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Author Topic: Grammar munchkins, or, do my homework for me
Stormfeather
Silver Sells


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Is "only" only used for meaning "one" now? What about "there are only two people who have blonde hair in the class" for example? I always took "only" to mean a limited amount, not necessarily just one.

And another one I thought of because it's not really one of my own peeves, but a major peeve of a few people I know: ATM machine and PIN number.

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Cactus Wren
Jingle Bell Hock


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My own munchkin -- at least, the only one I can think of that hasn't already been named -- is the misuse of "literally". As in, "I was so shocked I literally fell over".

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IOToriSparrowANK!

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Rainmom
Deck the Malls


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There is a book titled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" that is a humorous approach to common grammar and punctuation mistakes.

At Amazon.com here

Rainmom

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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Stormfeather:
Is "only" only used for meaning "one" now? What about "there are only two people who have blonde hair in the class" for example? I always took "only" to mean a limited amount, not necessarily just one.

The way you used it is correct. It's adding that "the" in front of it means that there is one. "The only" means "one". If you were to say "She is one of the only people who have blond hair," it would be incorrect. "One of the few people..." and "One of the two people...." would be correct also.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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black roses 19
Xboxing Day


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quote:
My own munchkin -- at least, the only one I can think of that hasn't already been named -- is the misuse of "literally". As in, "I was so shocked I literally fell over".

Actually, Cactus Wren, Stormfeather already covered that on the first page. [Wink]

quote:
And on a non-word-pair note, one of the linguistic trends that reaaaally ticks me off and I see it more and more often is using "literally" in a completely wrong way. "People" tend to use it "like quotes" in that it's for "emphasis." (Sorry, couldn't resist.) Even on a program that was on the discovery channel semi-recently, on Henry the VIII, a scholarly type being interviewed mentioned how the gout, etc., that Henry had turned him literally into a monster. Uh, really? Wow, think I'd remember THAT from my history lessons.


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Silkenreindeer
Wassaleing


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Rambling incoherent sentances which contain several complete thoughts and really need a semicolon if not a full stop in order to break up the flow hang my munchkin coincidentally a munchkin is a short person from Wizard of Oz and we represent the lollipop guild and I am still rambling and there has been no punctuation since the start of the sentance and if I don't take a breath I think I'll - *URK*

Interestingly, what we'd call a double negative in English would simply be matching mood in many other languages. And it seems to be applied inconsistantly. Why is "isn't no" considered incorrect, but "neither, nor" is?

Most of what we see as proper grammar was in fact codified during the Victorian era, and many of the so-called rules (including the controversial no splitting of infinitives) were copied over from Latin.

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lynnejanet
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Rainmom:
There is a book titled "Eats, Shoots and Leaves" that is a humorous approach to common grammar and punctuation mistakes.

At Amazon.com here

Rainmom

Actually, it was that book which inspired me to use funny incorrect uses to teach correct usages.

Thanks to those, like Ariadne and Fantine, who contributed stories with their munchkins (although I don't think I can use Fantine's [Big Grin] ). That's what I had in mind, although I wasn't very clear in the OP.

Thanks to all who have contributed. If you've seen any crazy examples of the ones already mentioned, I'd love to hear 'em.

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lynne"insert appropriate punny phrase here"janet

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lynnejanet
Happy Holly Days


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quote:
Originally posted by Jocko's Gone Fishin':
I had a 9th grade English teacher who used to make us draw a diagram on the board to demonstrate our ability if we asked "Can I go to the bathroom?" Instead of "May I?" One or two students forgetting usually did it for the entire class. I'll bet everyone who had him has remembered that lesson throughout his or her life!

Something similar would be a good lesson for your students, since it is a rather common mistake through adulthood for quite a few people!

I also had a teacher who, on the first day of class, wrote JEET and JEW on the board and told us that she never wanted to hear these words in her class (or in the halls) in the following context:

"Jeet?"

"Nope. Jew?"

I love these ideas! Particularly the drawing on the chalkboard. It might not do over well in my Catholic school with 12yo kids though!

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lynne"insert appropriate punny phrase here"janet

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Brillo Bee
Wii Three Kings


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quote:
Originally posted by Sara at home:
{snip} It's adding that "the" in front of it means that there is one. "The only" means "one". If you were to say "She is one of the only people who have blond hair," it would be incorrect. "One of the few people..." and "One of the two people...." would be correct also.

I agree that "One of the few," or a similar phrase should be used in place of "one of the only," at least in all sentences I can think of right now. But I don't see that putting "the" in front mandates that there can be only one. I would think it correct to say, "The only people in the school with blonde hair were Jennifer, Mike, and Annie."

