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Joined: October 20, 2005
Comments posted: 670
Votes received: 2003

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Recent Comments

Wow, I can't believe no one got this right. Those "curb your dog" signs have only one meaning. They are legal reminders to dog walkers that when your dog pees or poops, it must do so in the street near the curb, not on the grass easement, not on the sidewalk, not in a homeowner's yard. "Curb" in this case means to keep your dog in the street, adjacent to the curb, specifically while evacuating. It's legally defined in just about every locality in the modern world. You can look it up in your local municipal code. More recently, the laws have been modified to also require the owner to pick up any poop immediately and dispose of it properly. I suppose one could make a case that "curbing" does not specifically mean "picking up poop", since the phrase predates the requirement to do so, but modern law does now require it, at least in the civilized world. In my neighborhood, the signs actually list the exact municipal code. I'm sure yours do too. Look it up.

porsche March 16, 2014, 4:51pm

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Anwulf's explanation is simple,clear, and correct; "...two choices" means exactly two, while "...have a choice" can mean two or more. @Will, I think you may have missed part of Moonwaves' point. While I agree that grammatically and semantically, "...two choices" doesn't necessarily mean "no choice at all", it is often used that way in common speech. I frequently hear (and use) it to mean, well, "shut up and eat!" It goes something like this:

"I don't want this chicken. What else is there to eat?"
"Well, you have two choices. You can eat the chicken... or not eat the chicken."

porsche March 7, 2014, 2:50pm

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Skeeter, that's very interesting and informative. I was not aware that cohort could also be a group. But, I must take issue with your part of your comment. Referring to a single person as a cohort is not misuse. Claiming so does not even qualify as prescriptivism; it is simply an etymological fallacy.

porsche February 19, 2014, 3:33pm

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As was already mentioned, pre-planning makes perfect sense as "...planning before it's normally considered necessary." The fact that all planning is done in advance is irrelevant. Yes, all pre-planning is planning, but that doesn't mean that all planning is pre-planning.

And calling planning for one's demise "stark" is a bit of an understatement. Consider this: pre-planning for one's death is buying a cemetery plot and a small insurance policy to cover the funeral costs. Planning for one's death is buying a handgun and ammunition, or perhaps rat poison to sprinkle over one's morning cornflakes!

porsche January 19, 2014, 1:32pm

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Will, regarding "An e acute is normally pronounced quite short in French (e as in bed) rather than ay (as in ray)", I'm afraid I must disagree. The "-ay" in English is a diphthong, starting with a short e (-eh as in 'bed") and ending in a long e (-ee as in free). In French, the acute-accented e is not a diphthong, but it's not a short e or a long e either. It's actually, oh, roughly halfway between the two. This phoneme doesn't exist in English, so -ay is as close as English can approximate it.

porsche June 27, 2013, 11:55am

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Oh, and as for "I could care less", I don't think it means that you do actually care a little. I've always understood it to be a sarcastic utterance, and as such, correctly meaning the same thing as "I couldn't care less", the type of thing that in days past would only be mumbled by a petulant teenager, usually preceded by "Oh, like...".

And yes, I do realize that today, many use "I could care less" carelessly, without much thought or any sarcastic inflection.

porsche June 27, 2013, 11:36am

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I can certainly see why some might find the oxymoron "same difference" irritating, but I have to agree with Will; it does make a certain kind of sense. "Same difference" does not mean that two things are the same. It means that two things actually are different, but for the purpose at hand, they are the same. To put it another way, yes, they're different but it doesn't matter.

Personally, whenever I hear someone say "same difference", I always reply: "you mean like, seven and nine...and, er...eleven and thirteen?"

porsche June 27, 2013, 11:22am

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Also, Brus, I'm a little confused about your objection to "you lot sat there in the corner". I certainly understand your objection to "was sat", but are you claiming that just plain "sat" can only be used to mean "placed into a sitting position"? If I'm not mistaken, the dichotomy of "sat" meaning both "to be in a sitting position" and "to be placed into a sitting position" is as old as the word itself, going back to its Proto-Germanic roots.

porsche May 24, 2013, 2:24pm

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@Brus, re: "I say 'sit' has a past participle active "sitting" and passive "seated"." Sorry, but I must disagree. "Sitting" is not the past participle of "sit". It is the present participle. "...Was sitting..." is the past progressive tense (which is not active, per se, but used to show a continuous action or state of being in the past). And, sorry, but no, "seated" isn't any kind of participle for the verb "to sit". It is the past participle of the verb "to seat".

@Will, dont worry. You haven't thrown a spanner anywhere. As I pretty much already intimated, I quite agree that users of "was sat" probably mean "was sitting", etc., but I think the grammatical argument is hardly theoretical. What people actually mean is irrelevant to my point. That's a matter of semantics, not grammar. Perhaps I'm beating a dead horse, as I've already made my point, but compare:

I pushed John
I was pushing John
I was pushed by John

I ran the company
I was running the company
The company was run by me

I sat
I was sitting
I was sat (by someone or myself)

As in all the other examples, "was sitting" is the past progressive (continuous, state of being); "was sat" is the past perfect (discrete action, action verb).

