Announcement

Collapse

Welcome to Moorcock's Miscellany

Dear reader,

Many people have given their valuable time to create a website for the pleasure of posing questions to Michael Moorcock, meeting people from around the world, and mining the site for information. Please follow one of the links above to learn more about the site.

Thank you,
Reinart der Fuchs
See more
See less

Grammatics: Guatemalan Roast and an M&M Cookie

Collapse
X
 
  • Filter
  • Time
  • Show
Clear All
new posts

  • Grammatics: Guatemalan Roast and an M&M Cookie

    I thought this would be the sort of thing that everyone here might enjoy talking about. I am aware that in this forum I and others are grammatically and punctuationally challenged and as we know, we don't have an editor between ourselves and the send button, and we have the natural typographical errors to contend with. When I bring up the following subject, I do so for the conversation, not to belittle others, nor do I think myself better than anyone else.

    This morning at Starbucks (a place I seldom visit) I wanted an egg nog latte but had to settle for a pumpkin spice latte. I discovered that they do have a short cup (I was told they start at tall - a nice Jedi Mindtrick that has been with me for the last 5 years). I noticed on a chalk board near the menu in multi-colored fancy lettering "Guatemalan Roast and an M&M Cookie". I almost blurted out the mistake and thought about it for a while and decided not to point out the error.

    The reason I mention it is that I think this is a fairly drastic error to make, especially when the chalk artist would be thinking about the subject for longer than it takes to send an email. You're looking at the board for quite some time. Aren't you?

    What would you have done?
    The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

  • #2
    No biggie, as far as I'm concerned

    Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
    "Guatemalan Roast and an M&M Cookie"
    I must assume you are referring to the use of the word "an" (instead of "a") in front of a word beginning with a consonant (if M&M can be considered a word). I would not begrudge a person this "error." Here's why:

    The term "M&M," when spoken, begins with the flat "e" sound. Because of this, if you were to speak the words, it would sound odd saying, "Guatemalan Roast and a M&M Cookie." I suspect "an" was used because most people (including the sign-writer) hear the words in their head as they read them, and so the natural inclination would be to use "an".

    Technically, I suppose it is incorrect. But if one were to point out that error, one would be in dire need of some serious unwinding and might want to refrain from imbibing caffeine. I mean, I'm an English major who has no shortage of grammatical pet peeves*, and I would find this correction to be a bit over the top.

    *Don't even get me started on most peoples' inability to distinguish between "less" and "fewer".
    "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
    --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

    Comment


    • #3
      I'm surprised by the number people who don't know the difference between infer and imply.

      I hasten to add that they do share a definition.
      The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

      Comment


      • #4
        Originally posted by Berry Sizemore
        I'm surprised by the number people who don't know the difference between infer and imply.

        I hasten to add that they do share a definition.
        Meh. The use of "infer" to mean "imply" is archaic and anyone using it that way deserves to be perpetually misunderstood.

        What about "blatant" and "flagrant"? Almost no one knows that these words have different meanings.
        "Wounds are all I'm made of. Did I hear you say that this is victory?"
        --Michael Moorcock, Veteran of the Psychic Wars

        Comment


        • #5
          The use of "an" there doesn't upset me at all for exact reasons PWV pointed out. It is no different than the British (ok, everyone except Americans) use of "an" before words like "historical," which in most dialects has a silent "h" and so is said with an initial vowel instead of that initial fricative. In the US this seems really off when you read it since we prounouce the "h." That is why for us it is, "a historical."

          PWV is the English major, so I'm not certain, but I wouldn't be at all suprised to learn that "an M&M..." is actually correct given it's context. I suppose it all boils down to which type of language you wish to stress: the writen word, or the spoken word.
          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
          --Thomas a Kempis

          Comment


          • #6
            It's not an error. I have been over this issue many times, from the manual of style, to speaking with copy editors for books and journals, as well as while working with professional documentation people.

            The general rule is that if the proper name is an acronym, and the first letter of the acronym is pronounced as a LETTER (rather than transformed into what it stands for), then if the sound of the LETTER has a leading vowel, one uses "an" before it, otherwise not.

            Thus, we get "an M," "an S," "a T."

            So I'm glad you didn't make an issue of it.

            As for grammatical pet peeves, everyone has them I suspect. Split infinitives. They make me crazy.

            I never correct the grammar or spelling of signs, no matter how seriously flawed.

            LSN

            Comment


            • #7
              Apostrophe's. Nightmare. :P

              Comment


              • #8
                I would have pointed out the error of putting M&Ms on a cookie in the first place... surely they're too solid for such a purpose? Cookies should be soft and chewy (and fresh from the over.... yum), or crisp... but scattered with armour plated shells? Never!

                (I have had exactly one Starbucks in my life, at an airport in Dallas. The cinnamon scone was lovely, but in general I find the range of options too confusing and scary in America. I almost had a meltdown when I tried to order a Subway. "What sort of bread would you like?" Eeep! 8O )

                But punctuation and grammar are a mystery to me most of the time. I have a relatively high level of education, but the "an" before a "H" word thing has always confused me. Annoyingly the reference book I use will explain the "correct" form to use, but also suggest the form that is used most often... leaving you with something of a dilemna. Do you smugly opt for the "correct" form, and risk being corrected by popular opinion, or just go with the flow?

