Re: Peeve

1

So what does 'reticent' mean?


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:37 AM
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Amen.


Posted by: ogged | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:38 AM
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I'm surprised at this misspelling. "Reticient" would almost definitely be pronounced "re-TISH-ent" under our common orthographic rules. Is that how LB pronounces "reticent"?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:38 AM
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Look, the fact that I can't spell in the context of complaining about other people's usage has nothing to do with anything. Thirty seconds from now, your comment will be incomprehensible. (But thanks for pointing it out.)


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:38 AM
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4: Au contraire: buttressed by 3, it stands for all time.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:40 AM
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Pop-quiz: What does "nonplussed" mean?


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:44 AM
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3: And I don't pronounce it oddly, but that was a real misspelling, not just a typo. I actually looked at it and thought "that's funny, it doesn't follow the 'i before e' rule."

Is there a formalized rule that bitching about someone else's usage will inevitably involve an embarrassing mistake of one's own?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:44 AM
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What about where the "to" is followed by a speech verb, like "reticent to reveal" or some such?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:45 AM
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We're on our way the least interesting thread ever.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:46 AM
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"I am nonplussed" = "I am mildly confused about something I don't really care about"

?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:47 AM
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I'm not reticent to flaunt this convention, and the reason is because I'm edgy.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:47 AM
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Er... not to put a damper on the fun of the latest Unfogged proscriptions, but a visit to the dictionary(dot com) might be helpful here:

3. Reluctant


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:47 AM
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8: Still wrong. You can be reticent in relation to something, or reticent on a subject, but you can't be 'reticent to' anything. It's redundant -- if 'reticent' means 'reluctant to speak', what would 'reticent to reveal' mean? 'Reluctant to speak to reveal'?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:49 AM
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Screw M-W and the horse it rode in on! OED for3v3rz!

Is that more exhilarating, Emerson?


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:49 AM
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13 is right.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:50 AM
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You can be reticent about revealing something.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:50 AM
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Likewise to 14. I don't care what the dictionary says, they're wrong.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:51 AM
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Having fun proofing the writings of senior partners?


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:51 AM
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We're on our way the least interesting thread ever.

I like toast.


Posted by: heebie-geebie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:52 AM
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I have a comment to ad, but I am reluctant to write it.


Posted by: Armsmasher | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:52 AM
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No need—I'll buy your comment ad unseen.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:54 AM
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In moderation, toast is harmless. How much toast do you eat.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:56 AM
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Oh hey, does anyone here know of books or articles about forgeries that focus particularly on the ways that they age poorly? That is, the phenomenon where (for example) some Victorian forgery of a 16th century painting might look totally authentic to people seeing it right after it was made, but its essential Victorianness will be incredibly obvious to the 21st century eye.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:56 AM
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?


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:56 AM
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The second definition at the M-W link is actually the more useful one -- it emphasizes that reticence applies to expression, not just speech. I think you could use the word it in relation to wearing a t-shirt, but not about emptying the cat's litterbox.


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:57 AM
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I like my toast only moderately toasted. Those freaks who like their toast burnt should be rounded up and shot.


Posted by: Adam Kotsko | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:58 AM
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s/word it/word/


Posted by: Tom | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:58 AM
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Can you use reticent to refer to speech-analogues, like commenting? Similarly, if I were to claim that LB keeps a 12-year old boy captive in her closet, and is training him to do tricks, would that be libel or slander?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:58 AM
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This looks more like a discussion of prepositional usage: in particular the difference between 'to' and 'about'. Cf. 'cautious'. Caution is usually 'about' something rather than 'to' it.


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 11:58 AM
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That is, the phenomenon where (for example) some Victorian forgery of a 16th century painting might look totally authentic to people seeing it right after it was made, but its essential Victorianness will be incredibly obvious to the 21st century eye.

Ernst Gombrich, Art and Illusion, has some things to say about that.

For something really loopy, see Elijah Millgram, "Refuting Skepticism with Style", which might at least have a good bibliography for your purposes.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:00 PM
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25 to 28.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:00 PM
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32

So the point here is totally the preposition? I can be reticent about something, or reticent for some reason, or reticent under a log, but just not reticent to anything? Can I appear to be reticent to you?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:01 PM
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32: yes.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:02 PM
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The point relates to both the preposition and its object. One can only be reticent about things that one might be expressing, if only one were not so reticent.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:03 PM
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28: IANAL, but 'Kipedia says slander is defined by being in a transitory medium. So presumably libel.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:03 PM
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Though of course the truth cannot be libelous, IYKWIM.


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:05 PM
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Can I appear to be reticent to you?

appear ... to


Posted by: Charlie | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:05 PM
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With time all things are transitory.


Posted by: ben w-lfs-n | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:05 PM
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Thanks, Ben.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:05 PM
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32:No, not totally. One could be reticent about joining the military, but only if you really wanted to enlist but couldn't get up the nerve to tell the recruiter.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:07 PM
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I've picked this fight before. People who want to say "reticent to" should say "hesitant to". It sounds kind of the same and is precisely what they mean.

However, the dictionary does not agree, it's true. I'm in the 14-17 club.

