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Is perfect text possible?
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
Posts: 1384

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 12:20 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

The posts in this thread show that "perfect" means very different things to each of us. Style, mentioned in more than one post, didn't even occur to me as I wrote the OP.
My thinking was more along the lines of completely error-free text.
To me, that means no OCR, spelling, grammar, hyphenation, punctuation, wrong word, historical, scientific, cultural, anachronistic, continuity or other errors in any omniscient or third-person narrative text. Discussing errors reminded me that I wrote something about Accuracy that includes more types of errors and appeared in a column here years ago:
http://www.likesbooks.com/158.html
Error-free also means no errors of any kind in dialogue or first-person narrative text OTHER THAN those deliberately used to convey aspects of characters.
Actual speech is full of uh, um, er and other filler that is rarely included in written dialogue. It also includes many errors that speakers would edit out if given the chance, which written dialogue usually does edit out.
Use of dialects and regional languages are stylistic choices rather than errors unless they descend into godwottery, but that shades into one of my initial questions: is it proper to use modern American English in dialogue involving non-American characters and settings? I know there is a convention of using the main language of a story for foreign dialogue (a sort of implicit translation), but should that convention be used for speech in other flavors of English?
If the speech of all characters isn't presented in American English, should that of non-American characters use British (and other regional/national) English spelling and punctuation?
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
Posts: 396
Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 10:30 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
But I also think language is a gift of such inestimable value that we should touch it only with kindness and resist its sliding into barbarisms wherever they are encountered.


It is a beautiful statement, but I don't think anybody is advocating that. Unfortunately what I'm getting out of the discussion is perfect is going to be a highly personal thing. What's perfect to me isn't necessarily going to be perfect to anyone else. If it was I would win this all right/alright battle once. I read my own books once they have been edited and wince because it's not perfect because somewhere someone has said something is completely correct instead of okay because I didn't change it to something else. And I have gone to the mat over incorrect grammar in dialogue. For me, nothing rips me out of a story faster than someone going to lie down. (Other than perhaps a fork in the tenth century.)
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:39 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charlotte, what is your problem with "someone going to lie down"? That looks to me like correct usage. See my "Logged errors" thread on this board.
I also double-checked lay & lie in the OED & OAD and both have "lie down" as correct. The OED has pages of lay & lie, but the OAD has a couple usage notes short enough to type:
Usage note after "lay":
The verb lay means, broadly, 'put something down': they are going to lay the carpet. The past tense and the past participle of lay is laid: they laid the groundwork; she had laid careful plans.
The verb lie, on the other hand, means 'assume a horizontal or resting position': why don't you lie on the floor? The past tense of lie is lay: he lay on the floor earlier in the day. The past participle of lie is lain: she had lain on the bed for hours.
In practice, many speakers inadvertently get the lay forms and the lie forms into a tangle of right and wrong usage. Here are some examples of typical incorrect usage: have you been laying on the sofa all day? (should be lying); he lay the books on the table (should be laid); I had laid in this position so long, my arm was stiff (should be lain).
Usage note after "lie":
The verb lie ('assume a horizontal or resting position') is often confused with the verb lay ('put something down'), giving rise to incorrect uses such as he is laying on the bed (correct use is he is lying on the bed) or why don't you lie the suitcase on the bed? (correct use is why don't you lay the suitcase on the bed?). The confusion is only heightened by the fact that lay is not only the base form of to lay, but is also the past tense of to lie, so while he is laying on the bed is incorrect, he lay on the bed yesterday is quite correct.

I didn't see any British vs. American notes in the OAD for lay or lie, and it is pretty good about listing differences. Since both the OED & the OAD are from OUP, this is all from British sources.
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limagal



Joined: 17 Jul 2010
Posts: 94
Location: lima, peru

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mark for posting. I was also going to respond to this and then thought- is it different in Great Britain? I remember grade school and studying the rules and learning to say "I am going to lie down" versus :I am going to lay down." as everyone said (and still does where I come from). This may be a usage that in time will be accepted- who knows? I remember that the same grammar book said that you do not say that you are "enthused" about anything and yet everybody does say it now. I thought it sounded strange when I read that rule and still don't use that.
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limagal



Joined: 17 Jul 2010
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Location: lima, peru

