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He was sat

February 8, 2012

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So now we don't have spelling chaos?

Who will make the dictionaries, if no one is to be at the cutting edge? Are they to be descriptive (Webster's) or prescriptive? Who will prescribe if no one is to use logic?

retired teacher November 16, 2013, 7:13pm

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Oh please! Must we check what others think before committing ourselves? If we fancy that we are at the cutting edge the idea, surely, is to jump in and suggest what we think is sound. Whatever prompts us to debate what the 'authorities' cite as the dernier cri, when their work does ours for us?

Now, it seems to me that the reason for check in as a verb, necessarily two words definitely with no hyphen is that otherwise you cannot have it in other tenses, most obviously the perfect tense: I check-inned is all to hell, while checked in will brook no hyphens, therefore present tense check in must be separate words.

I babysat because I was asked to babysit is fine.

If the verb component comes after, one word will do if that is what is popular, because -sit -sat raises no problems. Verb first, we need two words: I feedback, I fedback - ugh! I fed back, therefore I feed back - it still to me suggests the causes of borborigmus, and it is a term I abhor, probably for psychological reasons, but I can just about thole it if it two words, to use a Scots term.

Hairy Scot: I showed case?? Now, I cannae thole that! I am not fussed about the OED and H L Mencken Amer - life is too short to consult authorities and yet still to contribute to this argument.

retired teacher November 15, 2013, 5:47pm

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Sky news reports today: " the GOCE (Gravity Field and Steady-State Ocean Circulation Explorer) satellite will break apart and much of it will burn-up in the atmosphere, scientists say. ". Then it says "Most of this burns up when it re-enters in the atmosphere due to aerothermal heating " quoting Professor Heiner Klinkrad from the ESA. No hyphen this time. "Re-enters in the atmosphere?" Oh dear, on so many levels. And due to?? My old English teacher taught us to use due to (for money) and "owing to" for causal effect. 'There is £20 due to me when you get round to paying me' and (here) 'burns up ... owing to aerothermal heating'. The fact that my spellcheck doesn't like aerothermal can pass for now. Astonishingly, it is happy with aero-thermal.
Sky news tends to be riddled with poorly written pieces not subjected to proof-reading. Is proof-reading supposed to be with a hyphen? OMG, as they say these days.

retired teacher November 9, 2013, 5:45am

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Thanks for all that, Warsaw Will. Jargon, jargon, all jargon to me. The telling part is that your sharp insight in deciphering all the gobbledegook still has you hesitating to declare that it makes sense even to you: your piece is full of reservations: 'I think', 'probably' and 'in my opinion' and clearly you have taken far more trouble to make sense of it than I did. No apologies from me. I really don't know what Dimbleby was on about, in that case, but I know this much: he didn't like it, whatever it was!
Meanings of words like 'commissioning' being 'pretty obvious' to the cognoscenti despite an object to follow, all very well for the said cognoscenti but a mystery to those of us in the wide world. I must be one of the few people in the land who do not work for the BBC then, and mighty glad about it I am, despite the massive salaries and redundancies they pay, if this is how they speak. Hats off to you for digging into their verbal swill in this manner and suggesting what it might all mean; for me, I really wouldn't bother. Speak the language of outreach? Nah, but I'll have another beer.

retired teacher November 6, 2013, 6:31pm

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Hey, Niall, what about all those teachers at the best schools in England, by which I mean the ones who prove it by getting their pupils into the best universities in the land as a sample of the quality of their teaching. There is no dispute about it in England. Private schools and free schools are staffed by teachers who are free, and their results prove that it works very well indeed.
Not all students wish to pursue such a path, understandably, and not all are indeed suited to it, but when year after year the best exam results are scored by a succession of young people who have been taught by people who have the freedom to teach as suits them, it is a no-brainer to me what to make of that. How do they do it? They know their subject, that is important, they communicate with their students in ways which no one can teach - you have it or you don't - they are the best and need no 'training'? Their minds are free to soar.
They used to say that those who do do, those who can't do teach, and those who can't teach teach the teachers, and they had a point, really.
Obviously the teacher knows his subject, but that is not included in the 'training'. Training does nothing for a teacher, and all the really good teachers I have known agree, including the few who were subjected to 'training', which they endured but tried to be unaffected by it. Not one of the teachers at my old school had done any. I am sure it is quite different if you are teaching toddlers, or indeed people who are younger than about 9, I grant you, where methods to impart what is required may indeed need to be taught to the teachers.
I think your analogy with the gynaecologist would be apt if he were to be taught how to talk to the patients, how to treat the nurses, and how to cope with the bureaucracy in his hospital. Or if he foregoes such training he might be sharp enough to work out all that on the hoof, really, once he has studied his medicine.

