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Nightwritings
03-10-2006, 02:51 PM
I am often amused by references to events which are described as 'almost exactly' a year ago or a month ago. Equally when things are 'almost exactly' the same or equal! For example - on the radio last night I heard the following during the news - ".....it is almost exactly one year to the day since the accident happened but he ......." How can it be almost exactly a year to the day? It is surely either 'exactly a year to the day' or 'almost a year to the day'. The most bizarre reference was listening to an English teacher say that the class were 'almost exactly close to finishing!'.
My question to you all is this. Can 'almost exactly' ever be used?

Jamesaritchie
03-10-2006, 06:04 PM
I am often amused by references to events which are described as 'almost exactly' a year ago or a month ago. Equally when things are 'almost exactly' the same or equal! For example - on the radio last night I heard the following during the news - ".....it is almost exactly one year to the day since the accident happened but he ......." How can it be almost exactly a year to the day? It is surely either 'exactly a year to the day' or 'almost a year to the day'. The most bizarre reference was listening to an English teacher say that the class were 'almost exactly close to finishing!'.
My question to you all is this. Can 'almost exactly' ever be used?

"Almost exactly" is technically incorrect, in my opinion, but I do think it can still be used.

"Almost a year to the day" is too wide a range, in my view. It can mean the event is a four days off, six days off, or whatever. "Almost exactly," to me, says that the event is no more than a day or so off, and maybe only hours off.

It's a phrase that doesn't bother me because I think it communicates, it gets the point across, and that is what language is supposed to do.

The entire point of grammar is communication, not foolish consistency, and when you have a choice between correct grammar and better communication, I say take the better communication.

But it is a matter of the ear, and if it sounds off to your ear, you shouldn't use it. To my ear it sounds fine, adds something useful, so I don't mind it at all.

rekirts
03-10-2006, 06:59 PM
'Almost exactly' sounds wrong to me, too. I am very sorry to say it, though, since both words are adverbs and I'm on a crusade to bring the much-maligned adverb back into favour (or favor, for you Yanks).

Jamesaritchie
03-10-2006, 10:02 PM
'Almost exactly' sounds wrong to me, too. I am very sorry to say it, though, since both words are adverbs and I'm on a crusade to bring the much-maligned adverb back into favour (or favor, for you Yanks).

Funny, I think the phrase "almost exactly" is fine. I can't think of a better way to say what you mean, and that's what it's all about for me. But I am not at all fond of adverbs. Under most circumstances, I think they should be banned completely.

So I hate adverbs, but like these two, and you love adverbs, but hate these two. Interesting.

rekirts
03-10-2006, 10:29 PM
Heh. I don't actually love adverbs, but I do think they have their place. My crusade is really a reaction to all the people who say one should never use adverbs. I guess they don't realize that 'never' is an adverb.

CaroGirl
03-10-2006, 10:32 PM
“Almost exactly” sounds wrong to me too. Exactly doesn’t take a qualifier; it means what it means. The person in this case means “almost”, not “exactly”. Something is either exactly something else, or it isn’t.

It’s like qualifying “unique”. Nothing is “very unique”, that’s meaningless.

KAP
03-10-2006, 11:37 PM
My question to you all is this. Can 'almost exactly' ever be used?

Almost never.

The over 100% claim is what gets me. I'm ALMOST ALWAYS seeing athletes on tv telling me how they gave 200% or more.

TheIT
03-10-2006, 11:44 PM
Depending on who's using the phrase, you might be getting a take on a line from The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy by Douglas Adams. I can't remember the exact quote, but it was something like the Nutrimatic machine producing "a cup full of liquid almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea." In Adams' case the convoluted phrase was intentional humor.

SomelBalance
03-11-2006, 05:55 AM
thats adams for you :) :

"he flew in exactly the way bricks don't"

Nightwritings
03-11-2006, 12:01 PM
Thanks for the comments. I can see how using it deliberately and obviously in humour or satire can work. I also agree that language belongs to people and people change the structure of language all the time. I am not a 'Luddite', or whatever the literary equivalent term may be, but that particular phrase will never sound correct to me. Well almost never!

Thanks again,
NW

Jamesaritchie
03-11-2006, 04:48 PM
“Almost exactly” sounds wrong to me too. Exactly doesn’t take a qualifier; it means what it means. The person in this case means “almost”, not “exactly”. Something is either exactly something else, or it isn’t.

It’s like qualifying “unique”. Nothing is “very unique”, that’s meaningless.

I think you're still talking grammar. Grammar is a good thing, but should never have the final say. The person means what he says. He means "almost exactly." "Almost an exact match," "Almost" alone is simply not close enough to get the point across. It can mean darned near any amount of time. Exactly alone doesn't cut it, either.

"Almost" is an emphasis on how very close something is without being exact. I think it's a good emphasis.

Exactly takes a qualifier if you give it one, and most pepole are going to give it one because it works. The person does not mean almost, and does not mean exactly, he means "almost exactly."

Dominique Bouhours said: "Money is a good servant, but a poor master."

The same is true of grammar. Know the rules, yes, but never let them be the master, and never judge the worth of a phrase because it does or doesn't follow the rules. As writers, we always have to be the master, and grammar must always be the servant.

Phrases are good or bad solely on how well they say what they say, not because they follow or violate teh rules of grammar. Andd phrases become popular because they communicate something to people in a way that works. "Almost exactly" is an extremely common phrase because to most people, it does work well.

"Almost exactly" is going to sound wrong to the ear of many writers, and to the majority of grammarians, but it sounds right to the general public, it tells them something in a way they understand, so to my mind, it's a perfectly legitimate phrase.

But we all have to go by our own ear. My ear tells me that any word can take a qualifier if I want to give it one. OThers will have ears who say never do it.

Jamesaritchie
03-11-2006, 04:52 PM
Heh. I don't actually love adverbs, but I do think they have their place. My crusade is really a reaction to all the people who say one should never use adverbs. I guess they don't realize that 'never' is an adverb.

Yes, I think adverbs have their place. Never say never. On occasion, and adverb works well, and when it does, it should be used. I think the hatred for adverbs is a result of too many writers, particularly new writers, using more adverbs in a chapter than should be used in a lifetime. Reading slush piles will always give adverbs a bad name.

I do not ruthlessly slash adverbs in my own writing. I evaluate each, and if it sounds right, it stays.