"Q: Why aren't blondes good cattle herders?
A: Because they can't even keep two calves together!"
THE QUEST FOR THE PURIFICATION OF THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE
(AND THE LAST ONE, TOO)
by Richard Karsmakers
By now you should know that I started studying English back in
September 1991. During the first months of this academic career
already I found out I was making lots of mistakes where I had
naively thought none existed. I had been mixing up words, words
with the wrong meanings and wrong plural forms. I'd been making
lots of other mistakes, too, so it's safe to say that I had
committed blasphemy against what I consider to be the richest
language mankind possesses. I decided the time was ripe to bring
all that to a halt.
My purpose behind writing this series was twofold. Basically I
hoped to make you all aware of English, and most particularly the
proper way in which it is written. Also, I hoped I'd get better
at it myself if I tried to tell you how it was done.
No doubt to the considerable joy of many of you out there, this
will be the final part of the series. I've noticed that this
columns each time turned out to be the last one I had to write,
and that I also disliked doing it more and more. I do ST NEWS for
fun, I want to write for fun. That's why this will be the last
occurrence of this series, also because I don't think it'll
continue to fit in our new "Multi Media" setup (see "Editorial").
During the last two years I have made notes of all kinds of
things that I was still wanting to write something about, and
that's why this last occurrence will have a miriad of topics, all
discussed rather more briefly than usual. I hope, with this
column, to have contributed a small something to better awareness
Rather important note: To many of you this column will be
boring. If you are one of these many, then quit now. Pressing F10
will do the job. You can also try UNDO, I believe, or Escape.
There are no fun bits to be found at all this time.
To many non-English people, "all but" may seem restricted to a
meaning of "everything else except". However, "all but" actually
means "almost". This issue of ST NEWS was all but finished when I
still had to do this column.
If you want to use "everything else except" then you'd have to
use "everything but", like the band (Everything But The Girl).
The English really have a weird sense of counting. Not as warped
as that of the French ("three and two times twenty") but just
about. For example, a true British person would not say "half a
year". Rather, he'd use "6 months" instead. Similarly, they would
say "18 months" to "one and a half year". Full years are treated
Especially when hearing some English verbs and nouns spoken,
they may seem rather identical (even though they are not,
actually). Such may happen with words like "contrained" ("made
(sb) do sth by strong (moral) persuasion or by force", not to be
confused with "restrained", i.e. "held back" or something) and
"constraint" ("sth that limits or restricts"). There is a
difference when these words are spoken (voiced and voiceless
ending respectively), but when written the differences are even
Usually it is easy to remember what is the verb and what is the
noun. The past tense of the verb ends with "ed", the noun on "t".
There are more verb/noun combinations like this.
Amid & Among
Some may thing that there's a difference between "amid"/"amidst"
and "among"/"amongst". Well, there isn't. They're both variations
of the same.
To Wake up or not to Awake
Especially to foreigners such as myself the difference between
these verbs is difficult. "Awake" means "(cause a person or
animal to) stop sleeping", and "wake up" means "stop sleeping".
Do note the subtle differences: You cannot wake up somebody,
you'd have to awake them.
To some it can be difficult to keep track of when to use "lose"
and when "loose", when to use "chose" and when "choose".
Well..."loose" is either an adjective ("loose women", "the cow
was loose on the road", "to have loose bowels") or an idiomatic
expression (like "all hell's breaking loose", "let it loose (from
sth)"). Do note that "loose" is never a verb, so "I loose my
keys" is kindof impossible.
With "choose" it's different. "Choose", for starters, is the
present tense form of the verb "to choose", to be used with the
1st and 3rd forms of the present tense. The past tense and past
participle have the form "chose" and "chosen" respectively.
"Choose" has an "oo" like in "school", "chose" has an "o" like in
Flesh and Mutton
After 1066, a lot of French influences penetrated the English
language. Hundreds of English words are actually in some way
derived from French (i.e. Latin). Especially a lot of culinary
terms came from the French.
Whereas the Dutch just about call anything off an animal
"flesh", the English have a wide variety of words for various
kinds of "flesh". For starters they never called it "flesh",
actually, but use "meat". And then there are separate kinds of
"meat", like "veal" (flesh from a calf used as meat), "pork"
(from a pig) and "mutton" (from a sheep).
INQUIRY & ENQUIRY
These nouns are both the same. It should only be noted that the
Americans say "inkweri" rather than "inkwaieri".
