Is it just me? Lately many of the things I read contain glaring errors. It first hit me while reading Tim Tyler's Memetics.

"If memetics explains only explains the imitation of observed behavior, ..." (p 96)

"Perhaps biological an cultural differ..." (p 173)

"Genetic engineers can now take information form wherever they like..."

"However, not everyone seems agree that ..." (both on p 184)

"The upright gait hypothesis hypothesis is interesting for several reasons." (p 206)

I thought, "Didn't the editor even read this? Who was this?" But, lo, no editor was credited. There was no editor! Is this a new cost-cutting trend in publishing?

But the news lately has been just as bad.

It is original from the Andean area of South Africa and widely grown in both the north of Chile and Argentina and the south Mexico, especially Ecuador.

A Promising Fruit: The Tree Tomato

That sample was from today's Science Daily. Yesterday I noticed four or five glaring errors. This is disorienting, even a little scary. Has literacy decline has crossed a tipping point?

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Cat, that's because they hire minimally educated employees at minimum wage! Well, in reality, learning to spell and punctuate English requires the memorization of many irregular words, PLUS the knowledge of phonics that many elementary teachers don't know themselves, so they ONLY rely on memorization. Which is foolish, because a person just can't remember all those words, and their permutations. I have met a few teachers who did know phonic rules (drives me crazy when people refer to this as phonetics!), and were able to instill those rules into their pupils. More time ought to be spent on learning how the written language works, and less time on rote spelling tests. But you're still going to see mistakes, because English is HARD! :-)

Aye dont remember whut Inglish in skool wuz like, but they must've done something rite.

Yes! All the special-case rules, and things we have to simply memorize! Never mind the words we've borrowed from all over the globe; I remember reading about how English spelling is a "fossil record" of earlier pronunciations, now forgotten. Spelling moved towards being standardized (or standardised :-) with the rise of printing, around the same time major shifts in pronunciation, including the Great Vowel Shift, were happening.

(Don't have links handy, except for Douglas Harper's Online Etymology Dictionary off the top of my head: From there I learned that "one", with its spelling weirdly disconnected from the pronunciation we know, originally sounded like "own", as in "only", "alone", and "atone". A 14th-century regional pronunciation from southwest and west England ended up taking over by the 18th century.)

At least the grammar is reasonably simple, compared to many of the world's languages!

Sometimes people do the right thing for the wrong reasons. There's the "security guard" who earned his quotation marks (shared earlier in Hang With Friends) and there are the Bibles labeled as fiction by a Costco warehouse.

This example, which I saw today, is also apropos to No Nonsense Atheists and to Health and Fitness.

This label for a homeopathic drug (Arnica) uses quotation marks correctly! It says, among other things:

Drug Facts: Active ingredient listed above. Use for symptoms listed below.... These "Uses" have not been evaluated by the FDA.

Another unwittingly correct use of quotation marks, this time on a protest sign:

Protester holding sign: GIVE GOD HIS ''RIGHTS''

Finally, an explanation for all those wayward "grocers' apostrophe's" that seem to be there solely to signal "beware of oncoming S":

(from Mo Viele's blog Fontidious)

the apostrophic epidemic

I often wonder who patient zero was.

I imagine that some lowly shopkeeper went out to paint “Bananas $3” on his sign, and was stricken with an uncontrollable urge to add an apostrophe. And soon his banana was the proud owner of $3. Not to be outdone, his rival down the street advertised “Banana’s 2 Dollar’s.” Then someone from the town full of affluent bananas went on a trip, carrying the contagion with him. “Train’s Departing Every 5 Minute’s.”

The pandemic had begun.

Found on the web:

(Grocery customer nonplussed at bins of TOMATOE'S, POTATO'S, and APOSTROPHE'S)

Why not in'sert them before 's's in the middle of word's a's well???

I just found this while looking for something else... apostrophes aren't just for plural's anymore:

Wall sign for LEE'S TEXA'S [sic] STYLE BAR-B-Q

Texa's Style Bar-B-Q .... let's see what Grammarly does with this.

Answer from Grammarly: "unnecessary ellipses".

Oh my gosh, Grammarly didn't catch it. OK! so much for the big "G"!

Why didn't it suggest spelling out "barbecue"? It's a food (and a cooking method), not a prompt in a play for an extremely popular doll, and not a cattle brand "BQ".

I just looked at Grammarly's website, and tried a couple of lines from "Jabberwocky" for giggles. Now it wants me to sign up for an account before showing what the "writing issues" actually are. After giving them a fake email address* it seems you have to pay for any of their plans.

They're allowed to have that business model, especially if their plagiarism checking is good; but going from "Try Grammarly now!" on their main page, with that inviting text box, to "We didn't really mean that; you have to sign up and pay" rubbed me the wrong way. It's like the "people search" companies that claim to have found 3 public records for Mistletoe Q. Wilberthwaipe, only you have to pay to see the details. They've gone on my shit list. has instant public temporary mailboxes for when you need to give an email address but don't want to get spammed afterwards; just make up

Another useful resource for dealing with some sites is If a website insists you register with an email address just for reading their articles, or returning a quiz result, or whatever, someone might have already registered a fake account; bugmenot lets people share those. (It explicitly excludes pay sites and age-restricted sites, as well as community sites like AN where you can read stuff as an anonymous visitor, but need to sign up before posting.)

Turns out has its own bit of horrid bureaucratese masquerading as English: if you submit a site to be blocked, it returns the message "Your request has been submitted. It will be reviewed and actioned accordingly."

Grammarly looked like bait and switch to me, so I didn't bother giving them a fake email address.



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