Category Archives: Odd Language

Some uses of language can be very peculiar-sounding or can be ambiguous in unexpected ways.

Odd Language #192: Is Double

I was going to ask this question in two technical groups: “My first question is is this is safe from a SQL injection attack?”

The issue: Doubled words are generally considered wrong, but this sentence is correct. The first “is” is the main verb. The second “is” is the first word of the question.

I ended up changing the question to “My first question is whether this is safe from a SQL injection attack.”

Odd Language #191: Approval

Annie’s Homegrown, Inc. has a logo showing a rabbit and lettering around it reading “RABBIT OF APPROVAL”.

The issue: It is a play on words on “seal of approval”, but that is minor. My question to you is how is it that the meaning is so obvious? When I first saw it, I made the connection close to instantly.

(Their macaroni and cheese has Kraft Dinner beat hollow. Appropriate, I suppose, since macaroni is hollow.)

Odd Language #190: Missing Articles?

Foreign shop clerk and Japanese customer fail to communicate because of Japanese language quirk tells of a store clerk and a customer having a problem communicating.

The issue: The foreign store clerk asked, “Sutoro irimasuka?” and by this meant “Do you need the straw?” The Japanese customer took it as meaning “Do you need a straw?” Both interpretations could be correct. (Japanese does not have articles.)

When the customer replied no, the clerk threw away the straw. The customer thought that the clerk had just not noticed the item already had a straw.

Odd Language #189: Making Sacrifices

“We all have to make sacrifices.”

The issue: Who has not heard this sentence being used to justify cuts in employment or services?

I had fun with it several years and had an artist (Rob Carlos) draw another form of this. The drawing was of an evil high priest with dagger in hand. I named the evil priest Bloodbathicus (which Rob thought was hilarious).

Odd Language #186: Weird List

I have been reading Heinlein’s Expanded Universe. One sentence (on page 377) is ‘I happen to be personally aware of and can vouch for the scientific training of Sprague de Camp, George O. Smith, “John Taine,” John W. Campbell, Jr., “Philip Latham,” Will Jenkins, Jack Williamson, Isaac Asimov, Arthur C. Clarke, E. E. Smith, Philip Wylie, Olaf Stapledon, H. G. Wells, Damon Knight, Harry Stine, and “J. J. Coupling.”‘

The issue: Do you put commas inside of quotation marks or outside? I prefer outside, but inside is common in Canada and the U.S.A. I typed in the sentence as it appears in the book, and the pseudonyms being quoted makes the list somewhat difficult to read. What exactly are the list items?

Odd Language #185: Not That What?

I recently posted the following paragraph on USENET: “For me, a desktop system has much better price/performance than a laptop. As the old joke goes, when evaluating price/performance, be prepared for the occasional division by zero. A laptop is not that bad, but it is not that good.”

The issue: “not that bad” and “not that good” refer to different concepts. “not that bad” is referring to the joke, but “not that good” is referring to the general idea of something failing to be as good as it is thought it should be.

Odd Language #184: When Retired?

“The Army investigation was ordered by the head of U.S. Central Command, whose commander at the time was retired Marine Gen. James Mattis, Trump’s pick to be defense secretary.” —

The issue: Was General Mattis retired at the time he ordered the investigation? Presumably not since the U.S. Central Command is military, but imagine if he had been head of something else. He might have already retired at the time he ordered the investigation or might have retired after that.

Odd Language #183: Repeat Repeat

I recently wrote the following sentence in a post to a programming forum: “Note that this has absolutely nothing to do with how the parameters that are passed are passed.”

The issue: The two “are passed” are not redundant. The first is an adjectival phrase, and the second is a verb. This is another case of repetition not being wrong; see also Odd Language #177: Two-Headed Monster?.

Odd Language #182: Miles Per Hour

From a USENET post: “At 12 Amps, 110V, a Tesla can charge about 3.5 mph
in a warm garage.”

The issue: “mph” meaning miles per hour does not seem to make sense here, but a later post in the thread explains it: “Not really catchy – we’re trying to describe how many miles worth of driving you can get for each hour of charging. MPH is actually correct, but you have to be aware of the context.” It is MPH: Miles Per [Charge] Hour.