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jayles the unwoven

Joined: June 3, 2014
Comments posted: 201
Votes received: 106

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Questions Submitted

Salutations in letters

November 20, 2016

Are proverbs dying?

June 30, 2014


June 24, 2014

Recent Comments

It seems like a story written as a converstion, breathy and slightly disjointed, with double-nested interpolations. The long interpolation all the way from the first dash to the colon, rather undermines the contrast between "at first" and "now", so it is a bit hard to get back on track.
One could try a third dash instead of the semi-colon; or even insert "whereas" or "but"; not sure that makes it better though.

jayles the unwoven November 6, 2015, 5:04pm

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@HS if the sole criterion of "right" or "wrong" English were what falls soft or hard upon your ears, then what shall we do when you are gone?
Come, we need an more empirical measure.

jayles the unwoven November 5, 2015, 3:21am

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@HS "defeat against" also crops up, although to my ear it sounds a bit odd; the point here is that just because we have not come across a particular collocation in our own milieu or experience - that does not make it "wrong" per se. In teaching English to "foreigners" we do emphasize normal collocations like "a telltale sign", "a dead giveaway", but that does not make "a telltale giveaway" wrong, just unusual.

What in fact is the difference between a collocation and a well-worn cliche, or indeed a treasured quote from Shakespeare or KJV?

"Some candle clear burns somewhere I come by." - is this "right" or "wrong" English? (from Gerald Manley Hopkins)

If one takes on board that English has always been changing, then (whilst I admit "defeat to" would not be a phrase I would use) - then the only question is whether its current usage makes it acceptable in business/academic/media contexts i.e. is it now "standard" English? Clearly yes indeed.

jayles the unwoven November 5, 2015, 3:11am

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Dear Grumpy
1) It is not an evolution - it has been around for some time (perhaps 200 years according to Ngrams), if you would care to google "defeat to", although I could not sleuth out the actual quote.
2) If you choose to be grumpy about it, of course you will thole; if, however, you came to realise that evolution is a natural on-going process, then your tholing would lessen greatly.

jayles the unwoven November 3, 2015, 4:55pm

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Opinions are often stated as facts; of course statements are often just the opinion of the writer, unless quoted or otherwise.
In an academic treatise one must ask where is the evidence; was there as survey of "everyone" in this case or is the statement just wishful thinking on the part of the writer?
Sometimes journalists say or write things like "everyone here is (something or other)"; and one must wonder how many people they asked and whether the respondents reflect a proper (random) cross-section of "everyone".

There is a tradition in English academic (and business) writing to avoid the first person and not to preface every sentence with "I think that". One of the results is that opinions tend to be stated as if they are facts.

The above is of course just my own opinion. You should wonder where the evidence is.

jayles the unwoven October 27, 2015, 10:58pm

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Offices, titles, and positions such as president, king, emperor, pope, bishop, abbot, executive director are common nouns and therefore should be in lower case when used generically: Mitterrand was the French president or There were many presidents at the meeting. They are capitalized only in the following cases:

When followed by a person's name to form a title, i.e. when they can be considered to have become part of the name: President Nixon, not president Nixon
When a title is used to refer to a specific and obvious person as a substitute for their name, e.g. the Queen, not the queen, referring to Elizabeth II
When the correct formal title is treated as a proper name (e.g. King of France; it is correct to write Louis XVI was King of France but Louis XVI was the French king)

jayles the unwoven October 25, 2015, 11:45am

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(a) This has nothing to do with "anglish"; it is just about how Middle English came about, and in particular, why we ended up with something of a creole, rather than one language winning out with just a few hundred words borrowed, as happened in Gaul, Ireland, or indeed Hungarian under Ottoman/Turkish occupation.

(b) I don't disagree with your explanations; after all Middle English does sound like someone who learnt English as a child, but was taught French. The question is: how and when did illiterate peasants and the village blacksmith take onboard all those French borrowings? It just seems to me that, away from court and castle , words like "frith", "wlite", and "ea" may have kept on for much longer than written records would suggest. (In fact I heard "ea" in Norfork about 1960). However, short of time-travel we may never be sure!

(c) Perhaps hearing the bible read out every Sunday in Welsh (from 16th century) onwards saved that language. Perhaps all those French words in Wycliffe's translation overwrote the older English equivalents in the minds of English folk.

(d) I suppose my whole thinking is based on the assumption that borrowings from Anglo-Norman and/or French are unusually high in comparison with similar takeover situations. Perhaps in the intial phase it wasn't - it was the inroads made by "Parisian" french from the late 1200s onward which are atypical.

jayles the unwoven October 17, 2015, 4:49pm

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Just to clarify:

A) Yes OE was changing and losing inflections already.

B) In many cases the invaders impose their own tongue as the language of administration, but native languages live on more or less intact in the hills and among the peasants, at least in some areas. Eg: Spanish, Portugese in Central/South America. Latin in Western Europe. Contrast this with ME and the slaughter of OE vocabulary.

jayles the unwoven October 15, 2015, 11:13am

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@WW Thanks - I had quite overlooed the northeast extent of OE.