10:Nonplussed actually means quite upset or shaken. Why exactly does it seem to mean its opposite? Is there a word that people mistake it for? "Nonchalant" isn't quite close enough in meaning or in sound. Is there a fancy way to say not-disturbed? Perhaps the misuse of nonplussed speaks to a deep craving for one.

7: Yes, there is, and I've posted it here before. To the archives!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:07 PM
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If the point is about both the preposition and the object, is the essential question one about 'reticent's essential transitive-ness or intransitive-ness?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:07 PM
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43

42: No.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:09 PM
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44

Nonplussed = at a loss.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:09 PM
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45

Nonplussed actually means quite upset or shaken. Why exactly does it seem to mean its opposite?

If that's what it's supposed to mean, it seems like there's about a dozen other words that could be used as a synonym for it, so it is completely unnecessary. Maybe that's why people have started using it to mean something else.

On the other hand, what I thought it meant is basically the same as "bemused", but a bit more intensely confused.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:11 PM
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41.3: Bemused?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:11 PM
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7: I did not find where I posted about it, but I did find that I posted about it. It is called Hartman's Law, per the language loggers.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:11 PM
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Nonplussed seems mild because the condition of being plussed seems, in a purely reactive way, to be mild.

Is this reticent gripe not unlike a gripe about people saying "exact same"? The whole issue is just redundancy? It's not uncommunicative; like I just realized I have been using "trenchant" to mean "entrenched," basically. There's a content issue there.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:12 PM
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41: Ditto 44. It's not simply upset, it's confounded, perplexed, driven to in a place where are at a loss to respond adequately. ("No more" can be done.)


Posted by: Minivet | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:13 PM
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Another vote for 44. The shift in meaning was probably because we don't get the Frenchy etymology ("non plus", no more) but instead think it's "non-plussed", where "plussed" clearly means something, right?


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:13 PM
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No, Sybil. The point is that "reticent" does not mean the same thing as "reluctant". "Reluctant" is very often found as "Reluctant to do something" or "Reluctant to say something". "Reticent" doesn't mean anything in those phrases.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:14 PM
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48: Do yourself a favor and just use "trenchy."


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:16 PM
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The shift in meaning was probably because we don't get the Frenchy etymology ("non plus", no more)

I knew what "non plus" means in French, but not how that turns into "very confused and at a loss for what to do next".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:16 PM
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46: I think 45 is right about bemused. I guess I want "unfazed".

Building on 48.1, I think I have figured out the reason for the confusion. If you assume that people are generally in a state of equilibrium, it follows that they would have to be acted upon in order to lose that state.

What's great (and therefore counterintuitive) about "nonplussed" is that it assumes that if nothing comes along to plus us, we're not going to be okay on our own.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:16 PM
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right, but I think what I'm saying is that it *does* actually mean something when people say it to me. And I think it means what they intend it to.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:17 PM
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I knew what "non plus" means in French, but not how that turns into "very confused and at a loss for what to do next".

I think, though I'm also sort of just pulling this out of my hat, that the idea is along the lines of "I've got nothing."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:18 PM
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57

55 to 51.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:18 PM
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58

LB, thanks for titling this post is "peeve" rather than the more common "pet peeve". It is worth remembering that not all peeves are pet peeves.

Please, folks, have your peeves spayed or neutered. Feral peeves can spread rabies, and there's nothing sadder than stray peeves starving to death in the winter.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:19 PM
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I'm inclined to agree with you, LB, but when the dictionary flatly disagrees isn't it time to give up the fight and admit the world has moved on?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:20 PM
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58, you've thinking of "pooves".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:21 PM
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Stray verbs are dangerous as well.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:21 PM
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56 sounds just right on 'nonplussed' to me. "I'm in some situation, either real or rhetorical, and I'm at a loss for a next step."

55: You can figure out what they mean, but you're doing it by assuming that 'reticent' is synonymous with 'reluctant', which, ignoring the M-W, is false.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:21 PM
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59: No. A pastern is not the knee of a horse, whatever Dr. Johnson said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:22 PM
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59: Absolutely not.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:25 PM
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60: No, I am definitely not advocating the neutering of pooves.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:27 PM
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Unless they're into that sort of thing, of course.


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:28 PM
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Now, there is a point at which enough people do something that it stops being an error and starts being a new norm. I don't think 'reticent=reluctant' is there yet, whatever the dictionary says, and I find it annoying so I'd rather it didn't ever get there.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:28 PM
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forgeries that focus particularly on the ways that they age poorly?

My great-grandfather was stung by this. In that case, the problem was a bad attribution made in the 1920s, the word of one professor. The colossal early modern swindles of the Japanese were based on their obsession with authentic provenance-- produce the authentic provenance for the painting, attach this to a mediocre forgery and off you go. In both cases, the trick is to game the social network of authenticator-buyer interaction. There is a huge literature on stamp and coin forgeries, and some interesting books about recent art forgers. It sounds like neither of these is what you want, though.

Are you interested in an attribution going from x to school-of-x, or only in recognition of works from a different period entirely? Probably looking up individual works recently recognized to be forgeries would be the way to go; maybe some of Rohrich's Cranach forgeries.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:29 PM
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When someone says to me, "She's reticent to attend," I know what that person means. There is no figuring out or assuming based on a translation of "reticent" to "reluctant." And if I were to consult the dictionary, my instantaneous interpretation would be supported. Whats' to debate?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:30 PM
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It's a novel, but Robertson Davies talks about this in "What's Bred In The Bone."


