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“Much More Ready”

I just heard a British announcer say “much more ready” on TV. Whatever happened to the word “readier” and the phrase “much readier”.

Also, is the source of the phrase “much more X”, where X is a simple one or two syllable adjective, in British English -- and Americans are now slavishly imitating it?

Now we hear such wretched phrases as “much more free”, “much more grave”, and “much more simple”, when we already had simple comparatives like “freer”, “graver”, and “simpler”.

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1910 Times 13 Apr. 14/3 While they did not find that teetotalers were much more free from accidence than other persons, total abstainers recovered more rapidly from the effects of injuries.

goofy July 9, 2012, 8:24am

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1. "Times" - British

2. General purpose comment: Just because somone did it wrong a century or more ago does not make it right now.

3. What is "accidence"? Is that a mistyping of "accidents".

4. "much more free from accidents" is silly and illogical. Someone in that situation is either
A. Free of accidents (NO accidents) , or
B. Somene who has suffered from an accident or accidents.
In other words, someone is either accident-free or not accident-free, and there are not any comparatives or superlatives of this.
Even having one small accident cancels out the possibility of being "free of accidents".

I have noticed other such things by British writers, such as ones who have written "more ideal" and "most ideal".
Wrong. Something is either IDEAL or not ideal.

For example, in a plane, and ideal pair of parallel lines never intersect each other.
If they are not ideal parallel lines, then they intersect each other somewhere.

D. A. Wood July 9, 2012, 1:13pm

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Accidence: chance, unforeseen or unexpected eventuality, mishap (OED)

I provided this quote to show that the usage is not new.

goofy July 9, 2012, 1:21pm

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So -- Accidence: chance, unforeseen or unexpected eventuality, mishap (OED)

Some situation is either accidence-free, or it is NOT accidence-free.

Similarly, your dinner is either polonium-free or it is NOT polonium free.

There are now claims (published ones) that Yassir Arafat was fed a dinner that was NOT polonium free -- or perhaps several such dinners.
If so, this probably finished him off. The news is that his widow has given her permission for his remains to be exhumed and studied for this radioactive element.

D. A. Wood July 9, 2012, 3:00pm

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I don't see the problem with this quote, since it is not talking about a single situation, but a trend. If one group has a lower incidence of mishaps than another group, then I don't see why you can't say that they are much more free of mishaps.

goofy July 10, 2012, 1:43am

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You are not very scientific, are you? Mathematics & statistics must be difficult, too.

For example, in a town that has no murders in a year, it is a murder-free town, for that year.

If there is even ONE murder, then it is NOT murder-free for that year.

Either murder-free, or not murder-free -- and expressions like "more murder-free" are completely absurd.
Would you like you dinner in the polonium section or in the polonium-free section?

D. A. Wood July 10, 2012, 5:57am

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I will mention that things are graver in the polonium section, and they are gravest in the plutonium section.
Have a nice flight!

D. A. Wood July 10, 2012, 5:59am

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Correction of a typo"

For example, in a plane, any ideal pair of parallel lines never intersect each other.
If they are not ideal parallel lines, then they intersect each other somewhere.

D. A. Wood July 10, 2012, 6:10am

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Logic is really irrelevant, since language does not behave logically. "More free from" is certainly part of how English used to work. The OED is full of citations to this effect, for example:

1805 W. Saunders Mineral Waters 3 River in general much softer and more free from earthy salts.

1805 Med. Jrnl. 14 341 The district has been... more free... from typhous fever, than the more distant parts of the metropolis.

As You Like It II i Are not these woods More free from peril than the envious court?

The usage seems to have died off recently:

goofy July 10, 2012, 8:06am

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Good for the phrase to have died off, for practical purposes.
Scientific education has made some progress, after all.

Also, with our millions and millions of immigrants from the German-speaking countries of Europe, much of the logic of modern German has been absorbed into American English. German is a VERY logical language -- no kidding. Among many other things, its comparatives and superlatives of adjectives and adverbs are formed in an extremely logical way, no matter how long the word is.

In American English, the comparatives and superlatives of the one and two syllable adjectives and adverbs are formed in almost exactly the same way that they are in German: by adding "r" or "er" for the comparative, and by adding "st" or "est" for the superlative, and then there are some irregular ones in both languages.
Ha - ha: it is all very logical. Here are some examples of the regular ones, where changing a "y" into an "i" is considered to be regular.:
free, freer, freest. corny, cornier, corniest. dry, drier, driest. easy, easier, easiest. great, greater, greatest. horny, hornier, horniest. hot, hotter, hottest.

