Your Pain Is Our Pleasure

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Joined: November 8, 2009
Comments posted: 11
Votes received: 35

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Emailing, texting, tweeting--these are already affecting our writing. Remember when you wrote an email like a letter? Now, there is a subtle coercion when someone emails me and hits the carriage return. They are being formal. If they just say hi john and use a hyphen or comma and then start in with whatever they are saying, they are mimicking spoken language, perhaps what you'd expect to hear in a voicemail.

I think we will continue to have formal writing as long as there are business and government transactions. It's authoritarian, I know, but still seems appropriate to me. We are still in the early days of the internet. Wait 20 years, maybe 50. We might see a lot, ahem, much less formal usage.

kellyjohnj September 24, 2015, 2:17pm

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In the US saying waiting on sort of pegs you as a southerner, almost as strongly as y'all. Ahm waitin on ya means hurry the heck up.

kellyjohnj September 24, 2015, 2:07pm

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"How about never? Does never work for you?" Quote, possibly inexact, from a cartoon in, I think, The New Yorker.

I agree about the structure you laid out Howard, on a mathematical calendrical level. However, we have to allow for fuzzy logic. I think many people have an understood "of next week" in the phrase "next Wednesday," especially if it's Monday or Tuesday.

Thanks for not being a pain in the Yiddish.

kellyjohnj September 24, 2015, 1:59pm

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I agree with others here. If you want to be clear that there was a prison break, say from prison. It brings to the mind of the reader that there was a building or structure involved. Without the preposition "from," it's ambiguous and could mean someone avoided prison.

kellyjohnj September 24, 2015, 1:53pm

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When you debate with someone, you are most likely in public and people are wondering what all the fuss is about.

When you debate someone, you are on a stage in a formal setting.

kellyjohnj September 24, 2015, 1:48pm

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I am not inclined to investigate whether LEGO should be in caps or not, but I don't see a problem with referring to them in the plural by adding an "s." I agree with the intellectual property argument. Brand names are often the victims of their own success, right? If a brand name is very successful, it becomes necessary for the competition to adopt that brand name to describe their own product, or no one will know what they are selling, or at the very least why they'd refer to it with some lame-sounding alternative. So even with a paper trail, I think it's up in the air what a court would decide. In the course of emails, I like the question, but I think the train has left the station. We could have referred to email messages, email letters, electronic letters, etc. from the beginning. But we didn't and now we are stuck with emails for now. We see the official term electronic correspondence used in a legal or regulatory/bureaucratic context, but it always begs the question in my mind, wasn't it just an email, or was it really some esoteric computer system to which only Big Brother has access?

JohnJ September 7, 2011, 1:53pm

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Sounds marginally ok to me, altho it also sounds a little confusing, as a spoken sentence, so I probably would not use that wording. First tho, I am not convinced it means "force" in that sentence. Even if you used the more appropriate "obligate" in that sentence, it still is not the same as forcing. Forcing is such a strong term. It really can go beyond the constraints of a "social contract" situation, where I agree to take on an obligation so that I can maintain a certain status quo, and enters into an area where physical violence is a potential. If "force" is the intended meaning, I think it's a bad choice to say "oblige." I don't think oblige should be used that way. It's a matter of perspective. A person is forced from without. An obligation is something a person takes on themselves. The sentence, "No one can (force, require, issue a mandate for) you to stay in a job you hate," works, in my view. But if the meaning we are to get from the sentence is that no one can force you to take on an obligation, well, this is sort of a platitude that plays on the concepts of the two perspectives I described. It would be the same as saying that no one can force you to take on a voluntary obligation. Of course not. However, it's as complex as any human interaction. The military has a term I like, "voluntold," as in, "I was voluntold to perform this function." By which it's clear that the person didn't really feel they had a choice in the matter, but the task was offered AS IF it was a voluntary matter. I have to ask, can I olbige myself to stay in a job I hate? Seems like a ridiculous question. I can decide to stay, but why would I use a term like oblige to descirbe my decision? Unless perhaps I was signing up for a period of service of some duration. Normally I can quit a job anytime. But if I was signing up for a military tour of duty, by signing up I would be obliging myself for that term.

JohnJ September 7, 2011, 1:29pm

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It also occurs to me that "it is what it is" is probably related to the phrase "what is done is done." Again, nothing to do with Black Standard English. Just an old, presumably white European, English expression. Even biblical, perhaps. Or Roman? Can I get a "facet facevis" or some (real) Latin expression, anyone?

John January 8, 2010, 1:58pm

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Don't worry about the grammar. It's a matter of style and intonation. If you would have asked the question with a rising intonation, why not add the ? If you like that style of speech, you should write that way in an email, which I view as being closer to speech than to a letter or other more fomal writing. Personally, I don'tlike it when Terri Gross makes a statement with a rising intonation, trying to elicit a response from her interviewee. I agree with others who say this is affective and annoying. But that is my preference and should mean nothing to you, who must choose your own spoken, and then written, style. I think the main thing to watch out for is having one style in person and pushing awkwardly to have a different one in your emails. The other thing is that you are in a supplicant position here. You want to send more information. But you need permission. I think your statement is very efficient at getting that point across, and doing so in keeping with the relationship..

John January 8, 2010, 2:27am

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Roger - I am no expert on black standard english, but I need to say something about it to make a larger point. I suspect that the phrase "What it is?" is a tongue in cheek expression with multiple uses. It announces the speaker to be an unabashed, unapologetic black american. Kind of a statement affirming the speaker's right to be black and not be pressured to conform to standard american english. The grammar seems to relate to a common grammar in BSL where the verb and pronoun are incorrectly (re std engl) not reversed when turning a statement into a question. So while we would expect the statement "Tell me what it is" to be rearranged when asked as a question, "What is it?", the BSL speaker keeps the word order intact and says "What it is?". I can't go farther than that on this expression. Someone familiar with the rules and history of BSL should address it. But I went out this far on a limb to make the point that there is reason to believe that the expression "what it is?" has nothing whatsoever to do with the very standard english sounding phrase "it is what it is."

First, this second expression is a statement, not a question. So the grammar doesn't match. Next, it would appear, regardless of who coined it, to be an emphatic kind of phrase. The speaker could easily choose to say "I resign myself to this situation," but that lacks pith. And by repeating "it is", the phrase strenghtens the speaker's view that the situation is a hard reality, and this assists with communicating that feeling of resignation to the listener. I'd say the expression has more to do with the expression "just accept it for what it is"--a totally standard english expression--than with any BSL-speak.

As for your complaint about vagueness, I don't see that. And as to your concern that we help language change for the better, I don't know, I think you just have to enjoy the ride, bumps and all. Good thing no young adults rely on my use of expressions. I'm a dinosaur.

John January 8, 2010, 2:13am

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I'd say that causative would mean that the agent is the direct cause of the disease, whereas if you use the word causal, I'd expect it to be perhaps one of several candidates, or perhaps one in a series of possible steps in causing the disease.

John November 8, 2009, 9:55pm

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