Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

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Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Oflick » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:16 am UTC

So, everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to grammar, but what mistakes and errors do you think should be acceptable? Or, similarly, what do you think should be unacceptable despite being grammatically correct?

Whenever someone asks for me on the phone, I reply "this is him", not the correct "this is he". I'm sure it annoys some people, but something about saying "this is he" just strikes me as wrong. Just my preference.

I also think every grammatical mistake I've made in this post should be acceptable.
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Postby Felstaff » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:33 am UTC

Everyone in the 90s dropped the apostrophe, even though it was acceptable in the 80's. (It was acceptable at the time!)
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby AvatarIII » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:39 am UTC

if anything there should be an apostrophy before the number, like the '90s

i'd say it would be acceptable to say "80's music" (in the same way you could say Beethoven's music) so i think the apostrophy thing depends on context
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Makri » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:37 am UTC

For heaven's sake... "This is him" is as grammatically correct as it gets. Notwithstanding anything that may be said by people who think they know something about language because they've had a few years of Latin.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Oflick » Wed Aug 31, 2011 11:53 am UTC

I was always told "this is him" was very poor grammar (that's right, not just poor, very poor). If it isn't, I guess I don't have to worry about using it. Either way, it seems to be considered unacceptable by some, and I think it should be accepted.
Last edited by Oflick on Thu Sep 01, 2011 12:30 am UTC, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Makri » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:00 pm UTC

Actually, a speaker of English would have a very hard time convincing me they're not lying (to either themselves or me) if they insist that "That's him" is ungrammatical in their speech. They would have to present pretty impressive anti-credentials (among which would be never being taught Latin), which, I have to admit, they are extremely unlikely to have if they're from the demographic that would even have a remote chance of acquiring "That is he" as the sole grammatical form. :mrgreen:
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Wed Aug 31, 2011 1:31 pm UTC

There are a lot of borderline ungrammatical things I say on a regular basis. Many of them are derived from Tommy-Wiseaulish.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby The Mockingbird » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:13 pm UTC

I don't consider it an error, but there shouldn't be rules concerning when you use "less" and when you use "fewer". There's a long standing debate over this, although I think it might just be a Shibboleth so Midwesterners can distinguish Chicago residents from the East Coasters. :shock:
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Aiwendil » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:28 pm UTC

I'll admit that I'm fairly uptight about a lot of grammatical things. The less/fewer thing, for example, is one that bothers me a bit.

On the other hand, while I tend to say 'That's he' and 'It is I', as grammatical 'errors' go, I find the failure to use the predicate nominative pretty innocuous. (The use of hypercorrected 'I' when it should be 'me', on the other hand, drives me crazy.)

As for grammatical 'errors' that I don't consider to be errors at all, a few that immediately come to mind are:
- The use of a conjunction as the first word in a sentence (e.g. 'And this is something I do fairly frequently myself.')
- The so-called 'splitting' of infinitives (e.g. 'to boldly go where no one has gone before')
- The use of a preposition as the last word in a phrase (e.g. 'Whom should I give this to?')
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Anonymously Famous » Wed Aug 31, 2011 6:48 pm UTC

I think that in spontaneous, spoken English, "there is" and "there are" should be acceptable regardless of whether or not the following word/phrase is singular or plural. For example, "There's a lot of people here." In writing, it still seems to be wrong, but in speaking, I think there needs to be a little more leeway.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Qaanol » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:12 pm UTC

Predicate accusative: This is him.
Prepositional ‘than’ in comparatives: He runs faster than me. (If that one bugs you, all I’m saying is one particular way in which he is different from me, which shouldn’t bug you at all.)

There’s a few others that have slipped my mind just now.

Aiwendil wrote:I'll admit that I'm fairly uptight about a lot of grammatical things. The less/fewer thing, for example, is one that bothers me a bit.

Hmm? I don’t follow. The meaning of “less” is a strict superset of the meaning of “fewer”. The latter can only refer to discrete objects (fewer fields, not fewer land), whereas the former can refer to either discrete or continuous objects (less fields, and less land).
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Lazar » Wed Aug 31, 2011 10:25 pm UTC

Aiwendil wrote:I'll admit that I'm fairly uptight about a lot of grammatical things. The less/fewer thing, for example, is one that bothers me a bit.

