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Picture of Kalleh
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Well, maybe I don't totally understand double negatives then. What I am trying to say is that when there are two negatives in the one sentence, like "not" and "no," the sentence is confusing. The example above of "can't get no," I'll give you has been used enough that most people would understand it (except perhaps those from other cultures just learning our language). We all know, for example, "I can't get no...satisfaction!"

But generally, when two negatives are in one sentence, I think it is confusing and shouldn't be used. Just my humble opinion...and I certainly respect everyone who disagrees with me. I am not saying you are wrong; I am merely saying I disagree.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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I do agree, goofy, that mine is the example of #3:

This survey is NOT intended for Associate Members:

YES

NO

...because they told us to just remove the NOT when answering, of all things! What a ridiculous question. And, there are many others who use this survey who don't know to remove the NOT.
 
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So sentences that contain negative concord (type 2), like these, are confusing?

She cannot love,
Nor take no shape nor project of affection
- Shakespeare, Much Ado About Nothing

...lost no time, nor abated no Diligence
- Daniel Defoe, Robinson Crusoe

...my daddy was all gray and didn't have no bank account and no Blue Cross. He didn't have nothin', and he worked himself to death - Louis Banks, quoted in Studs Terkel, Hard Times

We ain't had no breakfast, we're going hungry, so what do you mean we can't get no relief? - Nannie Washburn, quoted in Harper's Weekly

I never believe nothing until I got the money - Flannery O'Connor, letter

"and there warn't no raft in sight" - Mark Twain, Huckleberry Finn
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Ah, well, I am not going to argue this any longer. I see your point that these big and great authors are using double negatives. I do understand what each of these authors is saying.
 
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I didn't think we were arguing.

I got these quotes from Merriam-Webster's Dictionary of English Usage. The point I wanted to make was not that negative concord was used by great authors, but that negative concord has been used for a long time and by a lot of different kinds of people, and that it's not confusing. I wanted to know if you really felt that negative concord was confusing, or if it was only other kinds of double negatives that were confusing - like type 3, which in my opinion really can be confusing.

This message has been edited. Last edited by: goofy,
 
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I know, Goofy, and I don't think you, and the others, are wrong. I just think double negatives are confusing, and I don't use them (even though Shakespeare does!).

BTW, I got this email today and it reminded me of this discussion: "Whomever has the card for her, please be sure to bring it to the meeting."
 
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"Whomever has the card for her, please be sure to bring it to the meeting."

Whomever is a mistake for whoever. At least in standard English. I do not find double negatives of the type, "I can't get no satisfaction", to be confusing at all. Having said that I would never use a double negative in formal, written English. (I do find litotes confusing if they go beyond two terms.)


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by zmježd:
"I can't get no satisfaction",

If one were as butt ugly as Mick Jagger it wouldn't be surprising!


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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quote:
Originally posted by goofy:
There are at least 3 kinds of things that are called "double negatives".

1) the standard English use of two negatives to make a positive, as in "not unlikely" or "I don't believe that X didn't happen" - which means "I believe that X happened."

2) Negative concord, where two negatives reinforce each other as in "I can't get no satisfaction". This is nonstandard, but I don't see how it is unclear.

3) overnegation, like "Don't fail to miss it", where there is one negative too many. Here, "fail to miss" means "miss". Language Log has a lot to say about overnegation.

I think Kalleh's survey is overnegation (type 3).


I'm with Kalleh in that I find many of these confusing. The type 1, "I don't believe that X didn't happen" I have to think about before I can translate it to "I believe X happened," but part of me thinks it means "I'm incredulous that X didn't happen." That one's definitely ambiguous to me. I guess "I can't believe it's not butter" is in this same category--a phrase I never had a problem with.

Type 2 seems clear to me in this one instance, at least. "We don't need no stinkin'badges!" That one's perfectly clear to me, though I would say ungrammatical, as it is nonstandard.

The type 3 is one of those things that I understand immediately, but, if I think about it, I'm less and less sure. So, for me, two out of three ain't good.

Wordmatic
 
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Type 2 seems clear to me in this one instance, at least. "We don't need no stinkin'badges!" That one's perfectly clear to me, though I would say ungrammatical, as it is nonstandard.

I'd say it's perfectly grammatical, but in a non-standard dialect. One mistake I see made over and over again is to say that non-standard dialects have no grammar or are full of solecisms. Not so. All languages (dialects, registers, etc.) have grammars; they would not be possible without.

