Getting onto my soapbox, please forgive me!

Posted:
in AppleOutsider edited January 2014
I am just getting onto my soapbox with my "holier-than-thou" attitude and letting off some steam. Though it is not my intention, this post may well offend a lot of people and could result in me being flamed a lot. That cannot be avoided, however, I welcome mature discussion on how this state of affairs came to be. Okay, here goes:



I am becoming increasingly amazed at the declining quality of English in everyday use. I see it in this forum and other fora that I frequent, I see it in list-serve posts, I see it in the business world. I am further saddened to note that even journalists and media professionals are not immune to grammar and usage errors.



I can understand it when people for whom English is a second language make grammar or spelling errors but I find it difficult to accept native speakers doing so.



English is a second language for me. I am from India. If I can take the trouble to learn, speak and write good English I see no reason for native speakers not to do so.



Following are some of the more common errors I come across on a regular basis.



It is not "the shadow of a doubt". There is no "a" before "doubt". The correct phrase is "a shadow of doubt" as in "It has been established beyond a shadow of doubt that ..."



It is not "benefit of a doubt"; the correct phrase is "the benefit of doubt" as in "Let's give him the benefit of doubt". There should be no "a" anywhere in that sentence.



"Impact" is not a verb, it is a noun. Nothing "impacts" anything, nothing ever gets "impacted". Something "has an impact" on something else. The word you're looking for is "affect" or "affected", not "impacted". For example, Apple's switch to Intel processors has badly "affected" the sales of PowerPC chips (not "impacted" the sales). It is also correct to say "Apple's switch .... has had a negative impact on PowerPC sales".



Definitive vs. definite. Please do not use "definitive" when you actually want to say "definite". "Definite" means "sure". "Definitive" on the other hand means something that is precisely defined. For example, Denzel Washington is definitely a handsome man, but he is also the definitive handsome man, meaning he completely and totally fits the definition of the word "handsome". By the way, that opinion is not mine, it is from a documentary I watched on Discovery channel about physical beauty. Another meaning of "definitive" is "authoritative and complete" as in "The Missing Manual: The definitive guide to MacOSX" or "iCon: The definitive guide to Steve Jobs "



"Between you and me", not "between you and I". It is however correct to say "You and I are in this together".



"Her and her mom went shopping" - Not quite I am afraid. It is "She and her mom went shopping".



"None of you have..." is incorrect. "None" is a contraction of "Not even ONE". The correct usage is "None of you HAS ..." (Not even one of you has...).



Some errors are not very noticeable in speech, but are glaring when seen in written form. Examples are "their" instead of "they're", "your" instead of "you're", "definately" instead of "definitely", "it's" instead of "its". I could go on and on but I shall stop here.



That's it for now. Thank you for letting me vent my frustration and I apologise for having offended any of you who feels offended. As I mentioned earlier, that was not my intention at all.



Cheers
«134

Comments

  • Reply 1 of 71
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    "Impact" is not a verb



    Yes it is. dictionary.com source, wiktionary.org source.
  • Reply 2 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Thank you for the references Chucker. If you read the usage notes on dictionary.com you will see that the jury is still out on this.



    As for wiktionary (or any wiki-based source), the very nature of a wiki (changeable by anyone and everyone) dictates that I verify what it says with sources that are definitive



    Cheers
  • Reply 3 of 71
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    Thank you for the references Chucker. If you read the usage notes on dictionary.com you will see that the jury is still out on this.



    The same usage notes also state that it's been in use for over four hundred years.



    Quote:

    As for wiktionary (or any wiki-based source), the very nature of a wiki (changeable by anyone and everyone) dictates that I verify what it says with sources that are definitive



    While a wiki can be edited by non-professionals and subpar researchers, the effective risk of that is low. Notice that the page's history shows no signs of vandalism either.
  • Reply 4 of 71
    ebbyebby Posts: 3,110member
    Actually I agree with you. Keep in mind that for a great portion of members here, English is a second language so I tend to avoid nitpicking altogether out of respect. HOWEVER, in modern day culture there are some serious concerns when it comes to grammar or language. I am in no way perfect; lets get that straight. But it is increasingly acceptable to make up words, especially marketing words, and pass them off as read language. This bugs the hell out of me. I feel it overall weakens the rules and guidelines that govern English and, unfortunately, confuses teenagers while they learn. I found this problematic in High School, but I fear it has become much worse since I graduated.
  • Reply 5 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by Chucker

    The same usage notes also state that it's been in use for over four hundred years.



