Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Proofreading Service - Pain in the English
Proofreading Service - Pain in the English

Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

24-Hour Proofreading Service—We proofread your Google Docs or Microsoft Word files. We hate grammatical errors with passion. Learn More

Username

douglas.bryant

Member Since

August 11, 2009

Total number of comments

142

Total number of votes received

880

Bio

Latest Comments

me vs. myself

  • January 6, 2010, 1:23am

Porsche: I don't disagree with you entirely. By the strict rules of English grammar "myself" may not be used in the sentence proffered by Helen Hi. (And Helen, if you are reading this, my first answer still stands.)

I wish I had the patience to quote completely Merriam-Webster's entry for "myself," but then the descriptivist cats thereat (that was my reference: cats) might take umbrage. Their point is that the use of "myself" as a substitute for "me," or even for "I," is centuries old. It predates the grammarians of the 18th and 19th century who deemed it improper, like so much else. Shakespeare himself used "myself" as a sentence subject: "Myself hath often overheard them say..." (Titus Andronicus). Of course, it may be argued that an old error is still an error. Feel free to take it up with the author.

At the risk of allegation of cherry-picking, let me quote M-W again:

"You will observe that almost all of the instances of first person and second person reflexive pronouns here occur in contexts where the speaker is referring to himself or herself or the listener or reader as a subject of the discourse, rather than as a participant in it."

Just so: "my wife and myself" – "my wife" and "my self." I think its appeal may be simply its parallelism: repeated syntactical similarities used for rhetorical effect. Plus which, "myself" is considered to somehow be humbler than "me." According to William Safire, "me" is a "harsh" word. Why this is so escapes me. But his argument – made by Garner too – is that "myself" is gentler, and therefore preferred by some. That it also superficially parallels "my wife" may account for its ubiquity, at least in casual usage.

So, Porsche, while I agree that the non-reflexive use of "myself" is technically ungrammatical, it is not so heinous as to beggar understanding; it is a usage well established in the ear, if not the in mother tongue. Or as the hep cats at Merriam-Webster put it, "...reasonable use of myself ought not to give you much trouble." Of course, they never met you, or for that matter, myself.

me vs. myself

  • January 4, 2010, 9:21pm

Theophilus Davenport says, "I would argue that the use of either the reflexive or the objective pronoun would influence the tone of the sentence, and its connotative meaning."

It is an interesting argument, that of connotation, and one not without merit. Bryan A. Garner, in "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage," addresses it:

"But "myself" shouldn't appear as a substitute for "I" or "me." Using it in that way is thought somehow to be modest, as if the reference were less direct. Yet it's no less direct..."

He goes on to say unkind things about people who do use it "that way." But while modesty may sometimes be the connotation desired, I don't think that from one pronoun we can assume our gardener is timorous.

Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" is more nuanced on the subject of using "myself" objectively, and they say this:

"Two general statements can be made about what these critics say concerning "myself": first, they do not like it, and second, they do not know why."

As always, they give copious examples of alleged abuse of "myself" by "poets, politicians, playwrights, novelists, essayists, diarists, statesmen, even lexicographers." They conclude, more or less, thus:

"Discourse analysis doesn't explain third person reflexives very well, but, in spite of what the critics may think, this use of the first and second person reflexives is a common and standard, though not mandatory, feature of the language."

Which means:

A: It's OK to say "my wife and myself" even though it's grammatically dodgy.

B: Grammar rules are like New York City stop lights: suggestions only.

C: The authors at Merriam-Webster are descriptivist pussies.

The last of which is fine by me; I find myself less prescriptivist with each passing day.

semi-colon and colon in one sentence

  • January 4, 2010, 12:01am

You may indeed use a semicolon and a colon in one sentence. The example you give does not require both, though it does need improvement.

You might recast it thus:

“I am indebted to my family, and especially to my two cousins: Jane Smith, my first teacher, without whom I would not be where I am today, and John Smith, my second teacher, who taught me more than he could have possibly imagined.”

This is similar to Khastings' suggestion. but with different punctuation. I have also introduces "two" to introduce the idea of a list prior to the colon (as Louise suggested).

Alternatively you might phrase it this way:

“I am indebted to my family, especially my two cousins: to Jane Smith, my first teacher, without whom I would not be where I am today, and to John Smith, my second teacher, who taught me more than he could have possibly imagined.”

I prefer that sentence, because it has more consistent verb-noun structure in its phrases.

However the phrase "without whom I would not be where I am today" is awkward, employing as it does two negatives. A better solution, with more agreement between phrases might be:

“I am indebted to my family, especially my two cousins: to Jane Smith, my first teacher, who put me where I am today, and to John Smith, my second teacher, who taught me more than he could possibly have imagined.”

