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Thread: The rules and regulations

  1. #11
    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    I use 'literally' as an intensifier in casual conversation (and therefore casual dialogue) because I can.
    I do not like this rule! When people consistently misuse a word, its meaning gets lost and we can't communicate as well. I want to give up on some words, sure, but not not literally.

    A look at Wikipedia suggests that "literally" is not an intensifier. From my perspective, it doesn't intensify. This apparently is another example of our conflict: I don't like you using "intensifier" that way.

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    If somebody wants to call me ignorant or careless for saying "it's literally the worst thing in the world"...
    That's easily explained as proper usage. If you would normal say that something was the worst thing in the world and not mean it as actually true (say it's an exaggeration or hyperbole), then "literally" suggests that in this case you mean exactly what you say. That's well within the classic meaning.

    If you want to say "He has a literally large nose" I will grant you its use as an intensifier.

    I think Ollie is right to emphasize context, the problem occurs in when literally is misused on the context of a metaphorical. "Missing that concert was literally the end of the world."

    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    P.S I have never heard anybody use 'brackish' to describe dirty water. Brackish water is a mix of fresh and salt water.
    I have read that at least once in a published book. Would it bother you to read brackish used to describe dirty water? Would it bother you that readers will read this and think it means dirty water and probably learn the wrong meaning? And then they use it, and the wrong meaning literally snowballs?
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  2. #12
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    I do not like this rule! When people consistently misuse a word, its meaning gets lost and we can't communicate as well. I want to give up on some words, sure, but not not literally.

    A look at Wikipedia suggests that "literally" is not an intensifier. From my perspective, it doesn't intensify. This apparently is another example of our conflict: I don't like you using "intensifier" that way.
    The great thing about language is it doesn't matter if you don't like how I use a word, or vice versa.

    There's no such thing as 'incorrect' in language. I'll know you'll say there is and send wikipedia links or whatever, and it's true we do tend to talk in such terms, primarily as a shorthand - e.g we would say it is correct to spell it 'celery' and it is incorrect to spell it 'celary'. But, when we talk about 'correct' or 'incorrect' use of words we really mean either 'incoherent' or 'intolerable' - or both, don't we?

    You may find my incorrect usage of literally to be intolerable, but I don't believe you find it incoherent. You understand what I am saying. Therefore whether or not I should use it in your company will depend 100% on whether I care about using a word you find intolerable - annoying you - transgressing your tolerance - right?

    In most casual contexts, as explained, I do not care. Not about transgressing the patience of the language purists on that sort of pedantic level. Such people annoy me. Sometimes I like to poke them.

    I also don't agree it 'loses meaning'. Not as long as there are people like yourself, why would it? Your argument that the meaning gets lost assumes words can't have multiple meanings and plainly they can. The word 'set' has something like fifty different definitions. So by your logic are any of those definitions 'lost' because of the other 49+ that are plainly used?

    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    I have read that at least once in a published book. Would it bother you to read brackish used to describe dirty water? Would it bother you that readers will read this and think it means dirty water and probably learn the wrong meaning? And then they use it, and the wrong meaning literally snowballs?
    None of those things would bother me. Those 'readers' would need to learn to cross-check sources. Whenever I encounter an unfamiliar or questionable word in a book 9/10 I look it up in the dictionary, certainly I would do that before I would use it myself. And if I found myself in a world where 'brackish' was now commonly understood to ALSO mean 'dirty water' I fail to see how that would suddenly mean it COULDN'T also describe half-salty water. Context would dictate the difference and if it did not then linguistic Darwinism would correct. As it has always.

    I enjoy the irony of 'literally snowballs'. Was that intentional?
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  3. #13
    Quote Originally Posted by Dluuni View Post
    I am irked by clumsy language use because it destroys words that I need.
    On what grounds? Even if we accept it is 'clumsy' (a value judgment unwarranted) how does duality of meaning destroy words? Does it routinely confuse you if I write 'hehehe' in a speech bubble to represent onomatopoeic laughter because 'he' is also a male pronoun? Does it bamboozle you when people playing poker in an otherwise empty building mention having a 'full house'? If a pool player doubles over, screaming about getting kicked in the balls, I assume you would know which 'balls' he means?

    Because to say 'he's literally on fire' talking about a boxer who just won his 10th fight in a row is obviously referring to his form. It's therefore only incorrect (or 'clumsy') to say 'he's literally on fire' in a context where it could be unclear whether somebody is or is not burning to death - where there is a potential for reasonable uncertainty or lack of clarity. Which of course there seldom is in general parlance. If it is not unclear, it's fine (or at least not objectionable) to use the language however way one feels, isn't it?

    Common sense, people.
    Last edited by luckyscars; May 19th, 2019 at 06:45 AM.
    "If you don't like my peaches, don't shake my tree."

  4. #14
    People really get upset about what part of speech a word is.

    From various books with titles like 'Manual of good English' and 'Errors in English'

    'Leave, a verb commonly left without an object; 'I shall leave'; leave what?'

    'Like, like is never a conjunction'

    'Loan is not a noun but a verb'

    'Experience is a substantive, not a verb at all'

    'Fine, not an adverb, do not use as one, as in, 'How are you?', 'I'm fine'.

    'Dress is a verb, the noun it is often confused with is properly a 'gown'. '

    'Author, a noun, never a verb, never say they 'Authored' a book'.

