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Old 08-12-2019, 08:09 PM
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Frequently misused words: Why?


In this case, "stigmatism."

I've heard people use it in contexts that make it clear they are not talking about optometry.
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.

Hearing or seeing professional educators make mistakes when presenting themselves to the public makes me want to climb the walls.

Is it ignorance, or someone trying to sound smart by using a bigger word?
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:31 PM
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Stigmatism and stigmatization are similar sounding and don't come up in conversation that often. It's not too surprising that people will get the two confused on the rare occasions they use them.

I'm saving my wrath for people who can't figure out the difference between its and it's.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:43 PM
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I think the most charitable explanation is she thought "stigmatism" made sense in that context. I mean, the only other explanation is that she intentionally threw out the wrong word to see if anyone was paying attention. I doubt that was the case.

Being a professional doesn't mean someone is an eloquent speaker at all times. I know I can throw out some verbal doozies when I'm put on the spot and don't have the benefit of a backspace and delete key. My boss is another one who can step in it sometimes. One time we were in a meeting and he was talking about phytoplankton, but he kept calling them "chlorophyll" (the mix-up isn't crazy as it sounds, given the context). Not wanting to correct him in front of an audience, I just silently endured the second-hand embarrassment until finally our uber boss sitting in the audience cracked a joke about it. I mean, shit like this happens to even the best. I know my boss is a smart guy. He just got flummoxed. Big deal.

I don't want people to judge me harshly for my innocent mistakes, so I really try to give other people a break for their flubs.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:49 PM
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A lot of people are just careless about language, and language itself isn't particularly logical or intuitive. This is the kind of error I see in college-level student essays all the time (not "stigmatism," specifically, but "analyzation" for "analysis," "humored" when the student actually means "amused," and so on). If you haven't read widely, you probably are not going to be able to tell the difference between the right word and the almost-right word.
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Old 08-12-2019, 08:53 PM
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Stigmatism and stigmatization are similar sounding and don't come up in conversation that often. It's not too surprising that people will get the two confused on the rare occasions they use them.

I'm saving my wrath for people who can't figure out the difference between its and it's.
Its taking longer than we thought.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:01 PM
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Brain-fart?
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:05 PM
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Nobody gives a shit any more, basically. I follow BBC Earth on Facebook because they post some interesting stuff, but every other post is clearly written by someone who doesn't speak English as a first language and doesn't care enough to check whether they got it right before posting something for a large organisation they're paid to write for. One the other day was "how to poo a baby jaguar." They meant "how to help a baby jaguar poo." VERY different meanings.

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Originally Posted by Fretful Porpentine View Post
A lot of people are just careless about language, and language itself isn't particularly logical or intuitive. This is the kind of error I see in college-level student essays all the time (not "stigmatism," specifically, but "analyzation" for "analysis," "humored" when the student actually means "amused," and so on). If you haven't read widely, you probably are not going to be able to tell the difference between the right word and the almost-right word.
Those are quite bad mistakes for college-level essays.
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Old 08-12-2019, 09:46 PM
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Nobody gives a shit any more, basically.
People have been lamenting in similar terms that nobody gives a shit any more for literally centuries.

I think the more interesting question might be the social phenomenon of why language errors (real or imagined) stir strong emotions for so many people. It's rare that language errors result in any significant failure to communicate intended meaning. I doubt anyone has ever come to harm because of an its/it's error. So it's really just a questions of aesthetics - similar to valuing good music over bad music.

I share OP's appreciation for precise and elegant use of language. But conversely I don't usually find it a cause for any great concern if some people have different priorities (although obviously is somebody has a professional responsibility to use or teach language that's a different matter). But in general there are much more significant ways in which large swathes of humanity disappoint me...
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Old 08-12-2019, 10:07 PM
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Is it a misuse, or it it an original sense reasserting itself? The first meanign of stigmatism was "Branding; collective marks made by branding, or by tattooing or the like.: This is now marked as obsolete by the OED. The optician's "absence of astigmatism" sense arises only in the late ninteenth century.