If that is incorrect, can someone explain?

I ask because if this is some rule I don't know, I would like to know it because I enjoy learning more about grammar. If I'm being overly pendantic here, I apologize in advance.

Bee

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People do not wish to appear foolish; to avoid the appearance of foolishness, they are willing to remain actually fools. -Alice Walker

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KatrinaDuck
Jingle Bell Hock


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I have a problem with prepositions at the end of sentances - the ones where the preposition is totally unnecessary to begin with, like in the sentance "this is where it's at." I almost pulled my hair out at the "where you at?" commercials.

I knew someone who used to say "it's the principal of the thing!" It didn't bother me until I saw her write it; then it made me wince every time.

I hate it when abbreviated words are used in proper writing, as in "I walked thru the mall."

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It is, after all, the dab of grit that seeps into an oyster's shell that makes the pearl, not pearl-making seminars with other oysters. -Stephen King

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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Brillo Bee:
quote:
Originally posted by Sara at home:
{snip} It's adding that "the" in front of it means that there is one. "The only" means "one". If you were to say "She is one of the only people who have blond hair," it would be incorrect. "One of the few people..." and "One of the two people...." would be correct also.

I agree that "One of the few," or a similar phrase should be used in place of "one of the only," at least in all sentences I can think of right now. But I don't see that putting "the" in front mandates that there can be only one. I would think it correct to say, "The only people in the school with blonde hair were Jennifer, Mike, and Annie."

If that is incorrect, can someone explain?

I ask because if this is some rule I don't know, I would like to know it because I enjoy learning more about grammar. If I'm being overly pendantic here, I apologize in advance.

Bee

I know "one of the only...." is wrong but I can't explain why. HELP!

I guess the best I can do is ask what does "one of the only books (or whatever noun you want to insert)" mean? What are "only books"?

ETA: I went googling and came up with the Dickinson College history page which states:
quote:
The college is home, for example, to one of the only community studies centers in the nation, where students can perform field research and take oral histories in local communities from different academic perspectives.
What does that sentence mean? Exactly what does "only" contribute to that sentence? The author clearly meant "one of the community studies centers" or perhaps "one of the few community college centers" if s/he wanted to indicate that there aren't many of them.

And why is that third comma there?

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Nonny Mouse, on Santa's laptop
Once in Royal Circuit City


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quote:
Originally posted by Canuckistan:
Perhaps not, but it does bring up the loose/lose problem quite nicely. "Please don't loose this. It's very valuable."

While discussing frolicking virginities with middle school kids is likely to make the class get out of hand in record time, she could always make a similar joke on the theme of "loosing one's mind".

I think I'm going to loose my mind at the Science Centre one of these days and let it check out a few physics experiments while my body goes and gets a massage.

Nonny

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Cervus
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Sara at home:
Bring/take. You bring here, take there.

Or brung, as in "I brung her some biscuits."

I also dislike the phrase "no fewer than". It seems unnecessary.

"The population numbered no fewer than 10,000 every year."
"We put no fewer than six slices of ham on each sandwich."

What's wrong with saying "at least 10,000" or just stating the danged number?!

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Won't somebody please think of the adults!

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Brad from Georgia
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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Using pronouns in the wrong case. In the rural South, it's common to hear "Me and her went steady for more than a year 'til somebody told us siblings ain't sposed to do that."

But even on newscasts and talk shows I hear sentences like these:

  • Well, that's just between him and I.
  • Next we'll tell you about a popular actress and how a new law affects she and her husband in a surprising way.
  • In a moment Len Weatherman will tell us about a fast-moving front and what it will mean to we in Atlanta.

There's also the to/too/two confusion (rarely but occasionally involving the last):

  • It's to bad that class starts so early.
  • I didn't hit him, but I wanted too.
  • When I got home, I found to small hamburgers in the bag instead of one big one.

And of course there/their/they're:

  • People who flaunt they're wealth are insecure.
  • Their is a house in New Orleans they call the Rising Sun.
  • If students would carpool, their wouldn't be a need for so many to drive there cars to campus.


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Wicked Tinkerbell
Hock Harold Angel's Bling


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Signora:

People often use it to mean a large quantity when it means superabundance. A journalism prof. pounded into us that, according to his stylebook, it meant an almost limitless supply not just a large amount of an item.

Personally, I just use the term forty-eleven. [Big Grin]

ETA: I will try to post a specific example later.

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by Sara at home:
I know "one of the only...." is wrong but I can't explain why. HELP!

