Wednesday, April 05, 2006

So what's the use of being a pedant ...

… if you can’t be read?

Adrian Miles, whom I mentioned earlier, was kind enough to draw my attention to the fact that I missed the “r” in front of and the “.au” at the end of the URL http://www.rmit.edu.au/. So, no, he’s not at MIT, but at the Royal Melbourne Institute of Technology. My bad. My apparently mid-life-acquired dislexia. :-(

He still hasn’t added the hyphen to “problem making” or justified his use of “quotidian” as a noun, however ;-). As for the hyphen, the subtitle to his blog is very hard to parse:

Documentating and discussing the problem making that is video blogging (vogging) with the tiresome quotidian of the desktop digital.

The first six words exhibit an exemplary “garden path” parsing problem. Take this sentence:

I have real a problem making my dog sit.

Some people would rather say “I have a real problem WITH making my dog sit,” but in my idiolect at least, the sentences are synonymous.

So parse this next:

I’m going to spend some time documenting and discussing my problem making my dog sit.

That’s why I think it helps the reader to write “problem-making”. Then you know that “problem-making” is a simple noun phrase that is the direct object of the verbs. But even:

Documentating and discussing the problem-making that is video blogging (vogging) with the tiresome quotidian of the desktop digital.

doesn’t make a whole lot of sense, since quotidian is an adjective, and who knows what “desktop digital” means. :-) It does have a quirky kind of tongue-in-cheek charm to it though.

One last observation: there is no such word as “documentating”!!!! Yes, there is the word “documentation”, but there is no verb “documentate” and therefore no present participle or gerund derived from it. This is what linguists call a “back-formation”: for instance, “burgle” was back-formed from “burglar”, which really did not start its existence as an agentive formation from “burgle” (like “robber” formed from “rob”). Back-formations frequently do end up making their way into the language, and as a linguist I should just sit back and let the formations form. But honestly. Documentate? You have to draw the line in the sand somewhere! :-)



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