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clearly and simply written but remarkably difficult to understand
October 14, 2012 6:07 AM   Subscribe

In his Lingua Franca column, Allan Metcalf challenged his readers to come up with plausible but fake new grammar rules. And the winner is...
“Because of” should not be used to modify a sentence in the future tense, since it is a logical fallacy to impute a cause to something that is not (yet) true. Rather, a construction such as “due to” or “owing to” should be used, or the sentence should be rewritten to be more clear.
I found this on Language Log. Allan Metcalf, previously on metafilter. Bonus: here's Metcalf's language limerick contest and results.
posted by moonmilk (50 comments total) 17 users marked this as a favorite

 
...it is a logical fallacy to impute a cause to something that is not (yet) true...

Piffle. This is exactly how "proof by contradiction" works. If X were true, then Y would be true, but Y cannot be true, therefore X isn't. The Y problem causes the X falseness.
posted by DU at 6:19 AM on October 14, 2012


But what if we're using the future perfect? Is it still okay? "By Friday he will have retired because his 65th birthday is on Thursday."
posted by Jehan at 6:26 AM on October 14, 2012


'Cause' and 'logically implies' are two different things.
posted by unSane at 6:27 AM on October 14, 2012


Honestly, in the specific case of "import" I actually have heard Makkapakka’s rule used IRL.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:45 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


In logic-space, "cause" and "logically implies" are NOT two different things.
posted by DU at 6:45 AM on October 14, 2012


I prefer the second place rule:

With verbs containing prefixes like in- or ex-, the corresponding prepositions should never be used. For example, “import” means to “carry in” so one cannot say “The drugs were imported into the U.K.” because this is equivalent to “The drugs were carried in into the U.K.” Instead, say “The drugs were imported to the U.K.”

The same applies to “enter into,” “export from,” “embed in,” “exit out of” and similar verbs, and to nouns derived from such verbs.


It makes rather more sense, I think, even as absurd language rules go.
posted by jeather at 6:49 AM on October 14, 2012 [10 favorites]


In logic-space, "cause" and "logically implies" are NOT two different things.

And yet we have two different words.
posted by unSane at 7:03 AM on October 14, 2012


My personal grammar rules are a little more draconian.

If you mistake the word your for you're, you will be forced into hard labor, manufacturing apostrophe keys for keyboard companies.

Anyone found using the non-word "anyways" will be taken out back and shot.

Every time you misspell "definitely," you lose a finger.
posted by phunniemee at 7:05 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


phunniemee...What would your penalty be for the slaughterous misuse of there, their, and they're? Elimination of entire bloodlines?
posted by Thorzdad at 7:12 AM on October 14, 2012


This had me squealing with joy: “Áj du lájk det. Ólszo, áj hev enadör ájdia: Váj nat adapt magyar szpelling…?”
posted by Kattullus at 7:14 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


"Fish xor cut bait" has just moved to the top of the list of things I need to start saying.
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:21 AM on October 14, 2012 [9 favorites]


phunniemee... Can we also include people who put a "d" in refrigerator?
posted by still_wears_a_hat at 7:22 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


phunniemee, that's all fine but you do realize that if we extend that to people who can't spell "separate" we're gonna have to start building death camps, right?
posted by localroger at 7:25 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


FUCK YOU PHUNNIEMEE, ANYWAYS is perfectly legit. Anyhow is perfectly wrong. I take back my favorite for you now.
posted by symbioid at 7:26 AM on October 14, 2012


Anyone found using the non-word "anyways" will be taken out back and shot.

I say "anyways" both in speaking and writing. I'm mentioning it now so that there are still some people left to stand up before phunniemee gets them all.
posted by Mrs. Pterodactyl at 7:27 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


We can include just about every* rule on that list if you want. My fascist grammarial dictatorship is surprisingly accepting.

*Except for not ending a sentence with a preposition because that rule is dumb.
posted by phunniemee at 7:29 AM on October 14, 2012


phunniemee: Anyone found using the non-word "anyways" will be taken out back and shot.

Anyways is just fine, it's simply a regional variant. Here's a linguist's analysis of anyway(s), and this is his conclusion: "There's nothing wrong with anyways; it's merely nonstandard. But a lot of people consider it an indication of poor education, so you may want to be cautious about using it if you are beholden to other people's opinions."