It's not wrong because "only" in this context modifies the kind or the group and has nothing to do with the number of individuals within the group. It refers to the uniqueness of the set itself.

Consider this sentence,

"Andrew Johnson was one of the only Presidents born in North Carolina."

Sure, you could say, "Andrew Johnson was one of the few Presidents born in North Carolina," but there's certainly nothing grammatically wrong with the former.

Bonnie "the ever-memorable James K. Polk being the other" Taylor

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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Bonnie:
quote:
Originally posted by Sara at home:
I know "one of the only...." is wrong but I can't explain why. HELP!

It's not wrong because "only" in this context modifies the kind or the group and has nothing to do with the number of individuals within the group. It refers to the uniqueness of the set itself.

Consider this sentence,

"Andrew Johnson was one of the only Presidents born in North Carolina."

Sure, you could say, "Andrew Johnson was one of the few Presidents born in North Carolina," but there's certainly nothing grammatically wrong with the former.

Bonnie "the ever-memorable James K. Polk being the other" Taylor

Ok. How does "only" modify "President"? What does it mean? "Only" is not a synonym of "few". Is it still grammatically correct if it's a meaningless statement?

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
How does "only" modify "President"?
"Only" doesn't modify "President." It modifies the group "Presidents born in North Carolina."

quote:
And why is that third comma there?
Remove the third comma. Does the meaning change for you?

-- Bonnie

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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Class Bravo
We Wish You a Merry Giftmas


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Using more than one exclamation point always gets to me. When I see a sentence that is followed by a half-dozen or so exclamation points it doesn't add emphasis; it makes it look tacky.
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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Bonnie:
quote:
How does "only" modify "President"?
"Only" doesn't modify "President." It modifies the group "Presidents born in North Carolina."

But what does it mean? It is a misuse of the word "only" to mean "few". At least that's the only meaning I can take from the sentence.

quote:
quote:
And why is that third comma there?
Remove the third comma. Does the meaning change for you?

-- Bonnie

ETA: My original answer wasn't sufficient. My question was "Why is the comma there?" Obviously I see no need for it to be there or I wouldn't have asked the question.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
It is a misuse of the word "only" to mean "few".
Yet "only" in this context refers to a unique group, a group that has a smallish membership, but certainly a membership of more than one. It's a shame that I haven't been able to adequately explain this so that you can see the distinction.

In the end, though, there isn't anything grammatically wrong with that construction (however much it appears to grate on your ears [or eyes] and I know how that generally feels). Moreover, despite your discomfort with the construction itself, I don't find that it confers meaningless to a particular statement.

quote:
My question was "Why is the comma there?" Obviously I see no need for it to be there or I wouldn't have asked the question.
By omitting the third comma you describe the community studies center as one of few community studies centers in the entire country where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

Leaving the third comma in place implies that this community studies center is not only one of a very few community study centers in the country, but also that it is a place where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

-- Bonnie

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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Stormfeather
Silver Sells


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The third comma is helping to make clear the target of "only," as far as I can see. To go ahead and copy the quote down here, since it's getting kinda buried up in the discussion:

quote:
The college is home, for example, to one of the only community studies centers in the nation, where students can perform field research and take oral histories in local communities from different academic perspectives.
The third comma puts the "where students..." part in a separate clause, and makes it clear that it just helps describe the college more fully. Without the comma, you might take the last clause as part of the description of the type of college - "one of the only community studies centers in the nation where students can perform..."

So in other words (as far as I can see), the sentence is just saying that it's one of the only (of few, if you insist) community studies centers in the nation, period, rather than one of the few such centers that happen to offer the chance to perform research, etc etc.

Of course, I'm not sure what's meant by community studies center, so I don't really know if they actually intend the reading I get from it, or if it *is* a misplaced comma, and they were intending the last clause to help illustrate the scarcity of that particular type of center.

(Oh and... chalk me up as one of the people who enjoyed Eats, Shoots and Leaves as well.)

ETA: Ooo, spanked. Kinky! [fish] Either I took even longer to post than I thought, or I forgot to try to shift-refresh before starting my reply. Feh.

