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Jewel101
12-01-2005, 01:23 PM
you know when you abbreviate you put a period at the \end. What happens if you abbreviate and then the sentence ends? do you put two periods or something?

Aconite
12-01-2005, 03:30 PM
you know when you abbreviate you put a period at the \end. What happens if you abbreviate and then the sentence ends? do you put two periods or something?
Nope. The abbreviation period acts as the sentence period too.

reph
12-01-2005, 11:05 PM
Just one period, as Aconite said. That was my Usage Tip from November 10 through November 12.

Garbarian
12-01-2005, 11:14 PM
hey reph, aren't "nerve-racking" and "nerve-wracking" both considered correct in modern usage (at least in america)?

reph
12-02-2005, 05:33 AM
hey reph, aren't "nerve-racking" and "nerve-wracking" both considered correct in modern usage (at least in america)?
Not by me. Of course, opinions vary. You can find descriptivist dictionaries that allow "nerve-wracking" just because so many people have written it that way. Those dictionaries allow use of "comprise" to mean "constitute," for the same reason, although "comprise," by its origins, carries the idea of embracing. It literally refers to arms.

To write "nerve-wracking" loses the metaphor that makes this compound meaningful. "Wrack" began as the equivalent of "shipwreck." Having your nerves racked means having them stretched to thinness, not having them dashed against a rocky shore.

maestrowork
12-02-2005, 06:05 AM
I have exactly one "nerve-racking" in my novel. I'm so glad I got it right! Whew!

Sage
12-02-2005, 06:26 AM
To write "nerve-wracking" loses the metaphor that makes this compound meaningful. "Wrack" began as the equivalent of "shipwreck." Having your nerves racked means having them stretched to thinness, not having them dashed against a rocky shore. I don't know. Having my nerves wracked sounds just as bad as having them racked.

jst5150
12-02-2005, 09:26 AM
So, then, my six-period rule is out then?

jules
12-02-2005, 12:05 PM
Not by me. Of course, opinions vary. You can find descriptivist dictionaries that allow "nerve-wracking" just because so many people have written it that way. Those dictionaries allow use of "comprise" to mean "constitute," for the same reason, although "comprise," by its origins, carries the idea of embracing. It literally refers to arms.

I'm not sure if you consider the OED to be "descriptivist" (I thought all dictionaries describe language, to be honest), but it allows "wrack" in this use. On the subject of comprise it allows "the country comprises twenty states" and "the country is comprised of twenty states", both of which sound fine to me. I'm not sure what kind of use of comprise you're objecting to there.

reph
12-02-2005, 01:10 PM
I do consider the OED descriptivist. The second use of "comprise" is the objectionable one. Originally, the word was closely related to "comprehend."

Garbarian
12-02-2005, 07:59 PM
out of curiosity, which dictionaries aren't descriptivist? because of the many dictionaries i own, from the oed to merriam-webster, all of them allow for "nerve-wracking." (not trying to pick a fight; i'm honestly curious about a non-descriptive dictionary i might be able to add to my collection).

reph
12-02-2005, 09:39 PM
I don't know of a general dictionary that takes a strongly prescriptivist editorial position, as usage manuals do. Henry Fowler's Dictionary of Modern English Usage is a usage manual, not a comprehensive dictionary, and it isn't recent. Theodore Bernstein's Careful Writer is similar and more recent. There are many other books in the same category.

The American Heritage Dictionary reports its Usage Panel's opinions on acceptable and unacceptable uses of controversial words.

Fowler says this about such uses of "comprise" as "the Government of the Federation and the three territories which comprise it":
This lamentably common use of comprise as a synonym of compose or constitute is a wanton and indefensible weakening of our vocabulary.
You can't get more prescriptivist than that.

Garbarian
12-02-2005, 09:52 PM
I always chuckle when I read comments like Fowler's. A cursory glance at the history of the English language shows that it has evolved (or devolved, in some cases) consistently since its inception, and dictionaries (and usage manuals, for that matter) have changed with it. I wonder if Fowler has a gripe with the slow and gradual shift of usage and meaning of the thousands of other words -- "awful," "embarrass," etc. -- over the past few hundred years.

reph
12-02-2005, 10:02 PM
Fowler had plenty of gripes, but his books don't give evidence that he wanted to return to Chaucer's English.

A problem with "comprise" is that if you accept its former meaning and the one it acquired later, it now has two opposite meanings. Another problem: using "comprise" to mean "compose" ignores the derivation of the word.

Garbarian
12-02-2005, 10:24 PM
Sure, but the same case can be made for many, many words which we take for granted. Like the example I used earlier, "embarrass," which is originally derived from the french word meaning "to obstruct," and which originally meant "to hamper or impede" in English. We totally ignore that derivation in our current usage.

Also, we don't complain about accepting the current meanings of words like "awful" and "artificial" though they're nearly opposite of what they once were.

Language didn't jump from Chaucer's English to today. I'm certain if Fowler was around in the 18th century, when the shifts of the aforementioned words occurred, he'd be having a fit about it then. (Which is one of the reasons I find Fowler amusing (another word which meant something totally different at one time)).

pconsidine
12-02-2005, 10:29 PM
Fowler had plenty of gripes, but his books don't give evidence that he wanted to return to Chaucer's English.

A problem with "comprise" is that if you accept its former meaning and the one it acquired later, it now has two opposite meanings. Another problem: using "comprise" to mean "compose" ignores the derivation of the word. Just out of curiosity, how often have you come across an author who has used it properly (according to your preference)?

Also, I tend to be of the "hang the derivation. It is what it is" school of thought. I don't imagine there are very many words in English that still follow their original drived meanings. But that's just a hunch.

reph
12-02-2005, 11:03 PM
Just out of curiosity, how often have you come across an author who has used it properly (according to your preference)?
In professional writing (e.g., academic works, major magazines), 70% of uses. In less formal writing (e.g., message-board posts), 10% of uses. Rough estimates.

pconsidine
12-02-2005, 11:22 PM
Interesting. I'm sure it's my experience then, but I've rarely seen it used in the fashion you described as correct.

Strange thing, this language.

reph
12-03-2005, 02:50 AM
Readers understand both uses of the word, but I find it hard to imagine a person who'd use the word both ways.