• Publication week for Descent 296

    'Having just come back from expedition jetlagged and pushed for time, I thought adding eight extra pages to Descent would be the best way to get back into the swing of things. I hope you'll all find that the extra hours were well spent'.

    Click here for more details of what's in the next edition

Spelling and Apostrophes

Fulk

Well-known member
Oh Lor', I should have known that I would be opening a can of worms by posting a simple query about the system's (or rather my computer's) spell-checker!!  :(
 

JasonC

Well-known member
Subjects to avoid at a dinner-party*:

- politics
- religion
- punctuation



* if I ever went to one....
 

Antwan

Member
Fulk said:
Oh Lor', I should have known that I would be opening a can of worms by posting a simple query about the system's (or rather my computer's) spell-checker!!  :(
Yes, but now CT looks like a complete grammar need for starting this thread  :clap:

Amazeballs as the millennials say.
 

cooleycr

Active member
As someone who has a form of dyslexia, punctuation, spelling etc. doesn't really impact on me, I can read sentences where words can be incorrectly spelt, out of context etc..

They are all the right letters, but not necessarily in the right order!  ;)

I agree that languages evolve, just look at some of the words/phrases that have been added to the OED in recent years, but I do feel that we should maintain standards and not be lzy... 
 

Cave_Troll

Active member
Antwan said:
Fulk said:
Oh Lor', I should have known that I would be opening a can of worms by posting a simple query about the system's (or rather my computer's) spell-checker!!  :(
Yes, but now CT looks like a complete grammar need for starting this thread  :clap:

Amazeballs as the millennials say.

can i delete my posting now its out of context and looks like i started this for no reason ?
 

paul

Moderator
An example where correct punctuation mattered: http://mentalfloss.com/article/66275/comma-crusader-brings-good-grammar-traffic-court-and-wins
 

Fulk

Well-known member
Well, it could also be said that this was another example of smart-ass PC overturning common sense.
 

kay

Well-known member
Fulk commented on "literally". I recall about 2 years back the OED or some other arbiter of "good English" accepted that "literally" was used "as an intensifier", eg "raining cats and dogs", and this now seems to be accepted in on-line dictionaries as an informal but correct use.

The one that really annoys me is the use of "despise" to mean "dislike intensely" as in "I despise brussels sprouts". But then most of the on-line dictionaries have definitions that would encompass that use, eg Oxford dictionaries "Feel contempt or a deep repugnance for."

But then I have to remember that my beliefs on how things are done are as quaint and outdated to today's young people as were, to me,  the beliefs of the people born in Edwardian times who were around me when I was young.
 

Fulk

Well-known member
Language changes and evolves, and I guess we've just got to adapt to it. The problem with 'literally' is that there is no other way of easily saying what it used to mean (cf. 'hopefully' which used to mean 'full of hope', but now usually is used to mean 'I hope that' ? however, here there is no problem, because you can still say 'full of hope' if that's your intended meaning*). There is another problem ? it distorts the meaning when someone wants to use 'literally' in its old sense.

So ? if I'm the near victim of a rock that fell down a shaft and just missed me, I could say 'The rock missed me by literally 2 cm' and once upon a time people would really believe that the rock landed 2 cm from my foot. Now, they'd just think it fell quite close ? maybe a couple of metres away ? on account of the way the meaning of 'literally' has changed.

So how do you convey the old-fashioned sense of literally, without going into a whole rigmarole of explanation?

*Mind you, if someone says 'Hopefully the train will arrive at 2 o'clock', I smile inwardly at the vision of Thomas the Tank Engine arriving with a silly grin on his little face ? full of hope!

 

Kenilworth

New member
The issue with "hopefully" is at its root a grammar one, not a definition one. It can still mean "full of hope" and in a sentence like, "Hopefully a dog will fall from that window," it is implied -though not grammatically, according to some authorities- that the speaker is full of hope. Instead of justifying the grammar, the definition was gradually changed to include a meaning such as "Let us hope".

The problem with "literally" is real, and represents an example of a word as an act of communication being commandeered by cultural considerations having nothing to do with language.

 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
Kenilworth said:
The problem with "literally" is real, and represents an example of a word as an act of communication being commandeered by cultural considerations having nothing to do with language.

English can't be 'commandeered' as no-one has control of it...

Plus the intensifier/figuratively sense of 'literally' has been in the OED since at least 1903 and its use dates back to the 17th century. Its evolution from the Latin relating to letters towards a general intensifier follows a very similar trend in various other words.

"The American Heritage Dictionary notes that the contradictory use of literally ?does not stem from a change in the meaning of literally itself . . . but from a natural tendency to use the word as a general intensive?. As such, it is following a familiar path taken by words like absolutely, totally, really, and even very, which originally meant something like true, real, or genuine." https://stancarey.wordpress.com/2011/01/31/literally-centuries-of-non-literal-literally/

This article makes an excellent point:
http://www.macmillandictionaryblog.com/this-will-literally-have-you-in-stitches

Imagine a story which begins:
'The plucky speleologist looked up at the ceiling high above. He knew that there were hundreds of metres of solid limestone between him and the surface.
So what is the difference between these two sentences which might come next?
'He could feel the weight of the rock above him crushing down on him'.
'He could feel the weight of the rock above him literally crushing down on him'.
The answer is actually very little... in both case the rock isn't literally crushing him; it's just hyperbole.
 

Kenilworth

New member
Illustrating one of the real problems with "literally" as an intensifier: it isn't. Much the opposite in fact, it often sucks the power from hyperbole. At best it communicates absolutely nothing (other than the clumsiness of the speaker/writer).

I reckon too that no "plucky" individual nor "speleologist" would be thus moved by an awareness of the overburden. ;)

 

scurve

Member
Call me old fashioned, but it makes my blood metaphorically boil when people use the word 'egregious' to mean outstandingly bad, as was first used in the late 16th century. Why oh why do people not stick to its earlier 16th century definition, which meant remarkably good?
 

andrewmcleod

Well-known member
scurve said:
Call me old fashioned, but it makes my blood metaphorically boil when people use the word 'egregious' to mean outstandingly bad, as was first used in the late 16th century. Why oh why do people not stick to its earlier 16th century definition, which meant remarkably good?

And the (probably apocryphal apart from the use of the word 'awful') quote describing plans for St Paul's cathedral as 'amusing, awful, and artificial' - it's a travesty of modern language that we don't immediately recognise that as meaning amazing, awe-inspiring and artistic (full of artifice?).

also https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Auto-antonym
 

Roger W

Well-known member
Kenilworth said:
Illustrating one of the real problems with "literally" as an intensifier: it isn't. Much the opposite in fact, it often sucks the power from hyperbole. At best it communicates absolutely nothing (other than the clumsiness of the speaker/writer).

I reckon too that no "plucky" individual nor "speleologist" would be thus moved by an awareness of the overburden. ;)

They might well be able to feel the weight of the rock if it was literally crushing dwn on them.  I think the Old Ruminator has had such an experience.
 
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