Sunday, August 09, 2020

Giving A Shit. Or Not. (Of Word Choices, Word Order, And Grammar.)

Grammar, word choice, and punctuation are a matter of courtesy. Poets and Yoda may turn sentences around, but the meaning is clear. Rules are still followed.  If fictional, green, space aliens can make sense, shouldn't the rest of us?

Perhaps the courtesy bit is being taken too far. Clarity of meaning might be more important... unless the intention is deliberately to mislead.

How about this: "...beleaguered Name-Your-State governor XYZ".  Does that headline tell you if it was the State or the Governor that is beleaguered? No. Does it matter? Yes. It would be easy to change the word order, and much more courteous of the journalist and his/her/their editor.

I have a German friend who says "I give a shit for U," when he means that his emotional investment in "U" is the lowest possible.  There is nothing lower than a bowel movement, right?
Or is being given  "nothing at all, not even a bowel movement" even less respect?

An English friend would say "I don't give a shit for 'U'" meaning that even the most disrespectful action is more attention and time than he is willing to accord to  'U',  whomsoever or whatever 'U' stands for.

Kenneth Beare's article for on the differences between American and British English as regards grammar, spelling, and word choice is succinct and interesting, especially regarding the simple past and present perfect.

Leo McKinstry for the British Daily Mail penned a jolly good piece about Political Correctness and word choice. Apparently, the populace of Great Britain is assumed --by the elites-- to have the vocabulary and understanding of a five-year old, and therefore, because one five-year-old assumed that the reflective devices embedded in roads to mark the lanes at night are feline body parts, "cats' eyes" must now be called "road studs".

How long will it be before itinerant gigolos decide that "road studs" is an offensive term?

How much will language be impoverished, not to mention the resources for humorists, wits, and stand up comedians, if vocabulary is whittled away? Beyond "man holes" and "man power", there is some discussion on the authors' forms about whether or not "master" should be banned as a word. Alas for master sergeants, master plumbers, master suites, mastery of a subject, masters degrees and even homophones (words sounding like "master-", such as that immensely popular puerile joke about Master Bates). 

Is etymology not taught in English classes?

How can grammar be racist?  Or sexist? Every country or state that has a national language, has rules of grammar. Without grammar, one cannot be understood. Therefore, grammar and the importance of choosing "le mot juste" should be taught more, not less. Some would claim that this was the actual point being made by the Rutgers academic... although it was widely reported as "Teaching Grammar is Racist!"

There is an advertisement by a pharma business that lays down the law: I may not urinate without consulting my physician. Really?

Try really listening to advertisements. Why is it, in America, that the FCC allows them to bombard all of us, daily and even hourly, with execrable grammar and muddled messages? It is our fault if we don't understand what they mean.

According to the Lanham Act, as long as a claim is not "literally false", but rather, remains ambiguous, the advertiser is reasonably safe. 

The legal bloggers of Davis Wright Tremaine LLP give insights into the sorts of marketing trickery that goes on, and what is allowed versus what crosses the line.

Moreover, if you ever listened to advertisements promoting health supplements, medicines, beauty or medical devices and equipment, you might have wondered whether they damn themselves with faint praise by claiming to be FDA "cleared", when other offerings announce that they are FDA "registered" or FDA "approved".  High risk devices are required to be "approved".  Problems for the consumer may arise when medical devices are purchased from foreigners. Foreign devices do not have to be FDA registered, even if they are high risk.

Aspen Laser explains:

Finally, if you care about copyright, and if a State, or state entity --such as a school or library or prison or tourism board or university etc-- has ripped off your copyrighted work, the Copyright Office wants to hear from you.

All the best,

Rowena Cherry 

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