations of what was said. People can't meaningfully use interpretations outside that range to backpedal; even if they misspoke, it's their own fault. Likewise, everyone else can't reasonably claim to know whether or not someone meant anything outside that range, let alone what interpretation within that range is the correct one.


As stated above the double negative construction prevents miscommunication, is widely understood, yet isn't considered proper grammar. Please explain why "proper grammar" doesn't include it, if we're supposed to be using "proper grammar" to reduce miscommunication*. Also AAVE uses simpler and more consistent rules. Speakers using it would increase their potential of ambiguity by switching to "proper grammar". Why shouldn't you switch to a better grammar like AAVE?

*I am correct in my belief that you want to reduce ambiguity to prevent miscommunication yeah?
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby ShuRugal » Fri Sep 23, 2016 1:40 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Protip: Read the entirety of what you quote next time. In my edit I explicitly clarified that I'm not saying all perceptions of speech patterns ultimately come down to race.


Cool. Glad to have the clarification.

gmalivuk wrote:(Also, as mentioned, you're factually wrong about British history. There have always been people of color in Britain.)


This is true, but, especially during the time period in which the movie was set, "people of color" have not been anywhere near as sharply culturally-isolated from "people of non-color" as elsewhere in the world, particularly if compared against people in the USA. British Isle cultural divisions have traditionally been either geographically driven (Scots/Irish vs Brits) or religiously motivated (catholics vs protestants).

This is even true in more modern times: The IRA has never really cared what color of Brit they blew up, as long as it was a Brit (or at least a Protestant).

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby omgryebread » Fri Sep 23, 2016 2:25 pm UTC

Pfhorrest wrote:That's not arguing that it wouldn't be better for purposes of clear communication as I said (and you quoted). That's arguing that there are other purposes.

And sure, clear communication is not the only purpose of language, but it's a very important purpose of it, and while I have no objection to sometimes setting aside that purpose and breaking what should normally be the rules to serve other purposes -- I have no objection to Huck Finn being written the way it is, for example, for the purposes of literary art -- too many people too frequently neglecting that purpose in the language they share (and by using, shape) with other people undermines the ability of other people to use it for that purpose.
That's not really the point about grammar police though. The nature of what clear communication is changes over time, and will change, despite the best efforts of prescriptivists. Often, clear communication has little to do with grammar. An erroneous comma, doesn't always make a sentence confusing.

Grammar rules are not rules for clear communication. They are an attempt to crystallize style according to the style of the time they were written and the aesthetic preferences of the writer in question. To say that modern usage of double negatives ("I ain't done nothing wrong") is incorrect is not only saying that modern colloquial English is inferior to 18th century English, it's also saying that 18th century English is superior to 17th century English, when the double negative was acceptable.




To use the fashion police analogy here, which is not a perfect analogy so this isn't perfect either, it'd be something like if highly impractical but socially popular and artistically interesting fashion trends made the kind of clothes generally available (or socially acceptable) for everyone trend toward less practical overall. Sure, social fashion and fashion art are valuable things, and a world of all jumpsuits would be dull, but at the end of the day you most need clothes to protect your body, and if it gets harder to do that because of other people's impractical fashion, that sucks for everybody involved. There's probably a real-life example of this to be found in the market for women's shoes. Possibly also in men's business dress codes with origins in cold parts of Europe when applied to places with much warmer weather.
This seems to me a good argument against uniform styles? Just as fashion should adapt to the setting and make way for practicality, shouldn't language rules be flexible?
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby DanD » Fri Sep 23, 2016 2:45 pm UTC

ShuRugal wrote:
gmalivuk wrote:(Also, as mentioned, you're factually wrong about British history. There have always been people of color in Britain.)


This is true, but, especially during the time period in which the movie was set, "people of color" have not been anywhere near as sharply culturally-isolated from "people of non-color" as elsewhere in the world, particularly if compared against people in the USA. British Isle cultural divisions have traditionally been either geographically driven (Scots/Irish vs Brits) or religiously motivated (catholics vs protestants).




Again, wrong. Again, see "Eurasian" or "Anglo-Indian" in the Edwardian period.
Last edited by DanD on Fri Sep 23, 2016 5:49 pm UTC, edited 1 time in total.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby orthogon » Fri Sep 23, 2016 4:07 pm UTC

Karantalsis wrote:Likewise with the possessive pronouns, particularly 'Our'. If the person I am speaking with and myself share an acquaintance called Kelly and my sister is also called Kelly then I could say 'Our Kelly was out last night.' this construction would mean I was talking about my sister. If I said 'Kelly was out last night.' there is a much higher chance I am talking about our mutual acquaintance. This then, whilst being non standard, still conveys information more clearly than standard grammar. I am pretty sure the Grammar Nazis referred to in the comic would not care about the extra clarity, but would strongly dislike the use of the dialectal variant.

