I was intrigued by the Clinton camp’s response to the Times bombshell about Trump’s taxes. One phrase stuck out:
Clinton’s campaign said the report “reveals the colossal nature of Donald Trump’s past business failures” and declared “the gig is up.”
What does that mean: “the gig is up”? Shouldn’t it be “the jig is up”? Was the Clinton press team so excited that they misspelled “jig”? (Okay, shouldn’t I be more interested in the future of our nation?) Google Ngram Viewer shows that “the jig is up” is way more popular, and always has been, although “the gig is up” also shows up occasionally. But maybe the 2016 campaign will change usage, as with the word denouncement.
Here is a hilariously detailed discussion about jig vs. gig from the CBC. Just a taste:
Replacing the “j” with a hard “g” (as in “guffaw”) suddenly makes the expression far less familiar, if not actually strange, to the ear and eye.
Musicians have called short-term jobs “gigs” since the early 20th century – especially one-night engagements. But do jobs ever become up? Certainly contracts can be up, which means they’ve expired on a specific date. But gigs?
Although there is no reason we couldn’t start saying “the gig is up” to mean “the gig is over,” the phrase isn’t well established.
“The jig is up,” on the other hand, is cited by lexicographers all over the western hemisphere. Indeed, in his Dictionary of Historical Slang, Eric Partridge points out that “the jig is up” was actually “standard English” until 1850, when it slid down a few notches to colloquial status.
Now that I have that off my chest, I can go back to worrying about our future.
Here’s the sort of thing I’ve noticed, from the Times:
Representative Ben Ray Luján of New Mexico, the chairman of the House Democratic campaign arm, said his party was aiming to ensure that Republicans would be tarnished by Mr. Trump, even if they distanced themselves from him.
“A denouncement of Trump at this point is too little, too late,” Mr. Luján warned.
In another article, I spotted a Times writer using denouncements outside a quotation, but later the word was switched to denunciations in the online version.
Here’s a HuffPo article with denouncement in the headline and denunciation in the subhead. “Trump’s Denouncements of KKK Leader Don’t Matter Anymore”:
“Anyone with two brain cells to rub together can see the denunciations are not sincere,” said a Southern Poverty Law Center fellow.
Maybe there’s just been a lot of denouncing going on lately. Or maybe the language is changing, and denounce/denunciation is going the way of repel/repulsion, and the noun/verb pair is becoming similar. In the case of repel/repulse, Google Ngram Viewer shows us a big uptick in the use of the verb repulse over the past twenty years, although repel is still more frequent. Denouncement is used about ten times less than denunciation, Google says. But maybe this campaign will change all that.
Here is a Boston Globearticle about the Donald Trump scandal of the day: buying a Tim Tebow helmet with funds from his charitable foundation, apparently in violation of IRS rules. But why isn’t it on display in photos of Trump’s sports memorabilia?
One possible reason: the Tebow gear has lost some of its cache. In hindsight, Trump’s famous eye for a good deal seems to have deserted him on the night of the auction: as it turned out, he was buying Tebow gear close to its peak price.
What the heck is the word “cache” doing there? Obviously they meant “cachet” — presumably they thought “cache” was like “cliché”, with an acute accent over the final “e”.
Turns out this isn’t random: Here is Fox Business wondering if the American Express Black Card is losing its cache. They liked the word so much it appeared in the article’s title. This Chicago real estate publication wonders if Park Tower has lost its cache. It’s interesting, though, that the Globe article is reprinted from the Washington Post, which uses the correct word (online, anyway).
This (mis)usage isn’t anywhere near as common as the similar use of cliché as an adjective, on the model of passé. That’s so cliché! Here’s a grammarian who is OK with this:
By now, I think, “so cliche” seems normal to a lot of younger speakers and writers. And I have a soft spot for it myself, as I confessed in that 2003 column, because it’s such a natural choice:
Though cliche came into English as a noun, it retains its French form — and that form is a past participle, perfectly happy to be used as an adjective. English is full of such French words, some used as nouns (divorcee, souffle, negligee), others as adjectives (passe, flambe).
For me, that usage is like fingernails on a chalkboard.
