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  #51  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:10 AM
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I may be totally confused, but there are some contexts where "alternate" works better than "alternative".

"I was selected to be an alternate juror."

According to grammarist.com, "alternate" is used to describe an object that is serving in place of another, while "alternative" is used for choices that exist outside of mainstream. So saying "We've got alternatives to choose from" isn't communicating the same thing as "We've got alternates to choose from." If someone chose "alternate", I would assume they have selected that word for a very specific reason.

At any rate, I'm confused by what you mean by "unnecessary". The English language is rife with words that have similar though not exact meanings, that can be used interchangeable in 99% of contexts without raising anyone's ire. Personally I think that's a feature, not a bug.
I agree with GuanoLad. "I was selected to be an alternative juror." Works perfectly.

I would use "alternate" to mean "regularly changes places with." So an "alternate juror" would be "On day one it's me, on day two it's him, so we alternate. We're alternate jurors."

There is a DC Comics superhero called Crimson Fox. Originally, Crimson Fox had two secret identities—a pair of identical twins. So the sisters took turns being Crimson Fox. They switched off. They were alternates.
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Last edited by Acsenray; 08-14-2019 at 06:12 AM.
  #52  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:32 AM
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I disagree, "alternatives" works perfectly fine in that sentence. You've gotten used to it meaning how you perceive it, that's why I don't think I'll change anyone's mind. See also the metric system.
I think you've missed my point. "Alternatives" is only the better choice in that sentence if I'm trying to say "We've got a number of options (that we wouldn't normally choose) to select from."

But if I'm trying to say that we have specific individuals on stand-by who can be selected for a task (like serving on a jury), then "alternates" is actually the better choice according to grammarist.com.

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  #53  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:36 AM
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ALternate
alTERnative
ALternate
alTERnative
ALternate
alTERnative
No need to us alTERnate, you have alTERnative already right there waiting.
Ignorence faught. That was an abject lesson.
  #54  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:36 AM
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I agree with GuanoLad. "I was selected to be an alternative juror." Works perfectly.
And other people disagree. In fact, enough people disagree that "alternate" is equated with "alternative" in dictionary.com.

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I would use "alternate" to mean "regularly changes places with." So an "alternate juror" would be "On day one it's me, on day two it's him, so we alternate. We're alternate jurors."
That is just one interpretation of "alternate". Another is "constituting an alternative".

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There is a DC Comics superhero called Crimson Fox. Originally, Crimson Fox had two secret identities—a pair of identical twins. So the sisters took turns being Crimson Fox. They switched off. They were alternates.
They were alternating alternates. Or they were alternating alternatives. Neither of these expressions are incorrect, in any objective sense.
  #55  
Old 08-14-2019, 06:54 AM
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And other people disagree. In fact, enough people disagree that "alternate" is equated with "alternative" in dictionary.com.
I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm saying it's unnecessary. Clearly enough people do it that it's become an accepted standard usage. The problem is I just don't like that it has.
  #56  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:27 AM
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And other people disagree. In fact, enough people disagree that "alternate" is equated with "alternative" in dictionary.com.



That is just one interpretation of "alternate". Another is "constituting an alternative".



They were alternating alternates. Or they were alternating alternatives. Neither of these expressions are incorrect, in any objective sense.
I have not made claims as to objective truth so that’s a straw man so far as I’m concerned. All of my comments here have been stated in terms of my preferences.
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  #57  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:47 AM
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In my job, people commonly mention an individual's need to lie down. I bet lay is used more frequently. Which makes me wonder if it is to the point where it is commonly accepted as proper usage.

Note: a great many of the people misusing lay for lie are lawyers, a species often presumed to have SOME wordsmithing ability...
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  #58  
Old 08-14-2019, 08:04 AM
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I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm saying it's unnecessary. Clearly enough people do it that it's become an accepted standard usage. The problem is I just don't like that it has.
Are there other examples of this "unnecessary" word usage that raise your ire like this?

