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    « Life (or what passes for it) Online | Main | Ma'am ... You Stink »

    November 13, 2003



    Just one clarification:

    Isn't it Ray Charles' music? No extra "s", as far as I was taught in school.

    Nils Ling

    Therein lies my caveat about using "... the music of Ray Charles" when in doubt. And there is some debate, and God forbid I should look like some sort of grammar Nazi. Strunk and White, in "The Elements of Style" say that the only exceptions are for ANCIENT proper names in -es and -is, the possessive Jesus' and such forms as "for conscience' sake" or "for righteousness' sake". They also recommend that "Moses' Laws" be replaced by "The laws of Moses". I guess the antiquity of a name is up for grabs - but I still prefer the music of Ray Charles.

    Rob MacD

    And Nils' blog? Otherwise, entertaining post, except for the dull parts.
    However, be careful of pounding the rules too much into students's's heads. Because it can cause adverse affects in the opposite direction. I currently blame teachers of the 70s and 80s for drilling the 'I' 'me' rules into our brains, and the affect it had was that now, many people improperly use I for me. At least, that's the opinion of my brain and I. ("That's the opinion of my brain"- correct. "That's the opinion of I" - incorrect. Therefore, "brain and I" is incorrect.) (until its proven to be correct.)


    Nils is right. See for the discussion of S and the possessive apostrophe in the Elements of Sytle. Shrunk and White - aside from being the story of so many of our lives - serves as a very useful standard, though I am sure there are other contenders.


    Great post! Misused apostrophes are a curse to be tracked down and hounded out with both rigour and vigour. The use of an apostrophe to pluralise a singular is especially heinous.

    My other bugbear is personal pronouns: does no one understand the object of a preposition any more?

    Harrrumph! I blame it all on the disappearance of Latin from high school curricula. In the old days, case was dinned into you as part of what Churchill described so beautifully: why would there be a vocative for the word table? ("O table!"). Well, there just is because God ordained the idea of case when he created Adam.

    English descended from many languages, each inflected somewhat differently: Saxon, Danish, Latin and French have each contributed grammatical rules which we ignore at our peril. The plural of child is children, Lord help us, **not** child's! The plural of datum is data, yet idiots continually treat "data" as singular. Let's get Latin back *and* make grammatical parsing part of formal Eng Lit training.

    Let's have grammar police and big fines for "Joe invited my wife and I to a party". The government needs the revenue and we need integrity in language. Why cane smokers? Cane people who speak incorrectly.

    Nils Ling

    Thank you, Alan, for that affirmation - and for the link to Elements of Style. It will save my most recent dog-eared copy some wear and tear - and save my body wear and tear from jumping up to rummage around for it when I hit a knotty style problem (as opposed to naughty style problems, which I never seem to hit).

    And Christopher, while I'm with you all the way up until you advocate caning for grammar violations, I'm not so married to the rules that I see no room for flexibility - and here I'll one-up your quote of Winston Churchill with another of his gems, this about the rule forbidding ending a sentence in a preposition: an absurdity, he snorted "... up with which I will not put."

    Clarity in all things, by all means - but not at the expense of elegance and style.


    I may know of the link, Nils, but as M. Ogg will testify, I have learned nothing from it. More money in law that way.


    Writing a post critical of grammar is asking for trouble. Kudos for your bravery.

    But really, you wrote "Ok" when you should have written "Okay". That's like substituting "nite" for "night". Lazy b--tard.

    Nils Ling

    Without putting too fine a point on it (if that ship hasn't already sailed), one of the possible derivations of Ok is from "Oll Korrect". Stretching it out into "Okay" is rather like saying you got addicted to watching the Ojay trial on TV. As for the charge of "lazy b*stard" - Ummm ... Ok.


    Marvelous entry.

    One day, dear Nils, would you please write something about the general public's misuse/abuse of the word "myself"? I adore how people use this word when they want to sound especially intelligent; for example, "The four members of my golf party were Bertrand, Josh, Arturo, and myself."

    It's hideously cringeworthy.

    By the way, yesterday someone wrote to me about possessives for words ending with "s". He insisted that an apostrophe at the end of those words would suffice. And wouldn't you know it -- I referred him to the very link (Strunk) that Alan supplied in his comment!


    I didn't realize my post would be taken seriously and you would get all 'possible derivations' on me. But - if you're going to go that route than you should have written 'OK' not 'Ok'. Couldn't you have managed to press that shift key one more time (see reference to laziness in previous post)?

    Nils Ling

    Ah, Davey - there's the rub. How could I not take anything you say seriously? But I'll give you the point about the damn shift key. Friggin' nitpicker. Next thing, you'll be on my ass about apostrophe's.

    dave s

    Jesus Christ! If I ever hear that I'm invited to the same party as you people, I'm not going!

    Nils Ling

    Under the heading of "Things You Needn't Worry About"...

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