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    To me “Yesterday I text him” has the same feel as “Yesterday I paint the house.”

    I am surprised at how many have said that the sound of “Yesterday I texted him” makes them cringe;  I don’t understand why.  Having skimmed the entries, above, I didn’t notice anyone explaining <i>why</i> this makes them cringe, either.  Perhaps someone will, and my mind will be changed, though.

brian.wren.ctr June 2, 2009, 7:13am

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I <i>have</i> provided evidence, evidence with which you even agree.   “I” is the nominative, “me” is not.   “It is I” is the proper response to situations requiring a nominative response, or when making a nominative declaration (eg, “Don’t be afraid: it is I”).   “It is me” is not nominative.
    Improper pronoun usage can be found all over the place (“Me and him went to the store,” “Us neighbors had a barbeque,” etc.), and people get the idea.   If those cases are used enough, dictionaries will start to cite them as common usage, so that people reading the dictionary will have explained to them what it is that they are looking up.   But that will not change the accurate statement that those pornouns are incorrect, just as using “me” as a noninative pronoun is.   My dictionary handles this case in the following fashion. “also used as a predicate complement with a linking verb, although the usage is objected to by some.”
    This does not, of course, contradict the fact that “me” is frequently used as if it were nominative.

brian.wren.ctr May 29, 2009, 6:46am

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    It’s not that I don’t believe—for I do.  But the reality that there are situations where “It is me” is readily accepted does nothing to establish that it is proper.    There are vast numbers who readily accept “I seen it,” or “I been there,” but this in no wise establishes either as a proper sentence under any circumstances.    It doesn’t surprise me that anyone can cite examples of its use.  But the question is whether it is proper, not whether there are this quantity or that of individuals who either do not know the difference, or who, knowing the difference, choose to use an improper sentence to use in a given circumstance.  I myself, knowing better, use improper grammar deliberately.  (For instance, I usually use “This is me” to keep from derailing the conversation at hand.)

brian.wren.ctr May 28, 2009, 1:59pm

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    I am perfectly willing to believe that “many native speakers are guilty of poorly formed thought every time they speak,” given the boneheadedness I witness every day all around me.  But when I said that, I was more addressing the question of why we think of these things—in general—rather than the specific case of “This is me“ <b><i>v.</i></b> “This is I.”  I would agree that that would be ridiculous—<i>if</i> that were the only criterion contemplated.  It <i>is</i> valid to at least contemplate grammar, though.

    There is no place where the proper answer to “Who is this?” is “It is me.”  The question requires a nominativce answer; “Me” is not nominative.  This just doesn’t happen to be a dialectual distinction.

    I guess I would say that the topic is broad enough to include both social and language issues. Each case would be distinctive, some more socially oriented, some more associated with grammar, dialect, etc.

brian.wren.ctr May 28, 2009, 10:30am

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Examination of the historical use of the two letters “OK” indicate otherwise, wishful thinking that things are otherwise notwithstanding.

brian.wren.ctr May 28, 2009, 10:17am

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<blockquote>What is most revealing is our never ending compulsion to gauge and judge others by their use of language.</blockquote>
Well, what is it you think it reveals?  (And why is it that you think it is a compulsion?)

Language is a representation of thought.  Poorly formed language indicates poorly formed thought.  True, sometimes that apparent indication mistakenly apprehended, such as when the language is not the native language of the speaker.

We use all manner of indicators to evaluate the people around us in a variety of categories.  This is not necessarily snobbery; it might merely be developing a “profile” of the person so as to choose a communication style that will be best received—I speak differently to teenagers and pentegenarians.

Equally proper, but equally poorly received is “It is I,” rather than that which most would say, “It is me.”  Yet, “It is I” is the proper statement of the two.

brian.wren.ctr May 27, 2009, 10:31am

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brian.wren.ctr May 27, 2009, 10:14am

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There was one earlier, and unrelated, use of “OK.”    March 23, 1839, C.G. Greene, editor of the Boston <i>Morning Post</i> used “O.K.” as if it were an abbreviation for “oll korrect,” a facetious mispelling (being all incorrect) of “all correct.” (<i>Webster’s New World Dictionary, 3rd college Edition</i>, (c) 1988, Simon & Schuster, Inc.)

“OK” is now the most common thing to say in the whole world...

brian.wren.ctr May 26, 2009, 12:51pm

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The way this would be taken by me would be that the mother causes the child to be like the parent throught the transformative process of wishing—“Wishes” being a transitive verb. (But even then, to be a complete sentence it should be “My mother wishes my child <b><i>to</i></b> be like me.”)