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Old 08-14-2019, 08:26 AM
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If you look up peruse, the definition is given as "read (something), typically in a thorough or careful way."
And browse is "an act of casual looking or reading."
Subsense B at Merriam-Webster:to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

We have a whole class of words, contranyms, that are their own opposites.

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I was 28 years old when this Canadian book was published, so... you got me, I did not read this as a child. Well spotted.
Ah, not familiar with the Some of You Were Never meme.

Frindle's about a kid who questions why a pencil is called a pencil and not something else. When his english teacher's answer is unsatisfactory he starts calling it a frindle. His classmates think it's funny and adopt the word and eventually it spreads as slang nationwide. It does a fair job of getting the reader to think about what makes a word a word and perhaps how silly it would be to complain about people using a non-word since if people are using it, how can it not be a word?
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I'm not saying it's wrong, I'm saying it's unnecessary.
Earrings are unnecessary but you don't see me bitching at people because they're wearing them.
  #60  
Old 08-14-2019, 08:45 AM
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Subsense B at Merriam-Webster:to look over or through in a casual or cursory manner

We have a whole class of words, contranyms, that are their own opposites.
"Scan," like "peruse," means itself and its opposite both.
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  #61  
Old 08-14-2019, 08:59 AM
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Earrings are unnecessary but you don't see me bitching at people because they're wearing them.
You might in a thread about ugly jewellery.
  #62  
Old 08-14-2019, 09:06 AM
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Are there other examples of this "unnecessary" word usage that raise your ire like this?
Hard to think of any now that this particular word has been on my mind for the past day.

I don't like seeing "drug" instead of "dragged", "hung" instead of "hanged", or "pled" instead of "pleaded" but they're not quite in the same ballpark as "alternate".
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:09 AM
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You might in a thread about ugly jewellery.
The thread is about misused words. Like using "stigmatism" for "stigmatization".

So talking about word usage you irrationally dislike doesn't fit with the theme of the thread.



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Old 08-14-2019, 09:35 AM
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You might in a thread about ugly jewellery.
But we're not talking about aesthetics, we're talking about utility.
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Old 08-14-2019, 10:56 AM
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In this thread, I have to mention the misuse of "literally." I have broken teeth because I physically grind them when I hear that word. Notice: "physically," not "literally."

"Literally" indicates that a metaphor actually happened. "It was literally raining cats and dogs" means actual cats and dogs were dropping from overhead.

"That alarm system literally saved my life." NO, "SAVED MY LIFE" IS NOT A METAPHOR. Now, if you almost drop your bacon but catch it before it hits the floor, you can say "I literally saved my bacon," because "saved my bacon" can be a metaphor for "saved my life."

Inevitably, somebody's going to respond to this post with "Yeah, that literally drives me insane." If you do, you're saying to the world that you're mentally ill. No argument there.
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:06 AM
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In this thread, I have to mention the misuse of "literally." I have broken teeth because I physically grind them when I hear that word. Notice: "physically," not "literally."

"Literally" indicates that a metaphor actually happened. "It was literally raining cats and dogs" means actual cats and dogs were dropping from overhead.

"That alarm system literally saved my life." NO, "SAVED MY LIFE" IS NOT A METAPHOR. Now, if you almost drop your bacon but catch it before it hits the floor, you can say "I literally saved my bacon," because "saved my bacon" can be a metaphor for "saved my life."

Inevitably, somebody's going to respond to this post with "Yeah, that literally drives me insane." If you do, you're saying to the world that you're mentally ill. No argument there.
I know that "Parks and Recreation" is literally your favorite show. Literally. -- https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UgnxlpSQgqg
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  #67  
Old 08-14-2019, 11:28 AM
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In this thread, I have to mention the misuse of "literally." I have broken teeth because I physically grind them when I hear that word. Notice: "physically," not "literally."

"Literally" indicates that a metaphor actually happened. "It was literally raining cats and dogs" means actual cats and dogs were dropping from overhead.

"That alarm system literally saved my life." NO, "SAVED MY LIFE" IS NOT A METAPHOR. Now, if you almost drop your bacon but catch it before it hits the floor, you can say "I literally saved my bacon," because "saved my bacon" can be a metaphor for "saved my life."

