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Joined: January 2, 2011  (email not validated)
Comments posted: 14
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Recent Comments

Sarah - misleading someone is not necessarily unintentional. Someone can tell a person something with the intention of misleading them or deceiving them.

frank January 10, 2011, 2:59pm

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It would indeed. And just because they're obsolete it doesn't necessarily follow that they should be expurgated from the language. Just imagine if they removed all the words that "access" is replacing.

Back to affectatious for a moment; did Shakespeare make it up because he was stuck for an existing word to fit? He did, after all, coin quite a few new words to suit his purpose.

"My son has decided to call his newly born son Theodore. I think this is affectatious – middle class elitist twaddle." Why not "…this is an affectation on his part…"?

But thinking about it again, I rather like affectatious.

frank January 9, 2011, 11:29am

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Forkin' hell. What have I done? You're drawing a long bow here, porsche. It is colloquial, by the way. But back to your reasoning: does this mean the back forks are three in number? Or two? Or more? Should they rightly be called the back triangles and the back forks?

frank January 8, 2011, 6:45am

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Well you could try looking up some references. Pair of twins or two twin boys/girls – you haven't heard it? You should listen to some of the news broadcasts round here.

A pair of trousers is singularly interesting if you'll pardon the pun - trews (frae which the English word comes) like breeches (and the Norse/Germanic breeks) were leggings, one for each leg, held up at the waist by ties – somewhat in the manner of modern-day chaps (colloquial abbreviation for US chaperejos from the Mexican/Spanish chaparreros from chaparra) and there's a word to conjure with, it spawned a heap of children – and the response to your trouser remark is in the pun.

Where are you quartered, Ian? (See headquarters.)

English is fascinatin' stuff, ain't it?

frank January 7, 2011, 6:42am

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Grammarians whose job it is to compile texts on the subject. A fork, in, of or on anything, is singular. A fork in the road – though it may have several over its length and though colloquially we take the left or right fork in some countries. A hay fork, a garden fork, a forked stick, a forky deer and a table fork are all singular no matter how many tines, clefts, branches or prongs they may have. The front fork on a bicycle, though colloquially often referred to as "the forks", is still a singular word and a single structure.
"Forks on a bike" may be commonplace but in the grammatical sense to speak of the front forks on a bicycle is wrong because forks is the plural of fork. It's like saying "she gave birth to a pair of twins", common in speech but not right.

frank January 6, 2011, 12:49pm

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It is indeed incorrect, strictly speaking, but common usage gives it credibility in dialect/colloquial language. One does take the left or right fork of a fork, though again, strictly speaking, it's incorrect. An eating fork has several tines, as do a forky deer's antlers. In the US they speak of a fork in a river and then take the left or right branch. If we wanted to be really super correct and pedantic we would take the left path [of the road], in the same way that when we come to a crossroad we would go straight ahead or take the left or right path.

Words don't achieve correctness by being in a dictionary – dictionaries simply record the way words are used during the period of that particular edition, often with supplementary lists of words that may be changing their meanings. Thee, thou and thine are still in the dictionary though only poets now use them – which is a shame since they add affection to language.

frank January 6, 2011, 10:14am

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Christ on a crutch, Ian; don't come down the ladder! The OED doesn't comment on the correctness or otherwise of usage – that's for other references – but records a word's existence.

There's heaps of everyday terms (and there's one right at the beginning of this sentence) that are accepted as, or thought to be, correct when in fact they're not; and the whys and wherefores of each would make an interesting study in itself. As I wrote before, "Boys' [and Girls'] School" when part of a proper noun; "Children's Hospital" ditto; an hotel/hypothesis/historical, ad infinitum. Strictly speaking, forks is incorrect when we speak of the front forks of a pushbike, but it's in the dictionary because it's in common use.