Here is another article about the disappearing period, this one from the New York Times. The article cleverly makes its point by omitting all periods:
“We are at a momentous moment in the history of the full stop,” Professor Crystal, an honorary professor of linguistics at the University of Wales, Bangor, said in an interview after he expounded on his view recently at the Hay Festival in Wales
“In an instant message, it is pretty obvious a sentence has come to an end, and none will have a full stop,” he added “So why use it?”
I’ll just point out that generally the author achieves his non-periodness by writing one-sentence paragraphs. Periods are less important at the end of a paragraph than they are in the middle of a paragraph. So maybe this indicates we’re on our way to changing the way we view paragraphs. Wouldn’t surprise me.
But I also wanted to point out the decline of the use of the apostrophe in tweets and text messages. Here is Marco Rubio during a tweetstorm back in May:
If you can live with a Clinton presidency for 4 years thats your right. I cant and will do what I can to prevent it.
In Florida only 2 legitimate candidates on ballot in Nov. I wont vote for Clinton & I after years of asking people to vote I wont abstain.
On a smart phone, adding the apostrophe requires you to do an annoying switch of keyboards. Why bother? The fact is, losing the apostrophe doesn’t make the tweets much more difficult to understand. Once you leave the apostrophes out of your tweets and text messages, it’s harder to add them to your emails. Next thing you know, Donald Trump is president, and civilization has ended.
Here’s an article about a moderately interesting study showing that people who get upset about grammar errors are, you know, kind of jerks:
Scientists have found that people who constantly get bothered by grammatical errors online have “less agreeable” personalities than those who just let them slide.
And those friends who are super-sensitive to typos on your Facebook page? Psychological testing reveals they’re generally less open, and are also more likely to be judging you for your mistakes than everyone else. In other words, they’re exactly who you thought they were.
So, my wonderful kid is home for Easter, and he says: “I think I’ll go lay down.” What is a father to do? Constantly correct your kid’s grammar, and maybe he’ll think “Maybe I’ll lay down somewhere else next Easter.” Ignore his errors, and you are obviously failing as a parent. My response was to sort of mutter the correct usage and hope my kid learned something.
Of course, the lay/lie distinction is clearly on its way out. I just bought a Fitbit. Good for me! Here’s a paragraph from the manual:
While it may track stats such as steps and floors when placed in a pocket or backpack, it is most accurate on the wrist. For all-day wear, your Charge HR should usually rest a finger’s width below your wrist bone and lay flat (as you’d normally wear a watch).
Should I worry about Fitbit’s quality control if they let that use of “lay” into their documentation? Probably not.
Anyway, I’ll give Bob Dylan the final word. I have a feeling that Dylan knew the difference between “lay” and “lie” perfectly well, but just liked the sound of “lay” better. Geniuses can do that.
People have made fun of Marco Rubio’s robotic repetition of the talking point “Barack Obama doesn’t know what he’s doing; he knows exactly what he’s doing” in the debate the other night.
But I don’t believe people have made enough fun of the fact that his robotic repetition was ungrammatical. He’s gone to all this trouble of memorizing some sound byte that his advisers think is clever and persuasive, but the sound byte is non-standard English. Here is what a writer in Slate has to say:
As [Dave] Weigel notes, dispel with isn’t really a thing. You can dispel something, sure. (Rubio did little to dispel concerns that he’s not fit for the White House, for example.) But if you want to use with after a verb, then dispense is more appropriate.
A quick Google search illustrates the uniqueness of Rubio’s word choice. A search for “dispel with” that’s restricted to results prior to Saturday night’s debate shows mostly mentions about video games. It seems Dispel is a spell in Final Fantasy. And you can apparently use Dispel with all kinds of things, including the Holy Torch. That’s probably not what Rubio had in mind.
Language Log points out just how weird this construction is:
My first reaction was that this was a malapropism, “dispel with” substituted for “dispense with”.
But this tends to counter the “scripted” meme, since presumably the Rubio campaign can afford to hire writers with a good grasp of English subcategorization conventions. So I wondered whether it might just be a usage that I’ve missed, rather than a case of bad scriptwriting or imperfect script-remembering.