Here are some examples of the irregular ones:
bad, worse, worst -- good, better, best --- little, less, least --- many, more, most -- little, less, least -- far, farther, farthest.

D. A. Wood July 10, 2012, 12:39pm

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Sorry, I mistyped. One of the trios was supposed to be few, less, least.
There is also far, further, furthest, where "further" does NOT mean the same as "farther".

D. A. Wood July 10, 2012, 12:44pm

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My mother once took offense to a teacher calling someone "very competent." Her reason was, simply, a person is competent or not competent. I guess the same could be said here. One is either ready or not ready. Just ask anyone who is getting a child dressed for school!
(My mom found a new grammar gripe every other day, by the way!)

NotAGrammarSnob July 11, 2012, 7:39pm

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To: NotAGrammarSnob

CORRECT! Someone or something is either
competent or not competent;
ready or unready;
ideal or not ideal;
perfect or imperfect;
parallel or not parallel;
and to get quite mathematical,
either zero or nonzero.

In mathematics, there is the Axiom of Trichotemy for real numbers:
A number is either positive, zero, or negative.

I have taught a lot of college math, as a part-time professor, and most my students reacted in amazement that they not only had to know the axioms of math, but they needed to know the names of them, too (!).
When I said "by the Transitive Law", most of them had no recollection that this one says;
If a = b and b = c, then a = c. When I said "Transitive Law", I might as well have been speaking Sanskrit.

D. A. Wood July 12, 2012, 5:01am

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READY to do some basic algebra:
Given three real numbers a, b, and c.
Reflexive Law: a = a
Symmetric Law: If a = b, then b = a
Cancellation Law: If a + c = b + c, then a = b
Transitive Law: If a = b and b = c, then a = c
Multiplication Law for equations:
If a = b, and c is any real number, then ac = bc
Division Law for equations:
If a = b, and c is not zero, then a/c = b/c

My position is that if you don't know them by name, then you don't really know them.

D. A. Wood July 12, 2012, 5:14am

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I'm not familiar with any English usage books that prescribe the uses of perfect, competent, ready, ideal, etc. in the way that D.A.Wood describes.

goofy July 13, 2012, 4:38am

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Well, that might be because you have been studying in the wrong country all along ??

Go to some good libraries and find some American junior-high-school or elementary school textbooks that describe the use of the absolute, comparative, and superlative of one-syllable and two-syllable adjectives.

Also consider that "NotAGrammarSnob" stated that a person is either competent or not competent. Clearly he and his mother learned this one somewhere good.

Furthermore, you should go to some science textbooks to read about perfect gases, ideal machines, frictionless planes, and perfect fluids. You might find a chapter titled "The Ideal Gas Laws." Watch out for a subject called the "Ideal Mechanical Advantage", too.

Go to some good junior high school and high school mathematics textbooks for the concept that a real number is either zero or nonzero.

D. A. Wood July 13, 2012, 8:24am

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Textbooks on Euclidean geometry are full of descriptions of things that are ideal (and there are no such things as "more ideal", "most ideal", or "less ideal"):

ideal points, ideal lines, ideal line segments, ideal planes, ideal circles, ideal triangles, ideal equilateral triangles, ideal pairs of parallel lines, ideal right angles.

Ideal, Ideal, Ideal, Ideal, Ideal ! Nothing is better than ideal !

D. A. Wood July 13, 2012, 8:31am

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I'm not in high school. I'd like to see a usage book aimed at adult English writers that proscribes things like "very competent" or "more ideal". But I am skeptical that there are grammar books aimed at high school students that do this. Again, math and physics are irrelevant. I thought we were talking about grammar.

goofy July 13, 2012, 9:00am

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Goofy, if you think this:
" Again, math and physics are irrelevant,"
then you are really lost in the fog and in the forest, w/o a compass.
Math and physics are relevant to everything in everyday life, and this was true even for the cave man.

Go and sin no more, and leave me alone. I have been wasting my breath.

D. A. Wood July 13, 2012, 9:11am

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Math and physics are irrelevant *to grammar.* Language is not math.

goofy July 13, 2012, 10:14am

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goofy has stated plainly that language is not logical, and he is correct. i do believe d.a. wood has made a poor choice in trying so hard to equate language, something that is always evolving and changing, to the hard and fast rules of physics and math.

no added salt July 14, 2012, 4:22am

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goofy and no added salt.
You are nuts if you think all of that junk. You must be uneducated in the basic foundations of logic that tie language, math, and science together. Where did you get your master's degrees in such subjects as Information Theory and Communication Theory?