That's not to say I would write fully in dialectal English, I do, however, think that adding some elements of that dialect to my writing would sometimes and somewhat improve its clarity, even for people who don't speak it natively. Particularly the use of 'Yous', the meaning of which I would think is both obvious and useful.


Where I grew up (northwest England) we had the "our" thing meaning "of my family" (almost always a sibling, though perhaps more broadly applicable) - I think of it as Liverpudlian but it could be of Irish origin. However that is really a semantic difference, and quite a minor one at that. It's still the same genitive pronoun, and as Pinker points out, genitives are used to indicate a very wide variety of relationships of which "possessive" is only one. At work I might say "our John" meaning the John on our team, or from our company, which is a similar thing. But I agree that the dialectical usage you're talking about is distinct and would merit a specific mention in a dictionary.

It's clear that different dialects make certain propositions easier to state unambiguously, and the same is true of languages more broadly. Exposure to more than one language or dialect does tend to make you wish you had a particular thing in your own language; the plural "you" being a particularly good example since it's needed all the time. But I think in most cases it's just arbitrary which things can be expressed more or less unambiguously in a given language, though people will try to claim that particular languages are fundamentally better. In your example, say, it's just lucky that one of the Kellys (Kellies?) is your sister. In another language you might be able to use some ending to indicate efficiently whether it was Kelly the teenager or Kelly the thirty-something that you were referring to, but no way to indicate family or non-family. As I say, I doubt that any language or dialect is better across the board, but the feeling "if only we were speaking x I could use word y" is familiar and very vexatious.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Mutex » Fri Sep 23, 2016 4:36 pm UTC

Also if you said "our Kelly" in a northern accent people might think you were talking about R Kelly.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Soupspoon » Fri Sep 23, 2016 5:09 pm UTC

Mutex wrote:Also if you said "our Kelly" in a northern accent people might think you were talking about R Kelly.
I'm now imaging Drea talking about "Our R Kelly", and being buzzed for repetition...

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby ShuRugal » Fri Sep 23, 2016 5:22 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:
Karantalsis wrote:Likewise with the possessive pronouns, particularly 'Our'. If the person I am speaking with and myself share an acquaintance called Kelly and my sister is also called Kelly then I could say 'Our Kelly was out last night.' this construction would mean I was talking about my sister. If I said 'Kelly was out last night.' there is a much higher chance I am talking about our mutual acquaintance. This then, whilst being non standard, still conveys information more clearly than standard grammar. I am pretty sure the Grammar Nazis referred to in the comic would not care about the extra clarity, but would strongly dislike the use of the dialectal variant.

That's not to say I would write fully in dialectal English, I do, however, think that adding some elements of that dialect to my writing would sometimes and somewhat improve its clarity, even for people who don't speak it natively. Particularly the use of 'Yous', the meaning of which I would think is both obvious and useful.


Where I grew up (northwest England) we had the "our" thing meaning "of my family" (almost always a sibling, though perhaps more broadly applicable) - I think of it as Liverpudlian but it could be of Irish origin.


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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby YTPrenewed » Fri Sep 23, 2016 8:23 pm UTC

gmalivuk wrote:Sure, there are ambiguities possible in nonstandard uses that can be clarified by using proper grammar, but there are also ambiguities in standard grammar that could be cleared up by using something nonstandard.

That may constitute a reason for making a presently non-standard form of grammar the new standard. However, in the meantime, it doesn't mean we should ignore the standards we already have.


netsplit wrote:As stated above the double negative construction prevents miscommunication, is widely understood, yet isn't considered proper grammar.

See above.


omgryebread wrote:Strict fashion is far more useful than strict grammar. With good fashion sense, it's virtually impossible to commit a serious error that causes a social or professional problem, and you can quite easily increase your social or professional advantages in a public setting.

I wouldn't be too sure of that. I used to associate hoodies with a down-to-Earth approach, as the wearer is neither flaunting wealth nor flaunting whichever physical features other people flaunt. However, it seemed like after Trayvon Martin's death, those who associated hoodies with crime came out of the woodwork.

I've often doubted that wealth is necessarily something to be proud of, given the sleazy business practices associated with making it big in the business world. However, being proud of earning wealth is one thing, and being proud of spending a significant amount of it on "status" symbols is another. If it gets results, then I don't blame the individual businessperson. I blame the culture that allows it to "get results" in the first place, because clients should be basing this trust in someone's judgment on that person's education, not that person's wealth. If we need to mass produce some easy-to-carry symbol of one's education as an alternative to carrying a copy of one's transcript or degree, so be it. As long as it's more cost-effective than expensive suits.


omgryebread wrote:If dress were simple practicality, we'd all wear jumpsuits. (Oppa Pyongyang Style), and if language was, we'd all speak Lojban.

