Thursday 29 January 2015

Grammar: Subjunctivitis

Pompous? Moi?
They looked into the subjunctive but reckoned it hadn’t brought anyone any happiness. (Ken Campbell on Pidgin English)

He came on very grand and subjunctival. (Jeremy Treglown on Roald Dahl)

I think Ive got subjunctivitis. Would that I didn’t! (‏@MooseAllain)

The subjunctive mood, always weak in English, has been dwindling away for centuries until it has almost vanished. According to traditional thought, statements about the conditional future such as “If I were a carpenter...” require the subjunctive “were”; but “was” is certainly much more common. Still, if you want to impress those in the know with your usage, use “were” when writing of something hypothetical, unlikely, or contrary to fact. (Washington State University)

Many complain that writing has become sloppier over the past 30 years. It’s much worse than that: language has become increasingly pompous. We used to say “The rules require that helmets should be worn” and now we say “The rules require that helmets be worn” – why?

People are using the subjunctive after even “if”. Why do they not eschew the subjunctive as a ghastly Americanism? Americans love it! And why is “dare” always in the subjunctive?

It’s important that this community flourish. (should flourish)

If someone needed a kidney and I were a match... (“If I were a match” sounds wrong too.)

If that weren't bad enough... (wasn’t)

My advice is that he take a trip to Stroud. (he should take? that he takes? How about: I’d advise him to take a trip to Stroud.)

He suggested that it be done (it should be done)

And as if that weren’t confusing enough… (wasn’t)

The obvious thing to do in this crisis is to capitalise on the situation's many diplomatic opportunities, rather than loudly demand Putin accede to Western demands (accedes - and find a synonym for "demand". And shouldn't it be "demand that Putin accedes"?)

Or to put it another way, would we rather our economy collapse inside or outside the collapse of Europe’s economy? (collapsed)

Better the species become extinct than that it should attack small children.
(Where to start with this dreadful sentence? It would be better for the species to disappear than for it to attack small children? It would be better if the species disappeared than it attacked small children? If the species attacks small children, let it go extinct?)

Can a noun save the day?

recommends that the submission be approved: recommends the submission’s approval

demanded that the King abdicate and the PM resign: demanded the king’s abdication and the PM’s resignation

If I were a swallow I’d whistle and sing... (But this is right, somehow.)

More pedantry here.

Tuesday 13 January 2015

Inspirational Quotes 68

Don't follow the cool crowd
People will take you at your own valuation, and suchlike tosh.

“Seeing me treated like a child, and put down like a fool, he... has a fling at a fellow that he thinks—and may well think too—hasn't a grain of spirit.... I can bear with you, but I cannot bear the contempt that your treating me in the way you do, brings upon me from others every day.” ... The more young Joe submitted, the more absolute old John became. (Barnaby Rudge, Charles Dickens)

Everyone has seen the bright, polite and slightly false smile pasted upon the lips of a host and hostess... Being sociable has always been something of a duty. (If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsley)

One ought to know how to come into a room, speak to people, and answer them, without being out of countenance, or without embarrassment’. (Lord Chesterfield)

Seemingly iron laws about behaviour eventually relax. (If Walls Could Talk, Lucy Worsley)

Sentiments which have nothing in them make the loudest ringing in the world, and are the most relished. (Dickens, Barnaby Rudge)

“I suppose I’m just out of the social habit. I haven’t read the new books, or seen the new plays.” (Change Here For Babylon, Nina Bawden)

In moments of utter disaster you don’t really think or feel anything exceptional or unexpected. Your actions are not so much your own as the automatic responses learned from stage and screen as being the inevitable expression of catastrophe... They had talked, she said, in cliches. Everything that had been said was a platitude from a third-class romantic novel. (Change Here For Babylon, Nina Bawden)

We do as our neighbors do. Though we don't speak to each other much when we are out... we take our holiday in common, and go back to our work in gangs. ( The Christmas Books of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh, William Makepeace Thackeray)

"I forbid you to grin in that way. I forbid you to look sulky. I forbid you to look happy, or to look up, or to keep your eyes down to the ground. I desire you will not be trapesing through the rooms. I order you not to sit as still as a stone." (The Christmas Books of Mr. M.A. Titmarsh, William Makepeace Thackeray)

