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Carol the Dabbler

The Language (and travel) Thread

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9 hours ago, T.o.b.y said:

"Andreas" is a man's name, the male version of "Andrea".

I understand that.  But then there's an apostrophe after it -- so apparently even in German, apostrophes are rightfully used, in certain situations, to indicate possession.  Or am I misinterpreting something there?

The "rules" for English state that if a plural ends in "s" (which of course most do), then its possessive is formed by simply adding an apostrophe on the end.  And if a *single* noun happens to end in an "s" sound, then its possessive is also formed by simply adding an apostrophe on the end (which I think is silly, by the way).  Caya's second line reminds me of that, so I'm wondering what German-language rule it represents.

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No, you're correct. It's just that they're proliferating lately and turning up in places where, while appropriate in English, they aren't meant to be in German.

Boring Grammar Time: the rule, for names, is to simply add an "s" to the word when denoting a possessive, like, Martinas Computer, with no apostrophe in sight. If the word already ends in s (or something sounding close enough, like z), you don't add a second one (like you'd do in English with names, as in James's car). Instead, you put a lone apostrophe to make it a possessive, like, Klaus' Auto. The combination of apostrophe and s is not something you use when doing things strictly according to grammar. However, (you knew that something like that was coming, right? :lol: ) since it's become increasingly common due to English exerting its influence on the language, after the last reform it's now officially allowed in one case, namely when you want to make clear that the possessive in question is the female form and a male form with s exists. So, yes, Andrea's Kiosk is now technically correct despite the joke above, but only if you want to make clear that the place belongs to Andrea and not Andreas. It wouldn't work with, say, Martina, since the male form is Martin.

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11 hours ago, Caya said:

If the word already ends in s (or something sounding close enough, like z), you don't add a second one (like you'd do in English with names, as in James's car). Instead, you put a lone apostrophe to make it a possessive, like, Klaus' Auto.

Actually, the "rule" in English (for nouns where the singular form ends in s or z) is exactly the same as in German -- the possessive form of James is James' with an apostrophe but no added s.  However I think most people write it as James's, simply because that's how they pronounce it ("James-uz").  I suppose the "rule" is a well-meaning attempt to avoid piling up too many s-sounds in a row.

Or maybe it came from the similar "rule" for plural possessives, like "the girls' bedroom" (i.e., a bedroom shared by two or more girls).  But that one actually makes sense, because people don't pronounce the plural possessive of girl as "girls-uz," they say it just like the plural "girls."

If anyone's wondering why I put the word "rules" in quotes when talking about the English language, it's because English usage is largely a matter of consensus, with a good bit of regional variation as well as variation between individual users.  There are of course English grammar books, which in mostly just describe how English is generally used (though quite frankly they've also made up some "rules" that no one except my late Aunt Bernice has ever followed).  And there are stylebooks put out by academic presses, newspapers, and such (which frequently differ from one another).  However there is no actual authoritative body (such as I understand exist for some languages such as German and French).

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On 10/5/2019 at 11:42 AM, Carol the Dabbler said:

And if a *single* noun happens to end in an "s" sound, then its possessive is also formed by simply adding an apostrophe on the end (which I think is silly, by the way).

I'm curious, how do you think it should be done?

"The address' first number was three." Hmmm, I see what you mean, that doesn't look right. "The address's first number was three." Better, you sure that's not right?

Not that I would write it that way. I'd say: The first number in the address was three." :smile:  Isn't English fun?

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1 hour ago, Arcadia said:

"The address' first number was three." Hmmm, I see what you mean, that doesn't look right. "The address's first number was three." Better, you sure that's not right?

Oh, I think it's right.  But then I think written English should reflect how English is actually spoken, and don't much care about how it "should" be written (or spoken, for that matter).

But your first example is what we were taught was correct (if I had any idea which box my old grammar books were in, I'd give you some quotes).  Of course that was a number of years ago, so the grammar police may have given up on that particular "rule" by now.  Lemme check.  Oh, good -- current usage seems to be favoring the apostrophe-s form, with the just-apostrophe form listed as an alternative.  I'd say go by how you'd pronounce it.  If there's a really long word with a lot of s's and/or z's, including one on the end, you might find yourself avoiding an extra one.

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It's odd, perhaps … but I'm more inclined to favor the "rules" when it comes to spelling and grammar. At least, in formal communication. I guess I don't much care the rest of the time.

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1 hour ago, Arcadia said:

I'm more inclined to favor the "rules" when it comes to spelling and grammar. At least, in formal communication.

I agree regarding formal communication, where one is more likely to be taken seriously if one communicates using the "correct" forms.  (I could still not bring myself to say "It is he," but neither would I say "It's him" in a formal setting -- I'd figure out some other way of saying it.)

The most important thing, however, is to express one's ideas clearly.

 

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Ooooo, a spelling and grammar discussion!  I’ll have to read it all later.