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:30 PM
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Another way of saying this is that reticent as reluctant is apparently very trenchy, so may as well roll with it.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:31 PM
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69: If someone said that to me, I wouldn't know if they meant "reticent"="reluctant", or "reticent"="hesitant".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:32 PM
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68: I'm especially interested in the way that certain elements of style (visual, literary, or otherwise) can be essentially invisible to people who are aswim in examples of it, only to become glaringly obvious to people at some cultural distance.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:33 PM
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72: I think it's safe to say that the person saying this to you isn't trafficking in enough linguistic nuance as to give a shit whether you think she means "reluctant" or "hesitant." 6 of 1..


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:34 PM
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I basically agree with 69. And to LB's "stops being an error and starts being a new norm. I don't think 'reticent=reluctant' is there yet": if a norm isn't established by inclusion in the dictionary, well, I guess you have a lot more energy for this fight than I do.

But I wouldn't personally use the two as synonyms.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:35 PM
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70: Yes, I love that novel! In this case, I'm looking specifically for accounts of real-life examples, though.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:35 PM
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69, 71: This is snotty of me, but you understand it because you've seen a whole bunch of people make the same error; until the number of people who use 'reticent' that way hits a tipping point, it's still an error. And I find it grating, so I don't want to roll with it.

Likewise? One does not 'hone in on' anything. One 'hones' things, in the sense of sharpening them, or one 'homes in on' them, in the sense of finding and approaching them. Lots of people say 'hone in on', but that doesn't make it right.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:35 PM
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I've never heard "reticent" = "reluctant", so it sound extremely grating to me. 77 is right.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:36 PM
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77.2 Huh. Never knew that. Which is surprising, because I subscribe to Pedantry Today.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:38 PM
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I say 'hone in on.' Never occurred to me that it might be a problem. I don't see why it is, actually. "Zero in on" doesn't make any sense, really, but there's nothing wrong with it. It's just a linguistic formulation that caught on.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:38 PM
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Cue prescriptivist/descriptivist debate.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:40 PM
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Couldn't you hone in on something by, say, shaving through layers of bone to get to the marrow?


Posted by: Bave Dee | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:40 PM
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I say 'hone in on.' Never occurred to me that it might be a problem. I don't see why it is, actually.

Theoretically it would be a problem because "hone" and "home" are unrelated words that mean unrelated things. But since "hone in on" doesn't mean anything, everyone interprets it as "home in on", so it isn't actually a problem.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:41 PM
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Right; like, as figures of speech, "hone in on" or "home in on" both expressions are, inherently, reference something other than that which they strictly describe in general conversation.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:42 PM
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I just offered rfts the example of Edmund Backhouse's memoirs of China; he lived in China and spoke Chinese, but he completely invented an acquaintance with the Chinese Imperial court for his readers in England in a way that was undetected until people with genuine expertise in Chinese court life read through his diaries and saw ludicrous claims (after his death, although some skullduggery involving attempts to defraud British merchants had pretty much finished him in England by then).


Posted by: snarkout | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:42 PM
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79: Pedantry Today?


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:42 PM
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Let's get back to toast.


Posted by: John Emerson | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:43 PM
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88

Hone in on is an eggcorn.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:44 PM
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Dictionaries get things wrong, are imprecise, and otherwise are not to be trusted in all kinds of ways. They're the work of a bunch of fallible researchers, not the great and incontrovertible King Azaz the Unabridged.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:44 PM
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80: It's wrong because there's no meaning of 'hone' that makes the phrase make sense (Although Bave tried hard), and the origin is in garbling the phrase 'home in on', which does make literal sense. I mean, you could take the strong descriptivist position that no error of speech that doesn't affect comprehensibility can be really described as an 'error' -- Mrs. Malaprop was comprehensible, so she wasn't getting anything wrong - but I don't take that position.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:45 PM
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But what the fuck does "home in on mean"? It measn you are using a homing device to find something? Is that what you mean when you "home in on" the crucial issue in a meeting? No, it is not. So why can't I "hone in on" something using a sharpness of intellect to get to the real pointy-like important issue?


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:45 PM
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It doesn't mean you are using a homing device, it means you are the homing device, heading toward the crux of the issue.

"Hone in on" is grammatically wrong because of the prepositions, similar to "reticent to", but since it doesn't lead to any misunderstandings there's no problem.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:47 PM
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Because the first time someone said 'home in on' outside the context of an actual homing device, they were using a grammatically and intellectually coherent metaphor referring to a homing device. The first time someone said 'hone in on', they weren't using a metaphor referring to sharpening -- you don't say 'hone in' when you sharpen something. They were misunderstanding and garbling the 'homing' metaphor.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:48 PM
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These constructions are what are known as "syntactic blends"; similar to portmanteau words (or eggcorns/mondegreens), but operating at a higher level than the individual word.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:49 PM
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alight, I concede the point re: "hone in" and the garbling of another, more originary and grammatically intuitive, phrase.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:50 PM
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86: I've come home.