Every girl, I don’t care who she may be, wants to be attractive and popular.... One of the most important things for any teen to realize is that she is always on display. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Good manners are one of the things employers notice right from the very start... Once you are hired, don’t relax your efforts. Be sure to report to work neatly dressed, with your make-up in low key. Remember that your looks will be judged by those around you. It is especially important to be scrupulously careful of your appearance if you are working at a job where you come in contact with a firm’s customers, for your appearance will reflect on the firm. Salesgirls, waitresses, receptionists all know this. Courtesy on the job is mighty significant. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Oh, I know what people say—that you should make yourself talk, go to parties, join in conversations and get out and go... Do it by degrees. Start small and work up... Never be hoodwinked into thinking that because a formula is a formula it need be without meaning... It is a good thing to keep the subject vague and general. You are not likely to strike a person who wants to hear about fish breeding or advanced algebra... It helps to join school clubs and community projects—the Y, the Red Cross, church clubs, etc. Or get a part-time job, or take up a hobby or a sport... but not collecting cheese labels. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Closing in your circle only makes you prey to day-dreaming in which you over-emotionalize your life. Keep busy and you won’t have time for self-pity... Plan something ahead to get the ball rolling... Don’t be conspicuous... Being a hostess is being yourself... Sincerity, honesty, and good taste are in. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide She also warns against being "loud" or "kittenish".)

College men are conservatives. They like their women to be pretty, but not movie queens; to be intelligent, but not Quiz Kids; peppy, but not persistent... In other words, a college man wants a well-rounded girl who knows what the score is. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide)

Jane, in trying not to look like others, does not carry the attempt too far... Now there are girls, unlike Jane, who are always trying to look like somebody else. One year it is this movie star, the next year another. You will do the best you can if you get up the gumption to develop your own style, preserve your own personality and make like an individual. Now, of course, you cannot assert yourself all over the place. There are circumstances and customs that limit you. You are subject to the habits and ideas of the world you live in. Your parents, your school, your friends, your total environment combined with the exact point of time in which you live, all affect you. These influences tend to integrate you into your community. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide Be an individual... just a bit.)

Some people adapt too easily. They are too readily shifted by every prevailing whim... The top crowd, and there is one in every school, usually sets the pace and the others follow in line... Where the situation becomes dangerous is when the top crowd decides that it is smart to drink or to drive cars at seventy miles an hour on a dark winding road... You can no more become a well-rounded personality if you become a slave to crowd customs than you can be attractive in your own right if you pattern yourself after a movie star. (Betty Cornell Teen-Age Popularity Guide I think she’s saying that you should follow the right models – not movie stars or the fast crowd.)

More here, and links to the rest.

Wednesday 7 January 2015

Hey guys! It's 2014! I mean, 2015!

And we still have to do the hard work ourselves if we want anything to change. Here are some excellent wishes for 2015. Happy New Year!

It's 2015 and my parents still batter their laptop keyboard as if they're using Jessica Fletcher's ropey old typewriter. Makes me wince. (@woodo79 )

It's 2015 and Rita Ora's cleavage is somehow considered offensive. (Hollie DeBaro ‏@hoalii)

It's 2015 and my mom still prints out MapQuest directions and uses them to get places.

It's 2015 and people are still dying because of the cold weather I really don't get it. (@TheMcBang )

It's 2015 and @945Kfm is listing movies in which "a man may cry". Dear KFM Neanderthals: men may cry whenever they want to. (@TomEatonSA)

It's 2015 and girls still have that "I don't text first" rule. (Dylhan ‏@TheRealDylhan )

It's 2015 so cheating, lying, not being loyal, etc. is played out. Time to grow up or just stay single. (@Futurehendrixx)

It's ridiculous that it's 2015 and it's still not socially acceptable to like one direction. (@larryskey)

In 2014, contending that a man still serving a rape sentence shouldn't be playing professional football really shouldn't be controversial. (@MickPCollins )

It is the year of our Lord two thousand and fourteen and many people are still afraid of people with different colored skin. (dead internet dad ‏@Fauxgyptian)

Child poverty at 49% in Tower Hamlets. In London. In 2014. (@HeardinLondon)

It’s 2014! India’s got a space programme! (Simon Reeve on hearing that untouchables are not allowed to step into the shadow of a higher caste Indian.)