Why are you even bothering coming here if you don't want to learn anything ??
Why it is that you would rather argue about things that learn something new ??

Language is NOT always evolving and changing -- because if so the writings of Chaucer, Shakespeare, John Locke, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, etc., would make no sense at all now.

The following question was posed by the great English mathematician and philosopher Bertrand Russell to illustrate an important point in logic, mathematics, and language, and it is totally verbal and it contains no mathematical symbolism:

There is a village in England where none of the men wear beards, and there is one barber. All of the men in the village either shave themselves or they get shaved by the barber.
Who shaves the barber?

Believe it or not, this is a very deep question, and it can be rephrased in many ways that do not have anything to do with beards and barbers.
Doubtless, you know little or nothing about Russell and his extensive writings, but he did win a Nobel Prize for them.


D. A. Wood July 14, 2012, 5:28am

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You ought to read a lot about advances in the understanding of the relationships between language, mathematics, and science. A whale of a lot of progress was made during the 20th Century. Start with the carefully though out writings of Bertrand Russell, of course.

Next, progress to the writings and the mathematical explanations originated by Claude Shannon of the United States -- which began during the 1940s and then progressed into the '50s and '60s. Caution: I think that many Britons dislike Shannon automatically because he was an Irish-American, even though he was born in Michigan and he did much of his work in Massachusetts at M.I.T.

Finally, with enough guts and perserverance, you could progress into the writings of Noam Chompsky, who was from different department at M.I.T. Of these three, Chompsky is the only one who remains alive.

Spouting off with your unfounded opinions in an argumentative way is no way to live.
Others have already attacked the same subjects carefully and thoroughly.

D. A. Wood July 14, 2012, 5:43am

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I can't let the claim that language is not always changing pass. English has changed in dramatic ways since Chaucer’s time. For one thing, there’s the great vowel shift, where all the long vowels changed in quality and two new diphthongs were created - in words like "mouse" and "mice", which in 1300 would have been pronounced with the vowels in "moose" and "fleece". 

In terms of grammar there were significant changes, like the contraction in the use of the subjunctive, the loss of "be" in the perfect tense of intransitive verbs, and the use of "which" to refer to people. Here is a good overview of the changes in grammar since Shakespeare’s time:

goofy July 14, 2012, 6:33am

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In response to this comment excerpt: "Also consider that 'NotAGrammarSnob' stated that a person is either competent or not competent. Clearly he and his mother learned this one somewhere good."
I just want to interject that I'm a woman. (A woman who grew up being called "Little Miss English Teacher" by most of her eye-rolling friends...) Anyway, thank you all for the interesting (and surprisingly heated) conversation sparked by my post.

NotAGrammarSnob July 14, 2012, 8:12am

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I stand corrected: NotAGrammarSnob is a woman. (I used "he" as the generic pronoun for a person of unknown sex.) In my mother was a professional high school English teacher, and lots of that rubbed off on (disconcerting some of my friends, too). Then when it came to my own career, I have been a teacher, too, during a lot of years, but in electrical engineering and in mathematics. I have taught EE up through the senior level in the U.S. (and lots of it) and math up through the junior level (occasionally). Most of my math teaching has been at the freshman and sophomore levels.

By the way, some people with outrageous humor have speculated that the lone barber in Bertrand Russell's English village was a WOMAN! So the answer to "who shaves the barber" is "nobody". However, that speculation was a evasive and humorous one -- because Dr. Russell clearly intended for the barber to be a man all along.

The contradiction is that the barber could not shave himself because then he would be shaved by the barber. Likewise, the barber could not be shaved by the barber because then he would be shaving himself. All of this is an exercise in English, but it has deep implications in logic and mathematics. These really are all connected.

D. A. Wood July 14, 2012, 11:29am

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Some of you are having trouble with the word "always".
"Language is NOT always evolving and changing."

"Always" means every year, every week, every day, every hour, and every minute.

If the English language were always changing, then whatever was said or written just ten years ago would be practically Sanskrit by now.
None of the speeches of Winston Churchill or Franklin D. Roosevelt would make any sense now. As for the writings of Dickens, Wells, David Hume, Locke, Lincoln, Jefferson, Paine, and Franklin, they would be lost to all of us except for a few experts at universities..

This would be what it would mean if the language was ALWAYS changing.

In reality, ever since the times of the British and American Enlightenment, the English language has been remarkably stable.
Oh, "stable". Now I have brought up another mathematical concept.