My guess is that, as the "mark of censure or condemnation" sense of stigma becomes more popular, the older sense of stigmatism, or a related sense, "identification of groups to be censured or condemned" is undergoing a revival. I'd find it hard to say that this is a misuse. Given the context, it's unlikely that anybody would be confused about what was meant.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:01 PM
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Its taking longer than we thought.
Your on the list.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:15 PM
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People have been lamenting in similar terms that nobody gives a shit any more for literally centuries.

I think the more interesting question might be the social phenomenon of why language errors (real or imagined) stir strong emotions for so many people. It's rare that language errors result in any significant failure to communicate intended meaning. I doubt anyone has ever come to harm because of an its/it's error. So it's really just a questions of aesthetics - similar to valuing good music over bad music.

I share OP's appreciation for precise and elegant use of language. But conversely I don't usually find it a cause for any great concern if some people have different priorities (although obviously is somebody has a professional responsibility to use or teach language that's a different matter). But in general there are much more significant ways in which large swathes of humanity disappoint me...
Well said, Riemann--my thoughts, as well.

With writing in particular, people often think this is just some problem with the "modern generation," but all you have to do is look at comments by professors at Yale a hundred years ago, and they have the exact same complaints. Writing is not a natural skill, so it doesn't make sense to expect young people, (or those who rarely do it), to be able to write well from the start. It takes years of development--much more than one gets in high school.
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Old 08-12-2019, 11:51 PM
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Brain-fart?
Cromulant response.
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Old 08-13-2019, 01:44 AM
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Cromulant response.
sp.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:29 AM
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Is it ignorance, or someone trying to sound smart by using a bigger word?
It is someone trying to sound smart by using a bigger word whose meaning is completely different from what they're trying to say. The name for it is "malapropism": "bad for its purpose", the word itself exists but does not mean what the speaker thinks it means.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:49 AM
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One word, "singular", means "strange", not "single or one." But because it sounds so much like single, people think it means single.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:51 AM
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It's frustrating to me when someone uses a non-existent word when there is already one that does exist. I hear "conversate" too often, when they mean "converse".

And don't get me started on "alternate" vs "alternative" because I can go on about that forever and still not manage to change anybody's mind.
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:19 AM
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One word, "singular", means "strange", not "single or one." But because it sounds so much like single, people think it means single.
English doesn't have "singular" and "plural" now?
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Old 08-13-2019, 03:47 AM
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I'm saving my wrath for people who can't figure out the difference between its and it's.
I'm adding my wrath to yours. Grrrr!
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:15 AM
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It's frustrating to me when someone uses a non-existent word when there is already one that does exist. I hear "conversate" too often, when they mean "converse".
"Conservate" exists as a word and is even in some dictionaries. It may not exist on a third grader's spelling list, but it exists within the vernacular. So when I hear someone use it, I assume they don't know or care that self-appointed grammarians haven't yet acknowledged its existence. What I don't assume is that they are using a "non-word". It may not be the best word. But it expresses enough meaning to know what someone is trying to say.

(So I put in "fixin'" in the dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster's search boxes just to see what would come up. I'm surprised that both have "conversate", but don't have the most commonly meaning for "fixin'" from my region. So does that mean "fixin'" is not a word? I think not, because just about everyone within a 350-mile radius of me knows what "I'm fixin' to go" means. What this tells me is that dictionaries have both a bias and a significant lag before they reflect contemporary lexicon. The fact that "conversate" exists in dictionaries but not a word that has more usage should thus tell you something about the "realness" of it.)
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:41 AM
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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"
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:42 AM
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(So I put in "fixin'" in the dictionary.com and Merriam-Webster's search boxes just to see what would come up. I'm surprised that both have "conversate", but don't have the most commonly meaning for "fixin'" from my region. So does that mean "fixin'" is not a word? I think not, because just about everyone within a 350-mile radius of me knows what "I'm fixin' to go" means. What this tells me is that dictionaries have both a bias and a significant lag before they reflect contemporary lexicon. The fact that "conversate" exists in dictionaries but not a word that has more usage should thus tell you something about the "realness" of it.)
Of course you didn't find it. I'm not saying it is always obvious, but you have to look words up under the correct lemma, in your case, the verb "fix".

Quote:
fix, v.

