I know there is a difference, that Americans hold very dear. I also know that my Word spell checker is programmed to use commas to distinguish which should be used. But I don't care either way, They are, to all extents interchangeable.
Yes, the spellcheckers know the rule a lot better than I do, that's for sure. I seem to use "which" for "that" too much.
I sincerely doubt that. I have turned this rule off in my grammar checker as it seems to almost always suggest "that" rather than "which" regardless of the circumstances. Actually I've turned off most of the rules. I work on the principle that if I break a so called rule I know what I'm doing and I don't need some damned machine second guessing me all the time.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
I dug back into some of my old lecture notes to see if I had ever discussed this topic. And lo, et VOILA! I did. March of 1982... graduate class in writing constructs.
Hm.... okay... Here's what I averred at that time. Which and that are pretty much interchangeable with a few exceptions. The most notable exception is when offering a choice. I.E. Which would you like? Another notable exception to interchangeability would be when specifying a selection: I chose that one. Which one? That one!
I recall a lively discussion about other similar constructs where two words are generally interchangeable but have specific applications that are related as these two are. I'm trying to be less than vague here. The connection or relation of the two when applied according to a "rule" is that "which" is non-specific, as in "Which one do you want?" and "that" is specific, as in "I want that one."
Clear as mud? The bottom line of course is that native English speakers of both British and American English use the two appropriately without much thinking about it.
They're not interchangeable (as relative clause markers -- that both have other meanings can be taken as read). While either can be used for restrictive (= defining) relative clauses, usually only 'which' sounds right in an appositive (= non-defining) clause:
??This book, that I hope you find interesting, cost me ten pounds.
*The people next door are partying, that [th't] is very annoying.
Word's rule for "which" and "that" seem to be that "which" is a clause that must be separated with a comma. I note that when I have a "which" without a comma, it will highlight it. However, if I add the comma, the use of "which" is fine.
Now, there are some cases where "which" and "that" can be interchanged, and others where they can't, as aput describes above. Yet, Word doesn't seem to understand that! I think Bob is right that I should turn off my grammar alerts. I am also sick of hearing that I use the passive voice too much, but we have discussed that before!
(Having written this, I see how much I use "that" in my writing. Word would be annoyed! )This message has been edited. Last edited by: Kalleh,
Very interesting to see how spread out all the votes are so far. I confess that I would have voted for #3 but q's elaboration of the difference between the two elsewhere was very helpful so I upgraded myself to #2.
What to look for - Can the phrase beginning with "which" or "that" be dropped from the sentence without hindering its meaning? If so, it's "which" and is set apart from the rest by a comma. Hence, "The trouble with Roy, WHICH has everyone concerned, is that he's failing math." The "which has everyone concerned" can be dropped and the sentence still stands alone saying what it needs to say.
On the other hand, "I wrote the incriminating letter THAT is causing all the trouble at school" is correct. The phrase beginning with "that" is crucial to the sentence.
That having been said, I won't stake my life on never screwing this up again. My understanding of the distinctions between "its" and "it's" is 100% and still I occasionally bobble them.
I can't agree that they are interchangeable. For example,
Shuffiz has written 'I have much modern art'.
I would always write ' I have a lot of modren art'.
When it comes to a huge collection of stamps or similar stuff, I wouldn't think it would be proper to say 'I have much modern art'.
However, Englsih is not my first language.
Let us say I buy latest books on C++ programming. I have about 12 of them at home.
I wouldn't say 'I have much books on C++ programming.
I would say 'I have a lot of books on C++ programming.
The example you give doesn't sound wrong because of confusion between "much" and "a lot of" it sounds wrong because of a confusion between countable and uncountable nouns.
"much" is grammatical when used with uncountable nouns.
I like much modern art.
Much tap-water is not drinkable.
The grammatical equivalent for countable nouns is "many".
I have many things to say to you, none of them pleasant.
There are many people who do not use the apostrophe corerectly.
(Your example should be "I have many books on C++ programming.")
