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Wednesday, 28 December 2016


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I think your last paragraph is just comment baiting...

Surely you know Robbie the Robot warned Will Robinson of imminent danger way before Star Wars came along.

Not sure when the cast of Star Trek made the Chrismas album or if it was more than one cast member.

Star Trek may have had a few Princesses but none at all memorable compared to Carrie Fisher's Princess Leia. RIP

I boldly bought my Fuji X-Pro 1!

And does that apply anywhere in a sentence, too? Like: "Using a tripod is useful to carefully frame a shot."

(I'm not a native English speaker, so maybe that's why I can't see why there would be anything wrong with it.)

After browsing the Amazon link, I'll take your word that the Shatner/Nimoy album may indeed be the worst record ever. Both actors tried to leverage their TV fame into crossover musical careers, with limited success for obvious reasons.

It's worth noting however that Shatner did a cover of "Common People" (originally by the British band Pulp) that is strangely compelling. It was produced by Ben Folds, and Shatner's reccititive rendition and duet on the later verses with Joe Jackson actually work quite well on this particular song. I can't figure out how to link to the tune here, but it's on Shatner's album Has Been. Actually worth a listen!

Thank you, that saved the day, namely the album reviews at Amazon. On the other hand, maybe The Shaggs has the honor of worst album ever? (Or the best reviews...)

LOL! You are nerding me out! Did I just break a rule and use nerd as a verb?

It's only wrong 'cause some over-educated twerp a couple of hundred years ago decided that since you couldn't split a Latin infinitive (it's only one word) it should be wrong in English.

Basically a pretentious grammatical shibboleth. IMHO!

And to quote Raymond Chandler in a letter to his publisher concerning proof-readers 'cleaning up' his prose: "By the way, would you convey my compliments to the purist who reads your proofs and tell him or her that I write in a sort of broken-down patois which is something like the way a Swiss waiter talks, and that when I split an infinitive, God damn it, I split it so it will stay split, and when I interrupt the velvety smoothness of my more or less literate syntax with a few sudden words of barroom vernacular, this is done with the eyes wide open and the mind relaxed but attentive."


Now what's your position on the misuse of "begs the question?"

[I'm not an expert, I'm just a reporter. --Mike]

Ah, many landscape photographers prefer to blithely shoot with their lenses set to infinitive? (On-topic?)

Robbie the Robot was actually in the film The Forbidden Planet, the robot in Lost in Space was just called Robot. Robbie did however appear in at least one episode. Just sayin' as Mike used to say.

That would be Star Wars (Princess Leia), and Star Trek (William Shatner). I'm not sure about album, but I've heard several songs from William Shatner that rank up there with the worst ever - so bad they almost start to be good.

English speakers and cases... I think you meant thou, not thee.

In English, unlike some other languages, infinitives are split to begin with:

"To run, to hide"

Those are each two words, split apart. Just because in some other languages they would each be a single word does not mean that in English you cannot put another word between them. They're pre-split, so there is nothing to worry about.

Yeah, we got a lot of problems when the Victorians tried to import masses of Latin grammar into English. Mostly doesn't fit too well.

On the other hand, things that are wrong remain wrong even if they become popular.

The basic idea of "incorrect" language is kind of questionable, outside classes for non-native speakers at least. I suspect that when my German instructor said I had something wrong, it was actually wrong. But then, as a native speaker of English, I periodically say or write things that, on examination, are just nonsense. Saying they're "wrong" seems like a useful concept really; it's not just a matter opinion!

Shatner boldly takes Lucy in the Sky with Diamonds where The Beatles* couldn't even imagine going.

*If "The Beatles" is singular and "the Beatles" are plural because it is assumed that the reader knows that the first means the band "The Beatles" and the second means John, Paul, George, and Ringo, can you imagine the confusion if The Who** had elected to not have "The" as part of their name the way the airplane named Concord has no "The" in it's name? One would have the choice of writing "Who will play at 10:00pm." or "The band Who will play at 10:00pm."

**I'm sensitive to this on account of the sizeable number of people who can't hear or pronounce the difference between "who" and "Hugh". When I worked at cisco, project status conference calls would abruptly lurch into a surrealistic ditch. Eventually someone would try to explain "Who's On First" to a bunch of engineers who are native Russian*** or Chinese speakers.

***Have you heard the joke about Russian verbs? But I digress.

Split infinitives do sound odd.

But you know what absolutely drives me nuts? Incorrect use of 'begging the question'. It does not mean asks the question or some variation of that. It means a circular argument or that one is begging, ie using, the same argument to justify ones original argument.