 Its 2014, why do we accept 'magicians' are simply sleight of hand illusionists but indulge 'psychics' with their 'contacting the dead' BS. (‏@woodo79)

You don’t really expect to see statements like this in in the UK 2014: NUJ calls for end to threats and intimidation of journalists reporting on the referendum in Scotland. ‏(@How_Upsetting)

It’s 2014. (@everydaysexism quoting headline: Mother of three poised to lead the BBC.)

Can't believe its 2014 and I still have personal failings smh. (Mallory Ortberg ‏@mallelis SMH = shaking my head)

It is insane that California has a whooping cough epidemic in 2014. (

What do we want? Equity! When do we want it? Now please! (it IS the 21st century after all...) (

Read this by @SarahMillican75. It's ludicrous that she should be subjected to this sort of bullying in 2014.

"Have you had any maids or cooks that were satanical, made your life hell?" Libby Purves, Radio 4, 21st century. (@robertrotifer)

It was par for the course for coaches to motivate players by calling them "homo," "girl" and "sissy." But it's the year 2014, and I expect more from UI and its athletics director. (

Blue kinder eggs and pink Kinder eggs. Advertised on Channel 4 in 20 bloody 14? (@DAaronovitch)

I can’t believe we’re still talking about equal pay in 2014. (Elizabeth Warren)

Bbctbq Stop that man talking. It's 2014 we've found out why all this stuff was written and who it was written for. (‏@TheJanHarvey Prog full of fundamentalist End Timers Mar 30 2014.)

Overheard: 'She's a lesbian, but she's really lovely'. It's 2014. (‏@cluedont)

"We must make immigrants' lives unbearable" The Greek chief of police actually said this. In 2013. (Feargus O'Sullivan ‏@FeargusOSull)

More here, and links to the rest.

Buzz Words of December 2014

Give her your seat

21st century lack of manners is complained of.

Curmudgeonly middle-classes now grumbling about anybody spending any money at all on anything. (Dec 1)

Black Friday has “apparently” become “all the rage”. (It has been around for years in the States.)

Christmas mania: shopping, parties, turkey dinners

Someone suggests renaming it “Greedmas”. (The Puritans banned Christmas altogether and some people have clearly never recovered.)

People versus “people”; ordinary v “ordinary”; journalists and “journalists” - seems to be a thing now. Or is it just more so than usual? Feminists are OK, but "feminists" are not.

BBC “panic” over gales (yawn). Met Men predicted gales – we got gales.

Weatherbomb – what kind of a word is that?

Nice middle-class people are finding ethical alternatives to Amazon. And they like complaining that LinkedIn is useless (except that it means people can always find you. Remember the hell of trying to find out someone’s phone number? By the way, you can turn off notifications.)

They also like bragging that email is overwhelming and they just delete most of them. If that’s you, you need a secretary or virtual assistant to set up spam folders and work folders, and do a lot of unsubscribing. Then they could read your emails every day and filter out the ones you need to see. Go on, give someone a job!

A last outbreak of “fawning” as Wills and Kate visit America and publish photos of their little boy.

What have we become?
People using “selfie sticks” now!

Many people have their Christmas “ruined” because of the wrong kind of tinsel.

Gamergaters carry on with their game of “touched you last”.
Someone’s writing a book about Gamergate.

People getting annoyed about “weatherbombs” again.

Reasons for lying to children about Santa reach new heights of absurdity (“It will introduce children to the socio-psychology of a collective delusion”  Almost sillier than “believing in Santa is good practice for believing in Jesus”.) And now they’re telling kids that the ISS is Santa and crowing “What price Richard Dawkins now!” Homo sapiens, I despair.

The BBC reports heavy snow in Wales and Twitter panics about panic.