retired teacher November 6, 2013, 3:00pm

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Okay, how about: "Observation of the need for perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation ... was required ..."
After all, the point about using ellipsis is that the words left out but understood are indeed left out, and those who wish to put them in must choose which ones to put in. (Is that a bit like Donald Rumsfeld's unknown unknowns ..? )
And don't try to tell me that the observation in question means watching others do it! It means of course doing it yourself, like observing the law.
I sense the ghost of Cathyem's teacher with that ruler for the knuckles lurking nearby, so I'm going out now.

retired teacher November 6, 2013, 6:39am

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I am reminded of the elocution lesson in Some like it Hot, set in Hollywood when the 'talkies' came, and the established silent screen star whose name I forget turned out to speak poorly, saying 'I can't' to rhyme with 'ant' and being coached to say it with the long 'au', cahnt. Now why would they make the poor woman do this, if not for a good reason, hey? Well, the studio wanted the public to adore her, so she would have to speak properly, they reckoned. I rest my case. And I ain't American.

retired teacher November 6, 2013, 5:50am

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Perhaps "Perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax was required at all times" is not ungrammatical, your honour, if it can be regarded as an example of ellipsis, with the subject being "Attention to": 'Attention to perfect grammar, spelling, punctuation and syntax was required at all times.' So the singular 'attention' is the subject of the consequently singular verb 'was'. Indeed, attention to/adherence to/respect for are but a sample of the cloud of ideas 'understood' without being stated, thus ellipsis.The subject, being understood, was omitted in the interests of brevity and concision, unlike this argument. That is why, subliminally, 'was' in place of 'were' did its job in this statement rather better than 'were' would have done. I rest my case, your honour.

retired teacher November 5, 2013, 6:12am

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Craig, you have hit the nail on the head. The acceptance of the incorrect spelling with one accent, which is neither French nor English, is American. The joke is, of course, that it does not feature in the actual document which it describes, as it serves no purpose, does it? Is it the title? I have never made one, nor seen one.

retired teacher November 5, 2013, 5:58am

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Warsaw Will poses the question: ''Disgusted, of Tunbridge Wells". If he and his wife had signed jointly, would they have been "The Disgusteds"? I don't think they would ever have signed jointly for they would not be on speaking terms, being of a sour disposition, and would not collaborate on anything, let alone a letter.
But if they were to do so, they would still be 'disgusted' just as the multiple people involved in the term 'the great unwashed' are not the great 'unwasheds'. As folk have been saying, above, for some years, it's an adjective, not susceptible to pluralising.

retired teacher November 5, 2013, 5:51am

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Good to hear from you on this, fellow Scotsman. The four linguistic horrors you introduce are - well, you've put your finger on it: designed to irritate.