Inevitably, somebody's going to respond to this post with "Yeah, that literally drives me insane." If you do, you're saying to the world that you're mentally ill. No argument there.
wut
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Old 08-14-2019, 11:34 AM
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They raise my ire.
A point I made earlier is that I think the more interesting question in all of this is the social phenomenon of why so many people feel such strong emotions about their language gripes, real or imagined. How is it appropriate to feel angry about such a thing?

It's time to pull up Mark Libermann's essay:

The Social Psychology of Linguistic Naming and Shaming

Last edited by Riemann; 08-14-2019 at 11:35 AM.
  #69  
Old 08-14-2019, 11:51 AM
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...the misuse of "literally."...
I wrote some comments in an earlier thread (links below) about what I think is going on with this use of the word literally. It seems to me that it's a natural development that's simply doubling down on the "lie" of a metaphor.

My own reaction to this kind of usage tends to be "that's really interesting, I wonder what's going on?". It astonishes me that so many people just seem to get angry about it.

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...&postcount=112

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...&postcount=151

Or a brief tl;dr summary here:

http://boards.straightdope.com/sdmb/...&postcount=152

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Bringing together my earlier post #112 and the one above #151, I think the use of the word "pretend" in the analysis as a marker for metaphors may be quite helpful. "Pretend" here is just a marker for the obvious understanding between speaker and listener that the statement is not true, it's a rhetorical device where the comparison of a simile is implicit.

It was as though she was glowing.
A simile, with an explicit comparison.

She [pretend] glowed.
A metaphor.

She [pretend] literally [pretend] glowed.
Doubling down on the metaphor.

Last edited by Riemann; 08-14-2019 at 11:54 AM.
  #70  
Old 08-14-2019, 01:19 PM
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I'm not sure if XKCD has ever done a comic on grammar and language (It wouldn't surprise me if they have), but barring that here's an obligatory Weird Al video.
  #71  
Old 08-14-2019, 02:37 PM
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It's time to pull up Mark Libermann's essay:

The Social Psychology of Linguistic Naming and Shaming
Thanks. That pretty much describes 95% of threads about language on the this message board.

We could even christen another "law" here (a la Gaudere, etc.)--Libermann's Law:
"Any thread regarding English usage will inexorably give rise to at least one post decrying errors in apostrophe usage, no matter how irrelevant to the OP."
I think complaining about apostrophe usage is the lowest common denominator in what Libermann describes, because it's such a simple rule of mechanics that anyone can learn it easily, and thereby bestow upon themselves an honorary badge permitting endless hours of recreational self-righteousness pointing out errors.
  #72  
Old 08-14-2019, 02:42 PM
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I agree with GuanoLad. "I was selected to be an alternative juror." Works perfectly.

I would use "alternate" to mean "regularly changes places with." So an "alternate juror" would be "On day one it's me, on day two it's him, so we alternate. We're alternate jurors."
Actually, no. "Alternate juror" is what's called a "collocation": certain words always go together, certain expressions are always used in that specific way even though similar words exist. And in this case it's a term d'art: it's an expression which has a specific professional context and a specific professional meaning. That your understanding does not match the understanding of legal professionals is, from the point of view of the legal system, your problem, not theirs.
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  #73  
Old 08-14-2019, 02:53 PM
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Actually, no. "Alternate juror" is what's called a "collocation": certain words always go together, certain expressions are always used in that specific way even though similar words exist. And in this case it's a term d'art: it's an expression which has a specific professional context and a specific professional meaning. That your understanding does not match the understanding of legal professionals is, from the point of view of the legal system, your problem, not theirs.
Speaking as someone who has studied law and is licensed in law and works in a legal profession, "alternate juror" is not a term of art so far as I know. No legal procedure or process of reasoning is going to be derailed if someone says "alternative juror."

Just because a term is commonly used by lawyers or in conjunction with people working adjacent to legal proceedings doesn't make it a term of art.

