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Ben Babcock

I read, write, code, and knit.

3 Articles Tagged with “grammar”

  1. Birmingham outlaws the apostrophe--seriously?!

    Furious doesn't even begin to describe it. Town councilors in Birmingham, England have decided to drop apostrophes from signage. This unilateral decision about signage grammar is nothing less than a declaration of war against the English language. I call for a retaliatory preemptive strike.((You may be wondering how that is possible--suffice it to say, considerable amounts of power and some time travel would be involved.))

    I'm appalled that people have the nerve to desecrate the English language in such a manner. It's true that English evolves; we change the spelling of words, and we create new words to express new concepts. Yet this change is artificial and arbitrary, chosen because it supposedly clears up confusion around what a street name implies or how to locate it on a GPS.

    Apostrophes seem to be a very controversial punctuation mark. Mind you, all punctuation marks have their little quirks. The comma is the overused youngest child; semicolons are the misunderstood middle child. As the oldest child, the colon tends to pick up the slack from its younger siblings. Periods are: final, definitive, and ubiquitous. Dashes and hyphens are like fraternal twins--similar-yet-different. None of these, however, attracts as much controversy as…

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  2. A vexing matter of great concern

    I have discovered something extremely disturbing today, which I cannot let go unremarked and uncorrected. I have discovered that I don't know the term for a group of groundhogs!

    Wikipedia has a very nice list of animal names, which includes the collective nouns for each animal. Groundhogs, and even marmots, are noticeably absent from that list. A quick Google search reveals that I'm not the only crazy person out there. Now what do I do if I come across a ___ of mafia groundhogs who attempt to "make me an offer I can't refuse" and barely escape with my life? How am I supposed to recount such a tale if I don't know the correct collective noun to use?!

    I mean, is it just because groundhogs are largely solitary? But they still live together in burrows. So do we call them "burrow groups"? Families? Or, if you look at the list of animal names, a group of squirrels is called a "dray" or "scurry." Since groundhogs are marmots, and marmots are a type of ground squirrel, do these terms apply to groundhogs? Can you apply hypothetical syllogisms to collective nouns? So far it's the best lead I've got.

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  3. My grammar sense is tingling

    GM signYesterday was a bad grammar day. I kept on noticing so many little grammar mistakes everywhere I went, and it really annoyed me. By far, however, the largest one was pointed out to me by my coworker--this sign on the front of our GM dealership.

    Take a moment to look at it. "Last year GM more than doubled the sales of it's nearest competitor." Firstly, there's the glaringly obvious mistake: "it's" means it is. In context of the sentence, I believe they meant to use "its". This is a common mistake for reasons that escape me--how hard is it to memorize when to use its and when to use it's? :wacko:

    Now read the message again, slowly. What do you think it is saying? GM has more than doubled the sales of its competitor? To me, that sounds like GM has more than doubled its competitor's sales, which is to say, its competitor's sales have been doubled because of GM. So now GM is helping its competition? :ermm: Right.

    So I decided that the only thing to do was to ask about it. Today my friend Alex and I went to the GM dealership and asked about the sign.…

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