D. A. Wood July 14, 2012, 11:48am

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DA Wood, always ready with a nonsense statement to amuse us, says: "Language is NOT always evolving and changing -- because if so the writings of Chaucer, Shakespeare, John Locke, David Hume, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, etc., would make no sense at all now."

Is he seriously telling us that Chaucer is intelligible to the average reader today? By way of example, here is a verse of Chaucer's.

The double sorwe of Troilus to tellen,
That was the king Priamus sone of Troye,
In lovinge, how his aventures fellen
Fro wo to wele, and after out of Ioye,
My purpos is, er that I parte fro ye.
Thesiphone, thou help me for tendyte
Thise woful vers, that wepen as I wryte!

I also note that he makes much of the influence of German on American English. It seems that he is unaware of the basic linguistic fact that English is a Germanic language and the German influence has been there from the start.

Jeremy Wheeler July 25, 2012, 11:19am

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Chaucer isn't all that hard ... read it out loud and the words start to fall into place. I think it was Chaucer who started out apologizing to his readers for writing in English rather than French! lol

Nonetheless, the doesn't note as many Latinates as those during the Restoration era when King Charles the something (who had been living in Paris while Cromwell held sway) and his "manred/mandred" ... his "entourage" came back to England after Cromwell died with yet another flood of Latinates.

AnWulf July 25, 2012, 11:31am

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Another amusing nonsense from good old DA Wood. He claims you are either ready or not ready AND that the English of John Locke is the same as the English of today. Here is a quote (with original orthography) from The works of John Locke Esq: In three volumes, published in 1714, You will note that he says "more ready"

"...will Men be more ready to lend, and Borrowers be furnifhed for all thofe brave Purpofes more plentifully...?"

Jeremy Wheeler July 25, 2012, 11:35am

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Yet another howler from DA Wood: "One of the trios was supposed to be few, less, least." Really? Wouldn't that be either "few, fewer, fewest" or "less, lesser , least"?

What can you do with a man so convinced of his own cleverness? Come on, he believes the man often referred to as the "father of modern linguistics" is called "Chompsky", rather than Chomsky.

Jeremy Wheeler July 25, 2012, 11:43am

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a female barber might stll occassionally shave her legs or her armpits.

tdcherry December 14, 2012, 10:45am

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@tdcherry: That is beside the point. Bertrand Russell was clearly writing about shaving faces, and not about shaving anything else.
We can see that from the point that Russell wrote about the kinds of shaves that men can/could get in barber shops.
Also, as I have mentioned before that Russell clearly implied that the barber was a man. The suggestion that maybe the barber was a woman was created merely as a joke, and that;s all. So, please discard that notion.
The baber was a man, and everyojne in the village who needed a shave was a man.

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 1:01pm

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Someone diagreed with the affirmative, comparative, and superlative trio ot
few, less, least. I will show you an example taken from wartime in England when foodstuffs were hard to get.
1. Mrs. Jones only had a few mashed potatoes to feed her family.
2. Mrs. Smith had even less mashed potatoes to feed her family.
3. Mrs. Brown has the least mashed potatoes to feed her family.
So, Mr. Brown went out and stole a loaf of bread, but he was caught, convicted, and promptly hanged. After that, his children really went hungry..

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 1:10pm

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Someone has disagreed and insisted that the language ALWAYS changes.
This is untrue because the changes in the language only come in small amounts that occcur only now and then (occasionally). In other words, the changes form a random process, probably of the Poisson type.
Over a period of 300 to 400 years, those changes do not make much difference in intelligibility. For example, Isaac Newton often wrote in Latin, but his works were translated into English about 300 years ago. Those translations are still quite readable.
Let me emphasize: that is not "always changing". "Always changing" is something that changes every second of every day, such as a person's blood pressure, or the contents of one's stomach..

In contrast, take something that Chaucer wrote in the English of 1,000 years ago. By now, there has been time for the small, randiom changes to accumulate a lot more, and the writings of people like Chaucer are nearly unintelligible except by experts.

Something else has happened. Some decades before Newton and Shakespeare, the printing press came into wide use, and this has been a strong stabilizing influence on the language - both in its written and spoken forms. In other words, the average rate do change has been lower.

Before the printing press, books were rare, magazines and newspapers were nonexistent, and illiteracy was at an incredible level - over 90% of the population.