As for common usage being idiomatic, of course that's the case. But, consider the following; everyone who was sitting must have been sat and everyone who has been sat (or seated, if you prefer) must have been sitting afterwards. It is impossible to be one without having first been the other. Thus, at least to me, it is perfectly understandable how the two could become so semantically intertwined that the meaning would become blurred, leading to the present idiomatic use. By the way, I made a similar argument about "have got" in another post here and was vehemently (and incorrectly), dismissed (when I have sufficient time, I will probably write a lengthy rebuttal there).

Actually, if you think about it, isn't "was seated" meaning "to be in a sitting position", just as idiomatic, if not more so? The verb "to seat" never means to be sitting. It only means to place into a seated position. At least the verb "to sit" can mean both. It's really less logical to accept "was seated" over "was sat" (and before everyone gets their panties in a bunch, I'm not claiming that it's wrong. All of these idioms are commonly understood and their meanings are well defined).

Funny how a bunch of pedants (myself included) can bicker so doggedly over that which we mostly agree on:)

porsche May 24, 2013, 2:15pm

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And now, to address the topic at hand, sure, "was sat" may be an idiom; it may sound odd, and it might even be used incorrectly, but how could it possibly be ungrammatical? "Seated" is a different verb entirely, from "to seat". Sit does have a past participle. It's "sat". It isn't "seated".

The word "sit" has a number of definitions with subtle differences. It can mean "to be in a sitting position", or "to assume a sitting position", but it can also mean "to place someone (or oneself) into a sitting position". If one were to use "was sat" as the passive voice, meaning "to be placed into a sitting position", then exactly how would that be ungrammatical? Something like "I was sat in the third row by that usher over there".

Yes, yes, you could say "I was seated by that usher...", but that's a different verb entirely. Synonymous, yes, but so what? "To sit" means "to place in a seated position", just like "to seat" does. So again, just because there's another more common way to say something doesn't make another version wrong no matter how unusual or awkward it may sound. So, if someone said "I was sat in the front row. It was great!" and they meant that they were sitting in the front row, then yes, their statement might be considered wrong or at least idiomatic, but still not ungrammatical. You see, they might have meant that that they were placed in their seats, perhaps by an usher, or even under their own locomotion. This construction would be correct, which validates the grammar regardless of its potential misuse.

By the way, if you really think about it, "was sat" has definite advantages over "was seated". "Was seated" is ambiguous. It can mean "was sitting" or "was placed in one's seat". But, "was sat" can only mean "was placed in one's seat". So, if you want to clearly and unambiguously indicate that you were brought to your seat and placed in it, then "was sat" should really be preferred, yes?

porsche May 23, 2013, 12:36pm

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No, Brus, you claimed that Tessa said that "I like to watch (him) sat at a stool" is perfectly correct grammatically, which is not what she said :) Go back and read your own post.

porsche May 23, 2013, 11:49am

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While I would say "did he have breakfast?", if the "have" version is also correct, then it would be "has he had breakfast?", not "had he had breakfast?" The "had he had" version would be, er, the past perfect?

And Will, while your explanation certainly makes sense, I can't help but think of "baa, baa, black sheep, have you any wool?..." :)

porsche May 23, 2013, 11:34am

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Brus, I think you missed my point. Yes, we are talking about the same post. Yes, Tessa did say "Both of these are perfectly correct grammatically", but Tessa never said anything about "I like to watch (him) sat at a stool" being "perfectly correct grammatically".

The "...sat at a stool..."comment was from Warsaw Will's post of September 4, 2012, 12:03pm, not Tessa's post. Tessa's post does follow, but has nothing to do with Will's previous post. Hers is just a continuing discussion of the relevant topic.

Look closely again at Tessa's post. Here's a shortened version:

"Both of these are ... correct...:"
"He was sat at the table".
"He was sitting at the table".

See the colon? The "Both" in Tessa's post is clearly referring to the two examples in Tessa's own post. She was comparing "...was sat at the table" to "...was sitting at the table" and nothing more. If she were replying specifically to Will's comment, why would she use the word "both"? Will didn't offer two examples to be compared. Why would she follow up with a colon and then list two examples that only make sense in the context of her previous sentence? Her post stands on its own. In fact, it only makes sense when viewed this way.