Furthermore, I'd say that the reason type 2 sentences are easily understandable is that the grammar of double or triple negation in many non-standard English dialects is well understood by many people who speak or write the standard dialect of English.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by wordmatic:
I'm with Kalleh in that I find many of these confusing.


But they're not all confusing, are they? I agree, some kinds of "double negatives" are confusing. But some kinds are perfectly clear.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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quote:
Whomever is a mistake for whoever. At least in standard English. I do not find double negatives of the type
I only posted that, z, because we were talking about grammar/punctuation and other types of writing errors/questions. I did not think it a double negative.

Z and Geoff, I had earlier said that "I can't get no satisfaction" is perfectly clear because it is commonly used, and, yes, Geoff, I had alluded to Mick Jagger's song.

No, goofy, they aren't all confusing. Some are "perfectly clear," mostly because you can tell the meaning by the context...or Mick Jagger used them.

While I am not a linguist, I am a writer, so I have to consider these kinds of questions on a daily basis. I am certain that none of these, including "I can't get no satisfaction" (unless quoting a song or something similar) would get by any editor, at least those whom I work with. (I did end that last sentence with a preposition so I haven't become a prescriptivist!)

Addendum: So interesting. In the second to the last sentence above, I mistakenly wrote "..none of these...would never get by any editor...." It must have been a Freudian slip!
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Kalleh:

While I am not a linguist, I am a writer, so I have to consider these kinds of questions on a daily basis. I am certain that none of these, including "I can't get no satisfaction" (unless quoting a song or something similar) would get by any editor


Of course not. But you raised this question of double negatives because you felt they were inherently confusing, right? Not simply because some of them are not standard and wouldn't be accepted by an editor.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Yes, you are correct. However, the one real example I provided has caused much confusion among many people who develop surveys.

As far as double negatives being understood, well, they are not understood because of logic. They are understood either because of context or because they've become part of the culture (e.g., "I can't get no satisfaction."). Logic would tell you that you you could get satisfaction.
 
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Logic would tell you that you you could get satisfaction.

But, again, what has logic to do with language? It is something that aids argumentation, but the argument itself is outside of logic in language. I don't think we understand "I can't get no satisfaction" because of Mick Jagger's using it as a lyric in a song, but because we know that in certain dialects of English double negation does not make a positive as it does in logic but intensifies the negation. When somebody brings me my dinner in hospital and I utter "I don't want no food", she would be ill-advised to take my utterance as meaning "I do want some food."

It is oftentimes said that double negatives should be eschewed because they can cause confusion, when in fact they do not. On the other hand, litotes of the sort "I am not unfamiliar with that" are said to be logical, grammatical, and stylistically desirable, can cause confusion.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Kalleh, if we're somehow appealing to logic when we use language, then how do you explain languages that use negative concord, like French, Spanish, Serbian, Russian, ancient Greek, Lithuanian, Hungarian? How do you explain Old and Middle English, when negative concord was the norm? If language should be logical, then French, Spanish, Middle English, etc. are illogical and no one should speak them.

Serbian:
Niko nikada nigde ništa nije uradio, literally Nobody never nowhere nothing did not do, meaning "Nobody ever did anything anywhere."
Negative concord is a kind of agreement, where the words agree with each other in negation.
More examples.

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So THAT's why Slick Willie bombed Sarajevo! Nobody never told him not to! But seriously, In another thread I cited French as using negative concord, but nobody noticed. You they'll listen to! Wink


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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Picture of arnie
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quote:
On the other hand, litotes of the sort "I am not unfamiliar with that" are said to be logical, grammatical, and stylistically desirable, can cause confusion.

As Bob has already said, that form of litotes is very common over here, so is unlikely to confuse many people in the UK. Overnegation, though, is sometimes used in its place as a form of irony. That can often confuse!


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I have been pondering whether double negatives are ungrammatical in standard English, or if it's just a matter of a deprecated style. I have still not made up my mind about it. We have all sorts of sentences in English that break with logic somehow. If I say/write that "the current King of France is bald" that is a false statement, but it is no ungrammatical.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by zmježd:
I have been pondering whether double negatives are ungrammatical in standard English, or if it's just a matter of a deprecated style.


To be clear, you're talking about negative concord, right? Because litotes ("not uncommon", what I call type 1) clearly is grammatical.
 
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Picture of Kalleh
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Ah,well, we probably are all on the same page, with our own perspectives anyway.