PostPosted: Wed Oct 03, 2012 7:55 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Thanks Mark for posting. I was also going to respond to this and then thought- is it different in Great Britain? I remember grade school and studying the rules and learning to say "I am going to lie down" versus :I am going to lay down." as everyone said (and still does where I come from). This may be a usage that in time will be accepted- who knows? I remember that the same grammar book said that you do not say that you are "enthused" about anything and yet everybody does say it now. I thought it sounded strange when I read that rule and still don't use that.
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
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Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 3:55 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Mark, it's correct, but in Standard American English "lay" is used consistently in place of "lie." So when I say it will rip me out of a story it's because people don't talk like that unless they are trying to make a point of being correct. If this character who announces that they are going to "lie" down, I expect it to be the Dowager Lady Grantham or Gil Grissom from CSI. Believe me, I have been through the difference. I have an English degree, I write and I teach English, but I have never gotten the hang of it because it's not in my dialect. This is a perfect example of why perfect text can't exist. In my perfect text, most characters from the US, particularly west of the Ohio/Pennsylvania border (specifically the middle to Lake Erie, northerly around the lakes and along the Canadian border and southerly in a diagonal line to Southern California. There's a map, but I can't find it right now.) can distinguish between lay and lie, yet one is grammatically correct and the other is not. Now should my friend from St. Louis say lie down, I'm not surprised. That issue isn't in her dialect though her "o"s sound like "ar"s, like /harses/ instead of /horses/.
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Charlotte McClain



Joined: 04 Oct 2008
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Location: Abu Dhabi, UAE

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 4:07 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Here's a map.

http://webspace.ship.edu/cgboer/dialectsofenglish.htmlMap of dialects.

You have to scroll down. Standard American English basically amounts to the Western Dialect with a bit of the North Midlands thrown in. I grew up on the Ohio/Pa border where the North Midlands Dialect meets the Pittsburgh Dialect and pronounce the word "route" three different ways depending on who I'm talking to. (I know I've been in Ohio too long when I hear myself say /rut/.)

I love linguistics.
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Tee



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 6:44 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Charlotte, that map and accompanying information is fantastic. Later on, when I have a bit more time, I'm going to delve into it further. Thanks for sharing. Very Happy
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 8:57 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Although a number of the regional idioms--such as pop/soda, e.g.--remain in use, an equal number of them have disappeared. The map is also, I think, a bit out of date. From the influence of TV and radio, movies, urbanization, etc., most of the pronunciations of the US midlands are far more widely distributed than the map suggests, a sad homogenization in many respects.

As for the distinction between lie and lay, I think most people (somehow sensing through that gene for language all humans seem to have that they need to make the verb transitive) avoid the problem entirely--and quite correctly--by saying something like "I lay myself down for a nap every day at three."
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dick



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:06 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

In addition to the kinds of errors for which Mark has such excellent data, I've been noticing a lot of problems with syntax. Example: He prepared a hot cup of toddy for her." Surely it was the toddy that had the heat; the cup but shared in it.
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Linda in sw va



Joined: 27 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 9:59 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:

As for the distinction between lie and lay, I think most people (somehow sensing through that gene for language all humans seem to have that they need to make the verb transitive) avoid the problem entirely--and quite correctly--by saying something like "I lay myself down for a nap every day at three."


Dick, I can't think of anyone in my everyday life that would phrase it like this, that sounds uppity. I agree with Charlotte that the use of lay is the common use rather than lie. The use of lie sounds to me like the person is trying to sound prim and proper and I would wonder where they are from, either very wealthy or outside the United States.

Linda
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
Posts: 1194

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 11:54 am    Post subject: Reply with quote

Talking about origins, and local words and accents is not the same as basic language rules. I have more problems with the maps mentioned based on my own studies.

My background: education in English literature and language, meaning also linquistics; being an editor of both American and British books; living in both the US and UK; and being a long-time genealogist tracing early migration patterns to the colonies from Britain in particular. All of those tell me Mark is exactly, well....on the mark. Modern language resources also agree with Mark. The remaining American/English differences are minor, such as.... the Brits putting their punctuation marks outside quotes instead of inside as is done in the US, no periods after some abbreviations like Mr, some different words or their connotation (mad in the UK means crazy, and not angry), and so on.