    That's precisely why I said that the jury's still out instead of continuing to insist that "impact" is not a verb. It says that though it has been in use for such a long time, people still consider it wrong. Repeating a falsehood long enough does not make it the truth. Else it would be a truth that Microsoft makes the best software in the world *grin*



    As to any vandalism of wiktionary, I am not qualified to comment on it since I am not that tech-savvy. However, even if it has not been vandalised since it was created or modified, I still do not know how qualified the creators of that page are. This is my opinion of anything that is wiki-based, not just the page in question. I could go and edit any wiki page, put in any information I choose irrespective of its authenticity, and it would automatically be believed (until someone else who disagrees with me changes it, and who's to say that person is right after all?).



    Wiki is a great concept, but one that is very susceptible to misinformation because of the lack of a formalised verification process for any information that is posted or modified.



    Cheers
  • Reply 6 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Ebby, I agree with you about non-native speakers. That is why I mentioned in my post that non-native speakers may be excused but native speakers should not expect to be excused.



    One of the reasons I posted this is because I have seen posts on many fora where native English speakers complain of call-centres in India and how people there cannot speak proper English. To me this is like the pot calling the kettle black. But that is just one of the reasons and a very minor one at that.



    The main reason I posted this is because after having lived in North America for a while and being exposed to bad English, I am beginning to forget my English and am starting to make the same errors that I accuse others of making. That scares me.



    I get the impression from your reply that schools no longer care about teaching proper grammar and spelling. Have I understood you correctly? If that is the case, it is indeed a very sad state of affairs.



    Cheers
  • Reply 7 of 71
    chuckerchucker Posts: 5,089member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    Repeating a falsehood long enough does not make it the truth.



    Generally, I'd agree with you, but not when it comes to language. Language is defined by how it is used by people, not the other way round. It's a means of communication, and if people agree to communicate a certain way, they are defining the very standard we are discussing here: the language. To insist on sticking with whatever textbooks say about English is foolish.



    Some parts of a language are immutable, but many aren't. New words get introduced, old words get new meanings, even older words get phased out. It's an evolutionary process that's been going on all this time; there's nothing new about it, and much more importantly, there's nothing bad about it. Maintaining a high standard is a laudable goal, but don't mix it with misplaced conservatism.



    Quote:

    As to any vandalism of wiktionary, I am not qualified to comment on it since I am not that tech-savvy. However, even if it has not been vandalised since it was created or modified, I still do not know how qualified the creators of that page are. This is my opinion of anything that is wiki-based, not just the page in question. I could go and edit any wiki page, put in any information I choose irrespective of its authenticity, and it would automatically be believed (until someone else who disagrees with me changes it, and who's to say that person is right after all?).



    Wiki is a great concept, but one that is very susceptible to misinformation because of the lack of a formalised verification process for any information that is posted or modified.



    As understandable as it is in theory, practice has shown this argument to be questionable. Most content on the Wikimedia sites is of very high quality, and the recent comparison by Nature against Encyclopedia Britannica was rather impressive.
  • Reply 8 of 71
    ebbyebby Posts: 3,110member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    I get the impression from your reply that schools no longer care about teaching proper grammar and spelling. Have I understood you correctly? If that is the case, it is indeed a very sad state of affairs.



    This may be harsh, but schools care about test results. If you can BS your way through High School, you make it. I didn't BS anything and struggles for 3 years but sat next to people who literally fell asleep in class but copied notes from their friends.



    High School and I did not get along. College, fortunately, is an entirely different story.
  • Reply 9 of 71
    addaboxaddabox Posts: 12,660member
    Without entering into the whole "just how poorly are we speaking now" debate (which I fear I inevitably will), let me just take this opportunity to share a small gripe.



    When did we start using "bias" as an adjective?



    I see it not infrequently on these boards, as in "I'm not surprised you would think so, as you are bias", or "That's a pretty bias statement".



    Is it an artifact of fast typing? Is it that people are not hearing the "ed" suffix in "biased" when the word is spoken?



    The latter seems possible, as a lot of the errors in written English that I encounter appear to be the result of hearing words and phrases without ever seeing them in written form.
  • Reply 10 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Chucker, I am afraid I cannot disagree with you on the evolution of language, you do have a valid point there. However, some things such as using "their" for "they're" cannot be considered acceptance by evolution. They are just wrong.