So what about "a lot of". This is (or was, it's gaining currency) less formal than using "much" or "many" but it has the advantage of being substitutable for either in most cases. From the above
I like a lot of modern art.
A lot of tap water is not drinkable.
I have a lot of things to say to you, none of them pleasant.
There are a lot of people who do not use the apostrophe corerectly.
It is acceptable, especially in spoken English and increasingly so in written English but is still generally considered a bit too informal to be used in weightier writing.
"No man but a blockhead ever wrote except for money." Samuel Johnson.
Welcome to wordcraft, basson!
However, English is not my first language.
Which begs the question, what is your first language?
I would say 'I have many books on C++ programming.'
Actually, I probably wouldn't say that. I would say 'I have many books on C++', or 'I have many C++ books'.
I would say "many" or "a lot of," but surely not "much."
quote:Now Kalleh, I turn my back for a month or two, and come back to find you using "begs the question" for "invites the question". To beg a question is not to invite it, surely?
begs the question
The origin of this phrase is interesting: Aristotle wrote in his Prior Analytics hê tò eks arkhês aitêsetai 'to assume / beg from the beginning' (APr 41b9), which was latinized petitio principii 'begging of the beginning'. Since Fowler mentions the newer meaning of to invite the question it seems to be around to stay (i.e., more than a century at least). Cf. moot 'open to question, debatable' to 'of no significance or relevance'. How long should we rail against such solecisms before we admit defeat and allow them their new meaning? Silly originally meant blessed but none would use that meaning today with furious handwaving and copious, hedging, verbal footnotes.This message has been edited. Last edited by: jheem,
Ah, but I should have known. Wordcrafter had just written about it, and arnie referred us to Quinion on it.
You're right, Paul. As Quinion says, the best practice is to avoid that phrase altogether.
To discuss the difference between "I have a lot of books" and "I have many books", I realize that I use them for different things. For example, "I read a lot of Asimov". I would never say "I read much Asimov", or "I've read many Asimov works".
However, seeking out another Asimovian, I would say "Have you read much Asimov?" If I knew the person had read a few books by Asimov, I would then ask "Have you read a lot of Asimov?" If I'd spent more time reading Asimov than I should have, I would answer the question with "too much". Or, if the question was "Have you read alot of Asimov novels?" The answer is "too many", although I wouldn't think "too much" would be wrong here, I just wouldn't say it.
quote:And naughty once meant poor (one who has naught).
The problem arises while both meanings are extant -- to me a moot question is one that is debated, not one that is trivial. I'm not doing that to be awkward or clever, that's just what it means to me. So it's unsurprising that I should complain when people start using it to mean something else! (Although I quite accept that, eventually, I'll have to stop using it until its meaning stabilises -- I'm already at that stage with biannual Does it mean once every two years or twice a year?)
Enormity is going the same way.
The problem arises while both meanings are extant -- to me a moot question is one that is debated, not one that is trivial.
Indeed that is what moot means for me too, but when people are speaking to me, I must make a note that it is almost always used in its newer sense. I rarely correct them these days. The same goes for common mispronuciations as of to err which, at least, is ironic. As for biennial / biannual, I find it easier to say twice a year or every two years as demanded by sense.
quote:Yes, we agree!
I've never heard of anyone using "moot" like this. To me, "The point is moot", or more commonly "It's a moot point", means that it is not worth debating. At what point did the meaning change?
As for biannual, I've always been told that it couldmean either.. For example, bimonthly is confusing, because it could mean twice a month or once every two months. However, Biweekly typically means every two weeks, although I'm sure it could mean the other. I'd imagine this will sort itself out in a few decades, with bi taking the meaning of "every two", and another form coming along to mean "twice a".
Of course, with our(English language) luck, biweekly/biannual will mean every two weeks/years, and bimonthly will mean twice a month.
Even if some uses of 'infer' or 'moot' were solecisms, or non-standard in some clear way, there is usually no problem about their meaning as used. We should understand them as we do regional variants or simple ambiguities.
