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» One Touch Football - Archive » World » David Cameron, perhaps not quite as surefooted as we've been lead to believe. (Page 6)

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Author Topic: David Cameron, perhaps not quite as surefooted as we've been lead to believe.
Wyatt Earp
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quote:
They should be used plurally, etymologically speaking, even if they freqently aren't.
That's got a bit of a whiff of is/ought itself, hasn't it? How do you get a "should" out of the value-free facts of etymology?

And, as I said before, we don't say "Are there any news?" or "What are our agenda?" Well, I said the first one before.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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Hmm. I think etymology is a tradition-based discipline/phenomenon, and I think that by communicating with the same words as others, we place ourselves within the norms of that tradition.

But, like, how long have you got?

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Dr. Hofzinser
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In general, I agree with you in the case of grammar. I think the etymology of vocabulary is more clearly normative, though.

I mean, if we let that slip, we start having to allow people to use "irregardless" and "laxadaisical". TORO SAYS NO!


Well, for a start, saying "politics is..." is far less clearly wrong (granting for a second that it may be wrong at all) than something like "irregardless", and if it is wrong it's wrong for different reasons so I don't think that "slippery slope" argument works.

In any case, my argument isn't that lots of people use the singular, and meaning and correctness follow usage, therefore the singular must be correct. The point is that not only is the singular form widely used when referring to politics in the sense of "the art of government", it is also accepted as correct by the "authorities". Whether you view these things prescriptively or descriptively, this usage is the correct one.

It is, in a nutshell, quite correct to say "politics is...", no matter what arguments you can devise to suggest it shouldn't be so.

"My politics are very different from yours but we both agree that politics is a fine subject to study."

[ 04.03.2008, 20:28: Message edited by: Dr. Hofzinser ]

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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I think that ought to be phrased - though I usually wouldn't, I admit - as "My politics are very different from yours but we both agree that the politics are a fine subject to study".

And I suspect that there are, in truth, many "arts of government".

I don't think there are any "authorities" in the legislative or judicial sense in etymology, so I don't see that their pronouncements - descriptive or prescriptive - can be binding on anyone. I do of course acknowledge that there are authorities in the magisterial sense, to whom attention should be paid because of the breadth of their wisdom on these matters. But I don't think possession of a magisterium is any guarantee against error, and I think that any authority claiming singular status for "politics" is simply at variance with the etymological facts.

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Tubby Isaacs
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Crike, I thought "relationships are politics" was controversial myself. Apparently, it was nothing compared with the quantity of the word politics- I just made "quantity" up there.

Also, the idea that romance was abolished in the mid-80s is a bit far fetched.

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Dr. Hofzinser
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Etymology is simply the study of the history and derivation of words - it tells us nothing at all about correct modern usage. I can't see that etymological reasons for going against accepted usage are valid at all.

And it is quite simply wrong to say that one ought to say "my politics are very different from yours but we both agree that the politics are a fine subject to study" rather than the formulation I gave above.

Consult any dictionary or any other authority you wish and you will find that "politics is..." just is the correct thing to say, whether or not you or I like it.

If you could give sound, irrefutable etymological reasons for saying "I is" rather than "I am" that wouldn't make it any less wrong to do so. The same goes here.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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quote:
Etymology is simply the study of the history and derivation of words - it tells us nothing at all about correct modern usage. I can't see that etymological reasons for going against accepted usage are valid at all.


No, it's not just that. More than a history, it's a continuous tradition of understood meaning, with its own internal norms of usage. By communicating with others, in the terms they use, we implicitly commit ourselves to using those terms in the same, or clearly derivative senses. We may - and frequently do - fail to do so, but the fact that we are understood in doing so does not make such usages any less erroneous. They fail to meet the implicit standards we set for ourselves by the act of communicating in publicly available terms; therefore, they are "wrong".

quote:
And it is quite simply wrong to say that one ought to say "my politics are very different from yours but we both agree that the politics are a fine subject to study" rather than the formulation I gave above.

Consult any dictionary or any other authority you wish and you will find that "politics is..." just is the correct thing to say, whether or not you or I like it.


You've got to define in what sense you mean "authority" here, if you're going to appeal to it. As I said above, I do not accept that there are - or can be - either legislative or judicial authorities in language, so the dictionary definition cannot rationally compel my assent.

The dictionary may have magisterial authority, and I shall certainly be influenced by it in determining the correct usage. But in any given case, I may determine that it is simply incorrect, that my understanding and knowledge in this instance outweighs that of its compilers. They, like I, am bound by the facts of the matter, and there is no intrinsic guarantee that by virtue of their profession they have a better grasp of those facts than I do.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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I mean, forgive me for being excessively reductive, but what you seem to be claiming is something along the lines of "if the dictionaries say usage X is correct, usage X just is correct." I don't think, and I don't imagine any serious linguist thinks, that dictionaries possess that sort of authority.
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Dr. Hofzinser
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Toro, your account doesn't seem to acknowledge the fact that meanings of words can change, sometimes quite rapidly. By your logic, it would seem that it's wrong to use "gay" to mean homosexual because it historically meant happy and joyful. If you accept that words, and how they are used, can change, sometimes quite significantly, then you also have to accept that looking at a word's historical roots isn't a reliable indicator of how it should be used today.

