[Top][All Lists]

[Date Prev][Date Next][Thread Prev][Thread Next][Date Index][Thread Index]

Re: [Pan-users] Re: Pan Docs 070101

From: Tim Kynerd
Subject: Re: [Pan-users] Re: Pan Docs 070101
Date: Sun, 07 Jan 2007 09:13:12 -0600
User-agent: Thunderbird (Macintosh/20061207)

Duncan wrote:
Tim Kynerd <address@hidden> posted
address@hidden, excerpted below, on  Sat, 06 Jan 2007 00:49:06

Unfortunately, the English language isn't even that consistent. Usenet is
a medium, but we're not even consistent about how we refer to media. You
watch TV, but you listen to the radio and you go to the movies; you surf
the Internet, but you post to Usenet.

Well, the TV/radio thing is easy.  You can listen to "the radio", and
watch "the TV", either one, talking about a specific one.  You can also
watch "TV" and listen to "radio".  It's the same thing as shearing "the
sheep" if you have only one (or one flock), or shearing "sheep", if you are
talking about it in general (shearing sheep for a living, but when it's a
specific flock, it's "the sheep).  When you "watch TV" or "listen to
radio", it's the medium in general, when "the" is inserted, your attention
is on a specific unit, generally the only one in the house or the room or
that you have with you.

In my dialect of English, one simply does not watch "the TV," and one simply does not listen to "radio." That's all there is to it.

My grandparents used to talk about "watching the TV," but even as a small child I recognized that as an archaism.
I can imagine that in its early days some people may have referred to it
as "the Usenet," but by now usage has settled on simply "Usenet." I don't
think I've ever heard or seen anyone refer to "the Usenet." (Except maybe
in old RFCs?) My two cents.

Similarly to above, "the Internet" refers to the single collective whole,
"the internet" not capitalized, would refer to any of a group of networks
linked, but not /the/ Internet, which is formally always capitalized. Singular internet, whether capitalized or not, would almost always have
"the" in front of it, since you are referring to a specific instance,
either the Internet (the universal one), or the internet (as for instance
the one linking the individual building networks on a campus).  However,
one could use "internets" in something like "The Internet is the linking
of many smaller nets and internets together", without "the" on the plural

Of course, but that's a contrived example and says nothing about the capital-I Internet, which is always used with the definite article.
The problem with "the Usenet" is I believe because it's not homogeneous
enough to be considered a single entity -- it's always the medium.  There
are Usenet servers, but there is no "the Usenet", as it would be just a
nebulous "Usenet" or referring to a specific group of servers as "the
group of Usenet servers" (or "those Usenet servers").  It's interesting, I
can't think of another medium where there's never an individual piece that
is never referred to as "the X".
---- (I screwed up the quoting and Thunderbird won't let me fix it....)
There's a site I discovered recently, called "Language Log".  It's a
number of linguists blogging about interesting words and usages they come
across, how usage changes, etc.  Extremely fascinating stuff, at least to
me.  The first time I stumbled upon it (after reading that "tow the line"
was incorrect, it was "toe the line, googling it to see what others had to
say, with one hit being Language Log, "toe the line" is correct, BTW,
google it if you doubt me), I couldn't tear myself away for something like
two hours, reading one interesting tidbit after another.  I now have their
RSS feed scrolling along with all my regular news and technology sites in
knewsticker.  I wonder if they have a writeup on "Usenet".  I'll have to
look, one of these days.  It'd be very interesting to see what the
linguists think of its usage!  BTW, the content is licensed Creative
Commons, Attribution-ShareAlike (BY-SA). =8^)

Language Log (The URL's kinda weird, definitely not something easy to
remember, so be sure and bookmark it if you find it anywhere close to as
interesting as I do!):

The rss/rdf feed:

Two tidbits like this that I recently wrote about on my own blog:

(1) You can't backup something, and you can't login to something. The verbs are "back up" and "log in." The proof is that you don't say you're backuping, and you don't say you've just loginned.

(2) You can't replace A by B. B can be replaced by A (which is simply the passive form of "A replaces B"), but if a third party is doing the replacing, the correct preposition is "with." You replace A *with* B.

All of which is only the tip of a very large iceberg of linguistic irritation. ("Tow the line," for example, has been annoying me for years.)


reply via email to

[Prev in Thread] Current Thread [Next in Thread]