Sometimes the clearest way isn’t the “correct” way (e.g. our discussion on the order of adjectives a few months back), and when people ask grammar questions, I’m not always sure which answer to give them.  Some people are very strict about following the rules, while others would rather just know how most people would write it, even if it isn’t technically correct.  And informal writing, such as is fit for this forum, is another animal altogether.  In formats like this, I often write the way I think I would sound when speaking, which is why I don’t mind that I broke a grammar rule by starting the previous sentence with “and”.  Even in formal writing, particularly in persuasive essays, rules can be broken for the sake of emphasis.  Starting a sentence with “and” might make a point sound stronger.

Grammar rules have changed a lot since I was taught them, too.  One of the changes that’s annoying me lately is the shift from using “were” to “was” in the subjunctive case.  For instance, it’s common now for people to say “If I was you,” instead of “If I were you,”.  It hurts my ears and my eyes.  :P  And no one will stop me from putting two spaces after a period!

Of course, in my early school years, I was taught a very old style of grammar which included rules from the 1800’s, and British spellings in some cases.  I still spell ‘cancelled’, ‘travelled’, and ‘counsellor’ with two L’s instead of one.  I still put my punctuation outside of quotation marks that aren’t part of a dialogue.  It took me years to stop spelling “thank you” with a hyphen.  Many words used to be hyphenated that now are not, such as ‘to-night’, ‘to-day’, ‘good-night’, ‘no-one’, etc.  Is hyphenating “wrong” now because it’s old?  I suppose, but it used to be “right”, and I don’t like to fix things that weren’t broken to begin with just because “they” (who, exactly?) decided I should.

 

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8 hours ago, Artemis said:

In formats like this, I often write the way I think I would sound when speaking....

I generally do that when writing emails and such also.  I think it's easier for people to understand.

Some people seem to think that the "rules" for written English bear no resemblance to how the language is spoken (and depending on who their teacher was, they may have a point).  These people are perfectly intelligible when talking, but put a pencil in their hand and they spout gibberish.  They'd be a lot better off just writing the way they talk.  Even if their particular dialect is judged "substandard" by the grammar police, at least other people could understand what they write.

9 hours ago, Artemis said:

I broke a grammar rule by starting the previous sentence with “and”.

I think that's more of a stylistic matter, rather than actual grammar.

9 hours ago, Artemis said:

Grammar rules have changed a lot since I was taught them, too.  One of the changes that’s annoying me lately is the shift from using “were” to “was” in the subjunctive case.  For instance, it’s common now for people to say “If I was you,” instead of “If I were you,”.

Seriously?  That would probably sound OK in certain dialects, but in standard American English it sounds -- odd.

9 hours ago, Artemis said:

... no one will stop me from putting two spaces after a period!

Sister!   :huggie:   I learned that in typing class, I think, rather than grammar class.

9 hours ago, Artemis said:

I was taught a very old style of grammar which included rules from the 1800’s, and British spellings in some cases.  I still spell ‘cancelled’, ‘travelled’, and ‘counsellor’ with two L’s instead of one.

Those spellings look better to me as well.  Shouldn't "canceled" be pronounced "can-sealed"?  But I generally wimp out and use single Ls just to make the spell checker happy.

I don't use any of your other examples, though.  I think you're right, they're basically British (and possibly old-fashioned British at that).   I think some Americans have an inferiority complex when it comes to certain spellings, which may explain why your teachers taught certain British spellings and usages.  What about color/colour and such -- which spelling do you use?

9 hours ago, Artemis said:

Many words used to be hyphenated that now are not, such as ‘to-night’, ‘to-day’, ‘good-night’, etc.  Is hyphenating “wrong” now because it’s old?  I suppose, but it used to be “right”, and I don’t like to fix things that weren’t broken to begin with just because “they” (who, exactly?) decided I should.

I think it's mostly that usage has changed over the years.  Maybe people got lazy and started omitting the hyphens, or perhaps it was one part of Noah Webster's simplified-English campaign that stuck.  Webster also advocated a number of spelling simplifications, some of which (e.g., plough -> plow) appealed to people (those who could read and write), and some of which (e.g., though -> tho) did not (or are now used only in headlines and ads).

I don't think those old usages are now wrong, exactly, but the current usages are more likely to be understood, which is, after all, the purpose of writing.  Language is all about change, which is why we no longer speak Anglo-Saxon.

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1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

I generally do that when writing emails and such also.  I think it's easier for people to understand.

Ditto, generally.

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

I think that's more of a stylistic matter, rather than actual grammar.

Not according to my English teachers!  I was taught that it is grammatically incorrect to begin a sentence with a conjunction, especially "and" or "but"; in the same vein that sentence fragments, run-on sentences, and ending a sentence with a preposition are grammatically incorrect (but still often done).  They were adamant.

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

Seriously?  That would probably sound OK in certain dialects, but in standard American English it sounds -- odd.

Yep, I hear it all the time, and get funny looks when I use "were".  It's become so normal that it's considered a "correct" alternative now.

