Archive for May, 2006

Words and Their Meanings

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

Just a couple days ago I went on a tear about the difference between the words “me” and “I”, and how irritated I get at the many people who regularly misuse them.

Interesting timing. Just this weekend a child of my close aquaintance made just this error, (e.g. “Bill and me did such-and-such….”), and I corrected her. Her mother brushed it off with a variation of the adolescent “Oh, you too?” joke.

I don’t get it. Are parents now actively aspiring to have kids who don’t know grammar? Was the mother perhaps embarrassed that her child was corrected in an error that she herself makes frequently? If the latter is the case, it’s a bit maddening that while shame once inspired people to correct themselves, it now serves to make some of them more adamant in their mistakes. The “Me Generation” rears its head once again.

People may be puzzled by my insistence on grammar, arguing, in essence, “What’s the difference if you understood her?” The difficulty is that a misapplied word can completely change the meaning of a sentence; and in situations where an error creates a grammatically proper statement with a changed meaning, the false meaning will be heard because you won’t realize that the concept expressed by their words is not the one they intended to express. (You may note from my earlier post that those grammatical structures that don’t influence the meaning of the words don’t trouble me much, e.g. the proper “It is I” vs. the idiomatic “It’s me.”)

I understand that most people just don’t pay that much attention to grammar. To make such a mistake out of ignorance is simply an error to be corrected; but to make it knowingly is disrespectful to the people around you, and to knowingly accept it is to willfully open yourself to misunderstanding or deception. Dumbing down the language and blurring distinctions serves no one except, ultimately, those trying to deceive others — politicians and salesmen (and sometimes the news media) blur such distinctions on a regular basis.

Pop Quiz:

“Joe owes you more money than me.” According to that sentence alone, how much money do I owe you relative to Joe? What changes when the sentence becomes “Joe owes you more money than I”?

S’mac

Tuesday, May 30th, 2006

heh.

an image of an Instant Messaging chat

Damn those lobbyists!

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Obviously the corrupt lobbyists are at it again, forcing the government to give yet another tax break to the rich :

From TaxProf Blog– Can You Hear Me Now? IRS to Refund $15 Billion of Telephone Taxes to Consumers:

The Treasury Department and IRS announced this morning that after losing in five circuit courts of appeals, the Government is throwing in the towel and will no longer seek to enforce the 3% excise tax on long-distance telephone calls enacted during the Spanish-American War of 1898 as a “luxury” tax on wealthy Americans who owned telephones.

Oh, wait. My bad. It wasn’t lobbyists — it was the government trying to tax consumers by enforcing a 108-year-old “luxury tax” on telephones (which 108 years ago were only owned by the very rich)! These guys are disgusting and shameless.

For once I’m grateful to the courts.

I say we should pass a new law that says that for the next ten years, every time you pass a new law you need to strike two old laws from the books. It would be a good way to clean house of a lot of the ridiculously outdated legislation that’s still on the books.

Edit: Altered first sentence for non-clarity.

“Your boos are music to me!”

Friday, May 26th, 2006

Cold Fury ponders the war effort, and asks whether we might get some benefit from daring to actually mock our enemies and their poisonous ideology. He links to an excellent article in the Clarion-Ledger which describes:

Back in simpler times, Americans reflexively ridiculed their enemies. In a 1940 episode of The Three Stooges, Moe did a ridiculous impression of Hitler while Larry heiled as propaganda minister, and Curly dressed as Goering with his belly and buttocks festooned with medals.

Mockery is an effective weapon, especially when you enemy is one who depends on their own image as fearsome. (They’re not “explosivists”, they’re “terrorists”.) While the modern “Ask yourselves why they hate us” philosophy has stifled this impulse, the article makes a good argument that we should start thinking this way again. Beyond the damage it can do to the opponents’ image, it’s funny, and good for our morale.

Let’s forget the Three Stooges for a moment. Am I the only person who remembers Adam Sandler on SNL during the first Gulf War as “Iraqi Joe”? He gets up in front of the audience dressed as an Iraqi soldier and starts taunting the “decadent Americans”. Soon the whole studio is booing “Joe”, and he’s dancing around yelling “Your boos are music to me!”

It was hysterical. More to the point — and I remember thinking this at the time, much less in today’s context — that it was so amazingly old-fashioned. It was very reminiscent of World War II in that it was unashamedly propogandistic and pro-America, and openly flat-out mocked our opponents. It was catharsis. Not a drop of political correctness or post-modern cynicism to be seen.

As Cold Fury also points out, al-Zarqawi’s recent home video outtakes served the purpose well. We need more if that. Where’s “Al Quaeda Joe” when we need him? Adam? Bueller? Anybody?

Correction: Adam Sandler’s character was “Iraqi Pete”, not “Iraqi Joe”. (The character can been seen on the “SNL Best of Adam Sandler” DVD.)

Lazy

Friday, May 26th, 2006

<pet peeve mode>
When I was younger, there was a strong propensity for people of my generation to grammatically misuse pronouns — especially the word “me”. Kids of my generation would regularly make statements with such construction as “Me and him are going to a movie.” Then, of course, somebody’s mother would say, “He and I are going to the movie,” at which point one of us would ask, “Oh, you too?” and laugh. That joke, after all, got better and better even after its 4,700th airing.

