Category Archives: English, M4r F4r, Do You Speak It?

Scary image for old PDP fans

From NY Times: Smartphone Rises Fast From Gadget to Necessity (emphasis mine):

“Basically, I’m walking around with a minicomputer in my pocket,” he said. “And it’s a part of me now, an appendage.”

I guess “minicomputer” doesn’t mean what it used to.  Or those are some big-ass pants.

Is the N.Y. Times editorial staff losing it’s touch?

Mrs. Obama, who said that she never had a vegetable garden before, said the idea for it came from her experiences as a working mother trying to feed her daughters, Malia and Sasha, a good diet. Eating out three times a week, ordering a pizza, having a sandwich for dinner took it’s toll. The children’s pediatrician told her she needed to be thinking about nutrition.
"It’s [sic] toll"… really?  In the New York Times?  I assumed those folks weren’t allowed to use computerized spell-checkers for exactly this reason.

Today’s Grammar Gripe

Using "ask" as a noun.  It’s pretentious and the word "request" works perfectly well.

Don’t Be Evil vs. Do No Evil

Google’s informal corporate motto is “Don’t Be Evil.”  Yet many people, even those who are relatively well informed, refer to it as “Do No Evil,” particularly when criticizing Google for one of its actions or policies.  In fact, the search query on Google’s own web site for “Google ‘do no evil’” returns more hits than for “Google ‘don’t be evil’”, 220,000 vs. 173,000.

This bugs me because, while the statements look similar, they have dramatically different meanings.  “Do No Evil” is a statement about actions, whereas “Don’t Be Evil” is a statement of, well, being.  Put another way, the former is about the body but the latter is about the soul.  If you can get these two confused, then you don’t really get the point that Google was trying to make in the first place.

Today’s Grammar Gripes

Don’t say “beg the question” when you mean “raise the question.”  We’ve talked about this before.

There is no “K” sound in “et cetera.”  See that second letter?  It’s a “T”.

Don’t use “impact” as a verb when you mean “effect.” Not that it’s strictly wrong, it’s just become overused to the point of cliche.

The proof is not in the pudding

Apparently there was a lot of talk in Washington today that "the proof is in the pudding."  But the proof has never been in the pudding, as William Safire ably explained more than twenty years ago:
"The proof is not in the pudding. You could stir around the pudding for hours and never find the proof. The proverb goes: the proof of the pudding is in the eating."

Stop Begging!

Enough already of using the expression "to beg the question" when you mean "to raise the question"!  If you’re doing it because you think it makes you sound smarter, it doesn’t.  Quite the opposite, in fact.
 
I thought Safire addressed this years ago when he wrote:
If the issue I raise today cries out for an answer, if the point of this article invites close cross-examination, am I begging the question?
 
No. Though my trickle-down convictions may beggar my neighbor, I will not beg the question, because I am not in the fallacy dodge. Of the many fulminations from specialists about the distortions of their vocabularies by the lay public, this mendicant phrase leads all the rest.
Apparently some folks didn’t get the memo.  So let’s review: Begging the question is to assume as a premise the point you are trying to prove.  If you believe that something requires us to confront an issue, it raises the question.  No begging is involved.  Unless, of course, you want to get people to talk about the panhandling problem.
 
I trust there will be no further confusion on this matter.