Besides that, getting peeved at the way other people use English isn't something that leads anywhere except a constant feeling of irritation. It's also rude to correct others and gripe about their perceived grammatical errors.
posted by Kattullus at 7:29 AM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


So we're ruling out final causation at the level of grammar now, are we?

Some kind of reformist Wittgensteinianism run amok?

Welcome to our new post-/non-/anti-mental conception of the universe...
posted by Fists O'Fury at 7:41 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Anyone found using the non-word "anyways" will be taken out back and shot.
Well, here's Defoe in 1724:
...and as I have not inquired whether she has any portion or not, so she shall not have the less respect showed her from me, or be obliged to live meaner, or be anyways straitened on that account...
posted by Jehan at 7:45 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


Anyone found using the non-word "anyways" will be taken out back and shot.

So, anyways, yeah, I know, right ?
posted by Pogo_Fuzzybutt at 7:59 AM on October 14, 2012


Anyways, your defintely askew fore a revolving solution!
posted by Brandon Blatcher at 8:01 AM on October 14, 2012


And yet we have two different words.

This is dumb for at least two completely separate reasons.

1) You've heard of synonyms, right?
2) Words that mean different things in one context can mean the same thing in another context.
posted by DU at 8:10 AM on October 14, 2012


Whole lotta prescriptivists up in heres.
posted by curious nu at 8:11 AM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


Guys, I'm sure it seems like you've got real problems, but I work with a guy who says "supposably" and a woman who says liebary, so I'm not real concerned with people who say "anyhow."
posted by Bulgaroktonos at 8:14 AM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


darn, from the lead-in post i thought the winning rule would correct those who use the absolutely nonsensical "should of" when they mean "should have/ should've"
posted by Conrad-Casserole at 8:20 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


I work with a guy who says "supposably"
That's a word! Or rather, it has "wordhood".
posted by Jehan at 8:20 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Wow, the response to this post about made-up pretend fakety-fake joke grammar rules was totally not what I was expecting!
posted by moonmilk at 8:24 AM on October 14, 2012 [4 favorites]


Moonmilk, are you missing a HAMBURGER there?
posted by spitefulcrow at 8:28 AM on October 14, 2012


I am missing a hamburger, but only because Anna count off it's almost lunchtime.
posted by moonmilk at 8:31 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Besides that, getting peeved at the way other people use English isn't something that leads anywhere except a constant feeling of irritation. It's also rude to correct others and gripe about their perceived grammatical errors.

You are just trying to get allies fro your program of linguistic anarchy, you hater of all that is good!

Well, here's Defoe in 1724:

You notice how Defoe isn't around anymore? phunniemee's been at this for a while. It's a thankless, long job, but one must sure up the bulwark against barbarism. The millions who dies to establish English grammar in the face of the inchoate forces of Chaucer and his ilk will not have perished for nothing!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:46 AM on October 14, 2012 [6 favorites]


Ahem. "millions who died." I was temporarily disconcerted by chronological realignment while checking some facts. Oh, for a three century edit window!
posted by GenjiandProust at 8:59 AM on October 14, 2012


...but one must sure up the bulwark against barbarism.
Witch! Burn him!
posted by Jehan at 9:13 AM on October 14, 2012 [3 favorites]


I cannot comment owing to because of.
posted by fallingbadgers at 9:25 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Well, _I_ live in a region where those born here truly believe that nosh-ous is the correct way to say nauseous, and use the word graded to describe themselves when they successfully complete a grade in school. I am also sister to an individual who accidentally added the word teh to her spell-checker and has now almost entirely dropped the use of the word the.

This is kind of compensation for the miles of virtually deserted beautiful sandy sea beaches within a few minutes drive of my home.

I'm with Phunniemee on his/her/its pogrom. Speaking as one who enjoys tea parties if they include cambric tea, macaroons, thinly sliced cucumber sandwiches and teddy bears, anyone arguing against Phunniemee has already lost their argument for tolerance because there is Old Testament Biblical precedent for using a sibboleth to decide who lives or who gets murdered out of hand.