However, “[dispel]with” in the relevant sense doesn’t occur in the 520 million words of the BYU Corpus of Contemporary American English, although forms ofdispel occur 1,585 times. There are five examples of passive-voice dispelledwhere a following with-clause has an instrumental interpretation, e.g. “If they had had any doubt that the concept would work, it was dispelled with the very first test photo.”
I suppose the Republican candidates for president provide us with much more serious things to worry about. But this is just irritating.
The Boston Globe sports page this morning contained this sentence:
He can’t demure from the truth: that race is a factor in how he is perceived because the expectations for comportment at the position he plays have been shaped largely by quarterbacks who didn’t look, play, or act like him.
By this evening the sentence had been corrected to say “demur from the truth”. Well, “demur from” is certainly better than “demure from”, although “demur from the truth” sure sounds awkward to me. “Demur” basically means “object” — how do you object from something?
The confusion between “demur” and “demure” is deep enough to require explication from grammar sites. Sports writers probably don’t need to know the difference between the two words, but newspaper copy editors really ought to.
Part of my day job involves answering questions from potential customers about my company’s products and solutions. Here’s one that comes up all the time:
Is your solution in the cloud or on-premise?
This new meaning of the word cloud is ubiquitous now, and I think it’s great. I don’t need to know where exactly WordPress saves my blog content — it’s just somewhere out there. “Cloud” captures this perfectly.
Inventing a singular version of the word premises is also ubiquitous in tech-speak, but that usage is like fingernails scraping down the chalkboard of my mind — at least partially because premise is a totally different word. Here’s a web page from IBM that leads with a customer who is supposed to be saying: “I want self-service access to on-premise services and data from the cloud.” But the page also manages to use “on-premises” a paragraph later; apparently IBM hasn’t gone totally over to the dark side.
Seriously I don’t know why this is. The two terms do not mean the same thing and are not interchangeable. Are we all just that lazy that we can’t stumble through the three entire syllables of premises? And if we’re too careless to notice that, what chance do we have of actually paying attention to the technical documents to install these products? (Again, I don’t fault individual usage of IT pros, but vendors’ press releases? Seriously??)
Or maybe this is the evolution of language. It’s shortened, perverted, and flexed to evolve with the times. Fine, let’s call it linguistic evolution.
bt i srsly dont lik it. do u?
The thing is, that extra syllable does make “on-premises” harder to say, especially when it leads into a word like “services” that repeats the sibilant. I predict complete victory for “on-premise”, although saying that gives me a pit in my stomach.
It’s National Grammar Day! In honor of the day, Poynter listed some of their pet peeves..Here’s one of mine.
In my very important day job I read the weekly status reports of a number of highly experienced professional writers. This week one writer used the phrase “in regards to”. Two reports later, another writer offered up “with regards to”.
Where did I go wrong?
Some people don’t like split infinitives (I don’t know why). Some people are annoyed by due to. “With regards to” and “in regards to” are like fingernails on a blackboard to me. This guy tells me I’m wrong to be annoyed. Google Ngram Viewer tells me their use has exploded since 1960 or so. I don’t care. They sound awful. And people who use them should get off my lawn.
This over-the-top image is from a column in this morning’s Boston Globe talking about the Patriots. Notice the atrocity perpetrated on the poor word wither. It’s an odd mistake, because even my WordPress spellchecker alerts me that whithers is not a word. And it’s not like this is some late-night game writeup that no one has a chance to edit. Has the Globe laid off all its editors?
Meanwhile, people complain about the low editorial standards in ebooks written by independent authors. And people are correct. I’ve been reaching such a book, and it’s hard to believe that the author–or anyone–read the words he typed before the book was published. Surely someone would have noticed that he regularly mistook then for than, that he was unclear about the difference between its and it’s, that the tree he was writing about was a cypress and not a Cyprus. And on and on.
It doesn’t escape my notice, though, that this book is way more successful than any of mine, with dozens of five-star reviews. It’s true that some reviewers point out the spelling mistakes, but just as many people seem exercised by the author’s errors in military technology. (An M-16 apparently fires the 5.56 NATO round, not the 7.62 NATO round. Who knew?)
Standards are slipping everywhere, and no one seems to care. Also, you kids get off my lawn!