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Joined: November 5, 2010  (email not validated)
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Recent Comments

I would not use the word "conversate," (mainly because the "-ate" is redundant), but I would not judge someone who does as stupid or sloppy or pretentious. People are different, and we need to learn to live with that. Let the person who is without sin cast the first stone.

Frank Merton February 19, 2011, 9:12am

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I agree; what is the point of the quotation marks. (Rhetorical question so no question mark) (Incomplete sentence so no period)

Frank Merton February 16, 2011, 12:13pm

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I need to add something to what I said: perhaps "gift" as a verb can refer to paying for something that is chosen and bought by the recipient whereas "give" can refer to the giver choosing and buying the gift and presenting it.

Frank Merton February 13, 2011, 2:29pm

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I am reluctant to ever condemn an expression as "totally unnecessary." Usually if the language community invents something, there is a need, or at least a perceived use.

With respect to "to gift," I can see use for its past tense form ("the masterpiece was gifted to the museum by Mr Gates"). Yes, "given to us" is less pretentious, but sometimes one wants to be pretentious, if only for ironic or humorous effect. In my example the intent might be to infer a dignity and honor to the giver. I don't know that it succeeds--it would depend on the rest of the context, and I think I would avoid it, but we need to avoid building rulebook walls.

The problem with "conversating" is more serious (which is perhaps why I find "to gift" in my dictionary but not "to conversate." The "-ate" suffix can convert a noun into a verb, and is already an ending to some verbs, but "to converse" is already a verb. Converting a verb into a verb is of course redundant.

Frank Merton February 13, 2011, 7:57am

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Looks "uneducated" to whom?

Frank Merton February 13, 2011, 7:44am

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Are we sure the person who is going to "signage" sacred areas is a native speaker? It strikes me as the sort of mistake a person who is transliterating from another language might make--keep in mind that verb-noun-preposition combination such as "put signs around" are idiomatic.

At any rate, I just don't believe this is a problem; it is too bizarre.

Frank Merton February 12, 2011, 9:53am

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You do a service pointing out the danger of using "gift" as a verb. There are of course times when "gift" as a verb would be OK, but I would tread carefully. Most of the time it would come across as pretentious or perhaps as flip.

There are of course many English nouns that also serve as verbs, and it may be that English will continue to move in an isolating direction (which would include weakening the distinctions between parts of speech).

Frank Merton February 10, 2011, 4:05pm

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Of course "can not" is fine. It has a stronger pulse than "cannot," so I prefer it.

Frank Merton February 10, 2011, 3:57pm

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It is nothing more than your opinion that it is improper. I think I would probably not find myself using "reference" as a verb because as a verb it would be weak, but I think it is way too much to call it an error. The language does not need to be fenced in like that: there might be situations where the subtle difference would be useful.

Frank Merton February 10, 2011, 3:45pm

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I have yet to find myself in a situation where I felt the need, or even the temptation, to use an emoticon.

Their most common use seems to be to try to put a polite note on a rude statement. Sorry, but that doesn't work. A rude statement remains rude even if you say it with a smile.

I think the subtleties mentioned in some of the above messages will almost certainly go over most heads unappreciated. It may take some effort, but it will be better in the end if you incorporate your subtleties into your text.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 11:02am

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Are you serious? This is the 21st century. Thurber?

I tell you what--I will remember what he says in case I ever have to talk to Gladstone.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 10:54am

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I think you are incorrect in telling me that I should have used "though" where I used "but." Your "correction" is not a correction but a change in the meaning. I said what I intended to say.

Otherwise, beyond being an assertion that you like grammar rules, you give us no supportive argument except your taste. Obviously your view is a popular one, so I will repeat: there is no good reason for a grammatical rule except to avoid unintended ambiguity. That we are usually better off using good taste in our writing is an aesthetic call, not a grammatical rule.

To the question at hand (must "who knows" take a question mark), I point out that the textbook rule is to attach the question mark to the end of actual questions (not even indirect questions) . Therefore, our statement should not take such a mark unless (unlikely) the expression is stated as in fact a question, not an exclamation or dismissal.

However, things being what they are, I would not mark down a student for failing to follow this rule. The indoctrination to put a question mark at the end of every sentence that has the form of a question, regardless of whether or not it actually is a question, is just too strong and not worth the effort.

The only real use for the question mark in English is not to indicate questions but to tell the reader they should end the sentence with an up-tone (required in English for yes-no questions). However, many readers react against authors who fail to follow the question-mark rule they were taught, so usually I accept the prejudice and follow their silly rule. However, the rule is for actual direct questions, not for other things that may have the form of a question.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 10:40am

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It is plain to me that the "self" in "self-confessed" is redundant. The above efforts to justify it don't address the simple fact that no one other than oneself can confess.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 9:56am

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If there is a single word for anything with a bad flavor, I would suggest avoiding it, as I also suggest avoiding the word "malodour." "Bad taste," and "bad smell" do the job, and anything else smacks of synonym searching.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 9:50am

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"Signage" as a plural for "sign" when we have the perfectly normal word "signs" available strikes me as about as far from clever as one can get--all the way to stupid.

I think, though, that this may be being misread. When some advertising type refers to the "signage" of a retailer, it is not a reference to its signs (in plural) but to its general mass of signs (arrangement, coordination, plan, whatever). Indeed, the "signage" of a given place might consist of only one sign.

Frank Merton February 9, 2011, 9:43am

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---"To lie only requires that the speaker not tell the truth."

I dunno; seems to me if a person thinks something is true, even though they are mistaken, saying what one thinks is not lying. The concept of the lie seems to me to carry within it the intent to mislead.

Frank Merton December 28, 2010, 6:28am

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I think, regardless of whether it is "right" or "wrong," the word "friendly" used as an adverb is awkward and "friendlily" can't even stand up for drunkenness. Therefore recast the sentence to avoid the issue.

Frank Merton December 26, 2010, 4:02pm

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Neither of has have really addressed the question---is it possible to lie without misleading. All we have said is that it is possible to mislead without lying.

The initial question is, I think, philosophical, not grammatical. As with a lot of philosophy, definitions are needed that go beyond the dictionary meanings.

Frank Merton December 26, 2010, 3:55pm

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If one sits quietly and watches oneself think, without trying to control the stream of thoughts, one can observe several things. First, the thoughts seem to be loosely---sometimes very loosely---connected to previous thoughts, or to various outside stimuli (sensations---sounds, itches, scents, aches, what-have-you).

Second, thoughts do not come from nowhere. There does seem to need to be a causal chain.

Third, the thoughts come welling up unbidden, from "somewhere" (usually called the subconscious, as though giving it a name tells us anything).

Finally, you quickly lose the notion of watching yourself and you go into a daydream.

I don't know what profound conclusions one can draw from all this, but one thing is sure. None of it happens when you are unconscious.

Frank Merton December 25, 2010, 9:40am

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The two words are synonyms, but "to mislead" is broader and includes "to lie" in its range. One can however mislead without telling an outright lie, such as by omitting pertinent details.

Frank Merton December 25, 2010, 9:24am

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