The more I read, the more I prefer "hone in on". I think I'm going to keep it. They may revoke my subscription before I even commence it.

I have a richly incoherent take on prescriptivism/descriptivism. Generally, I prefer coinages that move upward than downward socio-economically, so "ain't" is no problem at all, but "incentivize" is hideous. I like that "begging the question" has a unique, logical meaning distinct from "raising the question", but it's so hard to explain and sounds so pretty to people that I think that one's close to gone.

I wish I had a better example than "ain't".


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:51 PM
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73. The Ossian manuscripts might be another example.


Posted by: lw | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:51 PM
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91: There used to be pigeons that would find their way "home." These were "homing" pigeons. Then, people made weapons that would find their way to their targets, and people called these "homing" weapons. This is the underlying metaphor.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:51 PM
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And none of this is world hunger or anything, just stuff I find grating. It's more of a wild peeve grazing in the back yard than one I actually keep as a pet.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:52 PM
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100

I would have used a full stop after the word "time."


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:52 PM
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101

Wrongshore, I have honed in on our fundamental and trenchy kindred-ness.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:54 PM
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96: Yeah, I have a hard time getting cranky about 'begging the question', given that the wrong usage actually works better as a literal reading of the words. Expecting everyone to know that three common English words when used together lose their literal meaning and refer only to an argumentative fallacy not fully described by the phrase seems snobbish. But I do resist using it wrong myself.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:55 PM
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103

102: So what's your position on "the exception proves the rule"?


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:57 PM
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What are my options?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:58 PM
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105

"Begging the question" is literal in the original context.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:58 PM
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106

LB, you "do resist using it wrong"? Not "wrongly?"


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 12:59 PM
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107

Language Log has a great defense of hone in on.

Summary: Home in on came first, and hone in on is an erroneous derivation, but it very nearly makes perfect sense (to sharpen one's argument in pursuit of the object).

101: Yay!


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:00 PM
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103 seems less like a linguistic issue than a simple stupid concept.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:01 PM
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Well,
a)Common usage: That an exception exists somehow validates the rule. (stupid)
b)Exceptions test, or prove, rules. (reasonable)
c)The existence of an exception implicitly asserts the existence of a rule.(winner)


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:01 PM
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Yeah, but the phrase is abbreviated in a way that makes 'begging [that] the question [be asked]' is a natural expansion. It's a lot harder to describe the fallacy in natural modern English that incorporates those three words -- I've been trying, and I can't.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:03 PM
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107: We will have trouble when the NFL season starts, as I feel you will not love my Steelers like I need you to. We will, however, not get mired in linguistic quibbles about how we express our distaste for each other.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:05 PM
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102 is EXACTLY what I could not find a way to say. If the wrong interpretation is more grammatical than the right interpretation, then I refuse to say it's a problem at all.

Also I have never been able to grasp what "begs the question" is supposed to mean anyway. Something like "assumes that something is true when we have not yet established that it's true"? Or more simply "presumes the hypothesis"? I understand the "the", but why are the words "beg" and "question" involved?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:06 PM
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110 to 105.

To the Language Log post in 107, I don't buy it in the absence of any evidence of a non-metaphoric use of 'hone in'. 'Hone down' is used of sharpening things, 'hone in' isn't, and all the usages of 'hone in' quoted look to me like further garbled versions of 'home in on'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:06 PM
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111: Works for me. I grew up near Philly, so we can let the nerd/jock thing cancel out the Eastern Pennsy/Pennsyltucky thing and call it a wash.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:07 PM
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109: Yes, (a) is stupid, I think (b) is historically original, but (c) looks reasonable as well. It's not a phrase I find myself using much.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:07 PM
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112: assumes the conclusion one is trying to prove.


Posted by: Brock Landers | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:08 PM
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Backhouse is interesting and related but not ideal for my purposes. What I'd love is some originally successful forgery of medieval music that to the modern ear like Wagner, or faux Chaucer that now reads like misspelled Walter Scott. Actually, in addition to forgeries, I'd love examples of things that were lauded in their time as really convincing reproductions of some era that seem blazingly of their own era, now. Old movie costume dramas are often that way.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:08 PM
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112 is correct. The "question" is the hypothesis. "Begs" is an older usage. w-lfs-n! Get in here.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:09 PM
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Right, Brock. Conclusion, not hypothesis.

"assumes the conclusion", that makes sense, it uses words that we understand, and it clearly describes a logical fallacy. "begs the question" sounds like an archaic phrase that might mean anything.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:10 PM
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112: "Begging the question" means to assume the conclusion you're trying to prove. Usually it comes up when it turns out that someone's implicit assumptions include the conclusion they're attempting to prove.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:11 PM
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117: I don't know how convincing it was when built, but can I offer the University of Chicago campus? There's some very turn-of-the-century looking stained glass that I think was meant to look medieval. Actually, Pre-Raphaelite art generally?


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:12 PM
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So everyone who understands the phrase "begs the question" explains that it means "assumes the conclusion". Just say that then, you anachronistic snobs.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:12 PM
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Misuse of "comprise" is the one that makes me grind my teeth, maybe because I see it so much in scientific writing. I'm pretty liberal on the prescriptive/descriptive axis, but I hate to see words that are genuinely useful lose their meaning just because people gravitate to what they think is a more exotic version of the word they really want (compose).



Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:12 PM
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121: And if U of C doesn't work, you could try the architecture at many other schools. Although Yale is the absolute craziest - "We buried these shingles in the Long Island Sound for decades to make them look old!"


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:16 PM
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122: Perhaps people who don't know what it means should stop trying to evoke intellectual cred by misusing it. Neener.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:16 PM
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People who misusing aren't trying to evoke intellectual cred. They're trying to say "requires that a question be asked", and using a phrase that sounds like it means "requires that a question be asked". Then you snobs come in and say "Ah, my dear boy, you're in over your head. I suppose you can't be blamed for not understanding that 'beg' means 'assume' when it's in this phrase but not when it's in any other phrases. Just don't do it again."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:18 PM
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This thread seems like a good place to ask a question I've been wondering about for a while:

So, in a sentence like "I had forgotten about your having made that point," 'having made that point' is the object and treated like a noun, so that "you" requires a possessive form, "your."

I think.

Assuming what I just proposed is true, what do you call that? The "having made that point" or "making that point" part that gets treated like a noun? A verbal?

(This may be the least interesting and most convoluted comment I've ever posted anywhere.)


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:19 PM
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127: Gerund, I believe.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:20 PM
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126: It strikes me more that they heard it once in a class at school, thought it must have meant 'upon reflection, inspires a further line of inquiry', and decided to use it just as they would toss in a casual reference to Aristotle and the golden mean.

It's no more snobbish than it is if you were to correct us for misusing similarly technical lab terms.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:23 PM
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But it doesn't even sound much like an idiomatic phrase.

I've used it myself in papers, in a situation where maybe I'd write "this brings up the question of..." and then though "no, the thing people say in this situation is 'begs the question of...'."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:28 PM
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It never occurred to me that "hone in on" didn't have a separate origin, and was nothing more than "home in on" mispronounced.

Honing isn't just sharpening, it refers more generally to all kinds of fine shaping and surfacing with tools; cylinder walls, both in the engine and in the brakes on the wheels of cars are honed when overhauled—I've done this—both to true the shape and prepare the surface.

That's why the usage always made sense to me, as a more deliberative and skillful act than homing, often thought of as instinctual, as in what released pigeons do.

I don't know if that's right, it's just what I took the difference to be.

"Zeroing in on" refers to focusing and aiming a rifle through telescopic sights, which often have windage marks graved on the image, much like the focusing aids on cameras. When the right adjustments have been made, the image of the target has been zeroed.

It's been awhile, but I think it's something like that.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:31 PM
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Let me rephrase that. "Begs the question of..." can quite easily be interpreted as a more elegant or concise way of saying "Brings up the question of...".


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:35 PM
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131: Again, you're a mechanic/tools kind of guy, who uses the word 'hone' in it's non-metaphoric sense. Have you ever seen 'hone in' used when you were talking literally about sharpening or fine shaping? My strong believe is that the answer is no -- the non-idiomatic/metaphoric use never uses the 'in'. Which means to me that in any phrase using 'hone in', the 'in' comes from a confusion with 'home in on'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:36 PM
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Let me recommend "raises the question".


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:36 PM
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Let me recommend eliminating the phrase.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:39 PM
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127: I don't know, but it's not a gerund, I don't think. I think a gerund is not a phrase but just the noun-ing of a verb through the ing participle. "Commenting is fun." etc.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:39 PM
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Or "demands", or "invites", or "presents." There are a million ways of saying it, many of them better than "begs." Neither arguments nor conclusions beg. It only sounds better because of the popularity of the figure of speech.


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:40 PM
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One important human-rights issue is the fucking of clowns.
I enjoy fucking clowns.

Do these sentences both include gerunds?


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:42 PM
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everything only sounds better because of popularity. Arguments don't "demand" either. Or "invite" strictly speaking. The predication issue can be extrapolated ad nauseum.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:43 PM
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129: Nowadays, plenty of sources who should know better have been misusing the phrase, though, so we can't even blame people for making invalid inferences about its usage, only for not knowing its original sense.

123: MW says that sense of "comprise" has been in use since the 18th century. Similar to singular "they".


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:44 PM
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My understand of a gerund (which is utterly unresearched) is that it occurs in the subjective position, not the objective one. So, 138, no.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:44 PM
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Neither arguments nor conclusions beg. It only sounds better because of the popularity of the figure of speech.

Exactly. It's not something people come up with because 'begs' just seems to fit, but because they heard it once and misunderstood what it meant (or read it somewhere being misused.)


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:45 PM
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141: "understand" s/b "understanding." Which is to say, should be a gerund.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:45 PM
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136: I think the "x-ing" word that is the gerund, and the whole thing is a gerund phrase?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:45 PM
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As I said, I never looked it up, and you're right that it doesn't refer to an actual technical process. And that people who like me use the word in its literal sense sometimes, like NASCAR car guys describing how the adjustments they've been making during practice approach the handling/speed combination they're trying for, may be using "hone in on" with no more authority than the lawyers in the meeting. Of all the things they might have knowledge and credibility about, usage can't be high on the list.