Do note, I'm not addressing whether or not "was sat" is OK; I'm merely clarifying Tessa's comments.

porsche May 23, 2013, 11:15am

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Brus, I think your criticism of Tessa is misplaced. Tessa did not claim that "...'I like to watch (him) sat at a stool' is "perfectly correct grammatically"..." Actually, it was Will. Well, he didn't exactly claim it was "perfectly correct"; he merely claimed that it sounded "absolutely fine" to him. If you look more carefully, you'll realize that Tessa merely claimed that both "was sat" and "was sitting" are correct. Well, she also claimed that "was sat sitting" is OK. While it does sound awkward, given a little punctuation massage and the right context, I would suggest that it might be grammatical, as in, say, something like: He was sat, sitting at the table (, not at the bar).

porsche May 21, 2013, 11:27am

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Sorry Bolle, but you are completely incorrect. "Trawling" is fishing by dragging a net along the sea bottom. "Trolling" is fishing by moving or dragging a fishing line with hook and/or bait.

porsche April 22, 2013, 6:55am

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Erin, Will, regarding:

"...the standard rule for when two people own an OBJECT is one apostrophe..."

This is true, but incomplete. Your confusion is arising because you're simply not considering the rules in their entirety.

"...the standard rules don't seem to mention anything about pronouns..."

This is not true. According to numerous sources, the "standard" rules (whatever that means) also state that when one pronoun is used, the first noun gets an apostrophe and the pronoun goes second: "...Jane's and your...", "...Jane's and my...", etc.

If might help to understand the rationale for the rule. In "...Jane and John's house", the "apostrophe-s" after John forms possession for both Jane and John. Eliminating it after Jane is a kind of shorthand notation. In "...Jane's and my house", there's no "apostrophe-s" after "my" to be shared, so it's required after "Jane".

Good discussion here:

By the way, some arguments about ambiguity of one form or the other are specious and irrelevant. In many cases, distributing the possession or not, merely shifts the ambiguity instead of eliminating it.

Some (not all) find it awkward with two pronouns, and suggest recasting the sentence as "...your house and mine", instead of "...your and my house". If the single pronoun version still bothers you, you can always recast it similarly.

Last, it's interesting to note that while "Jane and John's house" is standard for joint possession and "Jane's and John's houses", for separate possession, not all sources specifically rule out "Jane's and John's house" for joint possession. Right or "wrong", in some cases, it could eliminate ambiguity, or create emphasis. Instead of houses, how about "Jane and John's sister" vs. "Jane's and John's sister"? Or, how about for emphasis, as in:

"Is it Jane's house or John's house?"
"Neither, it's Jane's AND John's house."

porsche April 10, 2013, 10:29am

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While there may be some overlap, I think of comic as meaning "of or relating to comedy" and comical as "in a comic manner", i.e., funny. I think this is often the case with -ic vs. -ical. Wow, glad no one asked about comedic!

I think that comic as a noun grew from the adjective. Funny how often this happens. Compare music (really adjectivally from "of the muses" even though it's never used as such) and musical.

I've also thought that animal as a noun arose as a "nounification" from the adjective animal (of anima), but I'm not sure this is etymologically correct.

porsche March 26, 2013, 10:07am

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I think of bad as being, well, the opposite of good (at least for this discussion). I tend to think of poor as meaning something more like ill-suited or prehaps lacking. I would suggest that even when they are synonyms, poor's meaning of "low quality" stems metaphorically from the notion that, that which is poor is somehow lacking something.

porsche March 26, 2013, 9:43am

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You know Will, I was just about to click "report abuse", just like I did for the designer fasion spam a few posts up. But, after seeing your funny quotes from the site, I thought, better to leave it there for everyone's amusement:)

porsche March 3, 2013, 6:09am

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Boy, I hope I don't regret this, but let me weigh in as well. D. A. Wood, I think you missed Warsaw Will's point. The simple past tense is used to describe general truths, ongoing states or repetitive actions. It is not used for things that are happening "right now". This is equally true in North America, the USA, and the UK.

If you want to express actions that are actually taking place, you would use the present progressive.

Consider: "Does the moon orbit the earth? It does so, and it is doing so right now"

"It does so" (simple present) means that it is a general truth that the moon orbits the earth. The occurrence is ongoing; it has in the past and will likely continue in the foreseeable future.

"It is doing so right now" (present progressive) means that at this very moment, the moon is orbiting the earth , regardless of what it did yesterday or will do tomorrow.

"It does so right now", while it doesn't sound particularly bad, would technically be a non sequitur.

Compare this to, say: "Do you like to jog? Why yes, I jog. In fact, I'm jogging right now!"

"I jog" means I habitually jog, likely on a regular basis. "I am jogging right now" means that I'm jogging at this very minute, while I'm talking to you, say, on my cell phone.

No one would normally say "I jog right now" to mean that they were actually jogging at this very minute. The only reason someone would say "I jog right now" is if they meant to convey that they jog on a regular basis, but only recently started, as in "I jog right now, but last year I did Pilates all the time."

When people are describing stuff they're actually, actively, currently doing in the Here and Now, they say "I"m going shopping. I'm eating now. I'm trying to finish. I'm doing my homework." They do not say "I go shopping. I eat. I try to finish. I do my homework." Not in North America. Not in the UK. Not anywhere.

porsche February 27, 2013, 10:25am

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