The Grammar Factor – pronouns, beef and beeves, disconnect

Who uses I more?

Ages ago, I recommended The Secret Life of Pronouns by James Pennebaker. I thought you might find his quiz interesting.

Who uses I, me or my more in daily speech?

1. Men or women?
2. George W. Bush or Barack Obama (during the first 6 months as president)?
3. Leaders or followers?
4. People who are telling the truth or people who are lying?
5. Younger people or older people?
6. Richer people or poorer people?
7. Depressed people or happy people?
8. People who are angry or people who are afraid?
9. People who make high grades in school or people who make low grades in school?
10. Someone physically sick or someone healthy?

The answers are at the bottom of this email – you can do the test on the website to find out some reasons for the answers.
http://www.secretlifeofpronouns.com/exercise/itest

READERS’ QUESTIONS

Plural of beef

Reader’s question: What’s the plural of ‘beef’? If you throw a beef on the barbecue, do you throw two beeves?

Answer: I wouldn’t throw a beef on the barbie. I’d throw a steak, and therefore steaks, not beeves!

The plural of ‘beef’ is ‘beef’, ‘beeves’ or ‘beefs’ depending on the meaning and context.

We use ‘beef’ as the plural for the meat.

I do not like eating beef.

‘Beeves’ is the plural of bulls, cows or steers intended for meat.

The farmer raised beeves for market.

I don’t think this usage is common (outside the old TV series, Rawhide), but maybe that is just because I am not familiar with it. What do you think? Email mary@onlinewritingtraining.com.au.

You can also use ‘beefs’ as the plural when you are talking about complaints colloquially.

I had a number of beefs about the service at the restaurant.

Disconnect

Reader’s question: I hear the word ‘disconnect’ used a lot but I wonder if it should be ‘disconnection’ instead. For example, there is a ‘disconnect between what we want and what we can achieve’. Is this an Americanism creeping into our language?

Answer: I don’t know whether it’s an Americanism, but I agree it’s an ugly word. ‘Disconnection’ or ‘disparity’ would often be better choices than ‘disconnect’.

Grammarist says:
‘The noun disconnect is an early 20th-century development, though it was rare until around 1980. In this century it is inescapable. Why so many 21st-century writers resist the longstanding nouns disconnection and disparity is hard to say. With disconnection, the resistance perhaps relates to that word’s infrastructure-related meanings. Disparity perhaps gives way to disconnect because the latter’s harder sounds better convey disconnectedness. In any case, disconnection and disparity remain perfectly good words from a logical standpoint, and disconnect would often bear replacement with one or the other.’
Read more at http://grammarist.com/usage/disconnect

READERS’ FEEDBACK

In response to my piece about words changing their meanings, readers responded that:

  • ‘To medal’ was used during the Olympics.
  • Wireless’ retained its original meaning when it was applied to computers. (My editor commented that the most common usage of ‘wireless’ in the past was as a noun meaning radio – we used to ‘listen to the wireless’. The current use of ‘wireless’ is adjectival – ‘wireless fidelity’ (wi-fi), ‘wireless communication’.)

INTERESTING ARTICLES

Oxford or serial comma
An Oxford (or serial) comma is the comma between the final items in a list. Learn how to use it at http://bit.ly/1jYu0rK

10 grammar books to read before you die of boredom
A seasonal selection of new (and not so new) books about language that are anything but dull. One of the recommended books, The Devil’s Dictionary, is a free Kindle book. http://bit.ly/1e9Wmxk

Language Portal of Canada
The Language Portal of Canada is a Web site that showcases Canadian expertise in the area of language. It informs readers about Canadian resources that deal with different aspects of language.
http://bit.ly/1ib8r4V

QUOTE OF THE MONTH

‘When your story is ready for rewrite, cut it to the bone. Get rid of every ounce of excess fat.’
Stephen King

Answers
Who uses I, me and my more in daily speech?
1. Women (not men)
2. Bush (not Obama)
3. Followers (not leaders)
4. Truth tellers (not liars)
5. Young people (not old)
6. Poor people (not rich)
7. Depressed people (not happy)
8. Afraid people (not angry)
9. Poor students (not good students)
10. Sick people (not healthy)

 
 

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