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glass papaya
Jingle Bell Hock


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quote:
Originally posted by Bonnie:
quote:
My question was "Why is the comma there?" Obviously I see no need for it to be there or I wouldn't have asked the question.
By omitting the third comma you describe the community studies center as one of few community studies centers in the entire country where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

Leaving the third comma in place implies that this community studies center is not only one of a very few community study centers in the country, but also that it is a place where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

-- Bonnie

Or, for people like me who take a while to get it,


quote:
The college is home, for example, to one of the only community studies centers in the nation, where students can perform field research and take oral histories in local communities from different academic perspectives.
Translation: There are very few community studies centers in the nation. You can do special research at these community studies centers. We have one of these centers.

quote:
The college is home, for example, to one of the only community studies centers in the nation where students can perform field research and take oral histories in local communities from different academic perspectives.
Translation: There are many community studies centers in the nation. You can only do special research at a few of them. Ours is one of those few.

ETA Spanked and a suggestion that community studies might perhaps be a specialization like urban studies, but more localized?

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Sara at home
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Bonnie:
quote:
It is a misuse of the word "only" to mean "few".
Yet "only" in this context refers to a unique group, a group that has a smallish membership, but certainly a membership of more than one. It's a shame that I haven't been able to adequately explain this so that you can see the distinction.

In the end, though, there isn't anything grammatically wrong with that construction (however much it appears to grate on your ears [or eyes] and I know how that generally feels). Moreover, despite your discomfort with the construction itself, I don't find that it confers meaningless to a particular statement.


I can find no meaning for "only" that would make that use in a sentence meaningful. Like I said, it is the misuse of the word "only" to mean "few".

quote:
quote:
My question was "Why is the comma there?" Obviously I see no need for it to be there or I wouldn't have asked the question.
By omitting the third comma you describe the community studies center as one of few community studies centers in the entire country where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

Leaving the third comma in place implies that this community studies center is not only one of a very few community study centers in the country, but also that it is a place where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

-- Bonnie

As far as I'm concerned, those two sentences mean the same thing. Either way, though, it's a poorly written sentence.

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Assume that all my posts will be edited at least once. Dyslexic -- can't spell, can't type, can't proofread.

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Signora Del Drago
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Originally posted by Wicked Tinker(diving)bell:
Signora:
. . .Personally, I just use the term forty-eleven. [Big Grin] . . .

[lol] We must be kin. I say "leventy-leven."

So, a plethora of rain would result in flooding, whereas simply a large amount of rain would not?

quote:
Originally posted by Class Bravo:
Using more than one exclamation point always gets to me. When I see a sentence that is followed by a half-dozen or so exclamation points it doesn't add emphasis; it makes it look tacky.

That is true in formal writing. I finally had to ask why people were using "!!!11!!!eleven!!!11!!!" here, and now I think it's just fun to use it on a message board.

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"This air we're breathing. Oxygen, isn't it?"~I’mNotDedalus, impersonating Vincent D’Onofrio.|"Sometimes trying to communicate can be like walking through a minefield."~wanderwoman
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Bored and Dangerous
Markdown, the Herald Angels Sing


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Site/cite/sight. I see this error at least once a day.

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Jocko's Jolly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by Signora Del Drago:


So, a plethora of rain would result in flooding, whereas simply a large amount of rain would not?


I think it's more that a large amount of rain would flood our basement. A plethora of rain would have us building an ark.

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Like every good third-in-a-series it contains a whole load of ewoks, ‘Clubber’ Lang, whey-faced Sophia Coppola, Sean Connery as the Pirate Captain’s estranged dad, a crappy CGI alien, and Richard Pryor on a donkey. -- Gideon Defoe

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geminilee
The First USA Noel


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quote:
Originally posted by Sara at Home
I can find no meaning for "only" that would make that use in a sentence meaningful. Like I said, it is the misuse of the word "only" to mean "few".

According to dictionary.com
quote:
on‧ly 
5. being the single one or the relatively few of the kind: This is the only pencil I can find.

quote:
quote:My question was "Why is the comma there?" Obviously I see no need for it to be there or I wouldn't have asked the question.

By omitting the third comma you describe the community studies center as one of few community studies centers in the entire country where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

Leaving the third comma in place implies that this community studies center is not only one of a very few community study centers in the country, but also that it is a place where students can perform field research and take oral histories.

-- Bonnie

As far as I'm concerned, those two sentences mean the same thing. Either way, though, it's a poorly written sentence.

The version with three commas, as was explained before, denotes that there are few such centers, and then describes what is done at such centers. The sentence with a comma removed does not indicate how many centers there are, but rather that few of them perform these services. Is that clearer?

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"Accompanied by the ghosts of dolphins, the ghost of a ship sailed on..." Terry Pratchett

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Jocko's Jolly
Happy Xmas (Warranty Is Over)


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quote:
Originally posted by lynnejanet:
quote:
Originally posted by Jocko's Gone Fishin':
I had a 9th grade English teacher who used to make us draw a diagram on the board to demonstrate our ability if we asked "Can I go to the bathroom?" Instead of "May I?" One or two students forgetting usually did it for the entire class. I'll bet everyone who had him has remembered that lesson throughout his or her life!