According to you, "politics" is a contraction of "affairs of the polis", and that this should be reflected in how we use it. However, if we take the sentence "my politics are, on the whole, fairly liberal" - which I hope you'd agree is grammatically sound - and replace the contraction with its full form then we get:
"My affairs of the polis are, on the whole, fairly liberal."

Which doesn't seem to make much the sense. Regardless of what "politics" may originally have been a contraction of, its meaning has changed - at least to some extent - and we can't thus use its historical meaning to make any sound conclusions about how to correctly use it today.

I'm not saying "if the dictionaries say usage X is correct, usage X just is correct". What I am saying is that if the singular is what is commonly - standardly - used, and, moreover, any dictionary will agree that this is the correct usage, and that there is no controversy over this usage (to the very best of my knowledge, there are no great debates on this matter) then you can't just wander up and declare it to be in some way wrong just because it doesn't exactly conform with your interpretation of the word's historical roots.

Words often deviate from their roots. It makes no sense to argue that modern usage is wrong because it doesn't correspond exactly with your interpretation of what it should be. It just means that what you'd like the correct usage to be is different from the currently accepted correct usage. But you can't just make up your own rules on this stuff and then argue that your usage is "right". You can say that your interpretation is better, and thus you are going to keep using the "wrong" form for good reasons. But you can't go from there to saying that someone is wrong for treating "politics" as a singular - not in any useful sense of "wrong" anyway, and certainly not in the sense in which you used "wrong" to describe Cameron's usage.

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The Batebe of Toro Foundation
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Hof - I've got to go, so I can't reply to that at the length it deserves for the moment. But if you read what I wrote, I do make clear that the meanings of terms may change by clear and explicit extension of meaning. No tradition is static - its own etymology implies that it continues to be handed down and handed on, and to evolve as it does so.

So I'm not excluding change of meaning, I'm saying that it must happen, where it does, for comprehensible and consistent linguistic reasons.

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E10Rifle
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quote:
Also, the idea that romance was abolished in the mid-80s is a bit far fetched.
Oh come on Tubbs, you know that's not what SR is saying. What's your actual point here?
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Tubby Isaacs
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Probably 3 pints and some medicine.

But it didn't seem particularly convincing to link romance with a revolt against Thatcherism.

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Spearmint Rhino
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Seriously, in an era where we were told by Cameron's forerunners that the only things that mattered were the forces of supply and demand, for someone like Morrissey to state unequivocally that they refused to take part in the game, and that romantic love was a much stronger compulsion, was subversive in itself. I could quote an earlier Smiths song: "We may be hidden by rags, but we've something they'll never have..."

If you don't 'get' that, Tubby, then in that respect you're exactly the same as Cameron, because it's inconceivable that he 'got' it either. That's the whole reason why his claim to be a Smiths fan rings so hollow.

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thom
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Dr. H. is right on this.

A language is defined by the collective norms of a groups of speakers whose individual dialects* largely overlap. It's incoherent to suggest that the native speaker is speaking their own dialect incorrectly, because the dialect is defined by what they say.

Now, it may be that a particular individual has aspects of their dialect (e.g. "Politics are...") that don't overlap with that of other native speakers in a way that sounds strange to those speakers. In such cases it might be reasonable to say that they're not, at that moment, speaking a particular language, since the language is defined by the space where user's dialects overlap.

But these will be rare cases, since the the individual dialects and the language largely overlap; this is the inevitable consequence of learning a language as a native speaker. So apart from in such idosyncratic cases, what applies to individual dialects also applies to the language: what native speakers of language X speak is language X, by definition. So if most speakers of English say "Politics is..." then that's English.

* Not quite the ideal word, as dialect is usually reserved for something a group of individual's speak, but it's the best we have.

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Ginger Yellow
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quote:
"Politics" is a contraction of, roughly, "affairs of the polis", just as "physics" is more or less "matters of the phusis". They should be used plurally, etymologically speaking, even if they freqently aren't.
cf "agenda" etc.

quote:
So I'm not excluding change of meaning, I'm saying that it must happen, where it does, for comprehensible and consistent linguistic reasons.
But that simply isn't how it works. Words change meaning for all sorts of reasons, not merely extension. You seem to be arguing for prescriptive rules of semantic change, which is about as Cnut-esque (I know...) as you can get. It's one thing to object to certain usages on aesthetic grounds, or even grounds of clarity (eg disinterested/uninterested), but to say that only certain types of change are allowed seems perverse and futile.
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