The reason I like to play with these things is that I find language fascinating, especially dialect, spelling variations and colloquialisms – and the bait's cheap.

frank January 6, 2011, 6:33am

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Okay - the OED paper version gives fork as [chiefly] US, forks as Australian and English. A pair of forks would properly refer to the back and front fork or two of each, and just because the manufacturer's brochure calls them forks (if they are indeed referring to the singular) doesn't make it correct – how many times have you seen XXX Boys' School on the front of a school building? – unless of course the catalogue has several pages of front and back forks. A fork is something that by its nature has two (or more) tines or prongs and to say "a pair of forks" makes for tautology. You could, colloquially speaking, buy a set of forks – or a pair – for your treadly, but it is incorrect grammatically. Incidentally, I grew up in Western Australia using forks to mean the things on the back and front of a bike and still do – and if I'm writing colloquially I'd use it, but not otherwise. The USA retains many quaint and sometimes archaic anglicisms in its dialect. Close to where I live is a place named "The Forks of the Elkhorn" which is beautifully correct.

frank January 5, 2011, 1:03pm

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Well, you could try the OED for a start. Do you have any evidence that forks is grammatically correct rather than just the colloquial use?

frank January 5, 2011, 4:50am

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Affectatious is obsolete and has pretty much been replaced by affected anyway. Of course your character should say 'dahling' if you want her to – she's your creation – and there's no need to add "in an affected accent" or anything else, the dahling says it all, unless of course you want to imply that she puts on the dog, but I presume you would have done that when you introduced her.

Incidentally, listen closely to the way people speak. It can help your writing a lot. To my ear, women – and camp fellers – tend to pronounce it 'dhahling'.

frank January 2, 2011, 7:52am

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And of course I should have written "…among the most fascinating aspects of any language."

frank January 2, 2011, 7:39am

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When we speak of a bicycle fork in the USA and the front (or back) forks in Australia and England, we are not worrying about the correctness or otherwise of the term. Fork is strictly correct, but here we are entering the realm of colloquialisms, among the most fascinating aspect of any language.

Trousers comes from the Irish and Gaelic 'trews', scissors comes from Old French 'cisoires', which itself derives from Latin 'cisoria' the plural of 'cisorium', a cutting instrument. Because it came into English from the French, it retained the final 's'.

frank January 2, 2011, 7:36am

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Well said, Kim.

Frank Merton states that "…breaking with unnecessary rules is cause for happiness… Rules that achieve nothing except make pedants happy and allow people to consider themselves superior to others (“educated”) are best abandoned.

Then goes onto write: "The purpose of language is to communicate. Therefore, clarity is the only valid reason for having a rule. I will admit that social convention dictates most of the rules I follow, since I am aware of the prejudices about this subject, but I think they are diminishing." These statements are almost at opposites.

The rules of grammar do achieve something, they allow for effective and clearer communication. The rules can – and are – occasionally broken for the sake of dramatic effect in writing, and bent where they need to be bent for appearances' sake, but all in all they work pretty well. Superiority and pedantics have nothing to do with it – the latter can sometimes be a good thing; would you, for example, criticise a judge whom you thought was being pedantic about the law when passing sentence on a drink–driver? Who knows?

Technically speaking, "who knows" should carry the question mark, but if you want to imply that it was uttered as a statement then your writing should reflect that. One of the curses of modern writing is the tendency to do away with vocabulary and description, narrowing everything down to one-liners and the lowest common denominator. Perhaps this offers more opportunity for the writer to flog work to teevee producers – almost as a ready made script – but it does nothing for the ordinary reader.

Oh, and in FM's statement "…but I think they are diminishing.", 'but' should be replaced by 'though'.

frank January 2, 2011, 7:22am

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scyllacat is right. If the person being lied to doesn't believe what is said, then that person is not misled.

You could also have told someone what you believed was the truth when in fact you were in error, i.e. had your facts wrong. If you were believed then you would have misled them, albeit unintentionally.

frank January 2, 2011, 7:06am

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