There are however a few words where confusion does damage them. The bi-period words are quite useless, since context is unlikely to disambiguate the two possible meanings. I think we should use two-weekly and twice-weekly and not even try to define biweekly. I have no personal preference for them: it's not that they mean, say, 'twice-' for me but I know others use them differently. Rather, I've never acquired these words.
Another one is 'inflammable', which should be banned outright. The new word 'flammable' is infinitely better. But it's very rare for variations in meaning to cause trouble like this.
quote:Well, I should research it before posting here, but I'll risk a quick reply, despite the distinct possibility of being proved quite wrong.
I think early societies (Norse, maybe?) used to have regular "moots" (a predecessor form of our "meet") where the whole community came together to thrash out points of conflict. An early parliament or congress, if you like.
Any points of dispute between people would be referred to the next moot for resolution: thus a "moot point", one which was not clear-cut and needed debating.
Some modern law societies (professional bodies of lawyers) still hold regular "moots" -- a social debate where contentious points are argued out by opposing lawyers.
I think the problem arises (as it does with enormity) when someone uses it in one meaning and a listener misinterprets as another. If I say that "whether or not Friends is the best TV programme is a moot point" I mean that it's debatable, but you could quite feasibly think I meant that it's trivial -- and we might not know that we had not understood each other.
As I say, the same problem arises with enormity; most online references I can find to it are to judges saying that some convicted criminal does not seem to realise "the enormity of the crime". My guess is that they mostly mean "great wickedness" (the standard meaning of "enormity") but that many listeners think, quite feasibly, that the judge is referring to the "big size" of the crime. Both meanings ("great wickedness" and "big size") make perfect sense in that context, but then the problem arises when the "big size" people use it in a sentence like "the rescuers have only just realised the enormity of the task facing them". The judge (and I) wince, but that meaning of the word -- originally a misinterpretation -- has now become so widespread that it could be said to be a standard meaning of enormity, maybe even the preferred meaning.
(Of course, if you go back a few hundred years, enormousness and enormity were synonyms, and it looks like they will be so again in a few more years.)This message has been edited. Last edited by: pauld,
No, no. You're quite right.
It's like Will Rogers used to say, "I never moot a Norseman I didn't like."
(I have learned that you can never go wrong agreeing with a few of the people on this board and pauld is definitely one of them.)
Maybe I'm way off base here, but if meet/moot are variants of the same word, shouldn't moot have been effected by the vowel shift and be a different word today? The etymology says moot came from Old English, so it should have been affected.
BTW, is "way off base" a baseball idiom?
'Moot' and 'meet' were affected by two regular vowel changes. The verb 'meet' is an umlaut of the noun 'moot', cf. food/feed. The root [mo:t] became first umlauted [mø:t-] in Early Old English before a palatal verb-suffix then lost the rounding and became [me:t-]. That's essentially how the two stems are related.
In Late Middle English we get the Great Vowel Shift, with [mo:t] becoming modern [mu:t], and [me:t] becoming modern [mi:t].
Well, I'm rather pleased. Seems I wasn't so far out (A cricketing idiom?) after all.
The sainted Michael Quinion says:
quote:There are similar pieces in The American Heritage Dictionary and the "Dr Ink" column.This message has been edited. Last edited by: pauld,
Actually, this is (even) more interesting than I thought. The American Heritage Dictionary entry gives this example of use:
quote:Which leads me to realise that although I interpret a moot point to be one that is debatable, I do interpret a point that has become moot to be one that has been overtaken by events, or become irrelevant.
So I have two different meanings for the word, depending on context. Most odd.
I was told a rather sad tale today by a journalist friend. In an article he wrote "Whether [Tony] Blair truly believed that they [weapons of mass destruction] existed is a moot point." His sub-editor (copy editor in the US) changed it to "... debatable point". When he asked why, he was told that if "moot" had been used the paper would have received scores of irate letters and e-mails complaining that the existence of WMD was not a trivial matter.
