I once knew a guy who called them a word that is, and has been for several decades now, considered racist. (The word begins with S and rhymes with Rambo.) I worked with him. One day several of us were eating lunch and he mentioned what he had brought, using that term. Awkward. Then a black co-worker said, "you realize that's a racist word, right?" He honestly had no idea.
So I guess be thankful that at least the ones you're hearing are just really stupid and not stupid and accidentally racist!
I have a dumb question. How should I use "in" and "on"? I never understood how this works and nobody explained me in a way I can understand.
An example. Which one is correct?
The directing ON this show
The directing IN this show
English is nuts
You're very, very right that English is nuts! We've got a lot of diverse languages that have informed it, especially American English.
Honestly I think you'll see both, depending on the local dialects. For example, East Coasters (at least) might say they were "waiting on line," while in the Midwest we'd say "waiting in line."
More often than not, I would say you can go with whatever sounds best to you, which is realistically what probably 99% of Americans do. There are literally dozens of grammatical scenarios that could call for one versus the other, but I don't think they're worth worrying about. I'm trying to imagine a scenario when you could use one instead of the other and the wrong choice would confuse anyone or seriously change the meaning.
As long as you're clear on the most basic definitions ("on" as "atop" and "in" as "within" or "inside of"), those other uses end up relatively interchangeable. The issue with situations like you described is that it isn't so literal, it's figurative: the directing isn't happening inside of some physical entity called a show, and it isn't happening on top of some physical entity called a show. It's a conceptual thing happening that is a component that goes into the whole product, the show.
Probably not helpful at all, other than hopefully calming your worries of saying it wrong.
In my experience, you will stand out more as unusual if you try to get everything grammatically correct than if you get the general flow correct and just play around at the edges.
For example, there is a "rule" (as if rules really mean all that much in language...they are after-the-fact explanations for how people speak, not in-advance blueprints of how we should speak) that says not to end a sentence on a preposition. This would mean:
"What are you waiting for?" Incorrect
"For what are you waiting?" Correct
Nobody--NOBODY--in common, everyday usage is going to say the "correct" version. That's often how it is with English.
At work, I've noticed an inconsistency in the spelling of this word. Sometimes cancelled is spelled with one 'l', sometimes it's spelled with two. I had always thought it was spelled with two, but apparently both are accepted spellings. Weirdly, though, I've read online that 'canceled' is more common in the US and 'cancelled' is more common in Britain. Yet, I asked my boss his preferred spelling and he said two 'l's. I also noticed KDS spell it with two 'l's recently (IIRC), so what gives? What's been your experience? Is two 'l's more common in the northeast US, but not the greater US? (Though, that doesn't explain why I keep seeing it spelled with one 'l' in various reports and on state documents. Maybe one 'l' is common within the industry, but we all learned two 'l's in school? I don't know.
2) Pick/Take/Fill up the slack.
Yes, this is a Beach Boys idiom edition! Good old Johnny Carson (thanks SJS). That remains the only place I've EVER heard "fill up the slack". It's always been "pick up the slack" to me. Apparently, "take up the slack" is common too, but feels odd. I mustn't have heard it much. Fill actually makes sense, I think, but it still feels weird to hear it that way every time I listen to "Johnny Carson".
1) I'm a "canceled" guy, myself. It is interesting how spellings vary, often regionally. (Also interesting in that we always wonder 'which is right?' as if everything sprang from one correct genesis and mutated/perverted into variants, while the better interpretation is that the firming up of specific "correct" spellings is a modern convention, and that frankly a few hundred years ago people spelled things however the hell they wanted.)
2) I never thought about that one. "Pick" has always been my understanding of the idiom, and "take" makes sense. "Fill" makes the least sense to me, as the image is more of pulling something tight (to remove the slack), like a rope. And you can't fill a rope, or bedsheets. That usage implies something like an empty sack (whose boundaries would be slack, I suppose, as they aren't made tight by being filled) being filled. But it's not a way I've ever heard that idiom said other than in that song.
Also interesting in that we always wonder 'which is right?' as if everything sprang from one correct genesis and mutated/perverted into variants, while the better interpretation is that the firming up of specific "correct" spellings is a modern convention, and that frankly a few hundred years ago people spelled things however the hell they wanted.
Yeah, that reminds me of a movie I watched recently, The Professor and the Madman, about the first edition of the Oxford dictionary. There was the question of how inclusive/exclusive it would be, and recognizing that language was changing faster than they could document it.