INNOCENT & INNOCUOUS
Innocent means "not guilty" or "harmless", innocuous just means
"harmless". Innocuous (the "c" is pronounced as a "k") is to be
used with sentences like "this is an innocuous drug", innocent
more like "he is innocent; he did not commit that crime".
MANDATIVE & MANDATORY
Mandatory means "required by law; compulsory" (as in the Slayer
song "Mandatory Suicide"). The word "mandative", although I am
certain I encountered it somewhere, does not exist.
DESPERATE & DISPARATE
These adjectives means "feeling or showing great despair" and
"so different in kind or degree that they cannot be compared"
respectively. Metallica are disparate, Guns'n'Roses are
DISCOMFITED & UNCOMFORTABLE
The first means "to confuse or embarrass", the latter that
you're not feeling comfortable. You see there's a subtle
difference. You would not be discomfited by a chair, though you
could feel quite uncomfortable in it.
PROFANITY & PROFUNDITY
These mean "profane (i.e. rude) behaviour, especially the use of
profane language" and "depth (esp of knowledge, thought, etc)".
"Maggie" disk magazine used to be full of profanities, now
they're rather more filled with profundities.
BESIDE & BESIDES
"Beside" means "at the side of; next to", "compared with" or (in
"beside oneself") "having lost someone control because of the
intensity of the emotions one is feeling". "Besides" means "in
addition to" or "except (sb/sth); apart from".
EVOKE & INVOKE
The first means "bring to mind (a feeling, memory, etc)" or,
formally, "produce or cause (a response, reaction, etc)". The
latter means "use as a reason for one's action" or "summon/call
upon". So if you invoke the muses that may evoke a feeling of
AFFIRMATIVE & CONFIRMATIVE
Despite their looks, these words are not antonyms (opposites).
Rather, they both mean the same, i.e. "having said yes" or
something like that.
UNCOVER & DISCOVER
These words used to overlap in meaning in 17th-19th century
literature. "Discover" would be indicating the act of uncovering,
also physically. Later, "discover" became reserved for
discoveries, great things that are found out, that sort of thing.
PECULIAR & PARTICULAR
These words also used to overlap in earlier literatury, where
"peculiar" meant the same as "particular". "Peculiar" these days
has connotations with "strange, odd".
Noisome does not mean "full of noise", rather "offensive;
Adulterate does not mean "to commit adultery on sth/sb", rather
"make (sth) poorer in quality by adding another substance;
Something made with high arts is not artificial, rather artful.
Something that is not credible is not incredible, rather
The following few examples should make it clear when hyphens
have to be used: court-martial (compound word), son-in-law
(compound word), South America, all-but-dead (compound word),
much-talked-about (compound word), attorney general, pre-
Raphaelite (prefix and proper name compound), pre-and post-war
Europe, the Bush-Gorbachev summit (two proper named compounded),
seventy-three (compound numbers) and re-elect (prefix ends with
the same letter that the word starts with).
The days of the week, the names of the months, and proper nouns
(names of countries, people, etc.) are to be written with initial
If you really want to let people see how much you look down upon
the world of other computer systems or music, etc., you might do
wise to learn by heart the following handy pseudonyms:
clones - clowns
compatibles - contemptibles
amiga - amoeba
grunge rock - crunge ruck
MTV - eMpTyV
windows - windoze
On an Internet metal mailing list I recently came across some
palindromes I would really like to share with you:
SATAN, OSCILLATE MY METALLIC SONATAS
SEX AT NOON TAXES
The Answers to the previous issue's "singular quiz"
The answers to the previous issue's 'singular quiz' are the
following: Axes, oxen, sons-in law, potatoes, piccolos, attorneys
general, lieutenant colonels, opera, indices, teaspoonfuls,
messrs., men-of-war, menservants, oboes, cherubim or cherubin,
crises, data, cannon, addenda, agenda (though agendas is
acceptable too), phenomena, mesdames, pelves, paymasters general
and brigadier generals.
This is the last line you'll ever read of this column.
The text of the articles is identical to the originals like they appeared in old ST NEWS issues. Please take into consideration that the author(s) was (were) a lot younger and less responsible back then. So bad jokes, bad English, youthful arrogance, insults, bravura, over-crediting and tastelessness should be taken with at least a grain of salt. Any contact and/or payment information, as well as deadlines/release dates of any kind should be regarded as outdated. Due to the fact that these pages are not actually contained in an Atari executable here, references to scroll texts, featured demo screens and hidden articles may also be irrelevant.