But I think the metaphorical intent is there, yes, whether or not the usage itself is a corruption of another one.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:47 PM
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"word that is the" s/b "word is the"

This argument is, by the way, the laziest I have ever made or seen on Unfogged. Surely one of us will Google this?


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:47 PM
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I've committed myself to not googling it. I've already let my writing languish for the day adn have to draw the line somewhere. Plus it's hot and I feel like Daisy Buchanan and Jordan Baker as they lounge about on white couches whining about who is going to bring the mint juleps.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:51 PM
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But I think the metaphorical intent is there, yes, whether or not the usage itself is a corruption of another one.

Ah, a folk etymology.

When people use phrases incorrectly they usually have some sort of logic in mind as to what the phrase means.

If someone writes "tow the line" instead of "toe the line", which people are doing more and more nowadays because "toe" isn't a verb, and you ask him where that expression came from, he'll say "Well, back in olden days, the servants or slaves or something had to drag this rope around, and it was hard work and they didn't want to do it, but when their master told them to do something like tow the line they did it. And the rebels refused to tow the line."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:51 PM
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145: Oh, I think there are usages where someone who knows what 'hone' means has heard the phrase 'hone in on', and uses it while mentally connecting it to honing=sharpening. But I would argue that the 'in' would never have made it into the phrase without the initial garbling of 'home in on'.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:51 PM
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Or what Ned said.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:52 PM
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Tow that line! Lift that bale!


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:53 PM
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146: I asked here because I'd never come up with a good set of search terms to put into google for this particular question, and had spent a lot of time on general english grammar/usage type sites without finding an answer.

140.2: I can believe it, but that doesn't make me feel any better. It bothers me not because some rule is being broken, but because compose/comprise have a nice complementarity of meaning that's diluted by using "comprise" to mean either.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:55 PM
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I'd say start with goolging "gerund phrase" and sift through those hits before moving on to "gerund, verbal" and then if that still doesn't yield anything clear, go with "parts of speech, noun phrase, gerund form, predicate."


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:57 PM
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Except that Ned's example is not a mental connection, but a made-up story, to make sense of a phrase altered in its spelling. And he equates my usage with this childish process, which he himself just made up to mock with.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 1:59 PM
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My husband and I recently had a talk about 'toe the line' which he thought meant to step up to the plate, or bring it, based on some (maybe fictive) narrative about how boxers are asked to place their toes on some line before the fighting begins.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:01 PM
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This site has examples of what you seem to be referring to. It calls them gerund phrases, whether it's the subject or the object.

It's called "chompchomp.com," so my claims aren't exactly authoritative.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:02 PM
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Goofball reactionary prescriptivists. Perhaps I should be reticent to draw out more of these ridiculous opinions? No. I shall remain trenchant, and get in on the honing.

Unfogged is now exactly as dorky as the dorkiest show on public radio. I offer my congratulations.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:07 PM
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If this site is as dorky as "Wait Wait Don't Tell Me", I move that we disband and join other blogs.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:09 PM
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154: But 'tow the line' is a real (albeit erroneous) usage, and it's hard to believe that someone using it wouldn't come up with a story like Ned's to explain it, rather than getting to the actual origin of 'toe the line' (starting a footrace, right?).


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:20 PM
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"Tow the line" makes my teeth itch. Similarly: "unphased" and "made me wretch".


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:21 PM
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NPR + cock jokes = Unfogged


Posted by: My Alter Ego | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:21 PM
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160: "unphased"

How else is one to describe the lucky beneficiary of Kirk's shitty aim?

161: NPR has lots of cock jokes. Come on, "All Things Considered"? "Morning Edition"? "Talk of the Nation"? Half the time I find myself uncontrollably shouting "stop talking about my junk!" at the radio.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:25 PM
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Free rein! Free rein! Free rein!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:29 PM
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163: well, look, you don't have to pay for water.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:30 PM
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138: I think the second sentence could be taken two ways, but in neither case is a gerund*. In the second sentence, "fucking" could be an adjective modifying "clowns." If so, it's not a gerund. However, if the second sentence is being used to mean "I enjoy having sex with clowns," then I think "gerund" is being used as a present participle, right?

* I think. I was pleased that I even remembered the word "gerund" on my own before I saw someone else use it; don't take my 10-year-old memories of the English class I hated as completely authoritative.

Eggcorn that's annoyed me in the past, but seems to be pretty much mainstream: "free reign" and variants.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:30 PM
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pwned by 163, I guess...


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:32 PM
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It's reigning men! Hallelujah!


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:32 PM
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160 gets it exactly right.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:33 PM
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I have many, many linguistic pet peeves, but the one that bothers me the most is nauseous/nauseated, because the dictionaries are letting the terrorists win and saying that people's wrong-ass usage of nauseous is now acceptable. FIE! FIE ON YOU, DICTIONARIES!


Posted by: apostropher | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:34 PM
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I didn't know 163 either. But if we're going to continue in this veign, we're going to have to get dorky naked.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:42 PM
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dorky naked

This phrase is easily in my top ten Unfogged favorite phrases.


Posted by: will | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:45 PM
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Gerund: noun form of a verb. In English this is more or less identical to the present participle, ends in -ing, and can be anything a noun can be (subject, object, whatever).

