"You can tell by"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jul 10 21:07:26 UTC 2006

Geez, Joe, that blows!

Well, if "telling by X" isn't using a criterion, then it's certainly
using a standard. Is there a significant distinction to be made
between "criterion" and "standard," in this case? In the words of
Homey the Clown, "I don't think so." Maybe she simply doesn't
understand what is meant by "criterion." To paraphrase Webster's New
World, 3rd ed., "Mere possession of a doctorate is no accurate
criterion of intelligence."

 -Wilson Gray

On 7/10/06, Joseph Nardoni <JNardoni at aol.com> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Joseph Nardoni <JNardoni at AOL.COM>
> Subject:      "You can tell by"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> Hi, I have an interesting conundrum that is driving me batty.  I seem to have
> gotten myself into a bit of a pickle by paraphrasing (accurately, I believe)
> what a colleague said in an open meeting.  Here's the situation.  Our
> department was engaged in a spirited discussion about our college-wide Writing Sample
> that we give to our incoming freshmen.  We were at the point in our discussion
> where people were discussing how they actually responded to the samples.  One
> professor said she sometimes had to read only one paragraph to make a
> decision as to whether or not a student belonged in Comp I (our first semester
> college-level course).  Another professor said, "You can tell by  X  whether a
> student belongs in Comp I."  Another professor said that she liked to consider
> whether or not she wanted to be teaching a particular student in Comp I when she
> was looking at the samples.  A fourth professor stated that perhaps we ought to
> think about what criteria we were using when we were evaluating the Writing
> Samples.
> Given that context, I took the professor who said, "You can tell by X whether
> a student belongs in Comp I" to mean that she used X as a criterion by which
> she evaluated Writing Samples.  When I stated in our next Department meeting
> that she had said she used X as a criterion this professor shouted me down,
> said I misrepresented her statement, and filed a complaint against me.  I find
> this whole response rather bizarre, so I was wondering what all of you thought.
> Am I nuts to believe that she said she used X as a criterion, when she used
> the construction, "You can tell by X whether a student belongs in Comp I?"
> I would appreciate any responses you could give me, including any information
> you might be able to find about when this phrase came into common usage.
> Thanks for reading this unusual posting.
> Joe Nardoni
> Professor of English and Creative Writing,
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

Find out just what any people will quietly submit to and you have
found out the exact measure of injustice and wrong which will be
imposed upon them.

Frederick Douglass

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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