On the other hand, while I tend to say 'That's he' and 'It is I', as grammatical 'errors' go, I find the failure to use the predicate nominative pretty innocuous. (The use of hypercorrected 'I' when it should be 'me', on the other hand, drives me crazy.)

As for grammatical 'errors' that I don't consider to be errors at all, a few that immediately come to mind are:
- The use of a conjunction as the first word in a sentence (e.g. 'And this is something I do fairly frequently myself.')
- The so-called 'splitting' of infinitives (e.g. 'to boldly go where no one has gone before')
- The use of a preposition as the last word in a phrase (e.g. 'Whom should I give this to?')

My taste is similar to yours. I always adhere to the rules on less/fewer and lay/lie*, but I'm fine with things like "It's me" and "Who did you see?", because I consider these more an issue of register than of 'correctness'. The rules that you cite at the bottom are examples of what I really dislike: baseless pronouncements that have never been reflected in real usage, even among the greatest writers of the English language. (From what I've read on Language Log, it seems like most of these originated with some old pedant saying, "Wouldn't it be nice if the language followed this rule that I just made up? Now I shall say that it's a rule!") To the prohibitions on initial coordinating conjunctions, split infinitives and final prepositions, I would add the prohibition on using "which" to introduce a restrictive clause.

*I taught myself this distinction using the analogy of "raise" and "rise". "Raise" has the same vowel as "lay", and it's transitive; "rise" has the same vowel as "lie", and it's intransitive.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby goofy » Thu Sep 01, 2011 5:58 am UTC

Lazar wrote:My taste is similar to yours. I always adhere to the rules on less/fewer and lay/lie*, but I'm fine with things like "It's me" and "Who did you see?", because I consider these more an issue of register than of 'correctness'. The rules that you cite at the bottom are examples of what I really dislike: baseless pronouncements that have never been reflected in real usage, even among the greatest writers of the English language.


The less/fewer "rule" is actually another one of these baseless pronouncements. Language Log has some good posts about it.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Lazar » Thu Sep 01, 2011 6:18 am UTC

Yeah... I kinda walked into that one. But I've trained myself to follow that rule, so now it's just what I naturally do.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Aiwendil » Thu Sep 01, 2011 8:09 pm UTC

I don't know, things like 'ten items or less' really do sound wrong to me on a fairly basic level, in a way that those other baselessly proscribed constructions don't. Now, it's quite possible that this is because the 'rule' has been so well drilled into my head that I've thoroughly assimilated it. But some of the other ones have been drilled into my head as well and haven't left any trace of a lasting impression. I can't shake the feeling that there's actually something inherent in the semantics of 'less' that makes the less/fewer pronouncement more reasonable than the others. Which I guess means I'll go right on being bothered by 'ten items or less' but make every effort to keep my disapprobation to myself.

To get back on topic, another category of 'rules' that really annoy me is the baseless insistence on a semantic distinction between two variants of a word. It seems, for example, that some people can't accept that there might be more than one legitimate way of spelling a word and feel compelled to invent some distinction between the two forms. 'Further' and 'farther', 'ensure' and 'insure', 'title' and 'entitle', 'bereaved' and 'bereft', and 'older' and 'elder' are some that immediately come to mind. In a similar vein is the invented distinction whereby 'mouse' is pluralized 'mice' when referring to the animal and 'mouses' when referring to the computer peripheral - this would make sense if the two actually had different etymologies, but they are in fact the same word and there's no reason to pluralize them differently.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 02, 2011 6:49 am UTC

Aiwendil wrote:I don't know, things like 'ten items or less' really do sound wrong to me on a fairly basic level, in a way that those other baselessly proscribed constructions don't.


