Link: Common Errors in English Usage

Weather has been dreadful here in New Hampshire, so cycling and stargazing opportunities have been sparse. I do have other interests, however, and times like the present can make for some interesting diversions from the usual blog content.

Paul Brians, a Professor of English at Washington State University, has created a hugely popular site which details common English word usage errors. My father is a writer and teacher, so I have a keen interest in English. Some of you have probably noticed. I hope my sharing these links isn’t all for naught. Speaking of “naught,” which means “nothing,” I wonder: if the years 1980-1989 are “The Eighties,” and 1990-1999 are “The Nineties,” shouldn’t 2000-2009 be “The Naughties?” What do you think? Are you ambivalent, or perhaps indifferent? Do you know the difference?

There are always things to learn (duh) and I just learned that my habit of using two spaces after each sentence has been pass since the end of the typewriter era. Perhaps I’m dating myself? Anyway, from now on I promise to do better!

Another new pearl of wisdom: I’ve tried never to end sentences with a preposition, as in, “This is the sort of thing I won’t put up with.” Winston Churchill is famously and variously credited with mocking the rule, saying something like, “This is the sort of bloody nonsense up with which I will not put.” As it turns out, modern English has no such rule.

I once learned that there are three kinds of knowledge: (1) What you know; (2) What you don’t know; and (3) What you don’t know you don’t know. Re-read that if you’re not sure you understood. A trivial example: (1) I know English (more or less). (2) I know that I don’t know Russian, Flemish, Navajo, Swahili, and so on. (3) I cannot list the languages of which I’m unaware (oops—see the last paragraph), and so I don’t know that I don’t know them. (And if some of those languages only exist, say, for other species, perhaps on other planets, maybe even in different universes… you get the idea). Type (3) is obviously the largest body of knowledge by far. What I find fun about Professor Brians’ site is how much of this last kind of knowledge it contains. About English, I mean.

P.S. I am having a hell of a time using only one space after each sentence! I haven’t done it right once without having to go back and edit.

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