I was trying to think about double negatives that are meant as positives. I am thinking of "He is not unintelligent." Or as in arnie's example of overnegation being used as a form of irony (probably more so in the UK where irony seems to be bigger).

I found this site interesting. It's from Jim Loy's Languages Page. He provides a triple and quadruple negative:

Triple: I cannot say I cannot disagree with you.

Quadruple: I cannot disagree with you when you say that you cannot disagree with me.

He cautions, though, not to use them as they may be taken to mean the exact opposite from what was meant...which is what happened with our double negative survey response.
 
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o be clear, you're talking about negative concord, right? Because litotes ("not uncommon", what I call type 1) clearly is grammatical.

Yes, that's right.


Ceci n'est pas un seing.
 
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Do we get the word, "little" from litotes?

I'm really glad you clarified, since I thought Litotes was a Greek grammarian. Roll Eyes


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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quote:
Originally posted by Geoff:
I thought Litotes was a Greek grammarian. Roll Eyes


I thought it was bad breath.
 
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Sometimes Wonder Woman and Xena are just too much!

From an on-line story from Portland, Oregon:

After a 22-year old overdosed on Heroine in a southeast Portland home, Police make a huge drug bust.

Neither the particular heroine nor the size of her bust were disclosed.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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There was a good article in the New York Times Yesterday entitled "Some Books are More Equal than Others." The author, a middle school reading enrichment teacher, certainly didn't take the stand that kids should just read anything in the summer to keep them reading (except for the very young). He gave some great examples of books they might read this summer. However, he also says that kids shouldn't have to do big assignments related to the reading...but they should just enjoy it:
quote:
While reading classic literature with students is my passion, I prefer that students explore literature in the summer as a pleasure and return to school curious about the world around them, not weary from having written about books they could not fully understand, or smug from having earned credit for an essay on a book they could have easily comprehended in fourth grade.

Thoughts?
 
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The author's right.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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The trouble is that there is a great glaring hole in his argument. The (real) society depicted in The Red Badge of Courage has no more relevance to a modern teenager than the (fictional) society of The Hunger Games.
Having not read The Hunger Games I cannot say whether it is poorly written or sublimely written but I can reverse the “donned blue” argument. Yes, the Civil War is an important part of American History but that does not mean that it has any immediate impact on the life skills of the reader. In Starship Troopers people are immensely proud to join the military and, just as in Red Badge of Courage, some find that they cannot cope with the stresses that come with the military life. Is Starship Troopers a lesser book because it’s not about something that really happened?
Personally, and this time I have read both, I think that as an exploration of how people in a militaristic society react to war Starship Troopers is by far the better book.*

Reading should be purposeful? Couldn’t agree more. I suspect, though, that we have differing ideas of what purposeful means. Frankly you couldn’t pay me enough to make me read the Twilight series. I tried one and gave up after twenty pages. But if a teenager sits down and thinks. “Hey, I’ll read a book. I know. I liked Twilight the movie, I’ll read the book.” – how is that not purposeful?

Reading non-fiction? Well I like it when I find a book that meshes with my interests but of all the ones he suggests (most of which I had to look up) only Fast Food Nation sounds even vaguely interesting. Spend a summer reading about Hiroshima? Has he ever met a teenager?

Frankly, I think that what we have here is a classic example of someone who thinks that his taste in reading material is superior to everyone else’s and therefore they should come into line with him.

I couldn’t disagree more with his ideas.

Kids – here’s my advice. Find something you like to read. Something with more words and less pictures is probably better but don’t let that put you off picking up a Sandman Graphic novel or two – or Archie Comics if you feel like it.
Read stuff you like and you’ll learn to like reading. Read stuff somebody else tells you to like and you’ll learn to hate reading.


* Rubbish movie though – completely missed the point of the book.
 
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Bob, you seem to be self-contradictory in paragraphs two and five. Am I confused? It sems to me that your final sentence is just what the author said.


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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The author says

quote:
But for students in middle school and high school, reading selection does matter.Students attain more knowledge of both kinds reading Stephen Crane’s “Red Badge of Courage” than they do reading the “Hunger Games” series.


and

quote:
students are asked to choose their own summer reading from Web sites like ReadKiddoRead, where the same...category includes “The Catcher in the Rye” and “Flipped,” by Wendelin Van Draanen,,,but how will [they] determine which one to pick?


and

quote:
I propose focusing on accessible nonfiction guaranteed to increase world and verbal knowledge.


