Re: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... )

Subject: Re: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... )
From: Bonnie Granat <bgranat -at- att -dot- net>
To: "TECHWR-L" <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- raycomm -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 05 Oct 2001 18:45:16 -0400

Bruce Byfield wrote:
> onnie Granat wrote:
> >
> > "Beg the question" does *not* mean "causes questions" or "brings up
> > questions". This is not the first time I've seen it misused on this list,
> > but it is the first time I am commenting. I hope you will all forgive me.
> No, "begs the question" means (in a loose sense) "evades the issues."
> It's a type of rhetorical device, generally considered unfair or
> inadequate. That's the sense in which I used it.

I can only see your meaning now that you have told me!

> My point was that the original post views these obligations as
> explanatory principles: he or she evokes them, but doesn't look into
> their origins or whether they should exist in the first place. I'm
> afraid that's not enough for me.
> >>-why are we responsible? English is spoken and used by more people than
> >>writers. The handful of writers who are famous may be able to influence
> >>the course of the language, but I seriously doubt that a manual that I
> >>write will have much more influence than a conversation on a bus.
> >
> > For me, language that is distracting is invariably the kind that you are
> > defending.
> Sorry. I'm not sure what you are trying to say.

I guess I'm saying that readers who prefer the traditional usage of the
language usually do so because they find it distracting to read uncommon
usage. I know that I do, and that the first time I encountered "display" as
an intransitive verb, I spent minutes puzzling over the sentence, which was
not as simple as the example given earlier in this thread.

> However, from my own style, to say nothing of my comments that elegant
> language isn't enough to make a writer, and that writing well is the
> goal, it should be fairly obvious that I am not defending any kind of
> distracting language whatsoever.

I didn't think so, but I was trying to stress that the kind of usage you
are advocating is what many readers *do* find distracting.

> > We should be protecting it from unwarranted change in meaning, such as the
> > use of "beg the question"
> Leaving aside the fact that I used the phrase correctly, how do you
> propose to protect the language? Who will decide if a change is
> "unwarranted"? How are those decisions going to be enforced? The idea
> sounds very noble, but it doesn't really mean much. People will continue
> to use the language as they see fit, even if you take to the street with
> picket signs.

Usually "begging the question" is referring to a specific question that's
currently being debated or argued. I would say to my opponent, "You are
begging the question." I don't find it easy to comprehend "begging a lot of
questions", when "begging the question" refers to assuming the truth of the
issue being debated. "Begging a lot of questions" implies something else to
me, which is why, I suppose, I didn't receive your intended meaning.

> >You have then "taught" them to be incorrect. What possible
> > good can come from that?
> I have my share of conceit, but not so much that I imagine that I have
> that much influence. You or I may be hyper aware of grammar, but the
> average person isn't.

I wonder how software manuals -- or indeed manuals of any kind -- got their
rather laughable reputation. I think it is because they are poorly written.
You are no doubt correct that the average person isn't an expert on
grammar, but he or she *can* be confused when language is used
innovatively. Lord knows, *I* can be confused.

> If I use a phrase wrongly or make a grammatical error, it's either a
> singular occurence - in which case nothing much happens - or part of a
> growing trend - in which case the change in meaning is already
> well-advanced.
> I don't suppose much good comes from most changes, but, contrariwise,
> what harm comes from them? If the majority of people understand the
> changed meaning, then communication isn't impaired. This is hardly the
> end of the language.

I don't disagree with you, but the subject of the current debate as I
understand it is whether innovative use of language is distracting to
readers. I say it is and you seem to be saying it isn't.

> > One usually has to be a master of one's trade before one can render the
> > judgment that traditional values in that trade are "unsuitable". Precision
> > and accuracy is never outmoded. Nor is adherence to grammatical rules that
> > have been constructed by one's betters.
> Well, let's see. I don't think that the language of the educated elite
> around London should be the standard for English, or share the gender
> bias that males stand in for the human race, or that I should dictate
> how others talk or write. Nor do I think that Latin should be the model
> for English grammar or suage. Regardless of my skill or lack of it, I
> think that those are enough unsuitable values for me to want to question
> the conclusions that are drawn from them, don't you?

I have to admit that I have always loved the sound of the Queen's English.
I realize, of course, that if American English sounded like that I would
not be able to hear it.

I wonder, should we use "humanwoman" instead of "human"? 8;q

> As for precision and accuracy, you have said nothing to show that they
> are the exclusive property of grammar. You have simply assumed that they
> are.

Where did I make that assumption? I may have been suggesting that your
comment that "I don't recognize any other obligation. I certainly don't
> any obligation to a set of imposed standards that are often arbitrary
> and unsuitable, and that reflect a set of principles that are now over
> two centuries out of date." ignored the basic idea of communication, on which Mark Levinson has commented. The basic idea that I have in mind is that communication can take place only when the speaker and the hearer agree on the meaning of words.

I think that precision and accuracy are part of the covenant between
speaker and hearer, so that is likely what I was arguing.

> I deny absolutely that the grammatical rules that were constructed - as
> opposed to observed - were drawn up by my betters.

Well, I was being petulant, now wasn't I?

If you actually look
> at the framers of many of the grammatical follies that burden us, the
> majority were mediocrities. A good number were school teachers cribbing
> from other sources, who leave me with no feeling of inferiority
> whatsoever (been there, done that). The only exceptions I can think of
> are John Dryden and Samuel Johnson, and even they were often arbitrary
> or simply looked to Latin for their models. All in all, the early
> prescriptivists are not an example of first-rate thinking. At any rate,
> a thinking person always has the right to refuse to accept cant
> unquestioningly.

I suppose a goodly lot of us will have to die out before there will be less
argument with the innovations that many of us find positively repugnant!

> Finally, while I understand that the questioning of explanatory
> principles can be upsetting, may I point out that ad hominem attacks are
> unworthy, and add nothing to the discussion? Let's keep to the
> discussion, please.

"Explanatory principles"? To what are you referring? I don't recall any ad
hominems on my part. I was arguing against ideas, not anyone personally.

Bonnie Granat

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RE: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ): From: Steven Brown
Re: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ): From: Bruce Byfield
Re: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ): From: Bonnie Granat
Re: Display or appear (Was: Can "either" be used ... ): From: Bruce Byfield

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