Archive for the ‘Grammar’ Category

Skin Up

So, the police will be informed that barring people in possession of drugs will not be tolerated.

Or am I misreading something somewhere?

And what about diabetics who are shooting up their insulin? Isn’t insulin a drug?

It’s a bit harsh if you ask me.

But then the dry stuff sometimes is.


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Condition or Permission?

Language is like a flowing river. Its course changes. The water you see at a point along the river is never the same water.

As it should be. New words. New ways of expressing.

But not all change is good.

Consider the problem of May vs. Might.

As each day passes, the word “may” has transformed into a way to describe a conditional possibility. This blending is problematic.

As we were all taught, we say “may” when we are asking for permission. How often have you heard an authority figure say to you in response to asking for permission: “I don’t know … CAN you?”

We say “may” when we should be saying “might,” and the distinction isn’t clear.

It might seem like a small problem (and it is), but it’s still a problem.

An example, off the top of my head:

“The ethics commission chairman says the mayor of New York may seek a second opinion on charges of ethics violations.”

So what is this saying? That the mayor is allowed to seek a second opinion by the chairman of the commission? Or that the chairman is giving us a little inside knowledge, that the mayor MIGHT seek a second opinion?”

We must stem the tide of ambiguity!


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