He seems to me to be saying "don't just read anything, read these things that I think will improve you.

I am saying "Read whatever the hell you want to- The Hunger Games, Peanuts, the label on the Ketchup bottle. Just read."

Incidentally I used "purposeful" where he has used "intentional" because I don't think he means "intentional". It doesn't make sense. The only "unintentional reading" that it's possible to do is when you accidentally glance at something that has words on it and your brain processes them before you can glance away - such as advertising.

Does that clear it up?
 
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And the "Couldn't agree more" in P2 is meant to be ironic. The "Couldn't disagree more" is sincere.
 
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OK, I see my problem. I was basing my thinking on just the snippet that Kalleh quoted, not on the whole article. The whole thing makes her sound contradictory - and half those books would be banned or burned in Texas!


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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Bob, I believe China has brought out your cantankerous side. Wink

I think the author was not saying to read what he recommends. He merely gave some examples, and certainly didn't say you must read those. Whatever your opinion is about "Red Badge of Courage," many educators in the U.S., at least, find it an excellent book for kids. I know we did. "Fast Food Nation?" I'd not suggest that book, along with others that he recommended. But his point was that kids should have some guidance with what they choose to read. Our kids did and each one of them is an avid reader. We did not make them "hate reading" because of our guidance. There is a fine line, though, and I completely agree with the author that making kids write reviews of what they read during the summer will drain all the enjoyment from reading.

As for "The Hunger Games," I haven't read them so I can't comment. However, my gut feeling is that I'd rather my kids read something else.

I'd like to see what CW thinks.
 
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I'm not trying to be cantankerous, I just don't agree with the article.
Also, I agree - Red Badge of Courage is a fine book but I don't think a book set in the Civil War has anything more to teach today's kids than a book set in a fictional post-apocalyptic world.

The bit I do agree with is that they shouldn't write reviews but what if my guidance is to read Sandman graphic novels (all of them brilliant) rather than Hiroshima? Would my guidance be less valid because I'm saying it's OK to read comics?

Why shoudn't they read trash if they want to?
To me the whole article, especially the idea that they should read those "worthy" non fiction books in their vacation, sounded more like preaching than sound advice.

Call it the way I see it.
 
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Further to my view of the relevance of Red Badge of Courage and the Hunger Games to modern teenagers, I'd offer this.

Books, whether set in the past or the future, are written by people in the "now", whenever that is. Stephen Crane published Red badge of Courage in 1895. His own outlook, his own world view was influenced by the times in which he lived. It couldn't be otherwise. Books come from the minds of authors but the minds of authors are shaped by the world in which they live. Suzanne Collins published The Hunger Games in 2008 and is similarly a child of her time, influenced by the world of 2008. Her concerns are the concerns of her target readership. Her reality is their reality.

It is perfectly sensible to suggest that, whatever the relative literary merits of the two books, The Hunger Games will resonate more solidly with modern teenagers because the author is grounded in the modern world. A book written more than a century ago is grounded in a different world - not the world of the civil war setting, but the world of the author.

I'm not saying that people shouldn't read classic literature. They should. If they want to. But it's just a kind of "I-know-better-than-you" arrogance to suggest that the "classics" will be better for them.

And in any case, who can say whether The Hunger Games may one day be regarded as a classic. The books that are remembered are largely an accident of history.
 
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For the record, I was just kidding about the "cantankerous" comment, thus the wink. Of course you have a right to your opinion, and I like that you call it like you see it.

I don't 100% agree with either you or the author. I think he made some ridiculous recommendations (like the faddish "Fast Food Nation"), but on the other hand I like the moderate approach he took. He is in between those who think kids should only read what I was assigned in the summer, "War and Peace" and "The Robe," along with required essays...and then those who think that anything, including an Archie comic book, should be part of a summer reading program. Sure, let them read their Archie comic book...but don't make it a part of their reading program. That's the way I see it, but surely I know that not everyone agrees with me.
 
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As you know, Nora Ephron died recently of leukemia. What a great role model for our younger women. I loved this article:
quote:
As she worked her way up the women's ladder to clipper and then researcher/fact-checker, she took note of the unyielding double standard. When the magazine published a story with the subject's name spelled wrong, she wrote, blame fell "not to the writer (male) who had misspelled the name, or to the many senior editors (male) and copy editors (male) who had edited the story, but to the two researchers (female) who'd checked it."
 
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Yes, I know we've discussed apostrophes here, but this short article about them, while a review, is interesting.
 
