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October 20, 2005
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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.
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."
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.
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!
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.
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.
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?"
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.
@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 JohnI was pushing JohnI was pushed by John
I ran the companyI was running the companyThe company was run by me
I satI was sittingI 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:)
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?
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