    Maybe you are right, maybe I am just an old fogey who refuses to accept change in certain areas or maybe I am just a naive idealist when it comes to certain things, but I do find it hard to accept that "affect" and "effect" are being used interchangeably, "definite" and "definitive" are being used interchangeably. Such usage cannot be considered part of the evolution of language. The words have completely different meanings and cannot stand in for one another.



    For example, I squirm when I hear the word "surveil" being used as a verb form of "surveillance" or the word "oversight" being used as the noun form of "oversee", but I am learning to live with it as I am learning to to live with "impacted". This I can accept as part of the evolution of language.



    The use of the word "ho" in black-speak to denote girlfriend, evolution. American slang percolating into worldwide use, evolution.

    Using the wrong word because one has not taken the trouble to learn the right one, not evolution, just incorrect.



    I do like to think that I am not totally set in my ways, that I am capable of keeping an open mind and that I do not know it all.



    By the way, thank you for taking the time to check facts and provide articulate arguments, I do appreciate it.



    As for Wikipedia, I am willing to accept that it may not be all bad



    Thanks again and cheers
  • Reply 11 of 71
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    It is not "the shadow of a doubt". There is no "a" before "doubt". The correct phrase is "a shadow of doubt" as in "It has been established beyond a shadow of doubt that ..."



    It is not "benefit of a doubt"; the correct phrase is "the benefit of doubt" as in "Let's give him the benefit of doubt". There should be no "a" anywhere in that sentence.




    Hmm? These are really cliches or idioms, not grammatical issues, and therefore "shadow of a doubt" is no more or less correct than "shadow of doubt" in any technical sense. What is the history of these phrases, do you know? I've always heard "shadow of a doubt" and "benefit of the doubt."



    [edit] Apparently there's a Hitchcock movie from 1943 called "Shadow of a Doubt."
  • Reply 12 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by addabox

    Is it an artifact of fast typing? Is it that people are not hearing the "ed" suffix in "biased" when the word is spoken?



    The latter seems possible, as a lot of the errors in written English that I encounter appear to be the result of hearing words and phrases without ever seeing them in written form.




    Addabox, I think it is the result of hearing words without seeing them in written form. That is why people interchange words like "their" and "they're". Which begs the question again - Don't they teach these things in school?



    Artifacts of typing would be in case of words like "teh" and "lsit" and "jjust"



    Cheers
  • Reply 13 of 71
    voxappsvoxapps Posts: 236member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by addabox

    ...a lot of the errors in written English that I encounter appear to be the result of hearing words and phrases without ever seeing them in written form.



    Perhaps that explains "prolly," as in "I prolly shouldn't mention this," but it may not adequately explain the prevalence of "loose" as in "You guys are all loosers!" That one just grates on my nerves.



    I think the problem is a combination of lax educational standards, increasing tolerance for "IM-speak" in other forms of written correspondence, and the fact that, apparently, a lot of people have given up reading anything with a hard cover.
  • Reply 14 of 71
    mr skillsmr skills Posts: 144member
    Whilst I agree wholeheartedly about declining standards of English and the importance of taking care in one's writing, I think there is also a danger of becoming resistant to natural change in language.



    Grammar and vocabulary are about what one can say, not what one can't. So where I consider rules to be gratuitous or unnecessary (why can't I split an infinitive?), I will ignore them.



    On the other hand, I dislike changes that limit what we are able to say and understand. Thus I believe, for example, that we should preserve the important distinction between "uninterested" and "disinterested" that so many people confuse.



    Also, I dislike the introduction of unnecessary complexity and clutter where it serves no purpose (greengrocer's apostrophe, anyone?).



    So I agree with many of your points, but I also think that you should be wary of becoming pedantic.
  • Reply 15 of 71
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    [B]

    It is not "the shadow of a doubt". There is no "a" before "doubt". The correct phrase is "a shadow of doubt" as in "It has been established beyond a shadow of doubt that ..."



    I have never heard this. There's even a movie from 1943 called "Shadow of a doubt." I'll check my OED when I get home.



    Quote:

    It is not "benefit of a doubt"; the correct phrase is "the benefit of doubt" as in "Let's give him the benefit of doubt". There should be no "a" anywhere in that sentence.



    I've always heard this "benefit of the doubt," in which "doubt" has been nominalized.



    Quote:

    "Impact" is not a verb, it is a noun.



    It's a 400 year-old verb in English and has its origins in Latin.





    Quote:

    That's it for now. Thank you for letting me vent my frustration and I apologise for having offended any of you who feels offended. As I mentioned earlier, that was not my intention at all.