Gerundive: adjective form of a verb. In English, identical in form to the gerund. Behaves exactly like any other adjective.

The phrases in question contain gerunds and are functionally equivalent to gerunds alone; I don't know if there's a technical term for them, but "gerund phrase" sounds fine to me.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:47 PM
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Now, how about linguistic insecurities?

I'm pretty sure I know how to use viz., cf., and i.e. but I'm always afraid someone is going to call me out on it.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:48 PM
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I'm not comfortable with viz., and don't use it for that reason. I.e., e.g., and cf. are all fine.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:52 PM
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I'm least comfortable with viz. as well, but it looks so damn cool that I charge ahead.


Posted by: destroyer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 2:53 PM
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I have many, many linguistic pet peeves

I'm like a cat lady for peeves.


Posted by: mcmc | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:03 PM
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Viz. is used when the following will enumerate all and only the instances of whatever it is you're talking about.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:03 PM
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176: hewo wittle peevey weevey were you weticent to the wuuuug?


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:05 PM
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I'm not good with viz or qua. I love me some cf. though.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:07 PM
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177: so, "The days of the week, viz., Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday, Thursday, Friday, Saturday, Sunday..."? Introducing an exhaustive list? See, I didn't know that.


Posted by: LizardBreath | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:07 PM
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177: Yup. 'viz.' just means 'namely', so you're listing the things out by name. 'i.e.' is to signify that you will clarify what you've just said, 'e.g.' is to give an example (which will clarify, it is hoped, what you've just said.), and 'cf.' is for 'go read what that other guy said and stop bugging me about the details.'


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:09 PM
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Re linguistic insecurities, I work at the junction of universities and government, in the education sector, and fricking everybody is afraid to split a damned infinitive. Surely they all know it's actually ok, and even right and natural, but are just afraid that if they dare to split the damn things like they sometimes should, then all their edu-government peers will scoff at them. Refusing to do so leads to some damned stilted phrasing.

Marks of weakness, marks of woe, I say.


Posted by: reuben | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:11 PM
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Is that how cf. works, really? Like, 'I defer to this other person'? Because I am always using like a hat tip, sort of, to acknowledge this thing is picking up on that other thing. But not to point ot a more exhaustive anything. I actually use it mostly in lit crit, so 'blah blah blah line of Hardy, cf. P.B. Shelley, blah blah blah,' but still.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:13 PM
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I think qua is used when you want to say a word twice instead of once for comedy purposes.

"It's hard to tell whether they really worship Satan qua Satan."

"I don't really have an opinion about bocce-ball qua bocce-ball."

"The issue here is whether she should deal with the wang qua wang or use an alternate strategy."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:14 PM
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If qua = comity, I'll let that insecurity go right quick.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:15 PM
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"The pastern isn't a knee qua knee."


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:16 PM
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This is a good book, but the author's adamant refusal to ever split an infinitive leads to a distracting number of stilted phrasings. It's particularly bad since he tends to put the modifiers immediately before the infinitives, rather than at the very end of the phrase (which would sound more natural).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:16 PM
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"Qua" is just Latin for "as."


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:17 PM
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I plan to get that book from the library and thoughtfully to read it.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:18 PM
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I prefer to use qua qua qua rather than qua as.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:19 PM
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That doesn't make it much easier really. "I'm just qua reticent qua she is about grammar." Not so much.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:19 PM
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Is that how cf. works, really? Like, 'I defer to this other person'?

No, it's more like "I invite you to compare what I just said with what this other person said, but you're going to have to go read what they said for yourself."


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:19 PM
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183:
I always thought c.f was for referencing a specific document,e.g."Viz. is used to introduce an exhaustive list (c.f. Peeves,181)".


Posted by: foolishmortal | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:20 PM
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189: Yeah, that's the sort of thing. All the damn time.

191: True, people only use it in certain restricted senses. There's really no need to use it at all, though.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:20 PM
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But even that is different than the knowing name-droppy way I've been using it to show that I recognize the influnece of Romantic poetry in such and such poem, or whatever.


Posted by: Sybil Vane | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:21 PM
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193: It's not c.f., it's cf., short for Latin confer.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:23 PM
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anodyne.
seems like people tend to use it nowadays to mean "bland", "inoffensive". but the dictionary says it means "pain-relieving".

sure, from "pain-killer" to "non-pain-inducer" is not a huge step, and I don't object to the evolution.

but it's an evolution all the same.


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:23 PM
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Yeah, not deference as much as "I'm totally not writing three more pages to describe what they said when you can get it on jstor."

"Qua" just means "as", but it usually is used to mean something like "as considered just as an instance of" or "considered only under this interesting aspect." Hillary qua senator compared to Hillary qua wife and mother.


Posted by: Cala | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:24 PM
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197: As far as I can tell, the word "sanguine" both means "extremely emotional and irrational" and "extremely cool and unemotional". Fortunately people don't use it much anymore.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:28 PM
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199

i've never seen the first sense attributed to 'sanguine'.
sure, 'sanguinary' is jocular for 'bloody', in the sense of 'gory', and hence a tale of havoc could be a sanguinary tale.

but i'm pretty sanguine about your second sense being the only recognized one.
(and if there are residual bits that don't add up, it's because humoral theory never added up, either.)