For example, "domicile" is a term of art. It makes a difference in certain legal proceedings whether something is simply an address or whether it is your domicile. "Heir" is a term of art in the law because it has a specific meaning that is different from how it is commonly used. (In the common law, only a dead person has heirs. A living person doesn't have heirs.)

A term of art is a term that has some significance. If you change it, you are confusing people about what you mean. Alternate versus alternative juror is not one of those terms. No one will be confused.

And in any case, even if it were a term of art in a legal context, that doesn't mean that the rest of us in the world would be obligated to use it unaltered, even if we were talking about the law.
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  #74  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:35 PM
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I wrote some comments in an earlier thread (links below) about what I think is going on with this use of the word literally. It seems to me that it's a natural development that's simply doubling down on the "lie" of a metaphor.
Those are some great posts, but I think you've misread Knowed Out's point:

Quote:
"Literally" indicates that a metaphor actually happened.
Which, I think, gives people on both sides of the "figurative literal" debate common ground to go, "What the hell?"
  #75  
Old 08-14-2019, 03:42 PM
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Speaking as someone who has studied law and is licensed in law and works in a legal profession, "alternate juror" is not a term of art so far as I know...
You are mistaken.

https://definitions.uslegal.com/a/alternate-juror/

An alternative juror could just be somebody else who might make a good juror if we didn't have to deal with these twelve schmucks. An alternate juror is somebody appointed to a specific well-defined role through formal legal procedures.

Now, maybe it's possible in principle for the world to come to a consensus to change the language in accord with your preferred proscription, and we could all agree to use the term "alternative juror" for this formal role instead; along with your desired restriction on the general use of the adjective "alternate" to refer to things that change back and forth. But I think you should be clear that it's a change that you're advocating. Perhaps such a change would be a good idea, but don't kid yourself that maybe the current English language conforms to your ideas. Objectively, it does not.

Last edited by Riemann; 08-14-2019 at 03:45 PM.
  #76  
Old 08-14-2019, 04:12 PM
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Mary is the project manager assigned to a particular project.

Barry is another project manager who is her designated back-up (and vice versa).

One day, Mary can't attend an important meeting with a client. Her boss assures the client that her alternate will be substituting for her.

"Alternative" just doesn't fit very well here, sorry. "Alternate" implies someone who is on stand-by for situations exactly like this one and is thus prepared to take charge at a moment's notice. "Alternative project manager" makes me think the boss in this scenario is just going to pick the first staff member he sees, regardless of their level of preparation. Anyone can be an "alternative something". But not everyone is someone's alternate.






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  #77  
Old 08-14-2019, 07:00 PM
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In this thread, I have to mention the misuse of "literally." I have broken teeth because I physically grind them when I hear that word. Notice: "physically," not "literally."

"Literally" indicates that a metaphor actually happened. "It was literally raining cats and dogs" means actual cats and dogs were dropping from overhead.

"That alarm system literally saved my life." NO, "SAVED MY LIFE" IS NOT A METAPHOR. Now, if you almost drop your bacon but catch it before it hits the floor, you can say "I literally saved my bacon," because "saved my bacon" can be a metaphor for "saved my life."

Inevitably, somebody's going to respond to this post with "Yeah, that literally drives me insane." If you do, you're saying to the world that you're mentally ill. No argument there.
I have to give you kudos for having beef with "literally" that isn't the same tired beef that gets rehashed over and over again everywhere.

Last edited by Taber; 08-14-2019 at 07:01 PM.
  #78  
Old 08-14-2019, 08:48 PM
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"Alternative" just doesn't fit very well here, sorry.
Only in your own head, because it's what you're used to. For those of us who do use "alternative", it's perfectly fine.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:06 PM
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For those of us who do use "alternative", it's perfectly fine.
And it's perfectly fine that the two of you feel that it's perfectly fine. But that doesn't make it part of the English language.
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Old 08-14-2019, 09:19 PM
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Only in your own head, because it's what you're used to. For those of us who do use "alternative", it's perfectly fine.
This sounds like an alternative fact.
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Old 08-15-2019, 12:56 AM
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Please note once again that I'm not saying you are wrong to use alternate. I am saying it's unnecessary.