10.c To decide, determine to (do something); also const. for with gerund, or with subord. sentence.

1788 Trifler 206 He fix'd to come with some eclat to Town. 1794 Miss Gunning Packet IV. 35 They fixed for going to the parsonage early the next morning. 1813 Southey Nelson I. 132 It was immediately fixed that the brigadier should go. 1834 Keble in Card. Newman's Lett. (1891) II. 23, I have fixed to go to London next week. 1866 Times 29 Dec. 10/3 The lady had entirely fixed to lead a life of celibacy.



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Old 08-13-2019, 08:03 AM
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Its taking longer than we thought.
It's distinction is lost on me.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:22 AM
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And don't get me started on "alternate" vs "alternative" because I can go on about that forever and still not manage to change anybody's mind.
You'll have to explain. Obviously only alternate can be a verb. As nouns, an alternate has a much narrower meaning - a person with a formal role as a particular kind of alternative. As adjectives, alternate can mean alternating back and forth ("on alternate days"), or it can be a synonym for alternative. Have I missed anything? What is it that you object to?
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:38 AM
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Of course you didn't find it. I'm not saying it is always obvious, but you have to look words up under the correct lemma, in your case, the verb "fix".
Yay.

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Old 08-13-2019, 10:40 AM
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Those are quite bad mistakes for college-level essays.
Nah, they're really not -- those are pretty typical mistakes, even for good students. If you want to see what some of the bad mistakes look like, there's an entertaining thread of them here.
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Old 08-13-2019, 12:46 PM
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It's distinction is lost on me.
I blame greengrocer's.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:30 PM
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I was going to post something but now the point is mute.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:42 PM
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Nobody gives a shit any more, basically
So there's some golden era during which some significant proportion of people cared more, basically? I don't think so.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:52 PM
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It's frustrating to me when someone uses a non-existent word when there is already one that does exist. I hear "conversate" too often, when they mean "converse".

And don't get me started on "alternate" vs "alternative" because I can go on about that forever and still not manage to change anybody's mind.
There's a lovely woman in my office who is always talking about "notating the file" inside of just "noting the file".
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:55 PM
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It's frustrating to me when someone uses a non-existent word when there is already one that does exist. I hear "conversate" too often, when they mean "converse".
Heh. Some of y'all haven't read Frindle when you were a kid and it shows.
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Old 08-13-2019, 02:58 PM
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There's a lovely woman in my office who is always talking about "notating the file" inside of just "noting the file".
Maybe she said 'annotating', and you misheard.
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:34 PM
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It is someone trying to sound smart by using a bigger word whose meaning is completely different from what they're trying to say. The name for it is "malapropism": "bad for its purpose", the word itself exists but does not mean what the speaker thinks it means.
Mala-what ism??


Oh. You mean Melon Prompts, don't you? Yeah. A lot of folks get that wrong. Don't feel bad.




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Old 08-13-2019, 05:37 PM
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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."

To me those sound like antonyms, but multiple sources list them as synonyms.
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Old 08-13-2019, 05:42 PM
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I was going to post something but now the point is mute.
That doesn't jive with my thoughts on the matter but... oh well.




ETA: "Jibe/Jive" is cromu-lint because it pops up here on the SDMB so often.

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Old 08-13-2019, 07:45 PM
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I think the more interesting question might be the social phenomenon of why language errors (real or imagined) stir strong emotions for so many people. It's rare that language errors result in any significant failure to communicate intended meaning. I doubt anyone has ever come to harm because of an its/it's error. So it's really just a questions of aesthetics - similar to valuing good music over bad music.

