Book reviews, art, gaming, Objectivism and thoughts on other topics as they occur.

May 18, 2006

Now, Here's Something I Can Use

Via Gus Van Horn I learned about this new blog of tidbits on modern English usage. I like to speak and write correctly and I really dislike reading anything that is full of banal errors and corrupted words. (The occasional typo is okay; that happens to everyone sooner or later.)

One of my personal pet peeves is anyone that uses "alright" when they really mean "all right". Unlike "all ready" which has a compressed version: "already" (it's not used identically, mind you), "all right" doesn't compress. So type the other l already.


David, The Machine said...

But there is a pattern already developed in English to give rise to this common, as you infer, a mistake. Words like ‘altogether’, ‘although’, ‘already’, ‘always’, and ‘almost’ are formed of ‘all’ plus the root, though all are not equivalent to their pieces. Then how does the pattern not apply to ‘alright’? What are the rules that apply to the construction of compound words? (And should we send out a warrant for the arrest of Lewis Carroll, Mr. Portmanteau, himself?)

Did ‘alright’ miss the boat? What do you mean by it not being able to, as you say, “compress”? Will it exceed some grammatical pressure threshold and explode? Or is it some perverse reaction, such as that betwixt salt and slugs? If it gets used too much, will is waken some long-asleep monster who lurks on the bottom of the Pacific Ocean?

This perplexes me.

Paul Brians, who has written a book called Common Errors in English has this to say about ‘alright’:
“The correct form of this phrase has become so rare in the popular press that many readers have probably never noticed that it is actually two words. But if you want to avoid irritating traditionalists you’d better tell them that you feel ‘all right’ rather than ‘alright.’”

So, then, are you in this aforementioned traditionalist camp?

Jennifer Snow said...

Why not spell it awl rite while you're at it? Perhaps because someone might think you're partaking of some bizarre form of tool-worship?

Personally, I'm in favor of language standardization; it aides communication and is actually an achievable goal with the prevalence of dictionaries and spellcheckers. It's all right to use an old word in a new way, (assuming that it makes some kind of sense) that's slang and usually colorful. It's all right to make a new word when one is needful. It's not all right to take an existing usage and mangle it out of sheer laziness and stupidity.

And I only know two or three people that consistently make mistakes, largely because they haven't bothered to learn how to type properly.