(reblog), grammar, humor, photography

5 Days, 5 Abstract Photos – Day #5

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Day #5 of Olga’s challenge is effectively reblogged at the end of this post, after my own abstract photo.  (I tweaked this post’s title to avoid ambiguity.)  The challenge has been fun but intense.  Now I can turn to whatever has been piling up.  Hmm… Yikes!

penis-gourd_800x1067

Originally posted as
5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day 5) | Stuff and what if…:

icicles3

Rules:  No people.  No explanations.  Open invitation to anyone else who would like to participate.

flake2

Since this is the finale, an extra photo to say Merry Christmas and Peace to all.

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(reblog), grammar, photography

5 Days, 5 Abstract Photos – Day #4

The [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.  Typing just the [Enter] key into the Search box is good for browsing WordPress blogs.

Day #4 of Olga’s challenge is effectively reblogged at the end of this post, after my own abstract photo.  (I tweaked this post’s title to avoid ambiguity.)  Am working on a jollier possibility for day #5.

ash-hole_800x735

 

Originally posted as
5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day 4) | Stuff and what if…:

lake6

Rules:  No people.  No explanations.  Open invitation to anyone else who would like to participate.

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(reblog), grammar, photography

5 Days, 5 Abstract Photos – Day #3

The [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.  Typing just the [Enter] key into the Search box is good for browsing WordPress blogs.

Day #3 of Olga’s challenge is effectively reblogged at the end of this post, after my own abstract photo.  (I tweaked this post’s title to avoid ambiguity.)  Maybe I can do all 5 days.

corner-grn-pink-align_800x564

Originally posted as
5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day 3) | Stuff and what if…:

abstractxxx

Rules:  No people.  No explanations.  Open invitation to anyone else who would like to participate.

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(reblog), grammar, photography

5 Days, 5 Abstract Photos – Day #2

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Day #2 of the challenge is effectively reblogged at the end of this post, after my own abstract photo.  (I tweaked this post’s title to avoid ambiguity.)  I might bail out before 5 days are complete.

Coleus closer 1.4 800x491

Originally posted as
5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day Two) | Stuff and what if…:

warm9

Rules:  No people.  No explanations.  Open invitation to anyone else who would like to participate.

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(reblog), grammar, photography

5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day One)

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The title of the post effectively reblogged below could be parsed as saying that it announces either day #1 of a challenge to post 5 abstract photos on 5 days or a challenge to post 5 photos on 5 days, with an abstract photo wanted for day #1 (and what is wanted later left open).  I will guess the former, post an abstract photo today, and see if I can post 4 more.  I might bail out before 5 days are complete.

Originally posted as
5 Days, 5 Photos Challenge: Abstract (Day One) | Stuff and what if…:

Rules:  No people.  No explanations.  Open invitation to anyone else who would like to participate.

Abstract photography is sometimes called non-objective, experimental, conceptual or concrete photography.

Abstract photography is based on the photographer’s eye who’s looking to capture something in a way that it would not usually be seen.  Looking for the details, the patterns, the lines, the form, shape and colors that complete a subject and utilizing those key features to make an engaging image.

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Here is my abstract photo for day #1:

multi-horiz_800x328_Adj_B-25_C+70_S+50

grammar, humor, language, photography, politics

Writing Well – Part 3

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Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????

Here are links to all posts in this project of reviewing and supplementing the splendid book

The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.

  1. Introduction
    What does the rise of “proper” English have in common with a physics conundrum about gravity?
  2. Babies, Names, and Snobs
    We name words by wrapping them in square brackets to avoid overloading more common conventions.
  3. Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????
    We add a new ISM to the familiar duo of attitudes toward English language usage: readabilism.
  4. Why is English Spelling Such a Mess?
    An insight into the difficulty of spelling reform has wide-ranging significance, far beyond spelling.
  5. Ambiguity Sucks!
    Ambiguity is almost always at least a little harmful to clear communication. It can be disastrous.
  6. What is the Point of Punctuation?
    Careful punctuation helps avoid unwanted ambiguity.
  7. Yogi Berra’s Paradox
    Sometimes bad English is good English that’s good because it’s bad.
  8. Blood & Gold End This Series
    Apart from a concern about the examples on 2 late pages in the book, I could applaud those pages until my hands bleed.

One trouble with categories is that so many of the interesting and important people and things in the real world do not fit neatly into them.  Tho wary of categories, I feel a need to introduce another one, alongside the descriptivism and prescriptivism (reviewed below) that are commonly used to categorize writings/writers that deal with the English language.

To oversimplify somewhat:

  • A descriptivist says how people actually use the language.
  • A prescriptivist says how people should use the language, according to various rules.

The captions on the following images for these attitudes link to notes and credits at the end of this post.

One of the strengths of Lynch’s book is that most of the time it is so fair to both.  Lynch is mostly in the descriptivist camp, but he sees merit in some prescriptivist ideas and explores the absurdities of trying to be 100% one or the other.

Perhaps some of the more thoughtful people on both sides are implicitly in another category, which I will call [readabilism] until somebody suggests a name I like better that is not already in use.

Still being simplistic to get started, here is what I mean by [readabilism].

  • A readabilist says how people should use the language, so as to communicate clearly.

Communicating clearly is not the same as abiding by rules.  Do U want to be clear?  Some of the prescriptivists’ rules are helpful, as is attention to the descriptivists’ findings.  Some of the prescriptivists’ rules are harmful, as is being lazy in ways that descriptivists find to be common.  As with geometry, there is no royal road to clarity.  Various examples will be in later posts.  A quick preliminary example appears later in this post.