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

Sister!   :huggie:   I learned that in typing class, I think, rather than grammar class.

I don't think I ever had a typing class.  I was taught to apply the two-space rule to both typing and writing by hand, but I rarely had occasion to type until I was older.

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

Shouldn't "canceled" be pronounced "can-sealed"?

Lol, that's what I always think of "labeled".

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

But I generally wimp out and use single Ls just to make the spell checker happy.

I pretty much ignore my spell checker.  Sometimes it will correct me automatically, and in those cases I just leave it.  It annoys me though, stop deleting my L's!

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

What about color/colour and such -- which spelling do you use?

Color, no 'u'.  That's one case where my teachers were adamant that we never use British spelling.  No 'ou's.  I don't know why they taught me certain rules but not others.  It probably varied by teacher, and all my teachers' different styles just got mixed together in my brain.

1 hour ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

Webster also advocated a number of spelling simplifications, some of which (e.g., plough -> plow) appealed to people (those who could read and write), and some of which (e.g., though -> tho) did not (or are now used only in headlines and ads).

Yep, I was taught Webster's too.

It's not that I'm bothered by language changing on principle.  What bothers me is being told to do something one way for 20 years, because that is the "correct" way, and then suddenly it's "No, that's wrong, we do it this way now."  And I'm expected to change a decades-long habit for reasons I don't understand and which seem extremely silly to me.  Is it really so important that I leave only one space after a period instead of two?  I don't think so, and you can pry that extra space from my cold lifeless fingers.

 

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7 hours ago, Artemis said:

I was taught that it is grammatically incorrect to begin a sentence with a conjunction,

I vaguely recall seeing something about that online recently.  I think the grammar police are beginning to relent.  Maybe they finally noticed that it can sometimes be useful.

7 hours ago, Artemis said:

I hear it all the time, and get funny looks when I use "were".  It's become so normal that it's considered a "correct" alternative now.

I must admit that even though I do routinely say "If I were you," I'm pretty likely to use the plain verb in many other traditionally-subjunctive situations.  And I must admit that saying "were" doesn't add any information.  Have you seen "If I was you" (*cringe*) listed as an acceptable alternative in any "authoritative" sources?

7 hours ago, Artemis said:

What bothers me is being told to do something one way for 20 years, because that is the "correct" way, and then suddenly it's "No, that's wrong, we do it this way now."  And I'm expected to change a decades-long habit for reasons I don't understand and which seem extremely silly to me.

That's life, though, isn't it?  Not just grammar.

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Just did a Google search for "If I was" and "If I were," and it seems that the latter is still considered to be the correct phrasing, although a few sources somewhat grudgingly allow the former as an acceptable alternative.  So I don't think you'll be "required" to say "If I was" in the foreseeable future -- unless you count people looking at you funny.

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5 minutes ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

And I must admit that saying "were" doesn't add any information.

No, but I don’t know if that should be the only criterion.  Saying “I saw it” instead of “I seen it” doesn’t add any information either, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the latter should be accepted into general use.

12 minutes ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

Have you seen "If I was you" (*cringe*) listed as an acceptable alternative in any "authoritative" sources?

Yes, somewhere, though I can’t recall which one(s) at the moment.  I can look around later to see if I can find it again.

14 minutes ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

That's life, though, isn't it?  Not just grammar.

Of course, but that doesn’t assuage my urge to complain about things I find stupid and pointless.  :P

 

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57 minutes ago, Carol the Dabbler said:

So I don't think you'll be "required" to say "If I was" in the foreseeable future

I didn’t think it would become a requirement, just that it is as or more common than the usage of “were” in both writing and the vernacular.  A bit like “snuck” vs. “sneaked”.  Only “sneaked” is technically correct in the formal sense, but either can be used, and “snuck” is used more.

Quote

-- unless you count people looking at you funny.

Not just looks!  I’ve been corrected by people who tell me that “were” is grammatically incorrect and sounds “weird” and “wrong”.

 

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I was taking a quick look to see if I could find the “was/were” source(s) and came across this interesting tidbit.  I didn’t even think about translation issues that could result from grammar changes.  🤔

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In English, the subjunctive mood is dying because English usage is global, democratic, and increasingly banal. We’ve rolled over the present subjunctive with the simple past indicative: I wish I was you. It conveys the same information, but makes more difficult the acquisition of other European languages by English native speakers (and sounds bloody awful to many).

German and other European languages regard the subjunctive as a priceless element of their linguistic heritage, and so retain the full measure of subjunctive usage: Ich wünschte, ich wäre reich.

[Link]

...
 

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5 hours ago, Artemis said:

Saying “I saw it” instead of “I seen it” doesn’t add any information either, but that doesn’t necessarily mean the latter should be accepted into general use.

I don't think anyone is (so far) claiming "I seen it" is / should be standard English, but it's clearly the standard form in certain dialects.  Seems like only ethnic dialects get any respect, though, so the white-bread dialects are collectively termed "substandard."  :P

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