retired teacher November 5, 2013, 5:30am

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What on earth is wrong with calling them commissioning processes? you ask, and I said just now that it reeks of management-speak. This is because, I have worked out, it lacks the word which says what the commissioning is of: programmes. It needs to be 'programme-commissioning processes' ( 'processes' means, I must suppose, procedures. So many malapropisms to decipher with these days!). The hyphen links the participle 'commissioning' with its object: 'programme'. Now the burble-speak is rendered instantly intelligible. And elegant, I judge. I am sure Mr Dimbleby would be proud of me; perhaps even more so of "procedures for commissioning programmes". So that is what on earth was wrong with calling them commissioning processes, I suppose.
I was horrified to hear that a new horror manifested itself today in the House of Commons, the lower house of our British parliament, by no less august a person than the Home Secretary, Theresa May. There is a procedure for letting out, under surveillance of some kind, bad people who were formerly incarcerated, and it is known by some initials which I did not grasp, but she turned them into a made up word which sounded like 'tinkety-tonkies' or something like that. Acronyms make a word, this was not a word so it isn't an acronym. Anyway, she informed the house, a fellow who was under a tinkety-tonky order went into one end of a place and did a runner out of the other end attired in a burka and has disappeared. Vanished into the ether. Gone. Tinkety-tonky didn't help, then. All that is at it may be, but the real worry is, why did she speak to us in code, talking of tinkety-tonkies?
I'll tell you why: it is because management-speak loves acronyms and talking in initials. I don't know why, and I wonder if they do. I endured someone for a bit who at what seemed endless meetings would prate sometimes of something called 'enkities'. This was like tinkety-tonkies: you wondered idly what it might mean, but knew it didn't really matter in the great scheme of things so let it pass. It turned out in the end it meant NQTs but I never could remember what the hell that stood for. It just sounded awfully managerial, so pleasing to those who bandied the term, and those who endured it ignored it, happy in the knowledge that it didn't matter much. "Enkities, you say, boss, jolly good, splendid, carry on!" if allowed to speak, and bothered to do so.
But abbreviations and acronyms to be used in the House of Commons? I have not heard this before in that place, and hope not to again. But I shall tune in as always, alert to the possibility.

(I understand that in the military they communicate in these terms all the time: roads are called *MSRs, for example, and there is a vocabulary list at the beginning of "Bravo Two Zero" about the first Gulf war explaining all these bizarre terms which aid communication.
*Main supply route. Saves time: four letters where 'roads' needs five, you see.)

retired teacher November 4, 2013, 8:17pm

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Warsaw Will,
not a lot, really, I suppose. It sounds very inelegant, and reeks of management speak.
'Assertionism' isn't in my dictionary, by the way, I am afraid; despite all the professionalism and training undertaken by its team of lexicological trained compilers they didn't let it in, and I laud them for their omission.

retired teacher November 4, 2013, 6:39pm

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Warsaw Will, I totally agree with you. I must look up assertionism in the dictionary to see if it is there. Now, 'professional', ' team', 'professional' again and 'training', all terms you bandy, alert me to the danger of kowtowing to authority, and my upbringing as a lawyer taught me to question and test all that sort of thing. Question assertions, and dig deeper. Laws are rules, and we look for ways around these rules, dig into the rules, and above all argue with those who make and interpret them. Finally we might agree with them, and pretend we did so all along. Meanwhile if you practise the law on a professional level you do all that and charge a fat fee too. There is an interesting debate going on in England just now about teachers and the need for teachers to have 'training' - many argue that it is important that teachers do not have any such thing, for what they need to be good teachers cannot be taught, and that which they would be taught in the course of such 'training' does not make for good teachers. The government includes a party whose leader attended Westminster School, one of the best in the land, where none of the teachers had been subjected to 'training', yet he is the one who argues that the new 'free' schools' teachers should have this training. The debate rages and it is all quite a laugh. It is suggested that the pro-training lobbyists want rules, and structures to obtain in these establishments and their motive is to win control, and power. I have seen it in action: 'managers' who spend their time drawing up diagrams which show who rules over whom, and salary structures, and who is in charge of what, and they are excited by the idea of overseeing the 'career development' of others. All to do with having and wielding control and power. For me, I have just always thought they are daft, and dull, and pedestrian, and have no place in the world of education.
Now, experience. That is the one we must respect. English? Literature, that is where we must look. Do terms like 'feedback' and 'human resources', other than in connection with organ donation, feature in any form of literature you know? Does Jeeves feedback to Wooster, or indeed give him feedback? That is the place to look for the evidence, Warsaw Will, not in the dictionaries. The dictionaries are no two alike, after all, and the people who put them together are human just like the rest of us.
The things you say about hyphens are very interesting. I used to point out to my pupils the thing about how 'omnibus' became 'bus and finally bus, according to the times in which they were mentioned in the literature. No doubt hyphens and their usage operate the same way. My ravings about check in and check-in are inspired by their being examples of sheer carelessness and lack of proofreading, which is endemic these days. A fellow wrote a letter to the Telegraph the other day moaning that he was "in hoc" to the government to the sum of so much, or some such thing, and the proof-reader didn't bother to put in the customary (sic). So it is splendid that you are so fussed about proofreading and proof-reading and while both these pass muster with my computer's spellcheck (so does 'spellcheck') 'proofreader' doesn't and 'proof reader' does and so does 'proof-reader'. The message is: don't trust the authorities! They are probably lefties and want to control you, because they like power! Work things out for yourself!
Did you see the splendid episode of the comedy 'Frasier' where he instructs his son, who is in the final of a spelling bee, popular in the USA, to "get out there and spell his ass off", with reference to the opponent.
Hey! I wrote all that without looking up anything! Does that make me an assertionist? (Computer spellcheck does not allow this word. I'll look in a dictionary later.)