You only have to google "alternate vs alternative" to see that my argument holds a lot more water than you're willing to give it.
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:13 AM
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Please note once again that I'm not saying you are wrong to use alternate. I am saying it's unnecessary.
This is an incredibly dumb distinction, GuanoLad, especially given the title of the thread. I kind of feel like you're just wanking off now.

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You only have to google "alternate vs alternative" to see that my argument holds a lot more water than you're willing to give it.
I don't know how you think google supports your position that "alternate" is unnecessary. There are many articles explaining the nuances of the two words. I think this one is a good one:

Quote:
Ashton mentions “the difference between the use of ‘alternate’ and ‘alternative’ in American and British English,” and urges freelancers writing for “both markets” to be aware of the distinction. I do not think that he is saying that British usage and American usage do not differ. But even if he is saying that, I have to disagree.

For one thing, American speakers use alternate as a noun meaning “a person designated to replace another in the event the other person is unable to fulfill his duties.” British usage does not use alternate as a noun.”

...

U.S. speakers save alternative for such things as “alternative medicine” and “alternative rock.”
Since you aren't interested in having your mind changed on this, I'm going to stop talking about this.
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Old 08-15-2019, 11:57 AM
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Only in your own head, because it's what you're used to. For those of us who do use "alternative", it's perfectly fine.
No. We are all used to the term "alternative." The problem is that you aren't used to the noun "alternate," and continue to incorrectly assume it is perfectly synonymous with "alternative." monstro understands both words, and is explaining how they are used differently.

You seem to forget that you are the one arguing for changing the language. You want to eliminate the usage of "alternate" as a noun, despite its long history. You aren't just describing your own usage, but arguing what "should be."

She's right: an "alternative" in that context would mean someone other than the two of them. The "alternate" specifically means the other person. In that context, someone who has both words in their vocabulary would use different words. Hence why reducing that to only one word would create ambiguity where none previously existed, making your newly proposed rule inferior to the current state.
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  #84  
Old 08-15-2019, 06:44 PM
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She's right: an "alternative" in that context would mean someone other than the two of them. The "alternate" specifically means the other person.
No. This is not true.

You are using one word to have two meanings.

There is already a word to cover the second meaning.

Your own particular quirky justification is only in your head. You can't see why because you've always done it this way. It feels right to you so why change? Obviously I can't get you to change, as I stated from the start, but my own reasoning is logical (there's already a word for that), while yours requires a twist to get there (change in pronunciation, limited specific use case).
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Old 08-15-2019, 06:46 PM
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This is an incredibly dumb distinction, GuanoLad, especially given the title of the thread. I kind of feel like you're just wanking off now.
I warned you all to not get me started. In a way this is all your fault.
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Old 08-18-2019, 03:12 AM
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Today, it was at a public school system Professional Learning speech by one of the district administrators. She meant Stigma, but said stigmatism. Not astigmatism in relation to children needing glasses, but in discussing how teachers should treat students with special needs, not singling them out as if they had some kind of deficit.
Or maybe, possibly, she used in a similar way as saying "we should not be nearsighted". Referring to outlook, not eyesight!
I.e. We should see the situation clearly, without distortion.
THAT would be a perfectly appropriate usage of the word.
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Old 08-18-2019, 05:49 AM
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Originally Posted by PatrickLondon View Post
Not (fortunately) a frequent mix-up, but once when I was waiting for a minor day surgery at the local hospital, I couldn't help overhearing an anxious father trying to explain to the nurse on duty that his daughter might take longer to come round from a general anaesthetic, "because she's got a slight case of necrophilia"
I stared at that for a long time before my brain got to "narcolepsy." Can you confirm that is what he meant?

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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
I think you've missed my point. "Alternatives" is only the better choice in that sentence if I'm trying to say "We've got a number of options (that we wouldn't normally choose) to select from."

But if I'm trying to say that we have specific individuals on stand-by who can be selected for a task (like serving on a jury), then "alternates" is actually the better choice according to grammarist.com.