Anyway, trying to explain thngs like the average rate of change of a set of small, random changes is very difficult to yokels who have never studied random processes. Yes, it is. Some of you will waste no time in scoffing at all of it, rather than trying to learn something about it. That is why I have taken to so rarely writing anything here. (I think that tonight is the first time in several months.) There are too many people here who are far more interested in scoffing at things that in learning anything from them, They SCOFF at the idea that there is a lot of relationship between language and mathematics -- but then I tell them that people like Bertrand Russell, Claude Shannon, and Noam Chomsky used these relationships all the time - Englishmen and Americans. Some of their rewards are listed here:
Russell - Nobel Prize in Literature. Shannon & Chomsky - National Medal of Science awarded by the President of the United States on the recommendation of his staff and Cabinet. Also - Chompsky, a member of the National Academy of Science, and Shannon, a member of the National Academy of Engineering.

Then they were all honary members of the learned societies on the opposite sides of the Atlantic Ocean, too.However, I bet that you can scoff at that, too. What does that fuddy-duddy the Prime Minister know? Egad, giving honors to American scientists, mathematicians, and engineer - because Shannon was an electrical engineer who earned his Ph.D. in mathematics, too.
D.A.W. . . .

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 1:50pm

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Good to hear from Dale A Wood. Dale, are you the same Dale A Wood who has degrees from Auburn, Georgia Tech, and the University of Alabama, who used to be with the Department of Technology at Northern Illinois University, and who has published a number of papers on various subjects (such as "Adaptive competitive self-organizing associative memory")?

Jeremy Wheeler December 14, 2012, 6:06pm

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"The principal thinks Sally is more competent than any other candidate." - from the 'English Grammar from Dummies'. Quite appropriate in the circumstances.

And there are plenty of other published examples here.

'Perfect' and 'parallel' are indeed absolute adjectives, but 'competent' and 'ready' are certainly gradable - "Is Bush readier to use nukes?" (CNN)

Mashed potatoes - I would suggest that you can't have a few mashed potatoes, as mashed potato is a mass and so uncountable. What Mrs Mrs. Jones had was 'some' or 'only a little' mashed potato(es). And yes, we do sometimes use 'less' for countable nouns - "there were less people than usual", but that doesn't make it the comparative of 'few', just as saying "It's me" doesn't make 'me' a subjective form.

Warsaw Will December 14, 2012, 11:35pm

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Yes, Jeremy, this is me, the Dale Wood of Auburn, Georgia Tech, and the University of Alabama. As for published papers, those are few: I had an interesting experience while I was working at Northern Illinois University. I had a colleague and friend named Ragu Athinarayanan (Ph.D. in electrical engineering) who was working on some research and writing a research paper. Ragu asked me for some help with the mathematics that he needed, and it turned out that I had studied just what he needed while I was working on my M.A. in math. So, I did a large amount of the higher math in the paper. I also edited Ragu's paper for clarity and accuracy in expression. (Ragu was from Malaysia, and he still had some troubles in English.)
In the end, I put so much work into the paper that I asked Ragu if I could be a co-author, and Ragu said, "Of course."
When our paper was completed, the next step was for Ragu to submit it to the editors of several technical journals to find out if one group was interested in publishing it. One of them did, but I don't know which one, and I don't know what title that Ragu and the editors decided to give to it. (Maybe you just told me.) Also, I only had a contract to teach at N.I.U. for one year. I was hired to fill the gap after one of the professors there had retired. The department head wanted to rehire me for another year, but the administration of N.I.U. wouldn't give him the money to do so. (I think that the Dept. of Technology just struggled along one man short the next year.)
In my case, I needed another job so I could earn a living, and I was lucky enough to get one in Chicago, about 75 miles to the east. I moved, but I didn't have to move too far. I lived in Schaumburg for the next several years.
In any case, I lost track of what happened to our research paper. I probably should have stayed in closer contact with Ragu and asked him what happened to it.
Let me be clear: That research paper was a genuine piece of teamwork. Most of the engineering work - done by Ragu - I did not understand because it was on the Ph.D. level, of course, and inside Ragu's area of expertise. On the other hand, Ragu did not understand a lot of the mathematics (of nonlinear dynamical systems) until I explained it too him.
I considered Ragu to be the primary author and myself to be the assistant author, but in the world of publications, it was simpler to list us as co-authors.
Also, while I was studying for my master's degrees, my primary area of study was in random processes (very valuable knowledge in communication systems), and dynamical systems was definitely a secondary area. So, I was using one of my secondary areas to help the primary author of the paper, Ragu Athinarayanan. Ragu deserves the primary credit for it. That paper never would have existed except that he created it.

