Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Jun 14 21:20:26 UTC 2004

On Jun 14, 2004, at 12:11 PM, Beverly Flanigan wrote:

> Gee, I use logical "since" and "while" all the time and wondered why
> editors changed them.  Maybe they're a sign of our generation. . . .

the logical uses are innovative -- but back the usual donkey's years,
according to MWDEU, which cites shakespeare etc.  the proscriptive
backlash, based on the potential for ambiguity, seems to date from
70-100 years ago.  the true innovation is the passion with which these
usages are attacked.

so, no, beverly, our generation is not the problem.

as for the ambiguity problem, i should note -- as geoff pullum pointed
out to me some long time ago -- that this is another one of those cases
(the positioning of "only" and "even" is another) where editors cite
ambiguity as the reason for avoiding some usage, but seem to be utterly
flawless in determining the writer's intent for the purposes of
"correction".  i have never had an editor who failed to understand
*perfectly* the intended meanings of "while" and "since" in my writing.
  think about that.

perhaps this should be labeled Paradoxical Acquired Editorial Agnosia.
it's paradoxical in the same way my partner's inability to read the
word CALIFORNIA (and only the word CALIFORNIA) was paradoxical.  he
believed he lived somewhere back east, in what the family thought of as
New Ohioylvania, some amalgam of new jersey, ohio, and pennsylvania, so
the fact that virtually every car he saw had a CALIFORNIA license plate
was threatening to this theory, and he fixed the contradiction by
blocking the word from the top level of his consciousness.  but the
bottom line here is that to be unable to read (just) the word
CALIFORNIA, you have to be able to read the word CALIFORNIA.

arnold (zwicky at, recalling the claimed inability of
some otherwise intelligent people to be able to understand varieties of
english with multiple negation

More information about the Ads-l mailing list