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PRINCIPLES OF USAGE: STANDARD WRITTEN AMERICAN ENGLISH by Joseph Suglia. Table of Contents

PRINCIPLES OF USAGE: STANDARD WRITTEN AMERICAN ENGLISH

by Joseph Suglia

Table of Contents

 

A Few Words of Introduction

A List of Errata

Nebulously Nuanced and Fortuitously Fortunate Vagaries that Are Really Vague

124 Problems of Usage

All of these sentences are wrong. Why?

“Subconscious,” “subconsciously”

Stupidity vs. Ignorance

Analogy Blindness

Twenty-Seven More Principles of English Usage

Groups of Animals

A Brief Mention of “Mention”

Access

Adverse vs. Averse

Affect vs. Effect

Aggravate

Alliteration

Alternately vs. Alternatively

Although; also

Amid vs. Among

Analogous vs. Similar

And, But, Or, Because

Anxious vs. Eager

Apostrophe

“As to”

Avoid These Words

Bare / Bear

Because

Blatant vs. Flagrant

“Blog”

The Brave and the Cowardly

Brutalize

Cactuses, Octopuses, and Ignoramuses on your Syllabuses

Censure vs. Censor

Classic vs. Classical

Claustrophobic

Cliches

Cohort

Compliment vs. Complement

Compose vs. Comprise

Convince

Copious Notes, Stark Contrasts, Heated Debates, Devastating Losses, and Firm Believers

Danglers (Misplaced or Dangling Modifiers)

Decimate

Deism vs. Theism–Or, Why I am Such a Spiritual Person

Deja vu

Delusion vs. Illusion

Devil’s Advocate

Dialogue, Conference, Reference, Table

Diaphanous

Dilemma

Discreet vs. Discrete

Discriminating against People Like Me

Disinterested vs. Uninterested

Dynamic Arch-Nemeses

Each other vs. One another

Economic vs. Economical

Elicit vs. Illicit

Emulate

Enjoying Reading

Enormity vs. Enormousness

Envelop vs. Envelope

“Everybody danced with their spouses”

Everyday vs. Every Day

Fascist

Few vs. Less

Fleshy vs. Fleshly

Fruit, Salt, and Mustard

French Latin vs. Anglo-Saxon German

Grammar: Volume One

“Happy Birthday to Infants!”

The Holy Dictionary

Hopefully…

However…

Hyphen

I

Iconic Role Models

“I could care less”

“I find your tone very gratuitous”

Imply vs. Infer

In behalf of vs. On behalf of

Infamous

Inflammable Flammables

“In terms of…”

Into vs. In to

It isn’t ironic. It really isn’t.

Kids

Like

Leading Question

Literally

“Looking forward to receive…”

Malnutrition, malnourishment

Masterful vs. Masterly

May, Might, Could

Muscular

Mutual Friends Love Platonic Friends

Narrative

Number

Oblivious

On Commas and Their Proper Use

Optimistic

Oversimplified Oversimplifications

Parameter vs. Perimeter

Penultimate

Phenomenal Phenomena!

Preposition at the End of the Sentence

Presently

Pretentious

Pristine

“Quick question!”

Quoting

Realize / Realization

Refute

Restauranteur vs. Restaurateur

Ridiculously Ridiculous Ridiculousness

Sensual vs. Sensuous

Sports Metaphors

Than vs. Then

Too Many Words

Tragedy

Transpire

Is it “try to help you” or “try and help you”?

Uniquely Unique Uniqueness

Waiting All Night on You (in High School)

Which vs. That

The End

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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A Few Words of Introduction to PRINCIPLES OF ENGLISH USAGE: STANDARD WRITTEN AMERICAN ENGLISH by Joseph Suglia

A Few Words of Introduction to PRINCIPLES OF ENGLISH USAGE: STANDARD WRITTEN AMERICAN ENGLISH by Joseph Suglia

Since there is confusion around the term “usage,” let me write a few words of introduction here.

Usage covers three areas:

a.) whether certain words should be used at all

b.) when certain words should be used

and

c.) where words should be used

The language of choice is Standard Written American English not because it is the only form of English or because it is the best form of English.  It is the language of choice because it is the form of English that is political and institutional.  Standard Written American English is no better than, for instance, Spanglish or Chinglish.  It is simply the form of English that has been, by a series of historical accidents, politically and institutionally accepted.

Is “lightning” a verb?  Is it acceptable to write, “It is lightninging”?

According to Standard Written American English, it is.

Is “you guys’s dog” Standard Written American English?

The descriptivists would say that it is, since the descriptivists believe that a community of language users does not need to be told how to use “their own” language.  Descriptivists believe that language is a game without any rules.  Language, according to the descriptivists, is a game of tennis that is played without a net, without a court, without a ball, and without rackets.

I would argue, on the other hand, that every language has its own set of rules already.  It is absolutely fine to write, “you guys’s dog” in colloquial English.  It is absolutely wrong to write, “you guys’s dog” in Standard Written American English.

What determines acceptability?  The boundaries of acceptability are set by that which one can explain.  All I am arguing for is a greater consciousness-in-writing.  I wish that today’s writers would become more conscious writers.