    'Notice is never a verb, the form is 'Take notice'. '

    'Revolt is not a transitive verb, 'this revolts me' should be 'This is revolting to me'. '
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  5. #15
    Mentor Megan Pearson's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    Anyone who knows me well will know what a high regard I have for 'The rules of writing' and those eminent and educated individuals who pronounce them. I thought it might be good to provide a few examples so you can see how sensible they are.
    Deftly avoiding the 'it, its, it's, it is' argument here... I had a curious conversation with an English major once that went rather like this:

    Me: Have you read Cormac McCarthy's All the Pretty Horses?
    English Major: Of course!
    Me: I thought it was a rather creative piece of writing. What about you?
    English Major: McCarthy, creative? He broke every rule on writing ever written! How can you call that creative!
    Me: *Gulp.* [Stealthy retreat from conversation.]

    Rules are sensible, yes, and they need to be followed, but having been blindsided once on the topic (it was a much more emphatic appeal to his inability as a writer than I've provided here), I realized I really did like what he wrote and decided I needed to have a better answer should I ever innocently try to engage in some similar conversation again on writers who cast off the moorings of fine, grammatically correct writing (like I've done here in this very long sentence--which is not by any means an example of fine writing but of rambling). There is a point at which grammar is art, and there is a point at which the bending of grammar is art. It's a fine line to cross, one that can result in trash just as easily as art. We might say here there is a point at which it departs sensibility and simply reflects ignorance. Nevertheless, poetry seems to encompass this idea best. If poetry were as confined to grammatical rules & conventions as were, say, journalism, then we'd have no call for poetry at all. Therefore, does the prose writer who abandons grammatical convention really rather enter into more of a poetic conceptualization with their writing?

    I don't know.


    And Olly, by all means, please continue...
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  6. #16
    English Major: McCarthy, creative? He broke every rule on writing ever written! How can you call that creative!
    Whether you consider that a 'Good Thing' or a 'Bad Thing', as 1066 and all that would put it, depends on your point of view I suppose, but surely even the most hidebound writer must recognise it is a creative thing; it would be blindly sticking to the rules that would be uncreative.
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  7. #17
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    People really get upset about what part of speech a word is.

    From various books with titles like 'Manual of good English' and 'Errors in English'

    'Leave, a verb commonly left without an object; 'I shall leave'; leave what?'

    'Like, like is never a conjunction'

    'Loan is not a noun but a verb'

    'Experience is a substantive, not a verb at all'

    'Fine, not an adverb, do not use as one, as in, 'How are you?', 'I'm fine'.

    'Dress is a verb, the noun it is often confused with is properly a 'gown'. '

    'Author, a noun, never a verb, never say they 'Authored' a book'.

    'Notice is never a verb, the form is 'Take notice'. '

    'Revolt is not a transitive verb, 'this revolts me' should be 'This is revolting to me'. '
    I'll give you 'loan' and 'dress', I guess, but if you insist on using cliché as an adjective, we will fight.

  8. #18
    Wɾ¡ʇ¡∩9 bdcharles's Avatar
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    This is why I wrote my post on rhetoric in fiction, the point of that being that breaking the rules on grammar, logic, semantics, and so forth, could be allowable if it has an effect. Take "literally". It really, honestly doesn't bother me that people use it in a literally (!) incorrect way - and I say that as the most irksome sort of grammar prescriptivist under the hood. The fact remains that it is an effective modifier today. I am fairly sure that its users, when pressed, would know that it doesn't mean what they use it for, but so what? Neither does the word "chair" (as I understand it originally denoting a particular co-ordinating task, as in chairman, and sharing a heritage with the greeting "cheers"). It drives its point home and that's where its power lies.

    But on the flipside it's tempting to let slide a grasp of the rules at all, if one can superficially claim to be doing it in the name of art and drama and creating an impact. To me this is lazy and tends to result in very mediocre, generic content. I think one has to legitimately get to a point of feeling constrained by the rules, and to do that you need to know them and work within them til you can do hoops with them.

    Once you get to that point, it's like a carte blanche imo. You've earned the right to go transgressing over the rules.


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  9. #19
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    Quote Originally Posted by luckyscars View Post
    Even if we accept it is 'clumsy' (a value judgment unwarranted) how does duality of meaning destroy words?
    Because to say 'he's literally on fire' talking about a boxer who just won his 10th fight in a row is obviously referring to his form. It's therefore only incorrect (or 'clumsy') to say 'he's literally on fire' in a context where it could be unclear whether somebody is or is not burning to death - where there is a potential for reasonable uncertainty or lack of clarity.
    Except that the word "literally" is meant to signify an override, 'No, somebody actually poured gasoline on him and lit him on fire, which was unexpected'.
    "Triggered" is being used for "distaste, annoyance" so often now that if I say that I am triggered by bars, people—including some psychiatric types—assume that I'm annoyed by them, and using very political language for it. No, I meant exactly what I said, I have nothing against them but for my health, I can't go into one. Something about them is basically an allergy for my brain. The improper usage has made it much more difficult to communicate.

    Of course, then I can say "No, I am literally triggered", but people might assume that I am, rather than the actual definition of the words, expressing more anger.

  10. #20
    I'd just like to know when writing became so.... literal.

    I'd love to see those against the use of 'literal' argue it out with Shakespeare, who's the master of figurative language. You can't 'literally' burn daylight, but it works. He takes a normal paradigm: burn paper, and turns what a reader knows about burning paper (eaten quickly by flames) and shifts it into an abnormal paradigm over eating through time: we burn daylight. So the saying: "he's literally on fire tonight..." most will know it's figurative and being playful. Readers aren't stupid.
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