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 11:35pm

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Sorry for my misspellings: I have trouble getting "Chomsky" spelled right all the time. I do a lot better with Marvin Minsky, another retired professor from M.I.T. who made remarkable processes in the areas of computers, thought, artificial intelligence, and language. I also made the glaring mistake of typing "of" instead of "to" (or vice-versa). I apologize.
Oh, well, my ONLY excuse is that I am not typing for a technical journal, or for a handout or a test for my students...
I was really pleased when some of my students told me that my handouts were "better than the textbook" in being easier to understand.

D. A. Wood December 14, 2012, 11:49pm

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"A few mashed potatoes" means that Mrs. Jones looked into her pantry and her root cellar and she found only two, three, or four potatoes, so she boiled them, mashed them, and fed them to her family and herself.

Mrs. Smith had already cooked and mashed her two potatoes, so she had less mashed potatoes.

Poor Mrs. Brown could find only one large potato, so she cooked it and mashed it, and she had the least mashed potatoes.

There was a twist in the language in that "mashed potatoes" was viewed as both a discrete and a continuous quantity. I admit that there was something odd here.

"few, fewer, fewest" and "little, less, least" are a lot more common.

Mrs. Adams had only a few cans of soup left in her pantry.
Mrs. Cook had less soup left, two cans.
Mrs. Evans had the least soup left, only one can, and she could not feed her family properly.
I admit that this is being tricky. You might be able to think of a better example.

D. A. Wood December 15, 2012, 3:26am

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@DAW - as a fan of logic, you will have no doubt noticed a slight inconsistency. In your original question back in the summer, you complained about a British announcer saying "much more ready", and asked what was wrong with "much readier". And I would be inclined to agree with you - the only comparative my usual dictionary gives is "readier". But then a little bit later, when supporting NotAGrammarSnob in saying that someone can't be very competent (which is where my dictionary doesn't agree with you), you say someone or or something is either:
competent or not competent;
ready or unready;
ideal or not ideal; etc
So which is it? Is "ready" gradable or not?

The rules for making comparatives and superlatives of adjectives are, I imagine, just the same in British English as American English:
One syllable - add -er - hot, hotter, hottest etc
Two syllables when second syllable is y - add -er - ready, readier, readiest.
Two syllables other (1) - some usually take -er/-est - narrow, narrower, narrowest
Two syllables other (2) - with some you have a choice between adding er/est or using more/most - common, commoner, commonest, more/most common
Two syllables other (3) - with some others more/most is more usual - careful, more careful, most careful
Three syllables and more - more/most -competent, more competent, most competent

So in answer to your question - "Also, is the source of the phrase “much more X”, where X is a simple one or two syllable adjective, in British English?" - The answer is no, one British TV announcer notwithstanding. I really don't think you can keep blaming the British for all the ills you seem to perceive in English usage.

Warsaw Will December 15, 2012, 9:39am

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It is true that:
1. Americans speak an older version of English than British people do.
2. French Canadians speak an older version of French than people in France do.
3. Hispanics in South American speak an older version of Spanish people in Spain do.
4. Icelanders speak an older version of Norse that the people in Norway, Denmark, and Sweden do.
This has all been documented by linguists, I also imagine that there are places in the world that people speak an old version of Portuguese. Maybe even in Brazil.

Sometimes we Americans feel like yelling HOLD YOUR HORSES at the British and the Irish about all their unnecesary changes in the language. Sometimes, it is "You are all riding wild horses!"
There are people in isolated parts of the United States who speak English that is positively Elizabethan, and we mean Elizabeth I, not Elizabeth II.

Also, we have a way of inventing things like vacuum tube amplifiers and airports, but in the British Isles, you decide to call them "valves" and "aerodromes". There is the specter of contrarism there.

D. A. Wood December 15, 2012, 9:56am

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@D.A.W. - The word aerodrome is not used so much nowadays in the UK, and when it is it refers to small private airfields or military air bases. The larger commercial airfields have been referred to as airports since the beginning of the fifties, and are run by the BAA - the middle letter of which stands for "airports". In any case, it seems that the word aerodrome (to mean airfield - it also had an earlier different meaning) has been around about ten years longer than thee word airport.

When I look up vacuum tube amplifiers in Wikipedia, it redirects me to valve amplifiers, though I admit that when I google "Valve amplifiers", the hits are mostly And it seems that although Edison and others in the States worked on the idea, the first working valve was in fact developed at Marconi, in London, by John Ambrose Fleming. The Ngram for American English books also suggests that valve amplifier was the original term, so by your reckoning isn't it you who are being the contrarians?

But even if you were right, why should not slavishly copying American usage be called contrarism (by the way, I think you've coined a new word there). After all you don't slavishly copy our spelling of spectre. What about a little mutual respect between these two branches of our language?