When there is a question of meaning, instead of looking to the dictionaries, one should look at etymologies.  The verb peruse is a good example of an amphibolous word.  To peruse means, according to most dictionaries, both “to read carefully” and “to read carelessly.”

If one knows that the prefix per- means “thoroughly,” the choice becomes clear: To peruse means “to read carefully” in Standard Written American English, despite what dictionaries might tell you.

Dr. Joseph Suglia

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analogy blindness, Uncategorized

Analogy Blindness by Dr. Joseph Suglia

ANALOGY BLINDNESS by Joseph Suglia

Over the years, I have invented a number of words and phrases.  Genocide pornography is one that I am especially proud of (cf. my essays on Quentin Tarantino); anthropophagophobia is another word that I coined, which means “the fear of cannibalism” (cf. my interpretation of Shakespeare’s As You Like It).  I would like to introduce to the world (also known as Google) a new linguistic term:

analogy blindness (noun phrase): the inability to perceive what an analogy represents.  To be lost in the figure of an analogy itself, while losing sight of the concept that the analogy describes.

EXAMPLE A

The Analogist: Polygamy is like going to a buffet instead of a single-serve restaurant.  Both are inadvisable.

The Person Who is Blind to the Analogy: People love buffets!

EXAMPLE B

The Analogist: Being taught how to write by Chuck Palahniuk is like being taught how to play football by a one-legged man.

The Person Who is Blind to the Analogy: A one-legged man who knows how to coach football?  That’s great!

EXAMPLE C

The Analogist: You should not have reprimanded her in such a rude manner for taking time off from work.  You treated her as if she were guilty of some terrible offense, such as plagiarism.

The Person Who is Blind to the Analogy: But plagiarism is bad!

EXAMPLE D

Derived from Hui-neng: When the wise person points at the Moon, the imbecile sees the finger.

Joseph Suglia

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“Happy Birthday to Infants!”

Please never say or write, “Happy Birthday!” (notice the capitalization and the exclamation mark), unless you are wishing happiness to a neonate who is coming into the world on the day on which you utter or inscribe these words.

If someone is seventy-eight years old, why wish that person a “Happy Birthday,” since s/he was born long ago?  After all, she or he was not born today.

“Happy Birthday!” implies the giving of happiness on the day of someone’s nativity.

Instead say / write, “Happy Birth Anniversary!”  I admit that it would be cumbersome / stilted / artificial to say or write, “I wish you happiness on the anniversary of the day of your birth” or “Happy Anniversary of the Day of Your Birth!”

Please note the punctuation and capitalization:

They shouted, “Happy Birth Anniversary!”

They wished her a “happy birth anniversary.”

 

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gratuitous usage, the use of the word tone, tone english usage, tone usage, Uncategorized

“I find your tone very gratuitous”

“It is very nice to meet you, and I hope to see you again soon,” Cheyenne said with the most gratuitous tone she could muster into the phone.

And did I not have something of the same gratuitous tone where my wage-earning was concerned?

While the article is written in a somewhat gratuitous tone, I think that it is meant to be informative.

The three sentences above have two things in common:

a.) They are three of the most invasively galling and aggressively grating sentences that I have ever read in my life.

b.) They couple the words gratuitous and tone.

gratuitous

Despite what descriptivist dictionaries might tell us, gratuitous should not signify “unnecessary” or “unwarranted.”  Gratuitous is derived from gratus and originally meant “what is freely given,” “what is given without the expectation of compensation.”

Thus, it makes no sense to write, “Abel Ferrara’s Body Snatchers (1993) contains a gratuitous scene of violence,” unless you are suggesting that the scene is given to audiences without the expectation of compensation.

Use supererogatory or superfluous instead.

tone

Whenever someone says/writes the word tone, I usually do not understand what that person means.  “You have to establish a tone in your writing”: In order to establish a tone, I must first know what the word tone signifies.

Tone is the vaguest, slipperiest word in the English language, and I wish that it would go extinct.

The color of her writing, the atmospherics, the mood of Daphne du Maurier’s novels — these terms, at least, are clear.  Color, atmospherics, mood.  I understand what prose style is.

Tone is more general than any of these words and refers to everything and nothing with equal acuity or vacuity.

Tone is used these days as a surrogate for the refutation of an argument: “I agree with what you are saying, but I don’t like your tone.”  Instead of a reasoned disagreement, there is the accusation of a “bad tone,” and this accusation is supposed to shut down one’s argument.

There is no defense or recourse against such an accusation.  Tone is irreducibly subjective.

When pressed, the accuser will say, “Well, I just don’t like the way that you said that.”  This leads me to believe that tone is a camouflage word.  It disguises the bluntness of “I don’t like the way that you said that.”

The German correlative of tone is der Ton and has a clearer meaning.  For a contemporary use of this, consult Haneke’s film Funny Games (1997).  Friedrich Hölderlin knew what he meant by the word when he employed it in his theory of tonal modulation (Wechsel der Töne).

My advice?  Never use the English word tone, ever.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Convince

Convince

No one can convince anyone of anything.  That’s right.  You can persuade someone of something, but you cannot convince someone of something.  However, you might be convinced of something or convinced that something is true.

EXAMPLES: I am convinced that he is trustworthy.

I am convinced of his trustworthiness.

BUT: She persuaded me that he is trustworthy.

Joseph Suglia

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