April 16, 2007

Pedantic Pundigrions

I have reams of interesting posts I want to write this week but, alas!, no time to write any of them. Instead, today, I thought I'd draw attention to this rather appalling how-to-be-a-better-writer type article called "20 more writing mistakes that make you look stupid", which is, ironically, rather full of stupid writing mistakes itself.

12. I/Me: We had several different takes on this, with one correspondent nailing it thus: "The correct choice can be seen when you finish the truncated sentence: He's bigger than I am. 'He's bigger than me am' actually sounds ridiculous and obviates the mistake."
WHAT?! Okay, apart from the fact that 'obviate' does not mean "to make obvious", this is a complete crock of bullhonky.

In the sentence "He's bigger than me" you are comparing 'him' to an object ('me') in the same way that you might say, "He's bigger than a mouse" – so 'me' is the correct pronoun to use.

In the sentence "He's bigger than I am" you are introducing a second verb that, natch, requires a second subject ('I'). You can't then drop the verb and have the sentence remain the same. I mean, Christ, this is such a basic subject/object distinction, I can't believe that someone claiming to be able to improve your writing could get it wrong.

(Ex-editor, care to add anything and/or snipe at my own mistakes so far?)

7. Do/Have: David B Wildgoose nails it thus: "There used to be a Head & Shoulders advert in which 'I didn't know you had dandruff' is said to a girl — and she replies 'I don't'. Aaaargh! You don't 'do' dandruff, you HAVE it. The correct reply is 'I haven't'". 'Nuff said.
Look, [REDACTED], though it is true that one HAS dandruff, it is also quite possible to say that one DOES HAVE dandruff, and equally that one DOES NOT (have dandruff). Yeesh!

David B Wildgoose also [REDACTED] [explains] this one [REDACTED]:
And one more, pedants who think that "data are" is correct. They're wrong. "Data" is a "mass noun" like, for example, chicken. One chicken, two chickens, some chicken. One datum, two data, some data.
Do I even need to explain this one? It's actually quite hilarious how wrong these self-appointed grammarians are, and how much more wrong they make themselves sound when they try to explain things:
"Data" is a collective noun that should be used in the singular. We don't say "the weather are good today", or "the traffic are bad today", we use the singular tense, "the weather IS good today" and "the traffic IS bad today".

As a final proof of the matter, let us consider the use of the word "information" as an alternative word for "data". I've yet to hear anyone say "the information we have ARE good". It not only sounds wrong, it is wrong. The correct form is, "the information we have IS good".

The use of "Data are" also sounds wrong. In English it is a collective noun and is used in the singular sense. Oh, by the way, did anyone notice the use of "English" as the collective noun using the singular tense, or should I have said, "In English it ARE a collective noun."
[Andrew's head explodes]

This is why I feel it is my duty to become an English teacher.


Anonymous said...

I really hope you've failed in your objective because I'd hate you to be involved with teaching my children English.


Andrew said...

My response.

Anonymous said...

You can teach my children. But please don't expect everyone to sign in with their real names. It takes too long and sometimes might not be wise.

Anonymous said...

Or should that be "sign in with their real name"?

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