Random English question

Question for all you native (and fluent) speakers out there, especially language geeks:

I generally don’t split infinitives in English. There’s one case that I’m stuck on, though, because I’m not sure if there’s another way to indicate the difference I have in mind: “not to do X” versus “to not do X.” The former implies that X is not done, but possibly through inattention or accident; the latter, a usage borrowed mostly from the speech habits of computer scientists, implies that the not doing of X is a primary objective of one’s actions.

Is there a more correct way to say this? It feels clunky every time I say it.

(What brought this to mind was a news article about the Clintons’ married life, where they say that Mr. Clinton “has told friends that his No. 1 priority is not to cause her any trouble.” When I read that, it seemed that “not” was modifying “is” rather than “cause,” which would suggest that his next line ought to be “It’s to make sure other people do! Wahahahaha!”)

Published in: on May 23, 2006 at 12:16  Comments (50)  
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I have some questions about obscenity.

Cut to preserve your virgin eyes

Published in: on September 2, 2004 at 20:32  Comments (7)  
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Random thought for the day:

A single word can have two different antonyms which are not synonyms of one another. For example, synonymy (the condition of two words having the same meaning) has antonyms antonymy (the condition of two words having opposite meaning) and polysemy (the condition of one word having multiple meanings).

Also, “synonymy,” “antonymy,” and “polysemy” are cool words.

Published in: on April 16, 2004 at 11:04  Comments (7)  
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Word games (Cabbala)

I’ve been reading through a book by Zetter on the Cabbala, which is overall nothing stunning but has some interesting insights. And some of these got me thinking, so I’m just going to muse here….

Please be warned that at some stage in this I’m going to descend into alphabetic analysis, which should not be taken too seriously. It’s a way to get at ideas more directly, but the ideas are the goal and the alphabet is just a rather odd means to get there.

Also, please note that it’s late, and I’m really not thinking in English at the moment, so the following may be really incomprehensible at times, and is probably not of interest to anyone who doesn’t do these things for fun. So be warned!

(more…)

Published in: on February 9, 2004 at 01:29  Comments (1)  
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Logolalia

In the past day, I’ve come across a surprising number of bizarre words in the English language.
Yes, these all are real.

Published in: on January 19, 2004 at 12:00  Comments (8)  
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Your bizarre word of the day…

Bathykolpian: Deep-breasted.

Yes, the English language has a word for everything.

Current Music: (I wish they all could be) Bathykolpian girls… [Now firmly stuck in my head]

Published in: on January 19, 2004 at 00:18  Comments (3)  
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Your random language thought for the morning:

A slip of the finger could transform an odometer, which measures distance travelled, to an odimeter, which measures the intensity of hatred.

A Google search on “odimeter,” however, only returned a handful of people who misspelled odometer. There are apparently no plans to market such a device, perhaps from lack of consumer interest.

On a completely different, note, the Supreme Court today refused without comment to hear a key case on medical marijuana, letting stand a ruling of the 9th circuit court of appeals that doctors may discuss its use with their patients without fear of reprisal. This was unexpected, as both sides had expected the court to take the case; the decision is likely to be interpreted as agreement by the court that the right of physicians to dispense medical advice supercedes the right of the federal government to make health policy. (Which is how the DEA phrased their case) The fact that nine states have independently passed laws to this effect may have had some impact as well.

OK, back to work for me…

Published in: on October 14, 2003 at 10:14  Comments (2)  
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Because I’m avoiding work…

Looking up “draught” in the OED for pronounciation notes, which can’t be copied into here because it’s full of symbols that ordinary HTML can’t render. Apparently the pronounciation “drawt” showed up in late Middle English but went out around the 18th century; the Scots currently pronounce it “dracht” (guttural ch, as in ‘loch’) and everyone else has gone over to “draft,” a pronounciation which the OED editors apparently don’t like because it makes the connection with “draw” less obvious. (A draught is something which is drawn, as a breath, a drink, a pen across a page, or an animal’s load)

The more logical spelling “draft” is therefore coming into use, but is apparently the accepted spelling only for certain senses of the word, e.g. a drafting table, or a gust of wind in a room, and not e.g. a draught of beer or a draught animal.

This has been another useless fact.

Published in: on May 9, 2003 at 11:28  Comments (6)  
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In explanation…

The previous post on words came out of a half-dazed idea for a game. (As in, I was half-dazed at the time…) A bunch of Greek words of the sort that can be used in English are written on cards and placed in a hat. Words that can only be used as prefices are marked as such, like “eu-” (“good”), but other words are just given in their full form. (“logos”) Each card has Greek text, English rendering, and possibly notes on meaning.

Then everyone takes turns drawing two cards out of the hat and assembling an interesting word out of them, defining the word and using it in a sentence or telling a short story to illustrate its use and meaning. Bonus points for style. This game should probably be played while drunk.

So the words in the previous post were some imaginings of what might come up under these circumstances.

Published in: on April 22, 2003 at 13:31  Comments (6)  
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Waiting…

So while I’m waiting for the interview, some random words that popped into my head last night while sleep-deprived:

Cryptoglossia n. Secret speech, conversation in code; e.g. “The blue dog howls at midnight,” or the dialogue of secret in-jokes between lovers.

Eschatolalic adj. n. One who rambles incoherently about the end of the world; the madman on the street shouting that the end is near, or on occasion a politician’s speech.

Ichthyopneia n, infl. form: pl. same as sing. An (intrinsically) nonexistent thing, or a dream-thing; like a box of moonbeams, or a lost city.

…and dammit, I’m really wondering when I’ll get that call back…

Published in: on April 22, 2003 at 11:24  Comments (7)  
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