living by the PAP

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Thu Jun 5 16:17:36 UTC 2003

i am increasingly impressed about how *hard* it is to avoid
PAP violations in writing (not to mention speech).  a few minutes
ago, i realized i'd just written the following to a newsgroup:
"you could see the wheels turning in the nurse's head as she tried
to reconcile..."

a few days ago a stanford colleague who, as a kind of joke, had
vowed to make her writing *perfect*, no matter how absurd or
arbitrary the rule in question, found herself beginning an article
with a PAP violation in the very first sentence.  she gives up.

i'm inclined to think that you could take pretty much any handbook
that states the PAP and find violations of the PAP in it.  i've
already done this for lunsford & collins (i'm still working on my
open letter to andrea lunsford about the PAP).  i'm *certainly*
not going to search through any more, but for anyone who would like
to waste a little time reading usage manuals, here's a project...

the larger point is that people aren't capable of monitoring their
language (even while writing carefully crafted prose) for a
construction that is perfectly natural for them, that is part of
their grammar, no matter how firmly they hold to a conscious
prohibition against this construction or how vehemently they can
justify the prohibition.

arnold (zwicky at, flogging a failing horse

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