Warsaw Will December 18, 2012, 5:28am

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The original vacuum tube amplifiers used triodes, tubes with three electrical terminals, invented by the American Lee De Forest in 1906. Three terminals (or more) are necessary to make an amplifier.
Sir Ambrose Fleming of England invented his vacuum diode in 1902, and it had/has two terminals. It is impossible to make an amplifier out of one of these, though you can make a rectifier with one, as Sir Ambose did. The invention of the diode is beside the point because I carefully wrote "vacuum tube amplifiers", since I am an E.E.
Hence, Fleming's work was important, but De Forest's work was 100 times more important because triodes quickly became essential in radio transmitters, receivers, and long-distance telephone networks.
As for diodes, it was soon found (around 1910 or so) that solid-state diodes could be made using crystals of galena (an perhaps other minerals). This was the source of the terms the "crystal radio" or "crystal receiver" in the field of radio. Once again, these crystal diodes were units with two electrical terminals, and they could not be used to make amplifiers.

When Bardeen, Brattain, and Shockley invented the solid-state transistor at Bell Labs in 1947, that was an electronic device that had two terminals and it could be used as an amplifier. Another engineer at Bell Labs, J.R. Pierce, was asked to suggest some possible named for it, and one of these was "transistor". That was the name that the others liked, and that was the one that stuck.
To this day all transistors have three electrical terminals, except for some special-purpose ones that have four. Those are not seen very much.

Thomas Edison was experimenting with an electric like bulb with an extra terminal in it, during the 1870s or '80s, not connected with anythng but vacuum, and he noticed that an odd elecric current would flow. However, Edison neither understood what has going on at all, nor did he do anything with it. The fact that he didn't understand it was reasonable, especially since the electron was not even discovered until J.J. Thomsen of Scotland did it in 1897. Edison's current did get the name the "Edison Effect", but let me emphasize that he didn't understand it at all. Also, Edison was an inventor, and not a educated physicist or engineer at all. He just had a lot of intuitive insight into how to make things work in electricity, mechanics, optics, and acoustics. He also hired a lot of well-educated and experienced assistants.

Marconi was somewhat better educated, but lot of times he did things out of intuition or sheer frustration. One time he was experimenting with an antenna that consisted of two metal plates with an electrical terminal welded to each of them. Nothing was working right at all, and then out of frustration, Marconi told his assistants to BURY one of the plates in the ground. Everything started working a lot better then.
Marconi had accidentally invented the kind of antenna that has one terminal grounded and the rest of the antenna extending upwards, but insulated from the ground.

This type is used all the time in AM radio broadcasting and in other uses in nearby frequency bands. In AM broadcasting, the tower that you see IS the antenna, rather than being a support for an antenna.
In FM radio and TV broadcasting, things are done quite differently.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 7:38am

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"Contraian" is a word that I have seen in novels, and especially in science-fiction novels, so I did not invent it. Now I need to look it up in a good dictionary and find out if it is listed there, and what its source is.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 7:40am

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From www.dictionary,
Contrarian - a person who takes an opposing view, especially one who rejects the majority opinion.
Year of origin - as in "first seen in print" - 1963.

I could be mistaken, however, but I thought that I had seen it in S.F. novels and short stories that were written during the 1940s and '50s. It could be that those were not observed by writers in the field, such. as Douglas Harper, the author of the Online Etymology Dictionary.
Contrarian just seems like a word that Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, Robert A. Heinlein, or Ray Bradbury would have used.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:11am

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I know that Asimov used the words "psychohistorian" and "encyclopedian", and he probably invented them, and he definitely used "robotics" before anyone else did. Asimov said that he thought that this was a word that was already in use, but it wasn't. So Asimov created "robotics" by analogy with the words like { dynamics, graphics, mechanics, optics, physics, and statistics }
Asimov also created the word "gravitics" in the same way.In his novels, that is the science.of controlling gravity for such things as the propulsion of spacecraft.
To be careful, we do not have even the slightest hint that his could be scientically possible. It was a complete piece of fiction.

An earlier S.F, writer named E.E. "Doc" Smith wrote of spaceships that used "inertialess space drives", but in our knowledge, that is completely impossible. It would turn the science of physics completely upside down.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:24am

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"Many hammer all over the wall and believe that with each blow they hit the nail on the head."
(Translated from German.)
Johann Wolfgang Von Goethe (1749 - 1832), German poet, dramatist, and scientist.
"Art and Antiquity", III, 1 (1821).