retired teacher November 4, 2013, 2:54pm

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If you can hyphenate 'proofread', why not 'check in'? you ask. I say you can read the proof of something, but you do not in your check, rather you check yourself (and your bags, if any,) in. Quite different. Read is the verb bit of proofread, or proof-read, and check is the verb part of check in. Check-in is a noun, I say, and proofread or proof-read is a verb, A noun, and then a verb, both similarly hyphenated, but for different reasons. I agree, proofread as a single word looks fine.

You, WW, go rushing to dictionaries and external 'authorities' to back your arguments. I don't, really, I just make them up as I go along, using my powers of reasoning and my observation of evidence, so that I can still look eventually at a dictionary and consider its suggestions in a critical rather than just accepting way. It's the way I was brought up, you know.

retired teacher November 3, 2013, 5:56pm

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Of course it is subjective, and I have no problem with that fact at all. In fact I like subjectivity. I explained why. Your point, that fearsome words like this are heard all the time in business contexts, explains why too. Management-speak (hyphenated) is horrible, too. Heard in a business context it must be borne, I suppose, by those who must put up with it. I don't. The noted journalist David Dimbleby, a scion of that noble broadcasting family, normally commissioned to do the commentary on televised state occasions, in today's Telegraph says "the language of management-speak has seeped into key bits of the BBC where it shouldn't exist" and writes of 'commissioning processes' and "people getting promoted for speaking the language of outreach" and generally makes it clear that he doesn't like it either. So I am in good company.
You are right about the capital letters: “Senior Management Team The College Governors" are the words which are capitalised and which in my view do not deserve capitals, as they are not names or titles. And 'The' is not a noun. “day responsibilities year feedback staff" are not capitalised, but I did not say that all the nouns were, indeed I mentioned the 'rather Germanic employment of capital letters on some, but strangely ... not all, of the nouns.
When we write of stuff about the royal family (not capitalised) in Britain (capitalised because name of country) we talk of the Queen (title) and the Duke of Edinburgh (title) but of princes and princesses and dukes and duchesses if they are not named, so not capitalised, gathering at the palace or the castle, or if named, Buckingham Palace or Windsor Castle, capitalised because named. Like Fettes College. Past prime ministers don't get capitals in general, but a particular named one does. In today's paper I see mention of "the former bishop of Rochester" (named) but also the Justice Secretary (named). So I argue that The College and Governors should not be capitalised, as it is too crawly, whereas Senior Management Team, also horribly crawly, I'll let you off with, because, as you say, they are a named unit. I would hate to be one of a named unit, wouldn't you?

retired teacher November 3, 2013, 3:27pm

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It may be here to stay, but 'feedback' still induces slight nausea. It suggests the causes of borborygmus, the way 'human resources' suggests something from the movie 'Cocoon'. 'The feedback from the survey has been overwhelmingly positive' is much less horribly rendered by 'the response from the survey has been overwhelmingly positive'.
Proof read as two words? No, because read is the verb and proof is the object noun, as what it is you read, so 'read proof' is where you feel we would be going; proofread isn't right either, proof-read a pleasing compromise. That's why I put it. Also spellcheck gave it a no-no with a wiggly red line and for once I went along with it.