Edit: And not that this is for any of you to resolve, but I do think we should stick to one spelling at work!
Edit: And not that this is for any of you to resolve, but I do think we should stick to one spelling at work!
And that, right there, is why I am relatively conservative when it comes to language outside of the arts: the entire point of language is communication, and that requires being understood. To achieve that, a certain amount of conformity is necessary. It's not about being the one who's correct, it's about coming to a shared understanding of things. The more time we spend explaining "but what I meant was," the less efficiently society works. And in the workplace, that is a massive failure.
My caveat for the arts is because efficiency isn't generally a primary goal in those fields. Getting people to wonder what you might mean, consider different approaches, is more aligned with the projects in general than is agreement that 1+1=2. So you intentionally misuse a word in an interesting way, you work in shadows and vague uncertainties, you confuse people intentionally, etc.
*For the idioms and etymology thread, let me note that I dislike the AP (and various other) style for putting sentence-ending punctuation within quotation marks regardless of whether they are technically being quoted. And yet, having had that style drummed into me in college, I similarly hate and immediately think WRONG when I see the punctuation outside. I've been bred into a can't-win situation!
It's funny you say that, Kapitan. I've actually wondered what you thought about it. Specifically, if it annoyed you. I still kick myself for not paying closer attention in elementary school when I was learning grammar, punctuation, and spelling. I don't really know what I'm doing. I mimic others and try to be consistent. Like, I don't know what I'm doing with '-' but I think I use it in an understandable way. And, this might sound odd, but I never really wrote much before joining the Beach Boys message boards. I made a decision when I joined that since this is an informal setting, I wouldn't worry much about following rules I didn't care for. The main one being putting sentence-ending punctuation within quotation marks! It still looks a little odd, I'll admit, having learned it how you did and thinking it was wrong not to do so, but it's just not logical, goshdarnit! And IIRC, SJS was one of the main posters who I noticed punctuated that way and so I followed suit.
Making matters worse, it's not universal. There are styles that have punctuation outside the quotation marks when the punctuation isn't a part of the quoted material. (I'm not as familiar with them, though, as they weren't in my field of study.) So it's an inconsistent thing regardless of the approach a person takes.
I admit that while I mostly stick to it, there are times I'll go outside the quotation marks, breaking the rules I was taught, when it makes more sense to me. For example, imagine me complaining to a friend that a second friend was late:
After John was three hours late, I finally called him to ask what was happening; he said "I just woke up"!
(In that sentence, John isn't exclaiming "I just woke up!" but just telling me. I'm the one exclaiming. So it seems more clear to put the exclamation point outside the quotation marks.)
Today's NYT includes a modified excerpt from the linguist John McWhorter's new book about profanity, "Nine Nasty Words: English in the Gutter--Then, Now, and Forever." This essay is about the history of what is currently almost certainly the most unsayable word in the language, the n-word. NYT (surprisingly courageously) actually printed the word uncensored.
It's very interesting, as I think McWhorter almost always is.
Robe Simo mentioned an aversion to the word "daddy" because of its creepiness (even when used in non-creepy settings).
He's not alone in this practice. This is something I've noticed as becoming more prominent with other words in recent years: avoiding, making a fuss over, or even trying to eliminate certain words regardless of context. (Different people have different approaches, and different levels of making an issue of things. To be clear, I have NO PROBLEM with Robe Simo or his statement. It just spurred the thought.)
A similar one that strikes me never gave me the slightest hesitation until about 15 years ago; now it is almost unsayable around millennial (or presumably younger, not that I know a lot of Gen Z people) is "moist." Say it and you'll get "eewwwww!" "gross!" "I HATE that word!" But honestly I don't even believe people actually would say that unless they'd heard other people say it and identified with the aversion culturally. (A funny thing is, one of the word's definitions is "damp," which actually gets a similar reaction, though less so.)
Lately words associated with offensive practices have gotten a similar treatment: in the past year or two, I've seen numerous calls to ban--or publicity noting companies had replaced--words that had associations with racism or slavery. "Slave" even as used in electronics; "master" as used to describe a bedroom; "monkey" as in wrench.
Personally I find this strange. To me, it gives words more power than is necessary. It makes them almost magical in their powers. But I think context and intent are everything; words are just sounds that in one context mean one thing, and in another, mean another. To strip perfectly good, accurate words from usage just because some people have negative associations seems like a ridiculous effort that will inevitably just leave people in the same situation, when other words have gained those negative associations.