    Cheers! Me and you should have a drink sometimes.
  • Reply 16 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by BRussell

    What is the history of these phrases, do you know? I've always heard "shadow of a doubt" and "benefit of the doubt."



    Sorry BRussell, I am afraid I do not know how these expressions evolved. However back when I was in school I was taught that the word "doubt" in both the expressions is used to denote the concept of Doubt and not the number of doubts, which is why there is no article, definite ot indefinite, in front of "doubt". It is like saying "There is absolutely no doubt". We do not say "There are no doubts".



    You are helping me make my point actually. You have only been exposed to (what I consider) the incorrect usage of these expressions, which means this is what you will teach your children and they theirs ad infinitum, and then, voila, it becomes correct. You were part of a mistake and not knowing any different, you perpetuate it, till it is no longer considered a mistake. Remember my point about Microsoft being the best?



    Cheers
  • Reply 17 of 71
    midwintermidwinter Posts: 10,060member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    Sorry BRussell, I am afraid I do not know how these expressions evolved. However back when I was in school I was taught that the word "doubt" in both the expressions is used to denote the concept of Doubt and not the number of doubts, which is why there is no article, definite ot indefinite, in front of "doubt". It is like saying "There is absolutely no doubt". We do not say "There are no doubts".



    Isn't the implication that it is "the benefit of my/our doubting this thing"? I mean, I'm willing to give you the benefit of the doubt on this issue, but I'm not sure that this isn't just the kind of linguistic shortcut that English is so fond of. Er, of which English is so fond.



    Quote:

    You are helping me make my point actually. You have only been exposed to (what I consider) the incorrect usage of these expressions, which means this is what you will teach your children and they theirs ad infinitum, and then, voila, it becomes correct. You were part of a mistake and not knowing any different, you perpetuate it, till it is no longer considered a mistake. Remember my point about Microsoft being the best?



    Here's the problem with your argument: if you follow your train of thinking, you must believe that there was a point at which English was "perfect." Language changes. But if you want to complain about a 400 year-old verb falling out of the language and then leaping back in, that's fine.
  • Reply 18 of 71
    giantgiant Posts: 6,041member
  • Reply 19 of 71
    tilttilt Posts: 396member
    Wow, since this topic started I have not had time to do anything else but read responses and type out more. I am being called for dinner and I do not want to go



    Voxapps, I think you have hit the nail on the head. In addition, "loose" and "lose" should never be used interchangeably, that is not evolution, it is just wrong.



    Mr. Skills, you and Chucker are basically saying the same thing and I agree. I should not let myself become pedantic.



    As for splitting infinitives, I am with you. I split infinitives all the time though I was taught not to do so. I also end sentences with prepositions in spite of it being considered wrong. I read a book on English where it said that this is a hangover from Latin and that these rules came into place because educated people spoke Latin. Latin forbade split infinitives and ending sentences with prepositions, therefore it must be wrong to do so in English too.



    I also agree with you Mr. Skills on some words not being interchangeable, I made the same point a few posts ago.



    Midwinter, I would love to have that drink



    I am sure that by the time I finish typing this and hit "send" there would already be three or four responses waiting. I think I shall take that break for dinner and spend a little time with my wife. I do not want to be in the doghouse just yet I shall be back later.



    I once again would like to thank you all for a very lively and informative discussion.



    Cheers



    Edited to change "becoma" to "become" - typing artifact *grin*
  • Reply 20 of 71
    brussellbrussell Posts: 9,812member
    Quote:

    Originally posted by tilt

    Sorry BRussell, I am afraid I do not know how these expressions evolved. However back when I was in school I was taught that the word "doubt" in both the expressions is used to denote the concept of Doubt and not the number of doubts, which is why there is no article, definite ot indefinite, in front of "doubt". It is like saying "There is absolutely no doubt". We do not say "There are no doubts".



    You are helping me make my point actually. You have only been exposed to (what I consider) the incorrect usage of these expressions, which means this is what you will teach your children and they theirs ad infinitum, and then, voila, it becomes correct. You were part of a mistake and not knowing any different, you perpetuate it, till it is no longer considered a mistake. Remember my point about Microsoft being the best?



    Cheers




    I'd think it would be a tad important to know the history of it, because that's the only way that you'd be able to show that it's incorrect. If you can show that it's incorrect (or really, even that an idiom can be incorrect), then I'll accept that. Otherwise, I'll just assume that you're incorrect, and passing the incorrect usage along to your children, ad infinitum.
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