Perils of the Spell-Checker

Peanut butter may also help people fill fuller, so they may not need to eat so much.

Jessica Caporuscio, Pharm.D., “Can peanut butter affect weight gain?”, MedicalNewsToday, 11 December 2019

I would like to have thought up an amusing comment, but I couldn’t. At any rate, perhaps Dr. Caporuscio is not a native speaker of English. Lots of native speakers pronounce fill and feel alike, but most of them, and, one would surely think, any who had achieved a doctorate, would know to spell them differently.

Who, Whom


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Part of a series, a long series, on how the English are ruining our language

I’ve been off work for a while with a mysterious fatigue that nobody can diagnose, so I’ve been neglecting this blog, and binge-reading Georges Simenon’s Maigret novels, of which there are more than seventy-five, and most of which Penguin is publishing in new translations. (Of which I can check out numerous e-books from the New York Public Library, but availability depends on the app I use on my tablet. The library’s official app, SimplyE, is terrible. Just look at the reviews it gets. Library management clearly hasn’t. I use Libby and 3M Cloud Library, but I’m not sure they give me access to everything.)

The translators are English (or, at any rate, British), and they display many of the crimes of modern schooling in Great Britain (against the language, that is—I have no idea about any others, at least not for the purposes of this blog).

Here’s one example, or at least a partial example, from Maigret in Court (originally, Maigret aux assizes). (There are worse ones, but I’ve just come across this one, and made a note of it.)

We’ve been told for years that the objective form of who, that is, whom, is obsolescent, and is no longer required in good writing. How, then, is one to account for the following sentence (a quotation from Detective Chief Inspector Maigret)?

Find out where she has lunch and who with, who she talks to, whether she makes any phone calls, and if so, to whom.

Let me point out, first of all, that French does not distinguish between the objective and subjective who. They are both qui. I don’t have this novel in French (I do have some Maigret novels in French, but I can read them only by the sweat of my brow, with a translation and a French-English dictionary handy); but I’m pretty confident that, in the original French, the sentence just quoted uses the same word (qui) for all the people referred to. That is, I’m pretty confident that the choice of who and whom belonged to the translator, one Ros Schwartz.

Why does Schwartz bother with that final “whom“?

I think it’s just a vague sense that to needs a whom after it. Properly (historically, for all you anti-prescriptionists out there), all those whos should be whoms. They are all objects, either of verbs or of prepositions. That would really require the translator to write in a formal register, and accordingly not to end clauses with prepositions. She (I think “Ros” is a girl’s name) would have had to have written,

Find out where she has lunch and with whom, to whom she talks, whether she makes any phone calls, and if so, to whom.

(I would also have written, “whether or not she makes any phone calls”, but that’s just me.)

That would be a correct sentence, but perhaps a bit stilted and old-fashioned. The more modern alternative (in a more colloquial register) ought to be

Find out where she has lunch and who with, who she talks to, whether she makes any phone calls, and if so, who to.

But because the translator doesn’t know any rules (descriptive, prescriptive, or what-have-you), she just follows her feelings, and ends up with a mixed sentence that’s not correct in any register.


Venice underwater as historically high tides continue to rise

Headline, ABC News

Underwater is an adjective, as in “Aquaman’s underwater kingdom” or “an underwater camera”. What the writer of this headline meant was “under water“. This is not an uncommon error. For example, every day we see everyday misused this way.

More of the same


Part of the ongoing series, “How the English Are Ruining Our Language

From today’s Guardian:

The co-author of the Oakervee review into HS2 has demanded his name is removed from the report which calls for the high-speed line to be built in full.

He has demanded that his name is removed? Is it removed? Surely the writer means, “insisted that his name had been removed”?

No, no, Dear Reader, I’m just having fun with you. This is what happens when a centralized school system and national press decide to mutilate their language. What the writer means is, “The co-author of the Oakervee review into HS2 has demanded that his name be removed from the report . . . .” Fortunately for us, American English still preserves some uses of the subjunctive.

How do you pronounce “short-lived”?



I’ve written about this before, but I’m devoting a posting to it in hopes that search engines might pick it up. Link to it, y’all.

The adjective, “lived”, rhymes with survived, wived, hived, connived; not with the verbs lived or sieved. I had a hard time thinking of rhymes for the verb lived, so I searched the web for rhyming dictionaries. Interestingly, the first two I looked at picked different pronunciations for lived. I just put in “lived”, and didn’t specify whether I was interested in the adjective or the verb.

The first hit was, which chose the adjective, and offered me this:

Words and phrases that rhyme with lived:   (26 results)
1 syllable:
dived, gyved, hived, jived, rived, shivved, shrived, skived, stived, strived, thrived, wived 

2 syllables:
arrivedcontriveddeprivedderived, nosedived, outlived, relived, revivedshort-lived, shortlived, survived, unlived 

3 syllables:
undeprived, underived 

The second was, which chose the verb, and gave me

Rhymes with Lived
6 End Rhymes Found
2 One-Syllable Rhymes of Lived
lived sieved
3 Two-Syllable Rhymes of Lived
outlived relived retrieved
1 Three-Syllable Rhymes of Lived
negatived loses points for using shivved, outlived, relived, and unlived which rhyme only with the verb; for using *strived (the past-tense form of to strive is strove) and *thrived (throve—though *thrived appears in print more often than throve and by now is probably considered correct by most authorities. Not by me! We still say, “drove” and “driven”. Why don’t throve and thriven come as naturally?). loses points for offering retrieved, which doesn’t rhyme with either the adjective or the verb; and for rhyming lived with lived. These sites presumably are generated by computers, which rely mainly on spelling, rather than human pronunciation, so none of that is really surprising; though one might wish for a web site written and edited (yes, edited) by human beings.

The adjective, lived, meaning, “provided with, or possessed of, life”, derives from the noun, life, not the verb, to live. Its similarity in spelling to the past-tense form of to live is a pure coincidence. A tree with long leaves is long-leaved, not *long-left. A person or thing with a short life is short-līved, not short-lĭved.


The past-tense of to cast is cast, not *casted. The past perfect of to cast, likewise, is was cast, as in

And the great dragon was cast out, that old serpent, called the Devil, and Satan, which deceiveth the whole world: he was cast out into the earth, and his angels were cast out with him.

Revelation 12:9

Similarly, the past-tense of to forecast is forecast, not *forecasted.

He forecast that the German bund rate would increase from its level of 25 basis points a year ago.

Robert Huebscher, “Gundlach’s Forecast for 2018“, Advisor Perspectives, 9 January 2018

For some reason, I keep seeing “forecasted” all over the place, especially with reference to predicted earnings and so forth in business, but also with reference to the weather.

I suppose we’ll be seeing “beated” and “betted” and “hitted” and so on, as well.

“Non full-page redactions”

The document-review application I use at work allows me to review an image of a document before it’s discovered to the adversary, and, if I want, to delete all the mark-ups (highlights and “redactions“) that have been applied to it, using this dialogue box:

Note that the choices for redactions are “Non full-page redactions” and “Full-page redactions”. Why non full-page? Because some computer coder made the box, who didn’t know that the alternative to “full” is “partial”. Good grief!