The maps and text have no sources listed. In fact, the first map has this note: "Note: All dialect borders merely suggestive!" (sic). It's inaccurate so I checked the author and came up with this: Welcome to my homepage! My name is George Boeree (pronounced boo-RAY). I am a retired professor, previously in the Psychology Department at Shippensburg University, where I taught personality theories and the history of psychology (among other things). I am also guilty of inventing Lingua Franca Nova.... I got my BA from Penn State, and my MS and PhD from Oklahoma State, all in Psychology.

OTOH, a very good, well-resourced book is Albion's Seed: Four British Folkways in America (America: A Cultural History) by historian David Hackett Fischer. His background: University Professor and Earl Warren Professor of History at Brandeis University.... He is best known for two major works: Albion's Seed and Washington's Crossing (Pivotal Moments in American History). In Albion's Seed, he argued that core aspects of American culture stem from four British folkways and regional cultures and that their interaction and conflict have been decisive factors in U.S. political and historical development. In the Pulitzer Prize-winning Washington's Crossing, Fischer provides a narrative of George Washington's leadership of the Continental Army during the winter of 17761777 during the American Revolutionary War.... received a B.A. from Princeton University and a Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. He received the 2006 Irving Kristol Award from the American Enterprise Institute.

There were three early migration trails-- across PA through the upper Midwest; down the Appalachian Trail (Va.) and then through the Cumberland Pass through the middle of the country; and down through Virginia directly South through NC, SC, until GA, and then moving west across the Deep South, following the removal of Indians. The last was my family's path. Many or most Southerners were Scots-Irish along with English. This trail and cultural background is what has made the South more homogeneous in culture to this day.

That's all cultural though. My own family came to Penna. with Quakers in the 1600s, who ended up migrating all through the South ending in Indian Territory, but genealogy has helped me meet "cousins" from all over the US. My Mom who grew up in Oklahoma and Texas and moved to the Northeast as an adult had the same language rules as her new neighbors, although her Texan drawl was indeed different.

If I've gotten something wrong about George Boeree, please let me know--or if you'd care to disagree on any point. I obviously love talking language and mean nothing personal. I just disagree.


Last edited by Eliza on Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:29 pm; edited 2 times in total
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Eliza



Joined: 21 Aug 2011
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:04 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

Linda in sw va wrote:
Dick, I can't think of anyone in my everyday life that would phrase it like this, that sounds uppity. I agree with Charlotte that the use of lay is the common use rather than lie. The use of lie sounds to me like the person is trying to sound prim and proper and I would wonder where they are from, either very wealthy or outside the United States. Linda


I think dick sounds accurate and informed. Some time back Sally in Scotland had a thread about the troubles with lay/lie and bring/take, both of which are incorrectly used all the time. Some rules just seem to trip up some folks more than other rules; that's why there are so many language reference resources.

I had a teacher once who reminded us that chickens lay eggs, but people don't. Smile

Edited to delete a misunderstanding on my part, I think. Sorry.


Last edited by Eliza on Sat Oct 06, 2012 1:52 pm; edited 1 time in total
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Mark



Joined: 22 Mar 2007
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PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:25 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

I grew up in Arizona & have lived most of my adult life in California (except for half a year in a suburb of NYC), so that is the linguistic environment I'm familiar with. I have never seen or heard intransitive use of lay taught as correct. I have only seen it presented as confusion or error, as described in the usage notes from the OAD and other books about usage or difficult or confusing words.
Charlotte, have you ever seen intransitive lay in any American English textbooks?
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Eggletina



Joined: 06 Jul 2010
Posts: 432

PostPosted: Sat Oct 06, 2012 12:57 pm    Post subject: Reply with quote

dick wrote:
In addition to the kinds of errors for which Mark has such excellent data, I've been noticing a lot of problems with syntax. Example: He prepared a hot cup of toddy for her." Surely it was the toddy that had the heat; the cup but shared in it.


Playing devil's advocate here...
It is not uncommon for me to hear people say, "I'd like a hot cup of coffee," etc. Following that same logic, I would think one could say a hot cup of toddy. Of course, it's the toddy that is hot, and a hot toddy can also make the cup hot. I don't know if you'd call an example like this an idiomatic expression.

Re language change...
The PBS website has a very interesting section on language change. Here are a few links (I could spend all day sifting through the various articles posted):

http://www.pbs.org/speak/ahead/change/

http://www.pbs.org/speak/ahead/change/ruining/
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