Sunday, January 24, 2016

Exchange: Trolled

Image via Scuzzfeed.
There was a troll in the comments to the Sarah Palin poem piece trying to bait commenter Avattoir. I don't block trolls, at least I haven't done so yet, but I do enjoy holding them up to public ridicule, especially when they are the kind of Breitbart commenter who thinks announcing he's gay entitles him to deny the validity of the trans woman's experience, and I'm much too vain to let my response languish at the bottom of the thread, so here it is:

Metaphorical overload.
Honestly, Palin did it better.
                        • It's tough to be pretentious in ten words or less.
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                              Speaking of being pretentious in fewer (not "less") than 10 words, Strunk and White managed to combine pretentiousness and complete grammatical cluelessness with the most extreme brevity. Classic example, on the passive voice.
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                                  I didn't say "less than ten words," I said "ten words or less," which is acceptable grammar. You can't rearrange my words and then attack me for poor grammatical construction.
                                  Also, I wouldn't share what the first thing I find on Google . . . mainly because the criticism you managed to present has as many grammatical errors (and run-on sentences) as your writing.
                                  Opinion blogs are not considered evidence.
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                                      Hahaha. Geoffrey Pullum's frequent tirades at Language Log (not exactly an "opinion blog" but a hangout for some of the most distinguished voices in the field of linguistics) against the stupidity of Strunk & White are famous in the trade, and though I generally disagree with him on theoretical issues (he's a mathematizing formalist, I'm a radical functionalist), he is always right on this subject. I knew what I was looking for and chose what I thought was the funniest and most devastating. You have no idea what you're saying.
                                      The less/fewer distinction has nothing to do with word order; it's about meaning, as Strunk & White themselves say:
                                      Less refers to quantity, fewer to number. "His troubles are less than mine" means "His troubles are not so great as mine." "His troubles are fewer than mine" means "His troubles are not so numerous as mine." It is, however, correct to say, "The signers of the petition were less than a hundred, "where the round number, a hundred, is something like a collective noun, and less is thought of as meaning a less quantity or amount.
                                      Though they spoil the point, typically, with their incomprehensible terminology and incoherent examples; I'm sure there are exceptions to the rule, as there always are, but I defy anybody to figure out what S&W think they are from this garbled account. You're much better off following the simple and concise standard linguists' rule of "fewer" with count nouns, "less" with noncount nouns, which is what you violated above.
                                      When you run across grammatical errors in this space feel free to let me know, and I'll thank you.

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