I share OP's appreciation for precise and elegant use of language. But conversely I don't usually find it a cause for any great concern if some people have different priorities (although obviously is somebody has a professional responsibility to use or teach language that's a different matter). But in general there are much more significant ways in which large swathes of humanity disappoint me...
Language errors may or may not affect comprehension a great deal, and if they don't it's only because context and the intrinsic structure of language provides redundancy. But it often does affect it. I don't know how many times I've misread something the first time, or struggled to understand it, because of mistakes as simple as bad punctuation, and worse errors can make comprehensibility correspondingly worse. But even if comprehension isn't affected, language errors come across as rude, lazy, uncaring, and ignorant, which is indeed annoying. Sometimes when confronted with their mistakes, the writers themselves claim they don't care, so why should anyone else? But to me it's like serving someone dinner in a slovenly heap on a dirty dinner plate unwashed from last night, with the excuse that it's rare that such practice has ever actually prevented anyone from eating.
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I blame greengrocer's.
Exactly. Dave Barry blames the sign's posted in grocery store's and bar's and the like for a novel form of punctuation that seems to have made it into the language, mostly involving spurious quotation mark's and apostophe's, like 'TRY "OUR" TASTY BURRITO'S". If you haven't yet come across Dave Barry's "Ask Mr Language Person" columns, Google "Ask Mr Language Person" and enjoy some samples!
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Old 08-13-2019, 07:49 PM
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It's frustrating to me when someone uses a non-existent word when there is already one that does exist. I hear "conversate" too often, when they mean "converse".
One reason I cannot stand Dan Brown’s novels is his fabrication of an academic field from whole cloth. His hero, the books assert, is a professor of “symbology,” which is not actually a thing that people study.

This wouldn’t irk me so except that semiotics is a thing that people study. I presume that Brown’s fabrication of “symbology”—in flagrant disregard for both reality and the field of semiotics—was an effort to make his main character more accessible and relatable.

I know people don’t want to look up the word “semiotics” as they inhale the first chapter of a Dan Brown book in all its pulpy glory. But he could easily explain it, even using the pseudo-word “symbology.” That would be accessible; no one would have to look up a thing. But: nah. Learning is hard, amirite?

I’m not fully serious, except that I’m deadly serious.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:01 PM
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There's a lovely woman in my office who is always talking about "notating the file" inside of just "noting the file".
"Noting the file" means "acknowledging or taking note of the file's existence".

"Annotating the file" means adding a note to the file.

The OED has "notate" as (among other things) a now-obsolete variant of "annotate". So perhaps your colleague is just old-fashioned in her speech?
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:31 PM
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Heh. Some of y'all haven't read Frindle when you were a kid and it shows.
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.


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You'll have to explain. Obviously only alternate can be a verb. As nouns, an alternate has a much narrower meaning - a person with a formal role as a particular kind of alternative. As adjectives, alternate can mean alternating back and forth ("on alternate days"), or it can be a synonym for alternative. Have I missed anything? What is it that you object to?
Alternating is a thing. That is what the word "alternate" is for. Using it for another term that already has the almost exactly similar spelling is therefore foolish and unnecessary. Use the word "alternative" when you mean a second option, do not use the world "alternate".

As I said, that is my argument that nobody seems willing to agree with me on. I have yet to change anyone's mind.
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Old 08-13-2019, 08:36 PM
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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.


Alternating is a thing. That is what the word "alternate" is for. Using it for another term that already has the almost exactly similar spelling is therefore foolish and unnecessary. Use the word "alternative" when you mean a second option, do not use the world "alternate".

As I said, that is my argument that nobody seems willing to agree with me on. I have yet to change anyone's mind.
I follow the same rule you do. An alternative is not an alternate.
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Old 08-13-2019, 09:51 PM
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I've never seen a group of smart people argue about the difference between affect and effect as I did in my last job.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:03 PM
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Alternating is a thing. That is what the word "alternate" is for. Using it for another term that already has the almost exactly similar spelling is therefore foolish and unnecessary. Use the word "alternative" when you mean a second option, do not use the world "alternate".

As I said, that is my argument that nobody seems willing to agree with me on. I have yet to change anyone's mind.
Maybe your suggestion might be good idea if we could change the language, and perhaps it's a good stylistic recommendation. But that's a rather different matter than pointing out an error. I trust you're not under the impression that this restriction on the use of the adjective alternate currently exists in the English language?