I believe it should be “My mother wishes <b><i>for</i></b> my child <b><i>to</i></b> be like me.” To wish for something would not be taken as transitive.

brian.wren.ctr May 24, 2009, 10:16am

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“...why would someone ask for my ‘Street Address’ when they really want my ‘Mailing Address’?”

For the same reason they give you ¼<i>"</i> for your 3-digit area code (0.083<i>"</i> per digit), but 5½<i>"</i> for your 5-digit zip code (1.825<i>"</i> per digit): Rank incompetance in creating forms.

brian.wren.ctr May 18, 2009, 10:19am

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The lyrics of the song make it absolutely clear that the idea in Bob Marley’s mind is that "No, woman; no cry" is an imperative:

<i>In this great future, you can't forget your past;
So dry your tears, I say.

No, woman, no cry;
No, woman, no cry.
here, little darlin’,
don’t shed no tears:
No, woman; no cry.</i>

brian.wren.ctr May 18, 2009, 7:36am

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I believe an English teasher would lower a student's grade on a paper if it had an abiguity such as "I read the book on the chair." It "incorrect" in a domain other than syntax, or misusing words ("lay" in place of "lie")

A sentence is defined as a complete thought. The implication is that a sentence conveys a complete thought. "I read the book on the chair" doesn't actually convey a complete thought, due to its ambiguity. So, in my understanding, it is in fact incorrect, just not incorrect syntactically. It is incorrect at a higher level, at the level of making sense.

One of the most--again, to me--is oncorrect because it fails to convey any meaning other than the meaning inferred by the listener. But the purpose of communicating is to make your point, not to say something that allows the listener to come to a conclusion through guesswork.

One of the most, as I said before, being ultimate rather than comparative, implies membership in a set. But the size of the set is not established, leaving the phrase devoid of the minimum clarity I believe is ought to have.

"More" is, by its nature (so to speak), comparative. This allows it to serve acceptably in the phrase "one of the more," though it is true that the size of the set is still undefined.

Just my opinion, from the standpoint of logic -- as I understand it.

brian.wren.ctr May 18, 2009, 7:29am

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This would be a idiom, to me. It is a phrase that does not have specific syntactical meaning, but only has the meaning it has as a complete phrase. The same would be true of phrases such as "grosses me out," "turn it on," an so forth.

You could make the case, I suppose, that "turn it on" derives from "Turn the switch to the 'on' position." In the same way, "thin them out" might derive from the idea, "thin the flock by taking some out."

Nonetheless, that actual phrase has no meaning except as a complete phrase.

There is a shorter version, “thin out.” It is the same, though: "Bob, thin out the flock before you quit for the day."

(I have no authority on this, aside from understanding English well.)

brian.wren.ctr May 18, 2009, 7:20am

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OK, let me ask you: In the case of "One of the most," let's say the goup is 100 in size.

So we say, "One of the tallest." The tallest is indicative of a sub group. But how big is it?if you were a member of this 100, and there were 5 shorter than you, are you one of the tallest? Is "the tallest" a group of 95? Would 50 need to be shorter than you?

Now I know that the same questions can be asked with respect to "taller," but shorter is a comparative word, whereas shortest is one with a much more ultimate connotation.

My point in what I have been saying is that logic alone is enough to establish the case I am making, no authority need be cited.

You clearly disagree, but the case against my assertion does not persuade me.

’S been fun though.

brian.wren.ctr May 15, 2009, 3:46pm

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<blockquote>How do we determine what the rules are?</blockquote>
Much of language is philosophy/mathematics. The things we say have pretty specific mental structures associated with them. We hve concepts like "sentence fragment" because a senetence fragment violates the rules of the minimum number of elements (and their types) necessary to convey that which a sentence is to convey—a complete thought.

So some of the rules are determined by analyzing whether the task the utterance was to convey was in fact conveyed.

Some areas of language are personal language choices. Some are not.

But it seems to me that asking questions like the quote at the top is implying that the paradigm that legitimately applies to <i>some</i> areas automatically applies to all areas. Of course, that is an application of reductionism, a logical fallacy.

<blockquote>Part of the relevant evidence has to be usage.</blockquote>
This is true in some cases, but not in all. That means that it is relevant evidence in the areas where it is relevant, but it is not relevant evidence in areas where it is <i>not</i> relevant.

Let me set an analysis. Opinion in some cases is relevant evidence. It is virtually the most important evidence in a demographics study or a survey. But opinion carries exactly zero weight as evidence in the question of whether it is true or not that 2 + 2 = 5.

And, as I said before, usage pressure changes language rules very slowly, though admitedly it does exert functional pressure.