Suddenly, sometime around the early 1990s or so, the trend reversed itself. Suddenly little lightbulbs were going off over people’s heads, illuminating the concept that “I”, not “me”, is the proper subject of a sentence.

The only problem is that the success of various trends in public life is inversely proportional to how easy they are to maintain. In this example, it would have taken some work to, y’know, actually learn something new, and thus most people just took a blanket concept of “‘I’ is correct, ‘me’ is wrong” and applied it to their speech. The problem there is that it ignores the fact that “me” is right sometimes.

I rarely, if ever, hear the “Me and him are…” construct any more, but it is amazing how frequently I hear people — and I include highly intelligent, educated people in this — say something along the lines of, “He gave it to Joe and I.”

What the hell? “He gave it to I”?

Yesterday I was wandering the net and came across a comment by “alphaa10” over at CBS’s “Public Eye” blog, saying:

[G]rammar is important. My seventh-grade grammar teacher made my life miserable, but now I must thank Mrs. Peckman for her efforts because grammar in difficult constructions is not always that hard for me.

However, even we who have our grammatical hearts and minds in the right place can and will commit a faux pas, now and then. I also credit pressure of time making perfect grammar all but an unreachable ideal.

Witness this familiar sample from a recent post– “Doesn’t anyone but me oject…?” I can misspell with the best of them, but shouldn’t it be, “Doesn’t anyone but *I* oject…?”?

I agree with his concept here. Nobody, (with the possible exception of this guy), is beyond the occasional grammatical or spelling error, no matter how sharp or well-educated they are; but it burns my butt when somebody explicitly presses the incorrect usage as correct. (I will allow that he seems to be genuinely asking, and not stating as fact.)

So, “alphaa10”, the answer to your question is: No. “Doesn’t anyone but me object…” is the correct grammatical form. Perhaps your confusion is caused by the proximity of the pronoun to the verb. That is, “I object” sounds correct, and would be were “I” the subject of the sentence. In this case, however, the subject of the sentence is not “I/me”, but “anyone”, and the primary verb is “doesn’t”.

For the record, (and I may be oversimplifying the rule here just a bit), the rule regarding “I” and “me” is thus: “I” is used for the subject of a sentence — e.g. “I am going to the movie” — or as the object of the verb “to be” — e.g. “It is I.” In all other cases use “me”.

(I should also note that although it is technically incorrect, constructs such as “It is me” are widely accepted as idiomatic usage. Thus you might simplify further and just stick with AskOxford’s version: “I am the subject of the sentence, but the object of the sentence is me.”)
</pet peeve mode>

Further development here

Come Hell or High Water

Monday, May 22nd, 2006

A while back, on the topic of rebuilding the levees and New Orleans, I said:

Unfortunately none of that will do a damned bit of good until the massive corruption is cleaned out of the Louisiana political machine.

As I’m sure you’re all aware, the scattered citizens of NOLA have just re-elected Ray “Where Are Those Busses” Nagin for Mayor of their once-great burg. These idiots are on a sinking boat and can’t be bothered to start bailing.

Tammy Bruce also has an interesting take:

As is the case with deeply damaged individuals, perhaps the conditioned victimhood of the citizens of New Orleans is so ingrained, the idea of the situation truly changing frightens them too much.

Go with the disaster you know instead of the possibly better/couldn’t be worse alternate? Sounds like the Democrat stance on Social Security, among other things. Certainly sounds like the reasoning of a city population that is mostly in poverty and on welfare, and kept there by the same politicians they keep on electing — come hell or high water.

Illegal ≠ Impossible

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

NEW YORK — Trying to turn street protests into political power, immigrants rights groups say they are gearing up for a campaign to register 1 million new voters this spring and summer.

Illegal aliens can’t vote.

Daily Pundit

Yeah, that would be illegal.

“tom scott” in Daily Pundit comments

Yep. Got nothing to add to that one. Cold Fury does, though.

The future of Tee-shirts is here!

Thursday, May 11th, 2006

(alternate title: “I want my MTV wall!”)

This is cool. Scientists are developing organic LED technology that, among other things, can be used in extremely flexible situations such as application via inkjet printer (video paper, anyone?) to painting it on a wall. Other potential uses are a computer keyboard with keys that change appearance depending on what language you use, or what program you’re running.

I have a couple friends who use projection TVs on a white-painted wall. Imagine the possibilities when the wall (or tee-shirt, or book, or vehicle windshield, or side of a building…) is the display.

(via Futurismic)

Thad’s strog sduff!

Thursday, May 4th, 2006

Allergies were beading the hell oud of be most of yesderday. Non-stop sneezig.

Lade lasd nighd I fidally pulled oud the big gunds and used the prescribtion nasal sbray by dogdor gabe me.

Damn!

Stuff works really well if you can get enough airflow in your nostril to get it where it needs to go; however, it has the unfortunate side-effect of making your sinus feel like it’s just been cored out with a melon-baller. (If you’re wondering why I’m using the singular, it’s because I could only get the aforementioned required airflow on one side.)

I’b feelig much bedder now.