Maybe the semantics of "less" function that way in your idiolect. Nothing wrong with that. But "ten items or less" really is grammatical in standard English.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Felstaff » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:21 am UTC

I always use 'fewer', and relish being the grumpy person who points out the '10 items or less' sign in the supermarket with a snobby smirk. I certainly discern the distinction between less and fewer. It helps if you swap the usage:

  • "There needs to be less than 20 grams of sugar in this recipe"
  • "There needs to be fewer than 20 grams of sugar in this recipe"
  • "There needs to be less than 4 teaspoons of sugar in this recipe" (?)
  • "There needs to be fewer than 4 teaspoons of sugar in this recipe"

For symmetry, I personally see the third sentence as improper, but then again I don't control how the English language is used, so you can do whatever the hell you want with it. I'll just sit here and act judgemental. But I personally do not see the terms less and fewer as interchangeably synonymous (as demonstrated by the second sentence) and use 'less' when describing something that can be fractioned (e.g., less than 20g could equal 19.2g, and "fewer than 20g" is wrong wrong wrong i hate you*) and 'fewer' when describing things that can only be removed wholly ("less than 4 teaspoons? You want me to put, what, 3.8 teaspoons of sugar in this delicious cake? The fuck is wrong with you? Get out of my kitchen!" Fewer than 4 teaspoons would mean exactly 3, 2, or 1 teaspoon(s) and nothing else)


*Anyone replying with oh but "fewer than 20g" is fine because you could be implying that you are still dealing in whole grams, will be forced to eat the cake they ruined because they spent far too long measuring out the ingredients with meticulous precision, the entire cake fucked up because they let the mixture dry out and it no longer comes out spongy, but flat and chewy. Serves you goddamned right. I hope you're happy, Cake Ruiner
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:41 am UTC

Interesting. Both of those examples with fewer feel wrong to me. Also interesting is that in my 1295 posts I've used "fewer" only twice and "less" ~90 times. Both of those fewers preceded a plural, non-numeral, noun. I'm not sure I'm comfortable with combining fewer and numbers. Hmmmm. I am really wishing that the other forum I use (and have 7k+ posts at) allowed searching individual users posts.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Felstaff » Fri Sep 02, 2011 8:48 am UTC

My rule of thumb is to use 'fewer' when dealing with whole numbers that are no more than 15 (the amount of unique objects the human brain can process at once)

So, "I saw less than fifty hookers the last time I was in Vegas" compared to "I saw fewer than 12 hookers the last time I was in Vegas"


...and less than half of them managed to make me a cake. They were all too busy measuring out 3.2 teaspoons of sugar. The goddamn thing burned. Burnt.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby goofy » Fri Sep 02, 2011 6:23 pm UTC

Felstaff wrote:
  • "There needs to be less than 20 grams of sugar in this recipe"
  • "There needs to be fewer than 20 grams of sugar in this recipe"
  • "There needs to be less than 4 teaspoons of sugar in this recipe" (?)
  • "There needs to be fewer than 4 teaspoons of sugar in this recipe"

For symmetry, I personally see the third sentence as improper, but then again I don't control how the English language is used, so you can do whatever the hell you want with it. I'll just sit here and act judgemental. But I personally do not see the terms less and fewer as interchangeably synonymous (as demonstrated by the second sentence) and use 'less' when describing something that can be fractioned (e.g., less than 20g could equal 19.2g, and "fewer than 20g" is wrong wrong wrong i hate you*) and 'fewer' when describing things that can only be removed wholly ("less than 4 teaspoons? You want me to put, what, 3.8 teaspoons of sugar in this delicious cake? The fuck is wrong with you? Get out of my kitchen!" Fewer than 4 teaspoons would mean exactly 3, 2, or 1 teaspoon(s) and nothing else)


I don't understand. Both teaspoons and grams can be fractioned - half a teaspoon, a third of a teaspoon, etc.

The usual prescription is "Less should not be used with count nouns." So I think that "less" in all four of those sentences would be considered incorrect by some prescriptivists.

But of course it is used with count nouns all the time, particularly in the constructions "less than" and "or less". It's been used with count nouns since the time of King Alfred. And as I've seen in this thread, the usage varies from person to person.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Twelfthroot » Sun Sep 04, 2011 4:59 pm UTC

Anonymously Famous wrote:I think that in spontaneous, spoken English, "there is" and "there are" should be acceptable regardless of whether or not the following word/phrase is singular or plural. For example, "There's a lot of people here." In writing, it still seems to be wrong, but in speaking, I think there needs to be a little more leeway.