There must be a better word than "put," but you get the idea.

me vs. myself

  • December 30, 2009, 2:55pm

Porsche is correct: in the example sentence, "like" is used as a preposition. In my comment I referred to an "adjectival phrase," which is inaccurate; "like my wife and me" is a prepositional phrase. What I should have said is that the function of "like" is adjectival, as opposed to adverbial. That is why the old jingle "Winston tastes good like a cigarette should" is ungrammatical. (It should be "as a cigarette should").

me vs. myself

  • December 29, 2009, 10:59pm

In the example sentence given by Helen Hi, the phrase "like my wife and me" is adjectival, and thus not appositive to the subject, which is "gardeners."

As for "I" versus "me," a simple way to look at the problem is to take "my wife" (please!) out of the sentence: "Serious gardeners like me always use organic fertilizer." It becomes clear that the pronoun "I" would be incorrect, since it is not the subject of the sentence but part of the adjectival phrase.

However, while the construction "someone and I" has been called a hypercorrection by some, it is to be found as far back as Shakespeare, and is not particularly objectionable.

Moments & Seconds

  • December 28, 2009, 9:30pm

Jan makes an interesting point: a moment is an indefinite period of time, the length of which is not defined by the word itself. It may be synonymous with a point in time, of no duration, or it may clearly mean some span of time, as in "a moment of bliss" (one hopes, at least, that it does). A moment may be lengthened or shortened adjectivally. Or it may be undefined, as "the moment of truth." Just how long does that last?

To string several moments together risks confusion, as RedFern points out, though sometimes "several moments" may be just the vague interval desired – in prose. That is a matter of style. I don't agree with Jan that a "moment" is more analogous to a minute than a second – it is more situational than that – but I do agree with her second point, which is (essentially) that creative prose differs from descriptive writing, and with it certain usages. It's a distinction not covered by mere rules of grammar. But one of great moment.

me vs. myself

  • December 28, 2009, 1:56pm

The speaker hasn't actually referred to himself with the word "gardener," rather to gardeners in general, so the reflexive pronoun "myself" would be incorrect. Use the object pronoun "me."

OK vs Okay

  • December 27, 2009, 11:16pm

Quite a nice, and long, discussion.

Bryan A. Garner, in "A Dictionary of Modern American Usage," has this to say about OK/O.K./okay:

"Each of these is OK – but nowadays the first is the most OK of all."

Most amusing. Don't give up your day job.

Merriam-Webster's "Dictionary of English Usage" has more to say on the subject. They give "okay" a slight edge over "OK" and "O.K." in regard to frequency of usage. They note that "okay" has the advantage of "taking regular inflections without apostrophes" when used as a verb.

As for the origin, there have been some interesting theories posited here. Cevdet Yagci says that it is Turkish, Simon says it's French, Erida says Greek, Erudite: Russian. Woodrow Wilson thought it was Choctaw for "it is so" – it isn't – and so he spelled it "okeh." None of these seem likely, fun though they be. Nor do I believe that "OK" is Civil War argot for "zero killed," for the simple reason that there were no battles without deaths in that war.

Porsche – ever the wag – points out that the "OK" hand sign spells out the letters O and K, though actually it is closer to the ASL sign for F.

The prevailing theories seem to be that it stands for "oll korrect" or "Old Kinderhook." (As Mykhailo points out, it may be both.) I have heard the phrase "all correct" used by the WW II generation, but that may be a back-formation from OK. It's fascinating that the origin a word of such recent origin can be so foggy.

As for spelling, I prefer either "OK" or "okay" over "O.K." Whatever the origin, it has long ceased to be an abbreviation, so the periods are superfluous. When used as a verb, I think "okay" is preferable, for the reason cited by Merriam-Webster. But "OK" has visual punch. Use either, but be consistent. OK?

“It is what it is”

  • December 22, 2009, 8:47pm

I don't claim to know the origin of the phrase "it is what it is." I think it is of relatively recent coinage, as I have only of late heard it, and it, being essentially slang, is soon to die away – as did the phrase "what it is" three decades ago. Few slang words or phrases outlast their generation of origin, except in ironic or sarcastic usage. Dig? The meanings of the phrases "what it is" and "it is what it is" are too divergent to assume a common parentage. I would accept evidence to the contrary. Have you any?

Placing a question mark after that sentence may lead your reader to think that the order of first two words has been accidentally reversed, which will not help your persuasiveness.

It is sometimes acceptable to use a question mark to convert a declarative sentence into a query. However, it is usually considered a casual form: "It's raining?" This is more common in speech than in writing.

If you are pitching an editor your best approach is accuracy in grammar, punctuation and mechanics. If you want to offer more information, do so directly.