And if we followed your proscription, presumably we'd have to discard the noun "alternate", meaning someone with a formal role as a backup or substitute, from which we get the adjective in "alternate juror". Those uses don't involve alternating back and forth.
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Old 08-13-2019, 10:09 PM
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OED has "notate" as (among other things) a now-obsolete variant of "annotate". So perhaps your colleague is just old-fashioned in her speech?
There is still a word notate in use. It means to put some information into a form of notation. The most common use involves music; somebody composing a piece of music would notate it down on paper.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:16 AM
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There is still a word notate in use. It means to put some information into a form of notation. The most common use involves music; somebody composing a piece of music would notate it down on paper.
Yes indeed. But when I write music on a sheet of paper I am not notating the paper; I am notating the music - setting it down or recording it using a system of notation. Similarly, if I create a flowchart, I am notating a sequence of events or decisions, rather than notating the paper on which the flowchart is written. If somebody talks about "notating the file" that's obviously not the sense intended.
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Old 08-14-2019, 12:41 AM
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Originally Posted by Acsenray View Post
So there's some golden era during which some significant proportion of people cared more, basically? I don't think so.
There are cultures which care more than others. When I hear someone say through gritted teeth "hablemos con propiedad" (let's use our words correctly), I know they're likely to be from Northern Spain. We tend to be more prescriptivist than other Spaniards, which when you think about it is logical given that most of the prescriptions of Spanish come from our dialects. In the Americas, the sentence tends to correlate with educational level as well as with location (more frequent in those places with more descent/cultural influence from Northern Spain, no surprises there).
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Last edited by Nava; 08-14-2019 at 12:43 AM.
  #45  
Old 08-14-2019, 12:57 AM
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Yes indeed. But when I write music on a sheet of paper I am not notating the paper; I am notating the music - setting it down or recording it using a system of notation. Similarly, if I create a flowchart, I am notating a sequence of events or decisions, rather than notating the paper on which the flowchart is written. If somebody talks about "notating the file" that's obviously not the sense intended.
True. The only way I can think of that somebody could say they were notating a file would be if it was a sound file and they were transcribing it. But it's clear from the context that wasn't what Moriarty was talking about.
  #46  
Old 08-14-2019, 01:08 AM
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Originally Posted by GuanoLad View Post
Using it for another term that already has the almost exactly similar spelling is therefore foolish and unnecessary.
It's just one of a zillion words where the noun and verb form have the same spelling but different stresses: contest, protest, survey, compound, object, etc. The meanings themselves are often only loosely related.
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Old 08-14-2019, 03:01 AM
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Originally Posted by Nava View Post
There are cultures which care more than others. When I hear someone say through gritted teeth "hablemos con propiedad" (let's use our words correctly), I know they're likely to be from Northern Spain. We tend to be more prescriptivist than other Spaniards, which when you think about it is logical given that most of the prescriptions of Spanish come from our dialects. In the Americas, the sentence tends to correlate with educational level as well as with location (more frequent in those places with more descent/cultural influence from Northern Spain, no surprises there).
This sounds a bit similar to the perceived north / south divide in Italy, where the tendency is (exaggerating and simplifying somewhat), for northerners to regard southerners as lazy, hyper-corrupt primitives who can't or won't get their act together; whereas southerners see northerners as workaholic killjoys with an overly good opinion of themselves; hence mutual dislike and contempt. Would you say there's a thing somewhat like that in Spain? -- or is it present only in a narrower field, such as -- in your post above -- language issues?
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Old 08-14-2019, 04:25 AM
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Originally Posted by Dr. Strangelove View Post
It's just one of a zillion words where the noun and verb form have the same spelling but different stresses: contest, protest, survey, compound, object, etc. The meanings themselves are often only loosely related.
That's not my point. There's already a word with the meaning they're after, alternative, and it's almost the exact same spelling as alternate. Why use alternate? Unnecessary.

ALternate
alTERnative
ALternate
alTERnative
ALternate
alTERnative
No need to us alTERnate, you have alTERnative already right there waiting.

This is why I said "don't get me started".
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:02 AM
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That's not my point. There's already a word with the meaning they're after, alternative, and it's almost the exact same spelling as alternate. Why use alternate? Unnecessary.
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.
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Old 08-14-2019, 06:07 AM
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So saying "We've got alternatives to choose from" isn't communicating the same thing as "We've got alternates to choose from."
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.

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Originally Posted by monstro View Post
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.
They raise my ire.
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