General use of the English Language

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General use of the English Language

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Review of "General use of the English Language"

published 02/09/2001 | seacow_99
Member since : 14/08/2001
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"Details, details"

I read jonwhite's opinion and I have to agree that details can get you in a lot of trouble. English is a tricky language. Just when I think I have all of the dialectical differences down, a new one pops up and confuses me. I'll try to stick to what we all have in common

One thing that all of the dialects have in common is order dependance. I remember standing at the reference desk in a library. Someone else was trying to find as many Beatles tapes as he could at one branch. Unfortunately, he had to travel to several different libraries to get what he wanted. One sentence he said stuck out in my mind. He said, "But they're all not here." It stuck out because the reference librarian had just said a few moments earlier that several of the tapes were in that branch. "All not here" translates, at least in my mind, as "all meeting the condition of being elsewhere." Any newspaper reporter is also aware of this if they've been told what's newsworthy. "Dog bites man" isn't a good headline, but "Man bites dog" is sure to get a few readers.

Another thing that gets me is the misuse of question marks. For instance, I wonder why so many people misuse the question mark. That's not a question. I am committing an action. I am wondering. (I wonder if that's strictly an American mistake.) Anyway, I'll move on.

I'll admit that spelling is difficult, mostly because we borrow from so many other languages. We started out as a purely germanic language. When the Normans invaded in 1066, we picked up a lot from French. In the 945 years since, we've "borrowed" from Norse, Russian, Swahilli, Latin, Greek, and just about every other language we've ever come in contact with. If I was to show you the origin of each word here, you'd no doubt see several dozen languages. Take a look at the name of this web site. It's spelled Ciao, but pronounced "chow". This is why we have "know" and "no."

One last stab I want to take is at hyphenation. I was at the National Zoo in Washington, DC, and I noticed a sign that said they were conducting an experiment with "free ranging monkeys." I thought that was great, but I had two questions: What was a ranging monkey and where did I go to get one? It should have read "free-ranging monkeys." The only time you can get away without using a hyphen is with a word einding in "ly" because it's assumed that it's modifying the word it precedes.

When I freely admit something, it's asumed that I admit it freely and there is no confusion about it. Know what I mean? What else can I do you for? (I hope that doesn't mean anything vulgar in Britain.)

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Comments on this review

  • dagr81411 published 02/09/2001
    Brilliant op! I enjoyed the great read, Thanx mate!! :-) DAGR81411
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Listed on Ciao since: 22/08/2001