RE: Display, Displays, or Appears

Subject: RE: Display, Displays, or Appears
From: "McLauchlan, Kevin" <Kevin -dot- McLauchlan -at- safenet-inc -dot- com>
To: <techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com>
Date: Mon, 16 Jun 2008 10:52:22 -0400

On Behalf Of Downing, David said:
> Sent: Friday, June 13, 2008 13:58
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: Re: Display, Displays, or Appears
> From: Janice Gelb <Janice -dot- Gelb -at- Sun -dot- COM>
> We allow either one. However, I personally have never
> understood this whole "magic" thing related to the
> word "appears." The appearance is the direct result of
> an action taken by the reader so why do people feel it
> has the connotation of magic? You do x, and y appears.
> No incantation or wands needed.
> -- Janice
> --------------
> Your message implies that I'm, not the only person you ever
> who feels that "appears" has a connotation of magic, and that makes me
> feel a little better, because now I don't have to feel like I'm crazy.
> You're right -- there's no reason the word SHOULD imply a supernatural
> occurrence, but I think there is a logical reason for the connotation.
> It's because of the way the word "appear" is often used in stories
> involve magic or the supernatural. Cinderella's fairy godmother
> appeared. A ghost appeared to someone. Somebody waves a magic wand or
> recites a spell and something appears. The word has been used that way
> so much that it's created that association.
> I'm sure there are many other such words in the English language that
> have connotations stemming from how they've been used, but I can't
> of any right now.

To answer your last point first, I have - no foolin' - worked with
people who balked at the word "rear", because THEY were unable to get
past THEIR insistence that it could only mean "rump", "arse", "butt",
"fanny", "tukus"...
Apparently they would burst into peals of embarrassed (and embarrassing)
mirth if they saw a sign saying "Parking at Rear of Building" or some
such, because they certainly did if they saw a reference to "rear
I was never able to decide whether this was a mental or physical (brain
damage) deficiency on their part.

MANY people have their first introduction to a word in circumstances
that lead them to have - initially - a skewed notion of its meaning,
intent and usage, or pronunciation. SOME of them go through an extended
juvenile period, during which they chortle and guffaw whenever the word
is encountered in ordinary, everyday usage. Apparently, a few of those
folks never get past that stage. Any introduction to a guy named "Dick"
will cause them to spurt their drink out their nose... (American and
Canadian that is... probably not true in a certain other
English-speaking country that could name a pudding Spotted Dick... but I

Now, as to the "appears" thing... I've read plenty of fiction,
including children's books and more [mature?] fantasy, in which the word
"appear" or "appears" did, in fact, appear. Not once... I say again,
not _once_ did that word appear on the printed page in magical fashion.
Yet, there it was... ordinary in appearance. Usually, if an event was
being described as mysterious or magical, the author tried to use
descriptive terms and actions a lot more evocative than "appears",
because "appears" is so ordinary and unmagical.

Similarly, I've attended (and watched on TV) no few magic shows. The
word "appears" might crop up, and actually refer to "magical" or
illusory arrival. But so what? The context is obvious. The slant
_comes_ from the context. For MOST of us, that context is in the
If your daughter appears thin, wan, and pallid, I suggest that you
investigate the possibility of an eating disorder, and that you _not_
simply assume that she's practicing magic.
I think that a line needs to be drawn in the sand when it comes to
accommodating adults for their choices of how they want to restrict or
warp their (claimed) understanding of the meaning and intent of ordinary
words that the large majority is capable of reading without stumbling
for silly reasons.

When I encounter a statement like " the data appear to be skewed", there
is not even a pico-second during which I imagine that the author had
some magical connotation in mind. "The surface appears evenly
textured..." or "At first glance, the diamond appeared flawless" do not
give me a moment's hesitation. If they do so to you [generic 'you'],
then the problem is with the reader. The fix needs to be with the

Writers and editors should resist any urge or urgings that we act as
enablers for the destruction of the language on behalf of willful

- Kevin

The foregoing rant was, as always, my opinion only, and does not reflect
the views... yadda-yadda.

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Re: Display, Displays, or Appears: From: Downing, David

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