Know your English

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jayakris
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Re: Indian Athletics Thread ...

Postby jayakris » Sat Jul 28, 2012 4:53 am

Ok, I knew I would end up having to investigate this, and as I said I expected to be correct only temporarily, though I may have extended the time period :) ... But how precariously close I was to finding PKB to be correct, was something I didn't expect. But he seems to have been incorrect. Here is the rule (link).
It would be folly, of course, to run more than two or three (at the most) adjectives together. Furthermore, when adjectives belong to the same class, they become what we call coordinated adjectives, and you will want to put a comma between them: the inexpensive, comfortable shoes. The rule for inserting the comma works this way: if you could have inserted a conjunction — and or but — between the two adjectives, use a comma. We could say these are "inexpensive but comfortable shoes," so we would use a comma between them (when the "but" isn't there). When you have three coordinated adjectives, separate them all with commas, but don't insert a comma between the last adjective and the noun (in spite of the temptation to do so because you often pause there): a popular, respected, and good looking student

That passage is a little misleading. Nothing wrong in more than 3 adjectives if they are of different classes. The classes of adjectives mentioned here are basically these seven - observational (beautiful, delicious), size (small,gigantic), shape (round, square), age (old), color (red), origin (Italian, Dravidian), material (wooden, silk), qualifier (Nilgiri, hunting, basketball). In fact we are supposed to string the adjectives in that order of classes. We do it naturally though. "We played using a faded, small, round, old, red, american, basketball, hoop" is how we would describe a hoop with 7 adjectives! (in this case, even the commas can be dropped, like we usually would)

As said above, an "and" is used when 3 or more adjectives of the same class is strung together. PKB almost did it right, though he had two classes of adjectives. "Arab" and "Muslim" were in one class (qualifier) and "African" was in another class (origin). Thus no AND should be used there. Note that in the example in the above quote, all three adjectives were of the same class (obsrvational) and that is why the AND was needed. Now, PKB can make a case that the three adjectives were almost in the same class, and that is why I said he was precariously close to being correct! :)

It is because AND is not supposed to be used for adjectives other than in the special (and very rare) case of using 3 or more adjectives of the same class, that the line takes a different meaning if the adjectives also happen to be nouns. That is because nouns are supposed to be strung with ANDs or ORs and not commas like adjectives are.

Just wasting time, of course. These posts will surely be moved to the "Know your english" thread.

Jay

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Re: Indian Athletics Thread ...

Postby suresh » Sat Jul 28, 2012 9:31 am

Yup, move this to the Know your English thread ;-) [Moved - Mod, Jay]

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Re: Indian Athletics Thread ...

Postby shibi » Sat Jul 28, 2012 2:46 pm

PKBasu wrote:Yes, but she is certainly the first gold medalist who is an Arab, African AND Muslim woman -- all three attributes together in a woman. I was quite clear about the "and" there, which ensures that the statement is completely true.

If the argument is correct, the following sentence holds true:
Abhinav Bindra is the first World, Asian and Indian Olympic gold medalist in an individual event.

Sorry for prolonging the subject, when lots of comments have already been made.

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Re: Know your English

Postby kujo » Sat Jul 28, 2012 3:50 pm

shibi wrote:Abhinav Bindra is the first World, Asian and Indian Olympic gold medalist in an individual event.

Sorry for prolonging the subject, when lots of comments have already been made.


That sentence construction is wrong. If you are an Indian, you are automatically an Asian and belong to the World!

But if you are African, you are not guaranteed to be either Muslim (Christians are there) or Arab ( non-Arabs are there). Similar de-construction can be shown for other qualifiers as well i.e) if you are Muslim, you are not automatically an Arab or an African.

Essentially, look at it as a Venn diagram in set theory. If they are not intersecting, then such a sentence construction is patently wrong. I am with PKB on this one, his sentence completely made sense, is correct and conveyed what he meant (to me, at least)....


cheers,
kujo

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Re: Know your English

Postby shibi » Sat Jul 28, 2012 5:48 pm

Then let me reword the sentence:
Abhinav Bindra is the first Indian, Asian and World Olympic gold medalist in an individual event.

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Re: Know your English

Postby shibi » Sat Jul 28, 2012 7:56 pm

The above sentence isn't right in the context. Sorry about that.

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Re: Know your English

Postby prasen9 » Sun Jul 29, 2012 3:16 am

Without going into too much mumbo-jumbo, the purpose of writing is communication. The fact that reasonable people mis-understood the sentence means that it was not written clearly. Sometimes things may be technically correct but it should be rewritten more clearly to avoid mis-interpretations.

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Re: Know your English

Postby jayakris » Sun Jul 29, 2012 4:55 am

I completely agree, prasen. That is why I said there would have been no ambiguity if PKB had said that she was "the first Arab, African, Muslim woman". That would not have confused shibi and others - as it would only be taken as the "x and y and z" case. Explicitly adding an "AND" actually only confused people, though PKB had an argument (of which I am still kinda doubtful) that it was the technically correct way. Jay

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Re: Know your English

Postby kujo » Sun Jul 29, 2012 7:05 am

prasen9 wrote:Without going into too much mumbo-jumbo, the purpose of writing is communication. The fact that reasonable people mis-understood the sentence means that it was not written clearly. Sometimes things may be technically correct but it should be rewritten more clearly to avoid mis-interpretations.


