[DWJ] timetravel/and other things

Minnow minnow at belfry.org.uk
Tue Jun 24 07:37:19 EDT 2008

>>> The picture is not wholly gloomy:

and Colin wented:

>> Whereas my reaction to that story is "Get a life, and find something
>> that *matters* to attend to".

(and I wonder why whatever matters to Colin, and goodness knows I have
heard him get heated about things now and again, is important, whereas what
matters to someone else isn't...  Motes, beams... )

and lizzie mused:

>You know, nobody makes fun of people with perfect pitch for disliking
>music that's out of tune.  Nobody objects to being precise about
>anything that's mathematical, really.  If there was a sign up saying
>that 2 + 2 = 17 (and it wasn't an obvious joke), it would come right
>down and be fixed right away, and no one would think anything of it.
>But have an ear for grammar instead of music, or find  the mathematics
>of grammar more appealing than that of numbers, and you're out of
>Grammar is so unfashionable.

Grammar is not a matter of life and death if it is messed with, would be
the argument here (I read your post out to DWJ on the phone, and she
laughed delightedly and then said 'yes but' because she has met this: one
of her sons is on the arts side, another on the maths).  If someone tampers
with the laws of physics, thinking that precision doesn't matter, or uses
centimetres instead of inches in their calculations for instance, the
effect can be literally fatal: the concrete mixed to the wrong
specifications makes the house fall down, the train comes off the wonky
rails at speed, or the comms for the space project don't work, or whatever
else.  Nobody is yet reported as having had a fatal stroke when faced with
a wilfully bad bit of grammar: if they did, they died before they could say

>I understand why a lot of people don't get the subtle rules of
>grammar--I don't know them all myself.  But the difference between
>you're and your is the difference between a Kandinsky and a da Vinci,
>or an apple pie and chirashi-zushi (sprinkly fish-rice sushi stuff.)

I have never been able to understand why if the one matters, the other
doesn't.  It probably has roots in 'oh that old perspective stuff, it's so
nineteenth century' and the general feeling that seems to have grown up
that fuzzy reasoning really isn't important because hey, most of what
ordinary people read all the time is not truthful and positively relies on
fuzzy thinking (advertisements, any pronouncement from politics, and so
forth) so who cares about a little more inaccuracy?  In what are called
'disciplines' it still does matter some of the time -- it's important, for
instance, to amputate the correct leg rather than the other one because
someone tied the label round the wrong knee -- but almost anywhere else it
is 'oh ha ha silly me' stuff.  'I mis-spoke myself' rather than 'I told a
lie', isn't it?

Something like that anyway.  It gets very complicated.  But I gather that
the cheese called 'brie' has been actively advertised as being *meant* to
have a granular centre, which is what happens if you freeze it for
transportation before it is ripe, and used to be evidence that the cheese
was not fit to eat.  If that lie can be told in public without question,
what's a misplaced comma or a missing apostrophe here or there in the

[on you're and your]
>Don't say I'm pedantic just because I object to having one substituted
>for the other.

It would be an abuse of the word, unless the person using it has decided
that caring at all about the standards of communication is always being too
fussy, over-rating book-learning at the expense of common-sense, and
possessed by a theory or doctrine so much as to be doctrinaire.  A bit like
calling anyone who disagrees with one's politics a 'pinko' or more recently
a 'terrorist'.  'Pedant' has always been an insult, as far as I can tell,
never a term of approbation.


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