Something similar would be a good lesson for your students, since it is a rather common mistake through adulthood for quite a few people!

I also had a teacher who, on the first day of class, wrote JEET and JEW on the board and told us that she never wanted to hear these words in her class (or in the halls) in the following context:

"Jeet?"

"Nope. Jew?"

I love these ideas! Particularly the drawing on the chalkboard. It might not do over well in my Catholic school with 12yo kids though!
IIRC, he cut them off and sent them on their way before they got much farther than drawing a toilet and a stick figure! It was more to get his point across -- he always announced the first day of class that he would do it, so he did. I'll NEVER forget my feeling of abject terror when I realized one time that I had used "can" instead of "may" -- I corrected it immediately, so he just laughed, but I was sweating there for a minute!

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Like every good third-in-a-series it contains a whole load of ewoks, ‘Clubber’ Lang, whey-faced Sophia Coppola, Sean Connery as the Pirate Captain’s estranged dad, a crappy CGI alien, and Richard Pryor on a donkey. -- Gideon Defoe

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Brandi
Little Sales Drummer Boy


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You might want this poster.
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Richard W
Ding Dong! Merrily on High Definition TV


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quote:
Originally posted by Mari Gold Fish:
I see "alot" instead of "a lot" a lot...uh, I mean often. Likewise "alright" for "all right."

"Alright" is an accepted spelling, meaning that it's in dictionaries. Collins does have a note saying that
quote:
The form alright, although very common, is still considered by many people to be wrong or less acceptable than all right.
Frankly, I think that "many people" should get over it, though. "Alright" tends to mean "OK" or "not bad", and doesn't literally mean "all right" any more, so why spell it that way?

Other words that started out with a separate "all" but turned into a single word using this contraction include "altogether", "always", "albeit", and (I think) "although". Do these bother you at all?

(Arguably you might be able to include "also", but if the contraction did happen then I think it was before the word entered the English language.)

(edit) I suppose this shows that one of my grammar munchkins is people refusing to accept natural changes in the language. It's a tricky one, though. If the person knows the rules and is breaking or changing them deliberately then it doesn't annoy me. Also, if the change is consistent and logical - as in "alright" - it doesn't much bother me either. If somebody is just writing nonsense because they're clueless, though, then it annoys me just as much as it does others.

(edit again) The important thing is whether the meaning is retained. Incorrect apostrophes change the meaning of a sentence and can make it ambiguous. The spelling "alright" as opposed to "all right" doesn't - I would say that it actually clarifies the sentence in some cases:

"His test answers were all right."

(I realise people will argue that this is a bad sentence anyway.) Grammatical (as opposed to spelling) mistakes annoy me more when they obscure the meaning. If they don't obscure the meaning, then it tends to annoy me when people quibble about them.

Posts: 8725 | From: Ipswich - the UK's 9th Best Place to Sleep! | Registered: Feb 2000  |  IP: Logged | Report this post to a moderator
franjava
Deck the Malls


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This has probably been used, but I'm on a time constraint and can't read the entire thread.

3 AM in the morning... DUH!!!!!!!!

It's just repetitive.

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Never eat anything given to you by a toddler.

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Jay Tea
The "Was on Sale" Song


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 -

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This is where I come up with something right? Something really clever...

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Bonnie
The Red and the Green Stamps


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quote:
Originally posted by geminilee:
According to dictionary.com
quote:
on‧ly 
5. being the single one or the relatively few of the kind: This is the only pencil I can find.


Hey, geminilee, what do you think you're doing consulting a dictionary to help resolve an issue pertaining to linguistics??

(Er, not to mention that Merriam-Webster Online has this to say about "only" in this construction: "3 : FEW, one of the only areas not yet explored.")

-- Bonnie

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Se non è vero, è ben trovato.

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Troberg
Angels Wii Have Heard on High


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quote:
Using more than one exclamation point always gets to me. When I see a sentence that is followed by a half-dozen or so exclamation points it doesn't add emphasis; it makes it look tacky.
While we are at it, let's once and for all decide that usage of exclamation points in formal documents is a fish slapping offense. If you send a letter to your bank, the IRS, your insurance company or a prospective employer, never, ever, use an exclamation point. Never. Keep it strict, formal and detached, or they will not take you seriously.

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/Troberg

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