Do you not care at all that your ire may be misplaced?
I just served on a jury last Monday and Tuesday, and I can confirm that we had "Alternate jurors," not "alternatives." To my ear, "alternate" is an adjective, and "alternative" is a noun; where it gets confusing is that in some fixed expressions, like "alternate juror," we sometimes shorten it to just "alternate." So, if you are using "alternate" in you sentence as a subject or an object (in other words, it's functioning as a noun), ask yourself "Alternate what"? if you have no answer, then the word you want is "alternative."

FWIW, I have never in my life said "Alternative Rock." It's always been "Alternate Rock." I have seen "Alternative lifestyle," but I just consider the source.
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Originally Posted by Dinsdale View Post
In my job, people commonly mention an individual's need to lie down. I bet lay is used more frequently. Which makes me wonder if it is to the point where it is commonly accepted as proper usage.

Note: a great many of the people misusing lay for lie are lawyers, a species often presumed to have SOME wordsmithing ability...
I work in a preschool, and at nap time, the other teachers are always telling the kids to "lay down." EXCEPTIONS: me, the teacher who is Israeli, and the teacher who is from Scotland.

There are a LOT of words that people misuse, which drive me figuratively up the wall, but lay/lie does in particular because I hear it so much.

Another is the phrase "Begs the question." Look up what Cecil has to say about this. The various L&O TV shows are always getting it wrong. Now, I realize that in real life, people do get it wrong, but lawyers shouldn't get it wrong, and people who get it wrong in front of lawyers should be immediately corrected. I am related to several lawyers, and they correct anything in law, logic, syllogisms, etc., anyone gets wrong.

And "enormity." I get that people confuse it with "enormous," but since the word "enormous" is so obvious and at the ready, why not reach for it instead. Is there some drive for novelty that causes people to grab "enormity," "casualty" instead of "casualness," and "penultimate" instead of "ultimate"?
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Old 08-18-2019, 06:12 AM
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Whenever I see "penultimate" used in place of "ultimate" in the sense of "the last word in X", I can't tell if they're being modest or if they think "pen" is an intensifier: I suspect the latter.
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Old 08-18-2019, 08:43 AM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
To my ear, "alternate" is an adjective, and "alternative" is a noun;
So what? In English, nouns are used to modify nouns all the time. Shoe store; lemon juice; store room. This is one of the most productive characteristics of English.
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
. . . if you are using "alternate" in you sentence as a subject or an object (in other words, it's functioning as a noun), ask yourself "Alternate what"? if you have no answer, then the word you want is "alternative."
There's no reason why you can't just say "alternate," just as there is no reason you can't refer to a substitute teacher simply as a "substitute." We do this ALL THE TIME in English.

You know, it's not necessary to devise some convoluted logic to explain this. As Nava said above, it's simply a standard collocation. That's all there is to it. It's the same reason we say ladies room (and not *lady room), but tomato soup (and not *tomatoes soup). It's custom.
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Old 08-18-2019, 08:52 AM
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nm

Last edited by Riemann; 08-18-2019 at 08:53 AM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:04 AM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
FWIW, I have never in my life said "Alternative Rock." It's always been "Alternate Rock." I have seen "Alternative lifestyle," but I just consider the source.
Are you a US English speaker? "Alternate rock" sounds really odd to my ears. I've only ever heard it as "alternative rock" or simply "alternative." Googling "alternate rock" prompts Google to autocorrect it to "did you mean alternative rock" and show me "alternative rock" cites.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:06 AM
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Originally Posted by RivkahChaya View Post
Another is the phrase "Begs the question." Look up what Cecil has to say about this. The various L&O TV shows are always getting it wrong. Now, I realize that in real life, people do get it wrong, but lawyers shouldn't get it wrong, and people who get it wrong in front of lawyers should be immediately corrected. I am related to several lawyers, and they correct anything in law, logic, syllogisms, etc., anyone gets wrong.
No, it's pretty clear that the phrase "begs the question" has changed in common usage to mean "raises an obvious question that demands an answer". It's not surprising, since that's a useful concept, and it's a far more natural interpretation of the phrase.