I am a proud readabilist.  I try to write clearly.  I fail and try again.  Sometimes I succeed.  I try to recommend ways to write clearly.  I fail and try again.  I will recommend a prescriptivist’s rule that seems helpful and disrecommend one that seems harmful.  If something seems helpful in one context and harmful in another, I will try to sort things out rather than claim that one size fits all.

Any suggestions of alternative names for readabilism?  I was disappointed when Google told me that [lucidism] is already in use as the name of a religion, as is [claritism].  [Communicationism] is a pejorative term for the kind of reductionism that attributes conflicts to failures of communication.  I had better grab [readabilism] while I can.

Example 3.1: Split Infinitives


On page 19, Lynch scorches the extreme prescriptivists who make sweeping bogus claims about enhancing clarity for long lists of rules, including inanities like the rule against splitting an infinitive.  This rule was made up by prigs with too much free time who were enamored of Latin, a language with no blank space inside an infinitive where anything might be inserted.

Prescriptivists who claim devotion to clarity while peddling such drivel remind me of pseudoconservatives in US politics, who claim devotion to fiscal responsibility while peddling tax cuts for the same tiny fraction of the population that has been siphoning away wealth from everybody else for decades (while the national debt increases).

Tho the rhetoric of extreme prescriptivists may sound readabilist, the conduct is definitely not readabilist.  Fretting about where else to put an adverb that wants to follow [to] may not be directly harmful, but it siphons away time and energy from serious work on clarity.

Image Notes and Credits


An antenna from the array in a radio telescope is emblematic of the spirit of descriptivism.  Let’s see what is out there (and maybe try to explain it).

The clothes and facial expression of the man making the thumb-down gesture suggest that he is an arrogant jerk. This caricature of prescriptivism is appropriate at this admittedly simplistic stage in the discussion (and at any stage for some extreme prescriptivists).  Nuance will come later.

Back in 2013, I photographed a daylily flower in my yard because I wanted to show it to a flower lover in a nursing home.  I did not want to be at all arty.  I just wanted her to see the flower clearly and completely, w/o puzzling about what I had photographed or about the technologies that let me show her a long-gone flower on my laptop computer.  I wanted the wizardry to be transparent and therefore invisible to the casual eye.

The clear view (thru the photo to see the daylily) is emblematic of the spirit of readabilism.  While it is OK if the reader pauses briefly a few times to admire how well an idea has been conveyed, the reader should never need a shovel to unearth ideas buried by obscure writing.

education, grammar, history, humor, language, philosophy, politics

Writing Well – Part 2

Typing just [Enter] key into the Search box makes it easy to browse WordPress blogs like this one.  Here, the [Menu] button (atop the vertical black bar) reveals widgets like the Search box.

Babies, Names, and Snobs

Here are links to all posts in this project of reviewing and supplementing the splendid book

The Lexicographer’s Dilemma by Jack Lynch.

  1. Introduction
    What does the rise of “proper” English have in common with a physics conundrum about gravity?
  2. Babies, Names, and Snobs
    We name words by wrapping them in square brackets to avoid overloading more common conventions.
  3. Descriptivism, Prescriptivism, and ????
    We add a new ISM to the familiar duo of attitudes toward English language usage: readabilism.
  4. Why is English Spelling Such a Mess?
    An insight into the difficulty of spelling reform has wide-ranging significance, far beyond spelling.
  5. Ambiguity Sucks!
    Ambiguity is almost always at least a little harmful to clear communication. It can be disastrous.
  6. What is the Point of Punctuation?
    Careful punctuation helps avoid unwanted ambiguity.
  7. Yogi Berra’s Paradox
    Sometimes bad English is good English that’s good because it’s bad.
  8. Blood & Gold End This Series
    Apart from a concern about the examples on 2 late pages in the book, I could applaud those pages until my hands bleed.

Sorry, but we need a short digression on ways to name a word so we can talk about it.  Some details here will also contribute later to the overall project.

Failure to distinguish using a word from talking about it can lead to confusion, as in the following dialog:

Mother :         How was school today?
Small Child :  Fun.  Teacher showed us how to make babies.
Mother :         What?  WHAT?
Small Child :  Drop the Y and add IES.

In casual speech, we can insert “the word” in a few places.  That is clunky in extended writing.  There are 2 common ways to do the job in writing: quote marks and italics.  Using quote marks works well in short documents, but it can be confusing in longer ones that also use quote marks for actual quotations and/or for sarcasm, as in

After an ad blitz from the National Rifle Association rescued his failing campaign, Senator Schmaltz “bravely” defended the right of crazy people to buy assault weapons.

Maybe we should follow Lynch and use the convention popular among those who are most fastidious about the difference between using a word and discussing it: those who often call it the “use/mention distinction” and put words being mentioned (rather than used) in italics.  I do not mind doing w/o italics for emphasis because I prefer bold anyway, but italics are also used for titles and for foreign words temporarily imported into English.  I want those uses, and I found that Lynch’s use of italics for multiple purposes in quick succession invited confusion.

There is a simple way to give any word or phrase a name that works well here and in many other contexts, tho not universally.  Wrap it in square brackets (or curly braces).  Choose the wrapper U never (well, hardly ever) use for some other purpose in the current document and run with it.  If both wrappers are OK, use square brackets and give the Shift key a rest.

Now I can avoid confusion, even if I want to be emphatic, be sarcastic, and mention words (marking some as foreign), all in the same sentence:

Some snobs flaunt their “education” by saying [Weltanshauung] when [worldview] is all they need.

While not so disgusting as Senator Schmaltz, the flaunting snobs are enemies of clarity.  An enemy of my friend is my enemy too, and clarity is both a very dear friend and a concept crucial to amicable resolution of some of the tensions that Lynch explores so ably.  So I want to be especially clear and hope U will forgive the digression into metametalanguage.  Will put a quick reminder of the square brackets convention early in each subsequent post.  The next one will get down to business.