Posted by: kid bitzer | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:31 PM
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199: There's a word for that.


Posted by: Cyrus | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:34 PM
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Essentialist prescriptivist Nazi motherfuckers can bite me.


Posted by: Essentialist prescriptivist Nazi motherfckers. | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:44 PM
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That should be "can bite ourselves", surely.


Posted by: Cryptic Ned | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:46 PM
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173: You may be called out on your use of viz.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:48 PM
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Dude! Over in the virgin/whore thread, it's getting really heated. I can't follow it, but I think it's because Lunar Rockette used "honed in on" in a comment.


Posted by: Wrongshore | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:53 PM
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I use "sanguine" all the time. At least since I learned to pronounce it correctly.


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:55 PM
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I like to split infinitives. Hares, too.

Teofilo sounds pretty authoritative on the whattya-call-that-thing question, even though I'd been convinced it wasn't a gerund, so I'm going to go with that and stop worrying about it.

I think "anodyne" in the evolved usage has been around for a while, and is also kind of useful. Some things are good not because they're good, but just because they neutralize something bad. It's a great word for damning with faint praise, if you like that sort of thing.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 3:56 PM
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157: I was going to object that nothing could be dorkier than "Says You," but you might be right, here. And any public radio show that starts out by describing itself as a "romp" definitely raises shields.


Posted by: cerebrocrat | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 4:01 PM
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i learned c.f. by thinking "CrossreFerence"


Posted by: yoyo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 5:19 PM
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"having made that point" is a nominal clause--that is, a syntactic unit containing a verb (clause) that's functioning as a noun (nominal). I've heard it called a participle clause, because the verb is in the form of a present participle, but it appears that, for people who use the term "gerund", they'd call it a gerund instead of a present participle (cf. http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gerund ).


Posted by: stiela | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 6:05 PM
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I am absolutely convinced that textbook writers for primary schools make up shit when they write about grammar.


Posted by: pdf23ds | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 6:11 PM
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I'm late to the thread, but,

68: I'm especially interested in the way that certain elements of style (visual, literary, or otherwise) can be essentially invisible to people who are aswim in examples of it, only to become glaringly obvious to people at some cultural distance.

Seeing Through Clothes by Anne Hollander has some good stuff on this. It's been a while since I've read it, but she mentions the Hollywood costume drama example. She has a lot to say about the decade when photography became good enough that people stopped imagining how they'd look in a painted portrait and started picturing themselves caught in motion, and how that changed what people wanted to wear (fabrics cut on the bias, for example).

These constructions are what are known as "syntactic blends"; similar to portmanteau words (or eggcorns/mondegreens), but operating at a higher level than the individual word.

Awesome.


Posted by: | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:00 PM
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212: s/b Penny


Posted by: Penny | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:01 PM
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212: Thanks!


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:05 PM
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What about Ossian? Do those poems now seem very 18th century?

Also:

"If any law holds for all forgery," claims Anthony Grafton in Forgers and Critics (Princeton University Press, $14.95), "it is quite simply that any forger, however deft, imprints the pattern and texture of his own period's life, thought, and language on the past he hopes to make seem real and vivid." The same details with which the forger hopes to impress his contemporaries "will eventually make his trickery stand out in bold relief....Nothing becomes obsolete like a period vision of an older period." A notorious instance, not mentioned by Grafton, is the Garboesque heads of van Meegeren's Vermeers, but many of us will have had our first conscious experience of the "period vision of an older period" at the movies, and I like Grafton's example: "Hearing a mother in a historical movie of the 1940s call out 'Ludwig! Ludwig van Beethoven! Come in and practice your piano now!' we are jerked from our suspension of disbelief by what was intended as a means of reinforcing it, and plunged directly into the American bourgeois world of the filmmaker. Forgery illustrates the same principle continually and beautifully."

Posted by: eb | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:51 PM
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Splennndid.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:53 PM
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"Hi. We're here today in the late Victorian era, where we've switched these art critic's regular statuary with Forger's Crystals. Let's see if they can see the difference."


Posted by: Sifu Tweety | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:55 PM
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Ossian had occurred to me too. There's also the Praenestine fibula, though it probably doesn't say much about aspects of nineteenth-century culture outside the narrow domain of Indo-European philology (some bibliography at the link).


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 7:59 PM
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This book is an easy read and contains a lot of interesting stuff about forgery in general and this issue in particular.


Posted by: teofilo | Link to this comment | 08-16-07 8:02 PM
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Dang it, did one of you buy the copy of Forgers and Critics I was about to buy? (There are others, that one just looked the most appealing.


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:29 AM
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)


Posted by: redfoxtailshrub | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:30 AM
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I love this idea of time-characteristic views of the past. Reminds me of the mathmatical idea that while there are an infinite number of points on a line, there are somehow "more" in a plane. The multiplicity of pasts included not just what we discover about actual periods for ourselves, but the past visions of those periods. So Samuel Butler's vision of the 18th C is different from Walter Bagehot's, AWB's from David Cecil's, yet each is a vivid thing, as identifiable in itself as Ludwig! Ludwig van Beethoven! is.


Posted by: I don't pay | Link to this comment | 08-17-07 8:40 AM
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