The rules and regulations


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  1. #1

    The rules and regulations

    Remember Donovan?
    Is it a boy or is it a girl?
    Takes all kinds to make our world go round
    The army life ought to be a stipulation
    A-that's the proper education
    Twenty-five years probation
    And give 'em a double 'elping of

    The rules and regulations (sing it up boys!)
    Rules and regulations
    The rules and regulations.

    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 se how sensible they are.

    It's, an abbreviation of 'It is' we have all seen confused with its, a word meaning belonging to which does not have a 'possessive' comma, that is the word.

    Never confuse them again, follow the advice of James Buchanan in 'A regular English syntax'.
    "It's for it is is vulgar; 'tis is used."


    'Tis strange how some words change their meaning and 'drift' from the original without anyone noticing, but others are leapt on by grammar Nazis as 'wrong'. The word 'literally' has been used for emphasis ever since I can remember, as in 'My mum will literally go through the roof.' In fact I reckon its use in that sense is far more common than the 'literal' meaning, of 'exactly, in real life'.

    Garland Greever and Easley Jones in 'Century handbook of writing' tell us 'Do not use it when you plainly do not mean it, as in the sentence 'I was literally tickled to death'.
    Well, of course not , people would be most confused; are you dead or are you talking.

    Words change their meaning no matter how much pedants insist on 'The original meaning'; which their definition quite often isn't. Comprehension is the key.

    I shall continue.
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  2. #2
    Responding to one of your examples, "literally" is a very useful word, when it is used as an antonym for metaphorically. We don't need it as an intensifier; we already have more of those than we need. When you use it as an intensifier, that creates ambiguity. Or just silliness. ("Haley suspects that if she doesn't end the call soon, her head will literally explode." Wicked, Padian.)

    So. We have useful words. People misuse those words, out of ignorance or carelessness. If the misused meanings become definitions, our language usually suffers. That's because the original meaning was more precise, and the new meaning is more general and hence not needed.

    To give another example, brackish is presumably a useful word, though I have never had occasion to use it. It can -- AND IS -- used in fiction, in ignorance, just to refer to dirty water. I guess because it has bric-a-brac in it it? Do we now call that an acceptable meaning? The problem isn't definitions changing, the problem is the loss to our language in power to communicate.

    I can rant on if you want.


    I have written entire books about breaking the traditional rules of grammar. But I always have the criteria of power and efficiency.

    But I usually loathe the teaching of rules and regulations. I try to teach tools and power and understanding. Carry on!
    Last edited by EmmaSohan; May 18th, 2019 at 02:28 PM. Reason: I had broken one of my rules for using periods. Fixed now! Added quote
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  3. #3
    Member Thomas Norman's Avatar
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    I look forward to reading more on this subject. My grammar is by no means good.

    I would like to point out in regard to "it's" that we all use that form in speaking. Therefor I think I'm right in saying it is perfectly correct to use it in dialogue. We do not say 'tis.

  4. #4
    Quote Originally Posted by Thomas Norman View Post
    I would like to point out in regard to "it's" that we all use that form in speaking. Therefor I think I'm right in saying it is perfectly correct to use it in dialogue. We do not say 'tis.
    Exactly, my point is that those who pontificate on such rules are not to be taken too seriously.

    Oh Emma! I included that example because I was sure that someone would object I don't know why 'literally' raises hackles so much, but it does. In fact your reply was quite mild compared to some I have seen accusing people of all sorts of mental deficiency. I disagree of course. In one sense it is being used literally, in the other figuratively, and my definition of the linguistically and mentally deficient would be those who can't tell the difference from the context. Having another meaning does not detract from the previous meaning, and very few words only have one meaning. For example, 'literally', the adverbial form of 'literal' which had as its earliest meaning 'relating to letters or the alphabet'. This is just one of the other meanings, it also is defined as 'word for word' for example.
    "With his eyes he literally scoured the corners of the cell" Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a beheading.
    Maybe it was picked up in translation?

    Remember when Tom Sawyer got the other kids to pay him to let them paint the fence? Twain writes "Tom was literally rolling in wealth". No confusion in my mind, I didn't think he might be rotating with his golden alphabet around him
    That is about two hundred and fifty years it has been being used that way, longer for all I know, and I know people don't misunderstand, because so many of them jump on it as 'Wrong' when it is used that way, it's a bit like 'decimate'. Now there is another can of worms, does it mean 'to take a tithe from' or 'to destroy a large part of' ?
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  5. #5
    Words! My bete noire is punk-chew-ation. Just where do I stick a flying comma when it is a possessive plural? I can quite happily murder my grammar and strangle my sentence structure. Go figure...

  6. #6
    The teacher's cane; one teacher, one cane.

    Those teachers' canes. Lots of teachers lots of canes.

    Think of it as the plural with a possessive added, teachers's, but as the extra 's' is not pronounced it is not written.