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.
Yes, that is true here in the U.S., I fear. The same is true, really, for "that begs the question," which started this discussion. While I agree (having read Quinion on it) that "begs the question" doesn't mean to "invite the question," I can't say that I have ever heard it used any other way, except on this board. The same goes for "moot point;" before the discussion on this board, I had only heard it used to mean "irrelevant."
Actually, I think the editor was fairly astute to change it for his audience. It would have caused quite the stir, I agree!
No worse that the plethora of emails to a website telling the designer that he mispelled "insane" without the s. Evidently they had never heard the word "inane" before and didn't think it existed. It was funny because in the context, using inane made complete sense, but using insane didn't make any sense at all.
I believe it's derived from chemistry, and means "acidic"... <g>
Regarding "moot", I have seen instances where "mooted" was used to mean "rendered irrelevant". I find it interesting that the American Heritage Dictionary (via dictionary.com) discusses the opposing meanings of "moot" at some length, and stresses the importance of context, but defines "mooted" only as submitted or proposed for discussion (my summation of their more complete definition).
Is the usage of "mooted" in the cases I've encountered just another verbization, or an evolution from the traditional meaning similar to that undergone by "moot"?
"Way off base" is not a very common term in the UK and I am thus rather inclined to think it's from Baseball.
Chemically a base is a substance capable of reacting with an acid (an akaline, in other words) to form a salt and water.
I can't see how the analogy of being "off the mark" or "out of order" could derive from that chemical characeristic.
According to The American Heritage Dictionary of Idioms:
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.
Ouch! - I was joking! <sniffle>...
Should I be using those little smileys instead of my usual <g> notation? I normally eschew embedded graphics, but I could make an exception here.
I prefer the original style of emoticon(the proper name for "smilies"), which is the plain text version. If you put a space in between the characters, it shouldn't pop up as an image. : )
What does ^-^ mean then?
It's a toss- up between "I'm really happy with my new Lamborghini with the gull-wing doors" and "I feel like Madonna, looking down". (Note that here is where I usually insert a <g> to indicate that I'm joking...)
I definitely prefer text emoticons. I've softened my initial position that embedded graphics are unreserverdly evil, but I do occasionally emit a curmudgeonly grumble upon seeing them.
I am proud to say that I have stuck by my pledge to never use the term "lol" in any writing. Did anyone ever read the book "Dave Barry in Cyberspace"? Barry is a very popular humor columnist over here whose take on the emerging internet society included what I considered to be a well-deserved slam against people who overuse the lingo. The example he gave went something along the lines of:
1st person: It's sure a nice day today (LOL)
2nd person: Yeah, I agree (LOL)
1st person: Definitely better than yesterday (ROTFLMAO) etc etc
The point being, of course, if something's funny you shouldn't need to point out this fact but if it's not, no amount of LOLing is going to help make it so.
It's a minor pet peeve of mine that on those few times I close parenthesis too close to a colon, I authomatically get a damn smiley face! I'm so entirely in the minority on this point, however, that I rarely even voice the complaint.
There is a website somewhere (I stumbled over it while looking for something else - You know how that goes) that contains a listing of all those little bits of visual keyboard shorthand (which have a name, probably, but I don't know it) and there must have been close to 2,000 of the damn things.
I'm at a scary point where I'm able to recognize some of the shorthands without ever having see them before. For example, HAND, means Have a Nice Day, I'd never saw it before but I figured it out rather quickly. Of course, these shorthands spring up faster than you could possibly learn them.
I will use lol(never rotflmao or other variants), to express genuine laughter. If I am literally laughing out loud sitting in front of a computer, the person deserves some recognition.
One of the reasons acronyms like LOL developed is that in cyberspace nobody can hear you laugh, and there is a lot more to communication than words.
By coicidence I have just been speaking to the General Sales Manager of a cruise line. His name? Lol!
I wonder whether he gets much ribbing over it?