Entitled women: Women aren’t entitled to anything, and men are entitled to everything.

man of the people: what politicians want to be seen as. (But it seems to mean “knows celebrities”, not “lives on an estate and shops at Costcutter”.)

longform: long
shortform: short

Very young men bandy about the term “White Knight” in a blizzard of mansplaining why women can’t be trusted with feminism. Very young men still don’t really know what “rape” means. (It's a violent crime.)

Of course gamergaters are used to being rude and abusive to each other in the games’ chat feature. Trash talk. Twitter is not a videogame.

Some people still don’t know what “equality” means. How can it mean “taking more than your fair share”? Is “parity” easier to understand?

Many are outraged at others’ outrage at outrageous phenomena.

More here, and links to the rest.

Thursday 1 January 2015

Twisted Logic of 2014

Philosopher Jeremy Bentham came up with 365 reasons why we shouldn't change anything, or at least not NOW. (Read them here.) Never mind the facts, you can believe what you like, as long as you follow these easy ploys. If in doubt, split hairs, change the subject, or attack your opponent.

Other things are more important:

There really are so many other things to complain about, this bridge is NOT one of them. (@christianharrup)

Gay people victimise heterosexuals! 40% of domestic violence victims are men!

Keep changing your reason for doing something:
I will say, I've never said "Santa doesn't exist", because I think a thing exists if so many people believe in it. A diff kind of "exist". (Brienne of Snarth ‏@femme_esq)
Being told Santa exists "will introduce children to the socio-psychology of a collective delusion” (Will Wilkinson)
Others claim that “believing in Santa is good practice for believing in Jesus”.

Racists lost the argument over immigration, which is why they always have to present current immigration as somehow new and unprecedented. eg: "Yes, but this time it's the numbers"; "Yes, but this time they've got the wrong religion"; "Yes but these ones aren't rich enough". (Daniel Trilling)

Barefaced excuses:
“Conditions weren’t right in the past” – say progressive educationists every year, according to Harry Webb (Web of Substance).

Begging the question (Petitio principii):
We all vilify the threats made to feminists who make stupid critiques of gaming but they haven't come from #gamergate. (@LouiseMensch is assuming we all agree that the feminists' critiques of gaming were stupid.)

Have your cake and eat it:
"If I follow my heart, everything will work out." Following your heart is good, but it should never override intellect and intuition. Aim for balance. ( That is, don’t follow your heart.)
It's good to expose your vulnerability – to someone you trust, in a safe situation. (You mean, "Don't expose your vulnerability.")

It’s racist to have a black presenter talking about lack of diversity on Radio 4!

Women and oppressed groups should not be encouraged to see themselves as victims (as the contemporary left wants), because anyone seen as a victim has more power and it's not fair! Oppressors are the real victims of this rhetoric!

Version II: Women and oppressed groups should not be encouraged to see themselves as victims because this will disempower them. (And then we won’t have to do anything to help them.)
Middle class women aren’t oppressed, so they can’t say anything about women’s oppression.

No true Scotsman:
We want true liberation and true empowerment: the kind that doesn’t involve helping anybody, or attacking the strong who are attacking the weak.

X used to be like Y, so it still is:
“Marriage — and heterosexual marriage, certainly — is not a feminist act. Full stop.” ( Why? Because it’s “an institution in whose original incarnation women were just part of a property arrangement that also involved farm animals.”

Barefaced rationalisation:
If nearly every venerable architect in the host country slams your proposed design for a building as a “monumental mistake” and a “disgrace to future generations”, it’s probably a good idea to reconsider. Not so Zaha Hadid, who, after facing calls for her Tokyo Olympic stadium to be scrapped – following a petition of 32,000 signatures and an open letter of opposition from a host of eminent Japanese architects – simply accused the locals of jealousy. “I think it’s embarrassing for them,” she said. “I understand it’s their town, but they’re hypocrites. The fact that they lost [the competition] is their problem.”

Not all men:
‏The not all men argument (not all cops, etc) is the equivalent of committing a crime & being like "but some of my other actions were legal!" (@Fauxgyptian)

X is true because Y is worse:
Homeopathy is true because when it was dreamed up the only alternative was opium and blood-letting. And EMDR therapy is true because the only alternative is Freud or drugs. And you can't be offended by sexist art because in Saudi Arabia they are offended by the sight of a woman's ankle.

