Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

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Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Proofrdr » 17 Aug 2012, 23:14

I hope it's okay to start this new thread here.

Editing the English language is not a cut-and-dried process; rather, it's a balance between following the rules and nuancing them to best effect. Often, I come across "linguistic situations" that are amusing, perplexing, or just downright annoying in their universal repetition of incorrectness. I thought it might be interesting to share them and generate some discussion.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Proofrdr » 17 Aug 2012, 23:30

The religious question: Should the name of the deity always be capitalized?

Absolutely not. Yet some assume that's an unbreakable rule. The rule that supersedes it is the rule of context. I remember Karin Kallmaker addressing this issue at one of the GCLS conferences. She said something to the effect that if you have two women in bed and one of them screams out, "Oh god, fuck me, fuck me harder," that's not a time for a capital g on god. Nor is it necessary to capitalize godammit, goddamn, or goddamned.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby ElaineB » 18 Aug 2012, 12:59

lol
Well, this should be a fun thread!
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby PaulaO » 19 Aug 2012, 02:59

Yep, I remember Karin saying that. She has a knack for finding the right descriptive thing to say.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Baker » 19 Aug 2012, 10:27

Yes, this promises to be an entertaining and informative thread. :-) Yes, Proof, you are free to start threads. Thanks.
Those who can make you believe absurdities can make you commit atrocities ~ Voltaire
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Proofrdr » 01 Oct 2012, 04:24

Okay, this may be somewhat off topic, but it does encompass usage, so I guess it belongs here. This is an example of how effete snob intellectuals can turn people away from perfectly good literature...and annoy me in the process.

The Academy of American Poets selected Gary Snyder as this year's winner of the $100,000 Wallace Stevens Award. Along with the likes of Lawrence Ferlinghetti, Allen Ginsberg, and Greg Corso, Snyder was one of the prominent poets of the Beat Generation...a group that fed my teenage secret longing for rebellion and the unconventional. I remember keeping a forbidden copy of Ginsberg's Howl hidden in a shoe box in my closet. But I digress...

Snyder writes decent poetry and seems to care about his craft. As with any poet, his work appeals to some and not to others. I do not question his qualifications for this prize. In fact, I think it an honor long overdue. However, I am really annoyed by the the award statement made by Jane Hirshfield, a chancellor of The Academy of American Poets' Board of Chancellors:
Gary Snyder has brought to American poetry a lyric poem whose subjects and views are objectively epic. His words look into the world and our human lives with acuity, affection, and the ethics of a ten-thousand-year perception. They have altered and marked both how we know and how we say.

What a pompous, bombastic, bloviated compost heap of words! It strives so hard to sound lofty and learned that it becomes a parody of itself. I have no patience with such verbal snobbery.

And the irony is that it is far afield from the kind of poetry Snyder writes! His poetry is simplicity itself--direct, clear images evoke memories and feelings. In some ways his poetry is reminiscent of Robert Frost...an urban Robert Frost. You can read four of his poems here.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Baker » 02 Oct 2012, 06:35

...and the ethics of a ten-thousand-year perception.

You forgot meaningless, Proof. :no:
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Proofrdr » 02 Oct 2012, 06:43

I begin this entry on prepositions with a bad joke:
Sex and Good English

On his 74th birthday, a man got a gift certificate from his wife. The certificate paid for a visit to a medicine man from a nearby reservation who was rumored to have a wonderful cure for erectile dysfunction.

After being persuaded, he drove to the reservation, handed his ticket to the medicine man, and wondered what to expect.

The medicine man handed him a small bottle, and with a grip on his shoulder, warned, "This is powerful medicine. It must be respected. You take only one teaspoonful, and then say '1-2-3.' When you do that, you will become more manly than you have ever been in your life, and you can perform as long as you want."

The old man was encouraged. As he walked away, he turned and asked, "How do I stop the medicine from working?"

"Your partner must say '1-2-3-4,'" he responded, "but when she does, the medicine will not work again until the next full moon."

The old man was very eager to see if it worked, so he went home, showered, shaved, took a spoonful of the medicine, and then invited his wife to join him in the bedroom. When she came in, he took off his clothes and said, "1-2-3!"

Immediately, he was the manliest of men.

His wife was excited and began throwing off her clothes, and then she asked, "What was the 1-2-3 for?"

And that is why we should never end a sentence with a preposition--because we could end up with a dangling participle.


"Never end a sentence with a preposition." It's a myth, totally not true. It never was a rule in English, but it perpetuates despite more than a century's efforts by grammarians to invalidate it. Now, if we were writing in Latin, we would be lassoed to the rule since Latin prepositions must be followed by a noun and Latin rhetoric emphasizes ending sentences on "strong" words like nouns and verbs.

English prepositions can work very well without a noun trailing along after them. In fact, many of our verbs have a nuanced meaning when paired with a specific preposition...shut up, run along, sit down, stand up. Forcing apart such a verb phrase can result in ludicrous results. For example, there is that wonderful story about Winston Churchill. Supposedly an editor had clumsily rearranged one of Churchill’s sentences to avoid ending it in a preposition, and the Prime Minister, very proud of his style, scribbled this note in reply: “This is the sort of English up with which I will not put.”

Rewording a sentence so as not to end in a preposition can be occasion for linguistic gymnastics and generally makes the sentence wordy and indirect. So forget this false rule, throw caution to the wind, and when it sounds right to end a sentence with a preposition, do it.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Proofrdr » 02 Oct 2012, 06:47

Baker wrote:
...and the ethics of a ten-thousand-year perception.

You forgot meaningless, Proof. :no:

That was the "compost heap", Baker. ;) It's just godawful meaningless crap. Why do they do it? They're celebrating the beauty that another has created with words. At least try to be a little poetic and meaningful in your praise.
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Re: Grammar & Usage from an Editor's POV

Postby Baker » 02 Oct 2012, 06:48

Yes, ma'am. I shall henceforth do as I am told.
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