I'm against this one not because I disagree, but because I used to always use the 'correct' form without having been prescribed it, until either going to college or starting to regularly speak Spanish (which has singular form for both), when I started catching myself messing it up. It gives me the same feeling I get when I let slip a "he got runned over", namely oh god my English is melting.

I'm all for infinitive-splitting and sentence-final prepositions and 'less' being always acceptable for 'fewer'. On the other hand, I wish not using the subjunctive sounded more wrong. If it were more ubiquitous in English, perhaps beginning language students wouldn't find the concept of the subjunctive in foreign languages so vexing. And there's a subtle difference between "if there is" and "if there be", darnit, and I want to be able to express that shading without instead expressing "look at me, I think I'm Shakespeare."
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Makri » Sun Sep 04, 2011 5:27 pm UTC

I think the not-so-subtle difference between "if there is" and "if there be" is that the latter is virtually non-existent in contemporary English and probably even ungrammatical for a number of speakers. :mrgreen:

What would you want there difference between the two to be?
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Thesh » Sun Sep 04, 2011 6:34 pm UTC

WRONG:
My friend and I went to the store to buy some J&B.

WRONG:
My friend and me went to the store to buy some Dewar's.

CORRECT:
Me and my friend went to the store to buy some Laphroaig.


I don't know if it's really grammatically incorrect, but my Grandmother always scolded me for using "Me and my friend...", which just sounds better.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Sep 04, 2011 6:41 pm UTC

It's correct because English is an ergative language. Don't let anyone tell you otherwise.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Makri » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:48 pm UTC

How would that explain the failure of the first conjunct to be marked as ergative?
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Sep 04, 2011 7:52 pm UTC

Sorry, it was just a joke.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Twelfthroot » Sun Sep 04, 2011 8:06 pm UTC

Makri wrote:I think the not-so-subtle difference between "if there is" and "if there be" is that the latter is virtually non-existent in contemporary English and probably even ungrammatical for a number of speakers. :mrgreen:

What would you want there difference between the two to be?


Heh, yes, it's a bit of a stretch as it stands... though I can still imagine "If there be any reason these two should not be wed" passing without anyone raising a grammatically confused eyebrow, at least. In any case, I would think the difference is in the speaker's attitude toward the possibility of the situation -- "If there is" means "there may or may not be, but in the case that there is, this", whereas "if there be" means "I believe there probably isn't, but even if there were, this".

I think you can at least get away with it in something like "if there be so much as" -- stick enough slightly-more-stilted register constructions together and you at least sound not wrong. Just stilted.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Derek » Sun Sep 04, 2011 10:15 pm UTC

I think I would use "If there were..." in such a context.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Anonymously Famous » Mon Sep 05, 2011 1:54 am UTC

Twelfthroot wrote:
Anonymously Famous wrote:I think that in spontaneous, spoken English, "there is" and "there are" should be acceptable regardless of whether or not the following word/phrase is singular or plural. For example, "There's a lot of people here." In writing, it still seems to be wrong, but in speaking, I think there needs to be a little more leeway.


I'm against this one not because I disagree, but because I used to always use the 'correct' form without having been prescribed it, until either going to college or starting to regularly speak Spanish (which has singular form for both), when I started catching myself messing it up. It gives me the same feeling I get when I let slip a "he got runned over", namely oh god my English is melting.

Technically Spanish uses a null subject form for both, I believe. I might mix them up because of my experience with Spanish, but I also hear a lot of people who have no foreign language experience use "there is" for just about everything, and it just doesn't sound "wrong" to me.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby VanLeeroy » Wed Sep 07, 2011 10:08 am UTC

Derek wrote:I think I would use "If there were..." in such a context.

i would use the same
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby sorsoup » Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:37 am UTC

Oflick wrote:So, everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to grammar, but what mistakes and errors do you think should be acceptable? Or, similarly, what do you think should be unacceptable despite being grammatically correct?


But you're not really asking about mistakes, are you? Mistakes are the things that people say by accident, not as a habit.