Note: I added the part about "and scientist" myself.
Among the phenomena that Goethe studied was the perception of color by human beings. There are several viable theories in this field, and one of them is "Goethe's theory" - still viable after all these years.
Goethe could also be listed as a philosopher. In many ways, he was actually a polymath, just as were Galileo, Isaac Newton, Benjamin Franklin, Joseph Priestly, Lavosier, Pascal, Fermat, Descartes, and Thomas Jefferson.
I have attempted to name men from several different countries, and as it turned out, two different continents.

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 8:26am

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In the United States, we went straight from the word "airfield" to "airport" w/o even considering the wacky word "aerodrome".

The original meaning of "airfield" was an open piece of land covered by grass or dirt that airplanes used for taking off from and landing on. Then later on, gravel, ground up coral, and pieces of pierced sheet metal were used to cover airfields. The sheet metal, called "Marston matting" was especially useful on rainy and muddy islands in the Pacific where mud was the continual enemy of the U.S.A.A.F., the U.S. Marine Corps aviators, and the Royal Australian Air Force.

When eventually during the 1940s (and maybe the '30s) they started paving runways with concrete and building nice terminal buildings, that was when the airport was born. Then when military aircraft such as the B - 29 Superfortress and the B - 36 Peacekeeper bomber grew to be so large and heavy, concrete runways became necessities for the Air Force, and the advent of fast jet-propelled bombers, fighters, and cargo planes made paving even more necesary.

By the way, we have always used the word "airplane" as far as I know, and never used "aeroplane", which looks like something from the Roman Empire - LOL!
Also, "aircraft" seems to be some kind of an invention of the Royal Navy that got picked up by the Royal Canadian Navy, the U.S. Navy, and the U.S. Marine Corps, and then spread from there. I don't think that most people know that "aircraft" is closely related to "watercraft". And then there came "spacecraft".

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 9:09am

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Oh, we love SPECTRE. We watch James Bond OO7 movies on TV and at the movie houses all the time. These are my favorites:
"The Spy Who Loved Me",
"Moonraker", "Octopussy", and
"Never Say Never Again" !
Of course, a movie with a chartacter named "Pussy Galore" has to be a fine one, too/

D. A. Wood December 18, 2012, 9:14am

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@D.A.W I wasn't trying to take the glory away from the US, but rather giving a reason why we might have adopted the word 'valve' instead of vacuum-tube. I absolutely give way to you on the subject of engineering and the history of aviation. Although you somehow missed the British-invented hovercraft from your list.

I didn't suggest you had invented "contrarian", which is indeed in the Merriam-Webster Dictionary, but that wasn't actually the word you used, which was "contrarism", and which I can't find in any dictionary. The bad news is, however, that you don't seem to be the first, as there are some 2000 odd references to it on Google and even one or two in Google Books (although mainly in Latin).

Ngrams corpus of American books suggests that Americans did in fact flirt with the word aeroplane for about twenty years before airplane took over in the early twenties.
And according to Etymology Online, the first references to the word "airplane" (1907) are in fact British, although the take-up was much quicker in the US, where "it largely superseded earlier 'aeroplane' (1873)". Incidentally Byron used the word "air-vessel" in 1822 (not so far from 'aircraft')

In language, things are never quite as simple as they might seem, and there are no doubt good reasons why some words get adopted in one part of the world, whereas others appeal more in other parts. We got aeroplane and no doubt aerodrome (cf hippodrome) from the French, who are our closest neighbours, and who were also very interested in aviation. At this time cross-Channel communication was no doubt rather easier than trans-Atlantic communication, so this is perhaps hardly surprising. But if you want to find the words we use wacky, that's fine by me. And for me these little historical differences are a subject of fascination rather than mockery.

Warsaw Will December 20, 2012, 7:52am

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I'm surprised no one has offered an explanation as to why vacuum tubes are called valves. Well, it's because they behave just like valves. In a vacuum tube triode, a small voltage applied to the grid can control a large current flowing between anode and cathode. The current can be gated on and off, just like a valve. Even a two-terminal vacuum tube rectifier behaves like a simple valve, allowing current to flow only in one direction (just like the check valve in my sprinkler system).

porsche December 20, 2012, 1:23pm

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@porsche - speaking for myself, because I'm technologically incompetent. But thanks for the explanation.

Warsaw Will December 21, 2012, 4:04am

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Does anyone else have the impression that the -er ending for comparatives is slowly dying?
I have just heard the weather forecaster reading from a script say "more wet"; and in speech people here seem to be saying "more easy" or "more easier", or "more happy" and similar examples.

jayles the unwoven March 20, 2016, 9:08am

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Yes     No