If the freedom of speech is taken away then dumb and silent we may be led, like sheep to the slaughter.

- George Washington

Saturday, 10 December 2011

Spelling *does* matter

The BBC are usually fairly rigorous in at least one thing - they get the spelling and grammar of their output right most of the time. Pity they aren't as rigorous over their duty to be impartial and unbiased, but never mind.

But then I spotted this howler in an article on the follow-up to the 'cheating examiners' scandal:
Ofqual is to look at the issue - and that of companies linked with exam boards selling text books and study aides.
This is illegal. Selling people was made unlawful with the end of the slave trade. Although if the aide concerned was cute, I might overlook it.

From Merriam Webster:
AIDE, noun : a person who acts as an assistant
AID, noun : tangible means of assistance
I think study guides come under the second definition.

The sad thing, or course, is not that nobody pays much attention to this any more, but they don't see that it matters at all.

~~~

Extra bad-taste humour insert: apocryphal graffito in Boots The Chemist -
AIDS FOR THE DISABLED
Don't they have enough to put up with?

14 comments:

  1. Shouldn't that read "Don't they get enough up with which to put?"

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  2. I wonder how many of your readers would spot the error, without your prompting?

    I'm not too proud to admit that I didn't, even after re-reading the sentence, but then English Language was never one of my strong subjects.

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  3. Well I suppose aides is to HIV as gay is to poof?

    E Arthur Thribb (13 1/2)

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  4. As a second language speaker I might not even have noticed it. On the other hand, articles in Canadian papers and magazines are so badly written, that you get used to the constant errors in spelling or grammar. The end is nigh!

    ReplyDelete
  5. " The sad thing, or course "
    Should be " of course "

    "Spelling *does* matter"

    Should have a full stop in a sentence.

    "in at least one thing - they get the spelling"

    Should be a full stop and then a new sentence. Not a " - "

    "unbiased, but never mind."

    Should be a new sentence rather than a comma.

    "the follow-up"

    Should be "follow up"

    "Extra bad-taste"

    Should be "Extra bad taste"

    ReplyDelete
  6. @ "bored Don lol"

    [Shouldn't that be Bored Don Lol, or Bored Don l.o.l?]

    "Follow-up" or "follow up"?

    Hyphens are used, when the phrase is made a noun.

    RE: My above posting, I was going to admit that I reread the sentence rather than re-read it.

    So I consulted the free online dictionary:-

    http://www.thefreedictionary.com/reread

    It explains "Verb1. reread - read anew; read again; "He re-read her letters to him". As it's example is hyphenated, I am now really confused.

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  7. @bored Don lol

    Nice to see people paying that much attention to detail, albeit with mixed results.

    "Spelling *does* matter"
    Should have a full stop in a sentence.
    >> It's a title, not a sentence.

    "in at least one thing - they get the spelling"
    Should be a full stop and then a new sentence. Not a " - "
    >> It can legitimately be a dash to indicate an interruption of sentence flow. (There should be a full stop after your 'Not a " - "', though).

    "unbiased, but never mind."
    Should be a new sentence rather than a comma.
    >> Perfectly valid use of a joining comma.

    "the follow-up"
    Should be "follow up"
    "Extra bad-taste"
    Should be "Extra bad taste"
    >> Hyphenation is appropriate in both cases to disambiguate their use as compound words. (@Joe: both are technically correct. The hyphen is optional for clarity when reading. Or re-reading...).

    " The sad thing, or course "
    Should be " of course "
    >> This is, indeed, a spelling mistake.

    *Waits for any fellow pedants to find mistakes in the above*

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  8. There's nothing wrong with the hyphen in "Extra bad-taste humour insert".

    extra bad taste is the independent noun phrase.

    extra bad-taste is the same noun phrase used as an adjective. In principle there ought to be a hyphen between extra and bad as well but it is usual to omit this to avoid hyperhyphenation, which can be very painful.

    Innit.

    ReplyDelete
  9. @ "bored Don lol" & @ endemoniada_88

    ".....the follow-up..."

    Surely it can only be the hyphenated *follow-up*?

    Can any sensible sentence include the two consecutive words ".........the follow......"? [The follow down, or the follow round, makes no sense.]

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  10. @Joe

    Agreed. I was just being lazy listing both uses of compound hyphenation together. In context, 'follow-up' must be hyphenated and 'bad-taste' should be.

    @Edwin

    'Extra' refers to 'insert' rather than 'humour' in this instance, I believe: therefore 'Extra bad-taste' is the correct punctuation.

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  11. @endemoniada_88

    "'Extra' refers to 'insert' rather than 'humour' in this instance, I believe: therefore 'Extra bad-taste' is the correct punctuation."

    Interesting. I read it as an intensive of "bad taste", ie "extra bad taste" like "extra-strong mints". Tricky stuff this punctuation. Perhaps we should start using parentheses for syntactic analysis in everyday orthography and make it all really ugly.


    I read

    (((extra (bad taste)) humour) insert)

    whereas you read

    (extra (((bad taste) humour) insert))


    As the song says, "let's call the whole thing off!"

    ReplyDelete
  12. Thanks for all the corrections. I've learnt a lot. ( I have learned a lot ? :) )

    ReplyDelete
  13. @Edwin

    I did read it both ways before replying, and both are equally valid interpretations. However, as the paragraph was essentially a separate entity from the main piece, my inference was that "Extra" meaning "Bonus content" was the better interpretation. (To be fair, I also have considerable faith that if Rich had meant it as an intensifier, he would have put the additional hyphen in).

    Think we might have gone some little way towards disproving the point that "nobody...see that it matters at all"!

    @ bored Don lol

    Either. They're basically interchangeable: the '-t' is traditional English, the '-ed' form is Americanised (but becoming more popular in general usage), but both are the past participle of "learn".

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  14. Bloody hell, I go away for a couple of days to see the progeny, and you lot are at it hammer and tongs behind my back. See what happens when there isn't an adult around?

    For the record, then:

    Canajun: yes, if your name is Winston Churchill.

    Joe: you forgot 'follow-through', which is either a corner on the Top Gear test track or a nasty personal accident while wearing white trousers.

    I think you chaps have covered all the issues satisfactorily, so I will only add a couple of comments:

    1. The 'or course/of course' thing is not a spelling mistake. I can spell 'of', and have been able to do so for many years. It's a typo. If you look at how close the f and r keys are, and then imagine the minuscule keyboard on my netbook and the size of my sausagey fingers, you will believe that it was a simple slip of the digit - and in comments you can't go back and edit them out. There are thousands of these little buggers sprinkled throughout the posts here, but I always get to them before you do. Anyway, 'typo' sounds better than 'spelling mistake'.

    2. The 'extra bad taste' thing. I would parse this as follows: some humour inserted is a 'humour insert' If the humour is questionable, it is 'bad-taste' humour (bad taste is adj + noun, bad-taste is compound adj, hence the hyphen, like four-wheeled or user-friendly). And if it's an addition to the post, it's 'extra'. So using Edwin's brackets, it looks like:

    +extra {[(bad-taste) humour] insert}+

    Now I am going for a lie-down. (Not a lie down.) Thank you all for being so attentive.

    ReplyDelete

Comment is free, according to C P Scott, so go for it. Word verification is turned off for the time being. Play nicely.

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