Speaking different languages; when you're calling them different languages; is a whole different ball game than speaking one language while ignoring its rules.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby gmalivuk » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:06 pm UTC

YTPrenewed wrote:Speaking different languages; when you're calling them different languages; is a whole different ball game than speaking one language while ignoring its rules.
If you can be said to be speaking a language, any language, then you cannot be ignoring its rules. If you truly are ignoring all of its rules, then you are producing word-salad, which I personally wouldn't refer to as speaking any particular language.

Calling it a different dialect or a different language is just a matter of how mutually intelligible it is to speakers of another dialect or language. There is no sharp divide anywhere along the continuum from, "this person is speaking my language and dialect" to "this person is speaking a different dialect of my language" to "this person is speaking a different language". ("This person is speaking my language with bad grammar" can lie anywhere between the first two and can overlap heavily with the "different dialect" area depending on how willing you are to acknowledge multiple dialects of your language.)

YTPrenewed wrote:That may constitute a reason for making a presently non-standard form of grammar the new standard. However, in the meantime, it doesn't mean we should ignore the standards we already have.
The point is, every way of speaking makes some types of ambiguity easy to produce and others easy to avoid. Pick a new standard and it will have slightly different ways of having or avoiding ambiguity.

I am arguing against the idea of privileging any variety of a language as the single universal standard, against which all utterances in that language will be judged for "correctness". This position is the obvious one with fashion. Almost no one argues for a single standard of dress across the board for all contexts and situations. Yet people do so argue in language.

Having a single enforced standard is neither necessary nor sufficient for achieving the stated goal of clear and unambiguous communication (of what a person wants to communicate and to whom that person wants to communicate it). It's not necessary because effective communication happens so long as the people communicating have the same expectations, whether or not it's anyone else's standard. (And in fact in-group/out-group signaling, which I'd argue is definitely a kind of communication, would be made much more difficult if everyone used language the same way.) It's not sufficient because perfect grammar doesn't guarantee that something is clear, unambiguous, concise, interesting, or otherwise well-written in any way.
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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Karantalsis » Fri Sep 23, 2016 10:20 pm UTC

orthogon wrote:Where I grew up (northwest England) we had the "our" thing meaning "of my family" (almost always a sibling, though perhaps more broadly applicable) - I think of it as Liverpudlian but it could be of Irish origin. However that is really a semantic difference, and quite a minor one at that. It's still the same genitive pronoun, and as Pinker points out, genitives are used to indicate a very wide variety of relationships of which "possessive" is only one. At work I might say "our John" meaning the John on our team, or from our company, which is a similar thing. But I agree that the dialectical usage you're talking about is distinct and would merit a specific mention in a dictionary.


Now you've exposed me! I'm scouse, originally.

orthogon wrote:It's clear that different dialects make certain propositions easier to state unambiguously, and the same is true of languages more broadly. Exposure to more than one language or dialect does tend to make you wish you had a particular thing in your own language; the plural "you" being a particularly good example since it's needed all the time. But I think in most cases it's just arbitrary which things can be expressed more or less unambiguously in a given language, though people will try to claim that particular languages are fundamentally better. In your example, say, it's just lucky that one of the Kellys (Kellies?) is your sister. In another language you might be able to use some ending to indicate efficiently whether it was Kelly the teenager or Kelly the thirty-something that you were referring to, but no way to indicate family or non-family. As I say, I doubt that any language or dialect is better across the board, but the feeling "if only we were speaking x I could use word y" is familiar and very vexatious.


I agree totally, I wasn't trying to say everyone should start to speak scouse like wot we do. I constantly notice things in German that I would like to have in English and I even spot the odd thing in French. I like the clearer cases in German, for example, but the genders are... not a thing I like.

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Re: 1735: "Fashion Police and Grammar Police"

Postby Liri » Fri Sep 23, 2016 11:50 pm UTC

Going off something gmalivuk* said on page one, grammar describes how people talk and write, not the other way around. Likewise, music theory describes how composers like Bach, Beethoven, and Schoenberg wrote their music. If this idea that grammar is permanently unchanging was enforced, we would be stuck listening to Baroque conversations (and I'm sure we are now, by future standards) forever. Imagine having to always think and speak like a Dickens novel.

It's worthwhile to maintain a slow enough rate of change so we all understand one another, but attempting to stifle the linguistic forays of (often oppressed) subcultures is a bit much.


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