                Or just become a hermit and do away with communication altogether?

                Edit: Apparently I should have written "M&M's". Not a typo, I'm just dumb.
                "That which does not kill us, makes us stranger." - Trevor Goodchild

                Comment


                • #9
                  Originally posted by EverKing
                  I suppose it all boils down to which type of language you wish to stress: the writen word, or the spoken word.
                  It all boils down to your ability to communicate what you mean. If you can communicate your intent to your audience despite some of your word usage being technically incorrect then at the end of the day that's all that matters. (The key phase here being 'your audience' - what do your audience understand by your words?)

                  If 'infer' and 'imply'* have become interchangeable in the minds of most people (ie we're talking about the majority understanding) then such is the nature of a language that is constantly evolving. Words acquire new 'meanings' all the time in English.

                  When people talk of having, say, a 'chronic' cough they as often as not mean they've a nasty cough (incorrect) as they do a cough they've had a long time (correct). Yet that shouldn't change our (hopefully sympathetic) response to their condition. On the other hand, when their audience is a medical professional (ie they've gone to the doctor's seeking aid) the following exchange is likely:

                  Patient: Oh doctor *cough* I've got this cough *cough* something chronic *cough*.
                  Doctor: Really? How long have you had it?
                  Patient: *cough* Since last Tuesday *cough*.

                  because it's important that the doctor is able to make a correct diagnosis if an effective treatment is going to be prescribed.

                  But when someone tells us they're gay, do we think how nice it is that they're happy? Or do we understand that they're Coming Out to us?

                  Of course, sometimes this laxity leads to confusion, which is why I stress the important element in communicating is the audience. If you and I have two different understandings of a particular word then we will have failed to communicate. I think it's appropriate to inform people when they use a word incorrectly - for example, the correct spelling is 'written', not 'writen', but the meaning is still clear nonetheless.

                  Perhaps in 200 years the 'double t' will have become obsolete and the accepted spelling will be 'writen'. Compare how Chaucer wrote in the 14th century with how Shakepeare (who could never spell his name consistantly anyway) wrote in the 16th.

                  I think there are some apposite issues (considering the author whose website we're frequenting) about the 'orderliness' of a dead language like Latin and the 'chaotic-ness' of a living language like English.



                  *For the record, my understanding is that 'infer' is what other people think when you say something, 'imply' is what you do when you speak. But perhaps I'm wrong. Who knows?
                  _"For an eternity Allard was alone in an icy limbo where all the colours were bright and sharp and comfortless.
                  _For another eternity Allard swam through seas without end, all green and cool and deep, where distorted creatures drifted, sometimes attacking him.
                  _And then, at last, he had reached the real world – the world he had created, where he was God and could create or destroy whatever he wished.
                  _He was supremely powerful. He told planets to destroy themselves, and they did. He created suns. Beautiful women flocked to be his. Of all men, he was the mightiest. Of all gods, he was the greatest."

                  Comment


                  • #10
                    It is vital, however, to develop as broad and complex a vocabulary and convoluted a grammatical matrix as possible, preferably in more than two languages, one of which should be Latin or Greek. This both enables one to articulate one's most involved ideas* and also to confuse and dominate people around you.

                    Physical violence is acceptable when faced with unaesthetic (if not actually incorrect) usage and construction.



                    * I'm inclined to think that there is a 'positive feedback' effect of a complex vocabulary; the more extensive and subtle the words with which one communicates or self-represents one's concepts, the more nuances those concepts can contain, hence the more 'advanced' the ideas become...

                    Comment


                    • #11
                      Fuckin' A.

                      Comment


                      • #12
                        I'd say that Smarties are a more suitable cookie-addition than M&M's, although the inclusion of foci or involucra of more resilient compound foodstuffs within the essentially homogeneous matrix or parenchyma of the cookie dough can provide a pleasant juxtaposition of both flavours and textures. I'd say both the above mooted confections, Maltesers and Minstels could all be utilised with commercial success. Yes.

                        Comment


                        • #13
                          Originally posted by I
                          ...the writen word...
                          Oops! That was a legitimate typo. Sorry. 8O
                          "In omnibus requiem quaesivi, et nusquam inveni nisi in angulo cum libro"
                          --Thomas a Kempis

                          Comment


                          • #14
                            A conversation ocurring in tandem:
                            http://painintheenglish.com/post.asp?id=118

                            Peanut butter cookie with dried cranberries.
                            The cat spread its wings and flew high into the air, hovering to keep pace with them as they moved cautiously toward the city. Then, as they climbed over the rubble of what had once been a gateway and began to make their way through piles of weed-grown masonry, the cat flew to the squat building with the yellow dome upon its roof. It flew twice around the dome and then came back to settle on Jhary's shoulder. - The King of the Swords

                            Comment


                            • #15
                              Originally posted by mordenkainen
                              Fuckin' A.
                              Or should this be Fuckin' An?

                              Comment

                              Working...
                              X