    Now bend over!
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  7. #7
    Kinky old git. You haven't even wined and dined me.
    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    The teacher's cane; one teacher, one cane.

    Those teachers' canes. Lots of teachers lots of canes.

    Think of it as the plural with a possessive added, teachers's, but as the extra 's' is not pronounced it is not written.

    Now bend over!

  8. #8
    How did I get stuck defending the rules and regulations? I want to be attacking them too.

    Quote Originally Posted by Olly Buckle View Post
    "With his eyes he literally scoured the corners of the cell" Vladimir Nabokov, Invitation to a beheading.
    Maybe it was picked up in translation?
    I suspect very funny translator error? I am laughing. What could the translator mean by "literally scour"? I suspect the translator had no idea scour was different words.

    More soberly, scour (dictionary definition: to search rapidly, common meaning to search thoroughly) is misunderstood so often that it can't be used to communicate any more. Another word lost. We cannot know from this what Tolstoy meant.

    Anyway, intensifier should mean to intensify. I can't think of literally being used in that way. His nose was literally large? I have never seen that.

    As for using context, I am VERY happy with that -- in the context of a metaphorical, it means that it's not to be taken figuratively. So "she is afraid her head will literally explode" doesn't mean an intensified explosion, she means that we should not take this figuratively.

    It also seems to have a meaning "and I am not exaggerating." I am literally furious with you means I would usually exaggerate but now I am not. That's the literal truth implies that many things the speaker says are not true.
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  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by EmmaSohan View Post
    Responding to one of your examples, "literally" is a very useful word, when it is used as an antonym for metaphorically. We don't need it as an intensifier; we already have more of those than we need. When you use it as an intensifier, that creates ambiguity. Or just silliness. ("Haley suspects that if she doesn't end the call soon, her head will literally explode." Wicked, Padian.)

    So. We have useful words. People misuse those words, out of ignorance or carelessness. If the misused meanings become definitions, our language usually suffers. That's because the original meaning was more precise, and the new meaning is more general and hence not needed.

    To give another example, brackish is presumably a useful word, though I have never had occasion to use it. It can -- AND IS -- used in fiction, in ignorance, just to refer to dirty water. I guess because it has bric-a-brac in it it? Do we now call that an acceptable meaning? The problem isn't definitions changing, the problem is the loss to our language in power to communicate.

    I can rant on if you want.


    I have written entire books about breaking the traditional rules of grammar. But I always have the criteria of power and efficiency.

    But I usually loathe the teaching of rules and regulations. I try to teach tools and power and understanding. Carry on!
    I use 'literally' as an intensifier in casual conversation (and therefore casual dialogue) because I can.

    I don't need to justify my choice of words to anybody. I don't need to be told I don't need to use 'literally' because I could say 'absolutely' and pass the purity test. As an adult, I will use the word that I want to use and take the consequences.

    And about those consequences: If somebody wants to call me ignorant or careless for saying "it's literally the worst thing in the world" in a casual or ironic context then I COULD CARE LESS (another malapropism that gets people triggered) because, quite frankly, the kinds of people who get endlessly irate about occasional flaws in language ARE THE KIND OF PEOPLE I DON'T WANT TO TALK TO ANYWAY!

    Don't get me wrong. Improper language that leads to misunderstanding or lack of credibility (I would not use incorrect grammar in a courtroom, for instance) is always bad, bad. But I don't believe there is a person alive with a functioning brain who, when I say "my mom's head will literally explode' does not recognize I mean it as an intensifier. Therefore their objections are nothing more than elective outrage and those people may kindly Smell My Ass.

    P.S I have never heard anybody use 'brackish' to describe dirty water. Brackish water is a mix of fresh and salt water.
    Last edited by luckyscars; May 19th, 2019 at 01:51 AM.
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  10. #10
    Mentor Dluuni's Avatar
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    I am irked by clumsy language use because it destroys words that I need.
    If I say "It is literally on fire", I need you to grab a fire extinguisher.

    See also "triggered", a very specific medical term.
    I am triggered by something involving bars and alcohol.
    I don't have a moral objection to alcohol, I am happy to see my friends off for a night on the town, I am not upset by or displeased with alcohol. I know people who sell alcohol. It's a great career, I'm happy for them.
    I do, however, sometimes experience my blood pressure and heart rate skyrocketing, hyperventilating, tingling, and a sudden surge of adrenaline and activation of my fight/flight/freeze reflex in the presence of people drinking alcohol. I don't know why. I need to be able to explain what is going on without someone thinking I am going on a moral rampage, because I'm not.
    As a result, people misusing the term are frustrating to no end. Because there's a word for that, and people are using it as yet another slang word to mean things that they have words for.

    Then, I have been hammered with constant insults about "Why do you keep coming up with new words for things?" Because you keep destroying our words!

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