Grammar Day 2016: Two days later

I knew Greenbaum had to address the subject/object pronoun situation somewhere. It’s taken me this long to find it. (And if you think that means I’ve been tirelessly poring over the text, hunting for the entry, I appreciate your mental picture of me. I picked up the book again this morning, opened it, flipped a few pages, and there it was. Silly me, having tried to use the index the other day. What a maroon.) Continue reading “Grammar Day 2016: Two days later”

Grammar Day, 2016

I see I didn’t bother writing anything for last year’s Grammar Day. I was probably busy working. I’m sure I wasn’t writing haiku. (Why would I write haiku, you ask? Because of the annual ACES Grammar Day Haiku contest.)

But, I digress. While pondering what to write for this year, I picked up my copy of Huddleston and Pullum’s A Student’s Introduction to English Grammar (Cambridge 2005) and flipped idly through its pages. Scattered throughout the text (not randomly, of course, but with forethought) are “Prescriptive grammar notes.” If you don’t know what “prescriptive” means, here’s a link to my post about the different types of grammar. I’ll wait while you go read. ::sips coffee:: Continue reading “Grammar Day, 2016”

Registering register

I’m going to blather a little bit about register.

The fact that I used the word “blather” is a cue that the register of this post is informal. If I wanted to be formal, I’d say “This post is about register in writing.”

See the difference? The latter is stuffier, less conversational, more like what you’d expect to see in an article or a textbook, perhaps.

When I blog, post, or tweet, I get pretty informal. (See? I did it again. “I get pretty informal.”) I use acronyms and abbreviations and IDGAF who gets upset by them. I also curse, obviously. However, I can write in a very formal tone if that’s what’s required of me. Continue reading “Registering register”

PAR means “average”

My husband calls me in the mornings, sometimes, after he’s dropped off his younger daughter at school and he’s driving to his workplace. Today, he included a tidbit that had occurred to him about the terms “above par” and “below par,” and how they’re opposite in golf and elsewhere. I see a lot of discussion on “ask us” websites (Yahoo, Quora, Reddit, and so on), but I didn’t keep digging into search results to see if any language blogs had addressed it.

I’ll address it.

First off, here’s what Merriam-Webster has to say about the meaning and etymology. Notice that the first simple definition is the one used in golf, and the second has to do with stock values.

In the game of golf, each hole is assigned a number of strokes as “par.” That’s the average number of strokes a player is expected to need to get from the tee to the hole. (I don’t play golf; can you tell?) If a player uses more strokes than par, that’s “bad.” If a player uses fewer strokes, that’s “good.” If the player’s control and strength and all the rest are expert, we expect the player to come in “below par.” And that’s good. If they play like I do, they’ll be “above par” and that’s bad. (I know I’m bad. I despise golf.)

However, in business and elsewhere the meanings are opposite. As you can see from the simple definition, if a stock is valued “below par,” it has lost value since it was issued. A value “above par” is desirable, because it’s worth more than at the time of issuance. Common usage extends this to many venues. Students’ performance is said to be “above par” if they’re doing well (scoring above average), and “below par” if they’re doing badly (scoring below average). The same applies to employees, to vehicles, to many things. The business/stock sense reaches far beyond pieces of paper with assigned monetary value.

If you keep in mind that “par” is average, the opposite meanings might be less confusing. In golf, you want to use as few strokes as possible to get from 1 to 18 (the standard number of holes on a course). You want to be below par. In everything else, you want to be above average.

The twelfth link of Christmas: English for the ESL student

Most of what’s in this collection is linked to the Cambridge Dictionary blogs. I don’t do as much with it as I probably should (and definitely not as much as I could), but that’s a goal for 2016.

I’ll go out on a limb and say that I’m fairly certain most of my followers are ESL speakers/writers/students. I see a lot of names from India, Pakistan, Indonesia, Eastern Europe, and so on. I intend to provide more content for them in days to come.

The eighth link of Christmas: Books! (BOOOOOOOOOKS!)

This is a fairly small collection as well, being one of titles I’ve discussed or reviewed, generally speaking. I read when I am able (as in, when I make myself make the time, because let’s face it, I’m reading for six to eight hours every day when I’m editing), and I admit to being very bad at leaving reviews (mostly because I don’t quite know why anyone would care what I think, unless they ask me personally).

I should probably add some of the linguistics books to this. I’ve been reading McWhorter of late, and the only title of his that shows up in here is Our Magnificent Bastard Tongue. I’ve also read Word on the Street and have opened the cover of The Power of Babel. I need to get busy reading.