The earlier origin of "beg" in the phrase as a translation of Aristotle's concept via the Latin petitio principii into English is quite odd. There's some discussion of it here:
https://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=2290

So neither common usage nor common sense (the phrase is not fit for purpose) support the efforts of pedants to insist that the phrase must only ever mean petitio principii. If you want to get that concept across without being misunderstood, I think it's more sensible to say assume the conclusion or (in a more technical context) maybe use the Latin.

Last edited by Riemann; 08-18-2019 at 09:09 AM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:29 AM
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Originally Posted by Riemann View Post
A point I made earlier is that I think the more interesting question in all of this is the social phenomenon of why so many people feel such strong emotions about their language gripes, real or imagined. How is it appropriate to feel angry about such a thing?
IMO it's because any given person's idea of How Things Should Be is fixated on how they think things were about the time they finished puberty, and anything different than that is "wrong" and needs to be corrected.

e.g. the Boomers' fetish for the late 1950s and how this country needs to "go back" to the way things were back then.

Last edited by jz78817; 08-18-2019 at 09:30 AM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 01:30 PM
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Originally Posted by guizot View Post
It's the same reason we say ladies room (and not *lady room), but tomato soup (and not *tomatoes soup). It's custom.
"Ladies' room" is a great example of the kind of expression that leads to a lot of confusion when people think they can translate it word for word, precisely because it's always a collocation. No, the Catalan "donas" does not mean "ladies" (it means "women"). No, the French "toilette" does not mean "room" (it refers to the kind of activities one does in that specific room). And no, in Spanish it's not a "cuarto de damas"*, that sounds like you're quartering a checker's board...




* Some dialects use "cuarto de las damas", but it hasn't reached the dictionary yet.
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Last edited by Nava; 08-18-2019 at 01:35 PM.
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Old 08-18-2019, 02:31 PM
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...the efforts of pedants to insist that...
Since this thread is about the misuse of words, I'll be pedantic that my use of "pedant" here is incorrect. To call someone a pedant implies that they are, at least in some technical sense, correct. People who insist that "begs the question" must only mean petitio principii are not, therefore, pedants.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:18 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Inner Stickler View Post
Frindle's about a kid who questions why a pencil is called a pencil and not something else. When his english teacher's answer is unsatisfactory he starts calling it a frindle. His classmates think it's funny and adopt the word and eventually it spreads as slang nationwide. It does a fair job of getting the reader to think about what makes a word a word and perhaps how silly it would be to complain about people using a non-word since if people are using it, how can it not be a word?
Pencil comes from the Latin word for 'small penis'. So does penicillin. I'm guessing that etymology was omitted from the book.
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Old 08-18-2019, 09:56 PM
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I approve of Mark Twain's rules, which (among other things) require that an author shall:
Say what he is proposing to say, not merely come near it.

Use the right word, not its second cousin.
To do these things shows respect for the reader; to fail, the opposite.
  #98  
Old 08-18-2019, 11:46 PM
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Pencil comes from the Latin word for 'small penis'. So does penicillin. I'm guessing that etymology was omitted from the book.
No, "pencil" comes from the Latin word for a paintbrush, whicn in turn comes from the latin word for a tail - a paintbrush was called after a tail, presumably, because of the tuft of hairs at the end.

The Latin word for "tail" is penis. It was also used euphemistically for the male genital organ (practically all the words we have for the male genital organ are euphemisms) but "pencil" doesn't come to us via that euphemism. Nor does "penicillin"; it was named from penicillium, the fungus, which in turn was so named because its structure was thought to suggest a paintbrush.
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Old 08-19-2019, 12:07 AM
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I often see or hear people use the word flaunt when they mean flout.
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Old Yesterday, 07:01 PM
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Oh, and that reminds me of this: some people can't keep stench, stanch, and staunch in order. I've heard both "stench" and "staunch" used when "stanch" was intended, and then, "stanch" used for "staunch" a number of times. Also, whether they get the verb right or not, people seem to reach for the word "stanch" only when talking about bloodflow, but you can stanch the flow of any liquid.
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