Category Archives: Odd Language

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

Odd Language #195: Crossed Words?

Why is it that when you transport something by car, it’s called a shipment, but when you transport something by ship, it’s called cargo?

The issue: Different word uses can develop that, by themselves, look fine, but when compared with other word uses look very odd, the reverse of what one would expect. Another variation is “Why do we park on a driveway and drive on a parkway?”

Odd Language #194: Word Duplication

“… and the plane plain ran out of fuel …” — More on the LaMia crash involving the Brazilian soccer team, RISKS 30.01, item 1

The issue: Somehow, many of us think that duplication (or near-duplication) of words is cute.

Do you go for that sort of flimflam?

I know I do. It is plain to me that I might have made it worse: it could have been a plain plane plain running out of fuel. I bet that some of you are too too, too, too often to be ignored.

Odd Language #193: Fast Writing

From a USENET post about an author: “He also writes a bit faster than he can.”

The issue: Obviously, this can not be literally correct, but it is strikingly clear what is meant, and I think more so than the previous sentence in the post: “Christopher Nuttall is still in dire need of a good editor.”

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.