Ad hominem:
All our opponents are attention-seekers who are jumping on a bandwagon to further their own careers. Social Justice Warriors! Faux outrage! Professional er er...

True X is the opposite of X:
These girls… we have indeed liberated them. These girls have become Muslims. (Boko Haram) And people used to say that you found true freedom in the Catholic Church - freedom from doubt.

Narrow redefinition:
Those who say “there’s no NEWS in the newspapers these days!” have redefined news very narrowly. Sport, fashion, celebs etc etc etc are not news. And the headlines aren’t news because I’ve already heard them on the radio. And er, er...

Yes, but my point holds!
OK, so George Orwell never said “the working classes smell” – but he was disappointed by the working classes, look at the way he denigrated their reading matter in that piece about Boy’s Own stories. (He was disappointed that the mags fed the poor a fantasy of “aristocratic” schools with titled pupils and old grey stones.)

Inspirational Quotes 67

Nothing I did was right for her... I just gave up. I didn’t say anything. I just walked away and left her. (Below Stairs, Margaret Powell)

When I was about 25 I looked in the mirror and I said to myself, “Girl, a good plain cook you’ve decided to be, and a good plain cook you’re going to be all your life. It’s certainly sure you’re plain and it’s certainly sure no one is going to want to marry you.” That’s how I found it was too.’ ... One’s whole life was devoted to working to that in those days; getting a permanent boyfriend... You can stuff men up with any old yarn. They believe anything. You’ve only got to gaze into their eyes, and sound as though you mean what you say... The ratio of girls to young men was so high...[sex] seemed to be the only way to keep him... You had a hard job not to do it if you were not going to be stuck without a young man at all. (Below Stairs, Margaret Powell, writing about a servant's life in the 1920s)

I wish I had a dollar each time a scientifically incompetent ideologue claimed science is a religion. (

Responsibility was continuously placed on young people's shoulders rather than with the suspected abusers. (BBC on the Rotherham report)

Great is truth, but still greater, from a practical point of view, is silence about truth. Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored. By simply not mentioning certain subjects... totalitarian propagandists have influenced opinion much more effectively that they could have by the most eloquent denunciations. (Aldous Huxley)

How come the programmes designed to improve students’ self-esteem did not actually improve their self-esteem whereas direct instruction in maths and English did? (Web of Substance)

Scientists have discovered that relationships are key to a successful life, because family and partners provide support. (Dr Brooke Feeney and Prof Nancy Collins reveal their findings in Personality and Social Psychology Review)

The assumption statement – this manipulative tactic seeks to turn your behavior into what the beholder perceives it as, whether or not their interpretation is accurate. (Wikihow)

I think I'm against against-againstism. (Steven Poole)
I’m 40 and returning to life in a shared house – deal with it! (Guardian Aug 2014)

There's a lot of comic book fans that love stories about superheroes that fight for truth and justice, but harass "social justice warriors". Just thought about that, and like. What do you even say to that?
The epitome of what they hate? Superman, really. (@AmyDentata)

An excellent preparation for learning new things in the future is to acquire plenty of knowledge in the present. (Web of Substance)

As he that taketh away a garment in cold weather, and as vinegar upon nitre, so is he that singeth songs to an heavy heart. (Proverbs 25:20)

What believers fail to grasp is there is no relationship between faith or belief and something actually being true. (Noel McGivern @Good_Beard)

The business world has a terrible record of enthusiastically adopting head-slappingly banal ideas. Anyone remember Who Moved My Cheese? (Sathnam Sanghera Times Aug 2014)

Cool kids “surround themselves with good-looking friends” says BPS Digest (as well as trying to act older than they are, and committing minor crimes).  “As adults, cool kids also tended to blame their recent relationship break ups on their partner not thinking they were popular enough.”

La Peau de Chagrin firmly established Balzac as a writer of significance in France. His social circle widened, and he was sought eagerly by publishers for future projects. (Wikipedia)

As goes the playground, so goes the world. (Elizabeth Bastos)

More here, and links to the rest.