It reminds me of my fifth grade year, when "the thing to do" as a bunch of suddenly hormone-laden tweens was to make every reference possible into a sexual one, and of course laugh at the person who said it. If I said I wanted a hot dog, I might as well have said "give me your penis": everyone was going to laugh and make fun. But it went insane. Hot dog was nothing. Sausage, brat, pencil, pen, ruler, or anything else vaguely of a certain shape. Ditto for other prurient slang, and then words similar to that slang, and so on. It literally got to the point where making coherent sentences was challenging.
Anyway, that's my language-related ramble of the day.
A similar one that strikes me never gave me the slightest hesitation until about 15 years ago; now it is almost unsayable around millennial (or presumably younger, not that I know a lot of Gen Z people) is "moist." Say it and you'll get "eewwwww!" "gross!" "I HATE that word!"
That's one that I truly cannot understand. I've seen that mentioned in a number of places, especially on social media but I have not been able to get a satisfactory answer on what makes the word so horrible. It's almost like "we hate the word, but I can't explain why". Is it the "oi" part? I tend to be a little weird with words like "coil". I can't say it without overemphasizing the "oi" sound, probably because I was born in New Jersey. Oy!
Kapitan: Yes, let's keep it going. If you're not sure which years we've covered, check the first post of the thread: I've edited it to list each year we've touched upon.
Sept 22, 2021 13:10:08 GMT
jk: If no one jumps in soon, I'll go for 1997, which is 13 years back from 2010. Fact is, we haven't had a '90s year yet.
Sept 22, 2021 13:46:32 GMT
Kapitan: No, but we do have a whole '90s thread that covered a lot of that territory. (In fact, that's what inspired the idea, to some extent)
Sept 22, 2021 13:52:28 GMT
Kapitan: Not that I'm opposed to a '90s year, mind you
Sept 22, 2021 13:52:58 GMT
jk: I see where you're coming from, Cap'n. I even did a double-take when looking through 1997 albums and songs (these look familiar!). My next suggestion is that we go back 13 years from 1972 to 1959.
Sept 22, 2021 17:04:34 GMT
jk: OK, it's one of the "doldrum years" but it was crammed full of goodies that even register with folks who weren't born for another 20 years. Of course, if anyone has a better idea, I'm all for it.
Sept 22, 2021 17:05:59 GMT
Kapitan: That would make sense; we also haven't really touched the early to mid 80s, which I'm sure people (mostly) recall. And of course EVERY year in the '60s seems loaded...
Sept 22, 2021 17:06:53 GMT
jk: Yes, the early-ish '80s also came to mind. But let's see who else joins in...
Sept 22, 2021 17:08:04 GMT
Kapitan: So far we've had me, jk, kds, and carllove choosing years. Would love to expand that circle.
Sept 22, 2021 17:13:20 GMT
Kapitan: Which, I guess with four of us so far, is more a square.
Sept 22, 2021 17:13:38 GMT
jk: Ha, yes. Sheriff? B.E.? sockit? The Kid?... We'll see.
Sept 22, 2021 17:16:41 GMT
The Cincinnati Kid: I might come up with something. I love those kind of threads, but am terrible in participating. I still haven't posted anything for 2010.
Sept 22, 2021 19:26:41 GMT
lonelysummer: 1959 is a doldrums year? Hmm....
Sept 22, 2021 19:44:28 GMT
jk: That's what they say... you know, that period from *cough* "the day the music died" to the arrival of the British Invasion. Like you, I couldn't agree less with that notion, hence the inverted commas!
Sept 22, 2021 19:52:30 GMT
Kapitan: I assume he means the stereotype that between early rock and roll and the British Invasion, nothing happened. But that it was in quotes (plus his actual comments) make me think it was an ironic usage.
Sept 22, 2021 19:52:54 GMT
Kapitan: Whoops, near-simultaneous post. But it confirms my suspicion.
Sept 22, 2021 19:53:21 GMT
jk: Great minds and all that!
Sept 22, 2021 19:53:34 GMT
sockit: I would like to showcase the year 1983. That's the year I graduated high school and I was all in on what was current.
Sept 23, 2021 0:07:54 GMT
carllove: I was in College then. Sounds like a good year! Go for it! It’s a group effort!
Sept 23, 2021 4:31:48 GMT
carllove: BTW - I’d be down for 90’s years. I like the years being broken out. Meanwhile we can move to 1983 with sockit’s help. 1972 has ended its interest.
Sept 23, 2021 4:34:56 GMT