I have been struggling to get my head round the origins of Middle English. The ask is whether the English that has come down to us today is the result of OE gradually taking onboard Anglo-French words instead of the original ones; or whether ME is really just a creole used by the ruling class to communicate with soldiers, merchant and the like (and the peasants continued speaking OE)

What seems clear is that (1) OE was actually quite a large number of dialects, and (2) the number of Norman settlers was very small (8000?) in relation to the OE-speaking population (1-1.5 million).

The Franks invaded Gaul, and yes French took in a thousand Germanic words but didn't change like OE->ME.

The French tried it again in Vietnam, but after sixty years with French as the language of the ruling class and taught in all schools, the impact on Vietnamese seems quite small, just a few hundred words at the most - words for ideas and things which were new. And no creole.

(There's also the impact of the English in India, Australia, NZ and so on, or the Russians in the Caucasus and Siberia, to consider.)

But I fail to understand how 80% of OE vocabulary fell by the wayside. If ME began as an upper-class creole, how did it come to be adopted by uneducated peasants? Or why did OE borrow "chair" when it already had "stool", "joy" for "frothe" (and all the others) - there was no need for all that borrowing; law-french, yes, new ideas yes, but everyday words how come?

This may all sound a long way from the original thread topic; but we need a framework to make any deeming about English today or to-come.

jayles the unwoven October 15, 2015, 10:59am

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@HS Panglish is already here: just listen in the supermarket or coffee shop; they already miss the 's' off dollars, like "Ten dollar thirty, please". But it is no horror, just change is normal.
Again, standard English may well have a good innings, just like Latin did.

BTW I'm playing at Albany Presbyterian Church this Sat 2 pm - your neck of the woods, I think.

jayles the unwoven October 14, 2015, 11:00pm

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All languages are evolving from one generation to the next; we should not be unduly surprised if English is changing within our own lifetide. Why should we try to stop it?

1) Splintering: there are some 27 aboriginal language families in Australia: historically, languages splinter off into dialects and then distinct languages. Internet, TV and print has slowed this process.

2) Backwards compatibility: only by slowing the rate of change can we hope that Shakespeare et al will remain understandable down the generations to come. We already have two rifts in continuity: the loss of Celtic (or whatever was spoken in SE England in AD 500) and Gaelic in the Lowlands; and the loss of swathes of OE words after the coming of William the Bastard. These are the only real asks when looking at English today: how did these rifts come about? How did "river" come to supplant "ea" and so forth?

3) Using the above benchmarks, the end-stance would be that we should take onboard whatever changes are happening today unless they undermine backwards compatibility. However that does not "feel" right: we bemoan any change, clinging to the usages of our youth, seemingly unaware that the next generation has already writing its own version of English, and there is nowt to be done about it. Do you really think those to come will really care what we thought or how we spoke? Play a movie from the 1930s: laugh at the accent, as your offspring will laugh at yours.

jayles the unwoven October 13, 2015, 7:25pm

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The main point is "next Wednesday" is ambigous; it just comes down to who is using it. If someone does use it, one needs to clarify: "this Wednesday" or "Wednesday week" ?

jayles the unwoven October 8, 2015, 4:31pm

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US date format is commonly month_day_year, written as June 6, 1944.

jayles the unwoven October 8, 2015, 11:09am

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Frankly I teach only "were to" to students learning English; the old subjunctive sounds good here.

jayles the unwoven October 5, 2015, 12:53pm

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@Byron: Over the centuries a form of "standard" Enlglish has come about, used by government, business and education so that all may communicate clearly. This does not mean that any one dialect is wrong or bad; just different and perhaps not so widely understood.

"wrong" in this context should mean "not conforming to generally accepted anglo principles"

(cf "GAAP" !)

jayles the unwoven October 5, 2015, 12:40pm

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".. if he was to be re-eligible,.." Pennsylvania. Constitutional Convention - ‎1837
" .. if he was to decide at once.." Parliamentary Debates: Official Report :Volume 39 - 1819
"..if he were to take it into his head .. Hansard's Parliamentary Debates 1832
".. If he were to leave the number of lists at fourteen.." Lord Brougham's Speech on Reform in Chancery: Delivered in 1831

jayles the unwoven October 5, 2015, 12:23pm

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This site seems to go for one-sentence paragraphs much of the time:

Either this comes from AFP or someone is deliberately splitting the newsfeed into tiny paragraphs. Whether this splintering improves on-screen readability is a good ask, but it certainly raises questions about the future of paragraphing in general.

jayles the unwoven September 22, 2015, 4:56pm

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The Hungarian word "ing" translates as "shirt" in English. However, calling the "-ing" form of the verb the "shirt" form is not well understood; nor does it prove the existence of an Ugric substrate in English.

jayles the unwoven September 17, 2015, 1:01pm

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@WW agreed it is the usage which is the issue.
I sometimes wonder whether we would not be better off focussing on a decision tree (like a flowchart). For instance:
1) Active or Passive?
2) Present or Past?
3) Simple, Continuous, or Perfect?
4) Modal?

In my experience of using non-English tongues, the best way is often to just copy what one has heard and hope for the best: better to say something than nothing. Not quite so true when writing but one still needs some easy-to-follow ideas when texting and emailing.

jayles the unwoven August 20, 2015, 2:44pm

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