And for any of you scientific types who refuse to accept the Ultimate Authority, I'd like to point out that birds also select who to ostracize and drive away from nesting territory based on regional accents.

Has anyone else noticed writing a post to a thread on grammar and language turns you obsessively compulsive about re-reading and editing before you post and yet, judging by the number of oops post above, results in sausage fingers and regressed language skills?
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:36 AM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Metafilter: temporarily disconcerted by chronological realignment while checking some facts.
posted by Jane the Brown at 9:37 AM on October 14, 2012 [2 favorites]


Jane the Brown: that may be explained by Hartman's Law of Prescriptivist Retaliation. (Link contains metafilter shoutout!)
posted by moonmilk at 9:42 AM on October 14, 2012


DU, I think you missed the words "plausible" and, most crucially, "fake" in the FPP.
posted by yoink at 10:13 AM on October 14, 2012


Clearly he chose the winner just so he could say "...my prize goes to Ran. But I’m awarding a second prize to the also-ran..."
posted by mr_crash_davis at 10:16 AM on October 14, 2012 [5 favorites]


phunniemee, I have already started a resistance cell in anticipation of your coming linguistic totalitarian regime. My record advocating for "anyhoo" clearly marks me as one of the first to go against the wall.
posted by benito.strauss at 12:09 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


Given the rules and the surrounding comments, we have in this article a great example of academic prolixity
posted by Postroad at 1:10 PM on October 14, 2012


> Piffle. This is exactly how "proof by contradiction" works.

You realize you're rules-lawyering a deliberately false statement, right?
posted by ardgedee at 1:12 PM on October 14, 2012


You guys only get to kill people for grammar errors if I get to start doing so to people who misuse "begging the question."
posted by JHarris at 2:46 PM on October 14, 2012


the only new rule in grammar is as follows:

The LT Qualifier:

Instead of good, use LT. (pron. Leet.) As in, "How LT of you to ask!"

Instead of better use, LTer (pron. El Teeter.) As in, "It's LTer to travel!"

Instead of best, use LTst (pron. El Teest.) As in, "These tacos are the LTst!"
posted by Lipstick Thespian at 3:20 PM on October 14, 2012


Allan Metcalf was one of my undergrad professers. A book he co-write taught me to write academic papers by a technique I would still use today, and every day in Brit Lit I we began by reciting Caedmon's Hymn in the original Old English. As a teacher, a delightful eccentric.
posted by Occula at 8:09 PM on October 14, 2012


jeather: I prefer the second place rule:

I also like that very much but it is hurting my brain.

Instead, say “The drugs were imported to the U.K.”

The same applies to “enter into,” “export from,” “embed in,” “exit out of” and similar verbs, and to nouns derived from such verbs.


Some of the "corrected" forms are obvious: enter the UK, exit the UK. Despite knowing the "rule" is false, it's so plausible that it really bothers me not to see an analogous way to use export or embed!
posted by Pre-Taped Call In Show at 8:49 PM on October 14, 2012 [1 favorite]


I'd add to phunniemee's list the injunctions against (1) setting off a nonrestrictive element with a comma and (2) unwarranted shifts between second and third person in pronoun usage.

Oh. Hm.
posted by vitia at 9:17 PM on October 14, 2012


Honestly, in the specific case of "import" I actually have heard Makkapakka’s rule used IRL.

Bit of a shibboleth amongst trade economists in the same way that an "an" followed by an undropped aitch is, this one: it indicates a deprocation of the invisible imports that are increasingly an important part of trade flows. (hamburger, although the hamburger is a haircut in this case)
posted by hawthorne at 5:54 AM on October 15, 2012


I'm curious what the regime's opinion of "how come" is. I saw it for the first time in writing the other day (that I noticed) and it struck me how awkward it looks in writing even though I've heard it innumerable times spoken.
posted by This Guy at 7:08 AM on October 15, 2012


there is Old Testament Biblical precedent for using a sibboleth to decide who lives or who gets murdered out of hand.

I see what you did there.
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 2:12 PM on October 15, 2012 [1 favorite]


Interestingly, to me, the Makkapakka rule is an actual usage rule in middle-upper class Chilean Spanish. It's considered low class to say "entra para adentro" or "sale para afuera".
posted by signal at 2:51 PM on October 15, 2012


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