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#111234 08/29/03 08:11 PM
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I just ordered Paul Brians' "Common Errors in English Usage" (Franklin Beedle & Assoc., 2003, ISBN: 1887902899) after reading a review of it in the Washington State University alumni magazine. Anybody read it? I ordered it because (1) I remember Paul from when I taught at Wazzu and (2) I love books about our language.


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Nope, haven't read it - look forward to hearing your judgement (as probably few others have)!


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He has a webpage, in which he's quite mean and sarcastic about anyone who makes innocent mistakes. He was a total snob when I wrote him about the spelling of "mic" for microphone. He prefers "mike" on the argument that no other words ending in "ic" have the "ike" sound, forget the origins of the word or common usage! Ah well, in the end, the usage of the masses wins, so tough luck for him. Anyway, I don't think I like his style. Maybe he just comes across wrong in his writing.

The url is: http://www.wsu.edu/~brians/errors/index.html


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Wow--what a link, Bean! I'm not even through it and already I have a bunch of stuff. First, though, I'd like to say that I personally wouldn't categorize his comments as mean; they strike me as simply announcing practicalities, no frills added. For ex., But isn't one person's mistake another's standard usage?
Often enough, but if your standard usage causes other people to consider you stupid or ignorant, you may want to consider changing it. You have the right to express yourself in any manner you please, but if you wish to communicate effectively, you should use nonstandard English only when you intend to rather than fall into it because you don't know any better.
Well--he's right. You're not likely to be hired for a prestigious PR job if you say 'ain't got no'.

A "wow" moment for me: If you think a common error is missing from my list, check by searching with the "Find" command in your Web browser. A surprising number of people don't know that they can search the text of any Web page with their browsers, but it's a trick worth learning. What the eye misses, the browser may catch. I had no clue about this, so I went to my Help button, and found out this capability is found on the Edit function. And it works!

I found his comments here relevant: Americans have it all wrong, the correct usage is English (Canadian, Australian, etc.).
Read my page called "The President's English."


Lastly--what do you all think about this? The primary job of a dictionary is to track how people actually use language. I thought the primary purpose of a dictionary was to define words.





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OK, here are some opinion things from his page that are pretty judgemental (only a few because it would take all day to look at every entry):

"Occasionally computer programs encourage you to write "AM" and "PM" without a space before them, but others will misread your data if you omit the space. The ugly habit of omitting the space is spreading rapidly, and should be discouraged." [AM/PM]

"Another example of the oral transformation of language by people who don't read much." [for all intensive purposes]

In particular he is inconsistent in his non-errors section, listing a bunch of things as "non-errors" or "now currently accepted usage" which don't seem very different from other changes he rails against in the other section. For example, what causes him to accept "momentarily" as a non-error, but says for "dove/dived" that "a few authorities consider "dived" preferable in formal writing". His statement on dove/dived is so vague that maybe it should be under the "non-errors" section. And the non-errors section is where I perceive most of the meanness:

"Pedants have labored to enforce..."
"Some people claim that..."
"Some people insist that..."

It IS a useful list but I have some problems with the presentation, that's all.


#111239 09/05/03 12:13 AM
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Professor Kingsfield: "You come in here with a head full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer." ~Paper Chase (1973).




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He comes across as an arch-prescriptivist who like to think that he's a descriptivist. I'm with Bean on this one.


#111241 09/05/03 02:41 AM
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Re:You come in here with a head full of mush and you leave thinking like a lawyer

yeah, but..
Thomas Canton (Historian), claims, that if you time travel, and drag a lawyer from 14C. england, and bring him back to the US, Canada, or any other country that has english common law (civil law, not criminal) his ability to practice would only be limited by language, not the knowledge of law.

So, in the past 500 years, most of english common law, has remained largely unchanged, even moving it thousand of miles, has had little impact, but language is a much more living thing than the law.

Language changes, new words get created, old words drop from use. We needed new words in the americas for new things that we came across, and english was enriched by hundreds of native american words. (and some, like possumn, moved from US east coast, to south america, to austrailia- for similar (and genitically related animals). and austrailian aboriginal words for things are known to me; i know what a walk about is, and a diggerydoo, or a wallaby.

and there are words, like amok, that we took (from one of the indonesian languages) because we had no single word for the concept-- but common law in US didn't incorpate american indian practices for settling disputes over land or chattle, or wills. (and 'goverments' existed in the Northeast, Northwest, and in Mexico, Mezo and South Americas--they collected taxes, had 'kings' or elected rulers, laws, courts, and penalties. None of these customs are part of common law anywhere in US (Louisina still has remants of French common law (Napolionic code), but there are no remants of any indian laws in our civil law.)

but common law didn't need to change in the american frontier, or in the penal colonies of australia, it worked just fine.




#111242 09/05/03 02:51 AM
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There are, in the State of Washington, many tribal courts which hear cases arising on reservation lands. I am privileged to be part of the same state judges organization as are many of the fine judges who sit in these tribal courts. Few, if any, of them are legally trained, in the Western sense of going to law school. The principles and practices they employ are a remarkable mixture of tribal law and English Common Law.

Now that forward-thinking courts in the non-Indian systems are investigating concepts like restorative justice, judges and lawyers are turning more and more to Native American judges to show them how it works ... 'cause they've been practicing it for a long while.




#111243 09/05/03 12:55 PM
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...A Curmudgeon's Guide to the Many Things That Can Go Wrong in Print--and How to Avoid Them

by Bill Walsh, McGraw Hill, ISBN 0809225352

~~~~
I like this guy a lot. He's chief business/economy copy editor for the Washington Post, and while he describes himself as a curmudgeon, he's really just practical. And he's funny, as well. I always go to him when Strunk and White, bless their hearts, don't serve.

Couple of quotes:

"A finely tuned ear is at least as important as formal grammar, and that's not something you can acquire by memorizing a stylebook."

"Remember--Roommate: Two m's, unless you ate a room or mated with a roo."

All seriousness aside, the book is well organized and extremely useful.

Here's the amazon.com link:
http://makeashorterlink.com/?T29253FC5

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