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Author Topic: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why  (Read 1082 times)

Tova


This is kind of a grammatical thing.

This specific grammatical construct is pretty trendy, and has been popularly used on the intertubes for I-don't-know-how-long now - probably at least a couple of years. But for some reason it bugs me. AND I DON'T KNOW WHY.

Okay, so here it is. Take this perfectly normal sentence that I copied and pasted from an arbitrary web page somewhere.

"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly, the reception could have been warmer."


No idea what the author is talking about, but anyway, there is my example. Here is the same example using the trendy grammatical construct.

"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly? The reception could have been warmer."

I have two questions, aimed at two audiences.

If you are a grammar nut - does this particular way of writing have a name? Why would you use it?

On the other hand, if you like to type this type of thing (or even if you speak that construct aloud, ending the "but honestly" conjunction with an upward inflection, if you catch my drift), then my question is - whyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyyy?

That is all.

P.S. To be honest, it's a perfectly fine way of typing, entirely harmless, kind of engaging. I have no idea why it bugs me so.
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ChaoSera

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #1 on: 06 Feb 2016, 03:32 »

Does it make you feel better knowing you're not alone? I feel the same way.
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Metope

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #2 on: 06 Feb 2016, 04:31 »

I guess I've never noticed? Kind of annoying though.
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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #3 on: 06 Feb 2016, 07:50 »

The comma over the question mark makes it less a question and more an observation/opinion. It's also conversational English, which is what is taught (more or less) in schools in America these days.

Blame Hemmingway.
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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #4 on: 06 Feb 2016, 10:17 »

This construction - an embedded question with a question mark in the middle of a sentence - is described in the Oxford Guide to Style; there's a full page on it.  Correctly, it should not have a capital letter following the question mark.  Examples in the guide are: "Where now? they wonder.", "He pondered why me? till his head hurt.", and "He left - would you believe it? - immediately after the ball."
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Tova

Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #5 on: 06 Feb 2016, 15:24 »

Does it make you feel better knowing you're not alone? I feel the same way.

Actually, yes. Much better.

Or more annoyingly:

(click to show/hide)

Argh. Okay, I'll stop now.

I guess I've never noticed? Kind of annoying though.

You will now start to see it everywhere.

This construction - an embedded question with a question mark in the middle of a sentence - is described in the Oxford Guide to Style; there's a full page on it.  Correctly, it should not have a capital letter following the question mark.  Examples in the guide are: "Where now? they wonder.", "He pondered why me? till his head hurt.", and "He left - would you believe it? - immediately after the ball."

My example is not quite like those, but I don't quite have the grammatical nous to pinpoint exactly how. The question mark in mine seems to denote rising inflection rather than an embedded question. You're probably right about the capitalisation, though.

The comma over the question mark makes it less a question and more an observation/opinion. It's also conversational English, which is what is taught (more or less) in schools in America these days.

Blame Hemmingway.

Yes, it does very much appear to be conversational. Blaming Hemmingway seems a good default position.  :-)
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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #6 on: 06 Feb 2016, 19:12 »

I would write this:
"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly, the reception could have been warmer."

I would not write this:
"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly? The reception could have been warmer."

The latter strikes me as "Buffy speak", or perhaps more accurately, Whedonian English. I think an attempt is being made to convey a spoken English rhetorical tic that, if I absolutely had to, I would write something like this:
"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly... the reception could have been warmer."

If one is not writing dialogue, I think bad things happen if you try to carry spoken English rhetorical tricks, like the "pause for effect", into written English. To be fair to Joss Whedon, he usually is writing dialogue.

This construction - an embedded question with a question mark in the middle of a sentence - is described in the Oxford Guide to Style; there's a full page on it.  Correctly, it should not have a capital letter following the question mark.
That is fascinating. I did not know that a question mark could ever be used correctly except at the end of a sentence.


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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #7 on: 06 Feb 2016, 19:23 »

It seems like there's a dangling participle, but I'm pretty sure "gorgeous" isn't a participle.

Putting a comma before the conjunction implies a compound sentence; however "Gorgeous old world charm" is a fragment at best.
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Tova

Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #8 on: 06 Feb 2016, 20:33 »

Yes, it's a fragment. The sentence was conversational in tone even before I added my little change to it.

I found it by googling "but honestly" (the first thing that popped into my head) and picking the first sentence that wasn't about Foo Fighters.
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Tova

Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #9 on: 06 Feb 2016, 20:36 »

The latter strikes me as "Buffy speak", or perhaps more accurately, Whedonian English. I think an attempt is being made to convey a spoken English rhetorical tic that, if I absolutely had to, I would write something like this:
"Gorgeous old world charm, but honestly... the reception could have been warmer."

If one is not writing dialogue, I think bad things happen if you try to carry spoken English rhetorical tricks, like the "pause for effect", into written English. To be fair to Joss Whedon, he usually is writing dialogue.

That is a nice insight. I had no idea that this was a Whedon trait. The way you would write it makes sense to me as well. I imagine that you probably would not, when speaking, add the upward inflection where you've put the ellipsis, whereas some others would.

Sorry for the double post.
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