<blockquote>These writers are generally regarded as some of the best (that would be “<i>better</i> writers” ;-] ) writers in English. They presumably knew what they were doing. If this phrase is incorrect, why do so many good writers use it? If our theory of grammar forbids this phrase, how useful a theory is it?</blockquote>

Writers are lauded by the emotion they can evoke, the complexity of their plots, ad infinitim. They are not considered expert writers on the basis of their understanding of syntax and language theory. Some really good writers have a horrible grasp of these things.

I am sure you can find examples of highly renown authors who misuse lay/lie/laid, further/farther, compose/comprise, assure/ensure/insure, aggravate/irritate/antagonize, alright (a nonstandard abbreviation)/all right, preventive/preventative, can not/cannot, bad/badly, continual/continuous, would have/had, tortuous/torturous, sit/set, parameter/perimeter (as in “outside the parameters”, and on and on.

I also know that sometimes authors choose constructions they know full well violate grammar rules because they are more effective at construction the picture they are painting, "poetic license." For instance, I am sure you will be able to find occurences in the writings of the authors you cited of using split infinitives; I do this myself for effect often. I realize full well when I do that I am doing so, but I do so anyway to make my point. That does not make split infinitives acceptable examples of proper grammar—they violate the rules.

Sometimes, saying "One of the more..." instead of "One of the most..." can insert a hint of properness that harms the flow of the narrative. It is still a syntax violation.

So, I grant you, it is a commonly used construction. Yet I assert that it is a violation of grammar. The two situations can co-exist.

brian.wren.ctr May 15, 2009, 12:21pm

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Saying a specific quality (comprehensibility) is not relevant is really not the same as asserting a universal (nothing is relevant).

For example, if a lot of people say, "I am going to go lay down," it has no bearing on the fact that they have used an objective verb where a subjective verb is required, syntactically.

It appears to me that the theme of this site is "what are the rules?" The rules are not changed when a statement that violates the rules is comprehensible...

Comprehensibilty is suitable for contemplation of some things, but not in the contemplation of accurate syntax. Accurate syntax is virtually set in stone. (I say <i>virtually</i>, because it <i>does</i> shift over time, but the shift is so slow that the experience for individual people is that of being actually set in stone.)

Comprehensilility is a valuable goal, if that standard has been eluding you (the generic "you..."). I'm not opposed to it in any way. I only maintain that it is not a measure of proper syntax.

brian.wren.ctr May 15, 2009, 10:19am

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"...this is a bogus distinction drawn by (mostly) British scholars in the 19th century who were intent on creating a grammar for English so complex that they alone could speak it — and most of it had no history in the language."

This might indeed be a valid historical observation, but that does not obviate whether there is a correct way (and an incorrect one) in this case.

I would state it this way: A team's name is essentially the name of a set. A plural name for a team causes the name to be more of a contemplation of the members of the set.

A set is a single thing, and so should be treated as a singular noun. A team name that contemplates the members of the set is more akin to a similar contemplation, such as "men," "kids" and "blondes." When you speak of the men in the room, you are describing a set, but you are contemplating the individuals in that set. So that would take a plural verb.

So, the musicians ARE happy, and Led Zepplin IS coming.

brian.wren.ctr May 15, 2009, 8:36am

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I gotta go with Brian W.!

It is true, it is comprehensible.
But so is "I'm going to go lay down." (Should be "lie")
So is "I haven't done nothin'." (Double negatives invert the intended meaning.)
So is "My house is comprised of rooms." ("Comprise" is not a synonym of "compose".)
So is "I seen him yesterday." ("I saw..." or "I had seen...")
So is "Him and me went there." (Saying "Him went there," and "Me went there." Should be "He and I went there."

I'm not trying to scold anyone--please don't take it that way.

I AM however trying to make the point as strongly as possible that comprehensibility is not remotely associated with assessing the accuracy of syntax or word meaning.

I am listening to this thread with interest, however...

brian.wren.ctr May 15, 2009, 8:13am

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It would seem to me that, since the original question is one trying to ascertain ownership, the provided answer must be a person.

"One of his girlfriend's" is more of a quality of the car that hasn't been asked—this is one of many she owns. But that does not designate a person The question asked only contemplates the one car. This answer more answers the question "What is so special about this car?"

One of his girlfriends would answer "Who is she to him?" or "Who is this, then?"

The answer, "one of his girlfriends’ " is the meaning, because that is the only answer that actually answers the question that was asked. It is the only answer that names a person (though which person is not very firmly nailed down, to be sure...).

brian.wren.ctr May 14, 2009, 1:27pm

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Proper use of "most" requires the size of the set in which the subject is a member: "one of the 10 most."
Without a numeric qualifier, all but the last are potentially included in the set "one of the most."

That (unfortunately) makes it as meaningful as "up to 10... or more!"

brian.wren.ctr May 14, 2009, 1:18pm

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