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For the above article, they say to add an apostrophe after the "s" when nouns are in the plural form (like measles. So it would be "the measles' effects." I thought it was also acceptable, and preferable by some, to make it measles's. I remember my post about my daughter's law professor for criticizing her for citing "Charles' case;" she said it should be "Charles's case."
 
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That formation is common in the USA but most here in the UK would add a letter s as well as the apostrophe. Thus: the measles's effects, Charles's case.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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I am not sure about "measles". Is it a plural - or simply a word ending in "s"? Can you have a measle?

But otherwise I agree with Arnie; words ending in "s" are made possessive just as are any other word.

So if we are referring to a company boss, then his office is "the boss's office". If there are two or more bosses sharing an office, then is is "the bosses' office.

I know it is common in the USA to write "the boss' office" when referring to a singular boss - but I have yet to be told how they pronounce this (wrongly-formed) word. Do they write "boss" and say "bossez" or do they write and say "boss'"?

The Tribune article supports the US style, but does not mention pronunciation. I'd be willing to bet that in conversation, when they're referring to the office belonging to the boss, Americans called it the "bossez" office - no matter how they write it.

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Richard English
 
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quote:
(wrongly-formed)

Not "wrongly", just "differently". It's a matter of style.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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While Americans spell it as "boss' office", we would pronounce it as that "$%^&#$ office".


Give a man a fish and he can eat for one day; give a man a fishing pole and he will find an excuse to never work again.
Nollidj is power.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by arnie:
quote:
(wrongly-formed)

Not "wrongly", just "differently". It's a matter of style.

If it's spelt "boss'" and pronounced "bossez" (as I am sure it is) then I reckon it's wrong. Although there are plenty of non-phoenetic words in English, this is more than a simple spelling idiosyncracy. It is a mispronunciation in order to make the written word look "nicer".

There are examples (mainly in Biblical names) when a name is apostrophised as if it were a plural - Jesus' and Xerxes' spring to mind. But there is a reason for this: Jesusez and Xerxesez are tricky to say; no such excuse can be used in the case of "bossez" - Americans have no problem saying the word - they just choose to spell it wrongly.


Richard English
 
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Richard, do you want me to go into all the wrong pronunciations of UK English? I mean I could start with idea, which in fact does not have an r at the end, but I won't go there. Agreed with arnie that it isn't wrong...just different.

Besides, guys, we do spell words ending in s with s both ways; some use the s' way, while others (including my daughter's law professor) spell it s's, so, Richard, it isn't all Americans who "wrongly spell" it.
 
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P.S. You cannot have a measle. It is only measles.
 
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quote:
Richard, do you want me to go into all the wrong pronunciations of UK English?

No. I want you to tell me whether the possessive form of "boss", when spelt in the US manner, is pronounced "boss" or "bossez". If the latter then the US spelling "boss'" is completely pointless. I agree, of course, that there are many other eccentric spellings in English, but the one here subject to mention seems especially pointless.

quote:
P.S. You cannot have a measle. It is only measles."

In that case it is a singular noun that ends in an "s" - similar to "gas" (or for that matter, "boss"). And it is properly made possessive in the same way as any other singular noun - by adding "apostrophe s".

So, much though it might jar, a sentence using the possessive of measles might be: "One of measles's symptoms is spots". Of course, most writers would avoid the possessive (which is usually possible in any sentence) by writing, "one of the symptoms of measles is spots".


Richard English
 
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Why?
Why is it any more pointless to spell a word pronounced "bossez" without the final "S" than it is to spell the word pronounced "nIf" with an initial "k" and a final "e".

You are attempting to analyse orthography as if it were susceptible to logic and rational structures. It isn't.

There is no scale of how right and wrong a spelling is. If it's an accepted spelling in your version of English (as "boss'" is in US English) then it's right. What's the point of us having a "u" in "colour"? No point at all - it just is. And because it is, it is right.
 
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quote:
Originally posted by BobHale:
What's the point of us having a "u" in "colour"?
Because it's French, and we know how you Brits love to emulate the French! Wink


It is no measure of health to be well adjusted to a profoundly sick society. -J. Krishnamurti
 
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quote:
Because it's French

The French for "colo(u)r" is couleur. Any other suggestions?

BTW, the Latin was color, as was the Old French, which is where English got the word from.


Build a man a fire and he's warm for a day. Set a man on fire and he's warm for the rest of his life.
 
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