Now,now, let us take it easy there. since when is prasen considered to be part of "reasonable" people!!? :kookoo:
Or did you mean only shibi and Jay (who is arguing for the sake of it, despite fully understanding what PKB meant) as reasonable people?!!

It stands to reason, as you can see, that your post is a lot of mumbo jumbo without clearly stating who these so called "reasonable" people are!! :)

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Re: Know your English

Postby prasen9 » Mon Jul 30, 2012 12:34 am

Kujo, touche' :-) Well, shibi is indeed a reasonable and respectable poster. I think he sort-of mis-interpreted PKB's writing because of his choice of commas and and's :-)

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Re: Know your English

Postby suresh » Thu Sep 19, 2013 2:35 am

From a Mathew Hoggard interview on cricinfo:

Q. Do you have any superstitions?
A. No, what a load of codswallop they are. Neil McKenzie had a load of them and he was a proper numpty.

From the Urban Dictionary:

Numpty

Scottish usage:
a) Someone who (sometimes unwittingly) by speech or action demonstrates a lack of knowledge or misconception of a particular subject or situation to the amusement of others.
b) A good humoured admonition, a term of endearment
c) A reckless, absent minded or unwise person

codswallop

Something that doesn't make sense and sounds like utter nonsense can be described as codswallop, also, in some places of Devon, there are cults that use the walloping of a cod as a method of induction into their sect.

:D

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Re: Know your English

Postby jayakris » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:09 pm

There was an interesting discussion on the use of what appears to be a subcontinental word "pre-quarterfinal", among "pompous" PKB, "needling" Atithee and prasen who felt "pressurized" to butt in (in the Sumit Nagal thread).... That made me think.

The prefix "Pre" tacked on to a word would generally leave the word as an adjective and not a noun, or at least that is how it feels to me - though I am not sure if there are classic English rules on this. Like "pre-kindergarten students", "pre-marriage counselling", or "pre-owned vehicle". In India, this distinction is not cleanly understood, because we use words like "pre-degree" as a noun. "Pre-degree studies" is okay, but studying for one's "pre-degree" is probably not okay in classic English, I assume. There is the same issue with PQF. Saying that one is playing a "pre-quarterfinal match" is probably correct, but saying "one is in the pre-quarterfinals" is not.

Prefixes like "quarter-" or "semi-" do not have this property. They can leave a noun as a noun. So one can be in the "quarter-finals". I think the prefix "multi-" has the same property as "pre-" but that is completely unknown to all of east Asia. So I get peeved when I have to review academic papers out of China or Korea that say stuff like "we optimize the flow on multi-paths". Not correct. It has to be "We optimize flow on multiple paths" or "We optimize multi-path flows".

On a side not, do any of you find the word "pre-owned" vehicle wrong? I think the word must have originated as a marketing gimmick by some Mercedes-type high end vehicle dealers, because they didn't want to say "used car" which sounds bad. But a "pre-owned vehicle" really means a vehicle "before it is owned", which means it hasn't been owned. I don't know if the word was invented in the US, but misusing "pre" is not a disease with just the subcontinental folks, it appears.

One more thing. The prefix "post" had started being used wrongly a long time back, it seems. It should be tacked on in front of only nouns and be making them adjectives, as in the case of "pre-", but it gets tacked on to adjectives too. In good old England, no less. Like "postgraduate student", which should have been "post-graduation student" because "post-graduation" would be the adjective form meaning "after graduation", modifiying a noun into an adjective. At least in the US, the word "postgraduate student" is not used. The word used is "graduate student" which is actually logically correct, because it is a student who is already a graduate. So, a "postgraduate student" in India (and I believe in UK too) becomes just a "graduate student" in the US. "Postgraduate education", on the other hand, is indeed used in the US though. So, Amercians aren't always logical either, just as in the case of "pre-owned vehicle" which no American thinks is a wrong phrase.

Jay

PS: The fun thing is that the prefix "pre" is probably used wrongly in the word "prefix" itself, as the resulting word is not an adjective. Now what do we do? :)

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Re: Know your English

Postby Atithee » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:26 pm

Is the title of this thread correct? Knowing my English vs. your English? As in people of England?

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Re: Know your English

Postby Atithee » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:37 pm

Prof. Jay, may I please request a lesson on the use of till vs. until too?

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Re: Know your English

Postby Prashant » Mon Dec 09, 2013 4:44 pm

"Pre-owned" is one of the more horrible euphemistic contrivances of modern ad-speak. Lipstick on a pig. I really don't care about the English grammar niceties, it is a used car dammit!

I frequently used "pre-quarterfinal" in India, but have gotten out of the habit because it is completely missing from American usage. So, I understood exactly what PKB meant, but it seemed akin to using the wonderful Indian word "pre-pone" (opposite of postpone), which also occasions blank stares in the rest of the English speaking world.


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