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Author Topic: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why  (Read 2477 times)

Tova

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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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jwhouk

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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

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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

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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

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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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Tova

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #10 on: 15 Mar 2019, 02:08 »

I really didn’t know where to put this. But I had to post it somewhere because this drives me insane.

Then I rediscovered this thread.



thishasbeenacommunityserviceannouncement

Thank you.
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jwhouk

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #11 on: 15 Mar 2019, 05:41 »

My suggestion?

Don't worry about it!
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LTK

Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #12 on: 15 Mar 2019, 06:08 »

That rule seems to be more suited to writing textbooks or biographies. For casual use, exclamation marks are so versatile and expressive that it'd be foolish not to use them to their full potential.

Consider, for example, someone asking "Should I be concerned that my friends don't like me?" in text form. If I answered "Not at all." then it appears businesslike, almost dismissive. If I wanted to add emphasis like italics, "Not at all." seems more like admonition than assurance. But an exclamation mark gives it a brotherly, reassuring tone. "Not at all! Don't be silly! No worries!" (Helpfully illustrated by jwhouk while I was writing this.) It helps a lot given that tone is already hard to convey through text.

Also, you can use it to convey sarcasm or irony. The incongruity of an exclamation mark on a seemingly regular statement alerts readers that there might be something more to it. "It's a good thing there are prescriptivists around to tell me when I'm using language wrong, otherwise I wouldn't know what to do!"

And, believe it or not, it even does the opposite! Statements often read as sarcastic like "Oh, that's great." can be ridden of their tonal baggage just by adding an exclamation mark. "Oh, good for you! Thanks, I love it!" Truly, the possibilities are myriad.
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Cornelius

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #13 on: 15 Mar 2019, 08:15 »

You know, with writing, it is extremely important to know all of the rules. All of them. And then to creatively abuse or ignore most of them.
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Tova

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #14 on: 15 Mar 2019, 15:22 »

Just to be clear: I'm merely expressing my exasperation at gratuitous overuse of exclamation marks, not trying to suggest everyone should strictly follow exclamation-mark rules.
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Pilchard123

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #15 on: 15 Mar 2019, 15:28 »

'And all those exclamation marks, you notice? Five? A sure sign of someone who wears his underpants on his head.'
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Tova

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #16 on: 15 Mar 2019, 15:44 »

My suggestion?

Don't worry about it!

P.S. I see what you did there.
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Is it cold in here?

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #17 on: 16 Mar 2019, 08:03 »

For the greeting at the beginning of an electronic message, "Words on the Move" reports an emerging etiquette consensus that
"Dear Matilda,"
is cold and dismissive and the equivalent of smiling when you say hello in person is
"Dear Matilda!"
« Last Edit: 17 Mar 2019, 08:15 by Is it cold in here? »
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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #18 on: 16 Mar 2019, 17:00 »

That sounds a bit arbitrary.
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Tova

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Re: This drives me insane - and I can't explain why
« Reply #19 on: 16 Mar 2019, 18:43 »

I don’t buy that. At least not the second bit.

“Hi Matilda,”
is common enough and is friendly without being overexcited.

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