Drives me mad when it's wrongly used but it's so often done it may as well just be accepted as having a new meaning. That would cause me insanity though, but so are the ways of the world.

There are lots of things that people think are "rules" of grammar but that are actually just usage styles. I think that snooty ex-pat English "marms" in movies cared most about split infinitives or ending sentences with a preposition, or not. But could just be a Hollywood trope, a way to make British people seem like snobs in American movies.

To be or not.

Michael Kellough suggested it was Robbie the Robot warning Will Robinson of danger, but that was The Robot. Robbie the Robot was the robot in the movie Forbidden Planet, based on Shakespeare's The Tempest. Both robots were designed by the same person, so the mixup is understandable and common. I think the Robbie porp even appeared on a Lost in Space episode, but I'm not 100% certain.


Oh, and if you want to get precise, it's Trekkers. Although that may be another fine English distinction that has navigated the whirlpool.

If I recall rightly from my school days, the anti-split infinitive camp arose from imposition of Latin (as in the dead language) grammar on the English language. Because the infinitive of any verb in Latin is a compound word (verbs ending in 'ere'), one can only "to go" whether boldly or not, as the case may be.

I am pretty sure that I have posted this before, but if in doubt on split-infinitives, read Fowler's Modern English, 2nd ed. (Sir Ernest Gowers) , OUP: "The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn; (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish". It goes on - "Those who neither know nor care are the vast majority, and a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority cases.". To boldly go, indeed.

Careful Mike. Many people, including myself, adored Carrie Fisher as Leia. A childhood crush and later a talented and witty speaker and writer. I was incredibly saddened to hear of hear passing and a day later her mother's as well. If you got my hackles up a bit then the real fans will be out for blood.


To amplify David's comment, Trekkers is the correct term. Trekkers view the word trekkies as dismissive of them or even insulting.
Likewise science fiction is the correct descriptor, not sci-fi. I recall reading that John W. Campbell, very longtime editor of Astounding Science Fiction magazine, viewed the term sci-fi as dismissive of science fiction. This distinction seems to have been lost as science fiction fans are not very upset by the name of the SyFy channel on TV.

[That seems to be inventing distinctions where none can be detected to exist. But further, why would one *not* dismiss Star Trek fans, if one were not a Star Trek fan oneself? Is it inherently noble and worthy of respect to be a Star Trek fan, such that fans should be admired for the activity by people outside of their sphere? It's not any sort of real accomplishment to be a Star Trek fan, like it is to be, say, an alpine mountain climber. It's just people who like a particular TV show.

As for "trekker," that's a real word--it means one who undertakes a slow or arduous journey or portion of a journey on foot. It seems willful to me to conflate "respect" and non-dismissiveness with the co-optation of a real word meaning something else. Maybe the characters of the show were on a trek from star to star, but the fans aren't. The fans are just sitting in front of a telelvision screen like we all do. I like to watch snooker, but I don't demand that other people respect me for it.

Do you see what I'm saying? I'm not trying to be unfriendly. But I don't understand the distinctions or even the need to make them. (Plus, if you enter "trekker" into Google, it reroutes to "Trekkie." --Mike]

Just curious but was hi-fi ever considered dismissive by the "faithful"?

[Not that I'm aware of. Possibly the opposite, as older classical and jazz lovers in the '60s called it "hi-fi" when younger rock-and-roll fans came along with their "stereos." Moreover I can't imagine anyone taking much offense from any of the various names, even the ones intended to give offense, like "audiophools" in place of audiophiles. --Mike]

I've found that most science fiction I've read over the years tends to be Earthly situations translated into space; goodies and baddies, battles, warships and so on. There's not much imagination, in other words.

The best *real* science I've read came from the late Dr Robert L. Forward, Arthur C. Clarke and the very much alive Stephen Baxter. Forward, in particular, had great ideas including a memorable novel which postulated a high acceleration, near light speed *ship* with water bath protection for the crew.

However, real scientists are not usually great writers, and I find a lot of their story telling stilted and childlike. Forward's dialogue is childish at times.

I find Baxter's novels lack tension. A good writer throws up crescendos and resolutions, but Baxter's long novels seem to just amble along. I still find them good, though.

Clarke's books and ideas stand for themselves. One of the greats, real imagination.

Back in the 80's I wrote a textbook on a very abstruse topic (testing of integrated circuits)and meticulously ensured that I never used a split infinitive because my high school and college English teachers frowned on them. The editor employed by a very large text publisher then proceeded to split every single one when she reviewed the draft. I quit worrying about English class style at that point and began trying to emulate authors that I admired. Like yourself.....

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