And if a group of people use a particular type of phrase habitually then that is strong evidence that it is acceptable, at least to them. You seem to still have the idea that something can be ungrammatical even if commonly used, which doesn't make sense, although a thing can be commonly used in one form of English and ungrammatical in another.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Sep 11, 2011 3:03 am UTC

Eeyup.

I kind of like dropping "have"/"'ve" from perfect constructions. E.g., "I been working all day." It just feels right.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Oflick » Sun Sep 11, 2011 4:51 am UTC

sorsoup wrote:
Oflick wrote:So, everyone has their own pet peeves when it comes to grammar, but what mistakes and errors do you think should be acceptable? Or, similarly, what do you think should be unacceptable despite being grammatically correct?


But you're not really asking about mistakes, are you? Mistakes are the things that people say by accident, not as a habit.

And if a group of people use a particular type of phrase habitually then that is strong evidence that it is acceptable, at least to them. You seem to still have the idea that something can be ungrammatical even if commonly used, which doesn't make sense, although a thing can be commonly used in one form of English and ungrammatical in another.


Common usage doesn't automatically make something acceptable.

I think error is a better word than mistake, though. I probably shouldn't have said mistake and just kept using error. What else would you call it? Even if someone always says the wrong thing, that doesn't mean it's acceptable. It means they obviously see know problem, though.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby gmalivuk » Sun Sep 11, 2011 6:17 am UTC

Oflick wrote:Common usage doesn't automatically make something acceptable.
In language it does.

they obviously see know problem, though.
Was that intentional?
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Oflick » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:04 am UTC

gmalivuk wrote:
Oflick wrote:Common usage doesn't automatically make something acceptable.
In language it does.

they obviously see know problem, though.
Was that intentional?


I really hope it was intentional and that I've merely forgotten doing it.

Perhaps I'm using the term "common usage" incorrectly. Certain phrases and words may be common usage amongst certain groups, but that doesn't make them correct. If you write an essay for English and get a poor mark for bad grammar, you can't just say "But that's how everyone speaks these days".
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Iulus Cofield » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:11 am UTC

That's mostly a dialectic issue, no? In that case between a particular dialect and the semi-artificial prestige dialect.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Lazar » Sun Sep 11, 2011 10:22 am UTC

Iulus Cofield wrote:That's mostly a dialectic issue, no?

Who said anything about Hegel?

In that case between a particular dialect and the semi-artificial prestige dialect.

Yeah, I'd say it's an issue of both dialect and register. A given usage may be a valid part of the vernacular language, but incorrect in the prestige variant.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Oflick » Sun Sep 11, 2011 12:41 pm UTC

Well, the question itself seems to have caused some dispute (between me and people who know what they're talking about). So, why don't I simply rephrase the question:

What is something that is grammatically incorrect which you think shouldn't be? That better? I actually don't see much difference between it and my first question, but I think a little less ambiguous.

So is "ten items or less" correct grammar now, seeing as it's common?
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby Anonymously Famous » Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:12 pm UTC

Whenever you ask a question like this one you'll usually have people with the prescriptive point of view and those with the descriptive point of view.

The prescriptivists are the ones that define the rules. Anything else is incorrect. That is where grammatical errors come from. Splitting infinitives, ending sentences with prepositions, starting them with conjunctions... all forbidden by prescriptive rules.

The descriptivists, however, describe the rules. They'll say something along the lines of "In this place, people in this socioeconomic range tend to say 'him and me' instead of 'he and I.' Isn't that interesting?" I suppose you could say that someone who defines themselves with that group of people, who spoke differently, might be "breaking" descriptive rules, but you could just say that they follow one group in some areas and another group in others.

Descriptive rules will usually become prescriptive rules, if enough people speak a certain way for enough time. For example, style guides and professors seem to accept splitting infinitives just fine.
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Re: Grammatical errors you think should be acceptable

Postby eSOANEM » Sun Sep 11, 2011 2:20 pm UTC

Anonymously Famous is right, "grammatically incorrect" is a very poorly defined term. From a decriptivist standpoint, pretty much everything in this thread is correct and anything else is simply non-standard rather than incorrect (because, unless that person perceives it as being a grammatically incorrect construction then, at least in their idiolect, it is correct).
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