Not going to Gatwick in the near future, but I shall check the signs at Heathrow and Bangkok in the next few weeks, for check in and checkin and check-in when I'm checking in. If the flight is delayed horribly I could deliver a paper to fellow passengers on the use of hyphens, to pass the time, but they wouldn't like it. Oh no.

retired teacher November 3, 2013, 1:09pm

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Poppa Bear, I read into "the bail was enlarged" the idea that the sum involved is increased, rather than the period extended. As one who once long ago and far away had employment all day in the office which worked with the payment of fines and bail, I cannot recall any instance of such a thing being done. If the first edition of the bail had proved sufficient there was no need to enlarge it, for if the alleged "skellum" had turned up again, what would be the need? And if, rather, he had done a runner, it would be a bit late anyway, and the thinking would be that it would be more appropriate to sling the poor wretch into the cells, as being an unreliable person to whom to grant bail at all, if he could be apprehended. So it is a mightily rare thing to have bail enlarged, I agree with you.

I am intrigued that you can tell how the language as printed is pronounced. It is early in the morning, however, and we are not firing on all cylinders yet. Perhaps it is more obvious once the first coffee is aboard.

As for me, I agree that the language as printed in the press is choc-a-bloc with malapropisms and poorly chosen prepositions. I put in a complaint at this site about the sloppiness of the use of 'into' and 'in to' and 'on to' and 'onto' used interchangeably, especially as found in news reports, and promised to cite the very next example I came across, and, do you know? I have not seen any since!
On your side, Poppa Bear, fellow old school mate. Can't easily ignore linguistic carelessness, like the spelling of 'English' as 'english', for example.

retired teacher October 25, 2013, 5:26am

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These nouns are masculine and feminine third declension Latin nouns whose plural nominative and accusative forms are -es in place of -is: we are not adding another -es, but -es instead of -is. So crises, parentheses, oases, diagnoses. You know this already, of course. So why irises, not irides, nor ires,. ? English iris, not Latin, then. So irises. Irides would baffle folk, so a no-no. Ires is not Latin and sounds daft. So say iris is English, and treat it accordingly when pluralising.

retired teacher October 19, 2013, 8:23pm

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Nothing snobby about the Queen's English. If the 'Queen' part of the term confuses you, Mr. Quincy, you should know that in England the current royal family are thought of as newcomers and upstarts, or at least feel that way: there are many amusing quotes about the Queen speaking of certain of the nobility as "much too grand for the likes of us". Remember Queen Victoria spoke with a German accent, and George I could not speak English at all. Ever. Meanwhile the nobility includes families whose lineage stretches back to the Middle Ages.

Now, as for your "it is I" construction the clue is in French grammar and its labelling: "C'est moi" - 'ce' is the nominative subject, 'est' is the verb, and folk get stressed wondering what 'moi' might be, as it is nominative but it is not the subject, but the complement, and French uses the disjunctive pronoun 'moi', or 'toi' or 'lui' or whoever. The English form of this pronoun is similar to the accusative form: 'me, you, him, her, them' and so on. So we say "It's me" and that's why.

Have you met any English professors? You say the ones you've known can't communicate. The ones I've known communicated frightfully enthusiastically and well. That was long ago and far away. They raved most earnestly about literature, and showed little enthusiasm for grammar. Literature is not about grammar, and literary figures are not there to provide us with models of sound English sentence structure and grammatical forms, but about many things above and beyond this. I recall studying Chekhov as part of my A-level English many decades ago, but in fact the man penned his stuff in Russian, so we were in fact studying the drama form, not the language used. We had no need to read Russian to follow the plot of our studies.

So, Mr. Quincy, I have advised before and do so again, if you are ticked off for saying "it's me" then you must rise up, I say, to your full height, look your interlocutor in the eye, and say with hauteur, "I use the disjunctive pronoun, of course". So put that arrow in your quiver.

retired teacher October 19, 2013, 8:16pm

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