We used to say that one thing was “based on” another. For example, a movie might be based on a book, or an assertion might be based on statistics. Somehow, things have come to be “based off” other things (or, occasionally, “based off of” other things). Based on means that one thing has the other thing as its basis, its base, its foundation, and rests, literally or (most of the time) figuratively, on that other thing. What does based off mean?
I’ve complained here before, several times, about people’s giving a verb the number of the nearest noun, rather than that of the noun that’s performing the action. Usually, it’s a plural verb that ought to be singular, but today I came across a singular verb that ought to be plural, so I thought I’d mention it here:
As you may have seen, there are some ‘one time affects’ from a large cash infusion that is very hard to explain.
The writer misspells effects, which is not unusual, and seems to consider a large cash infusion very hard to explain. She or he (I know which, but I’m not telling you) is in fact referring to those one-time effects, which he or she should have said, “are very hard to explain;” but “infusion” got in the way, and compelled her or him to use the number of that, instead of the number of the things that were hard to explain. Why don’t people think about what they write?
I grew up in a manse.
My father was a Presbyterian minister, and our house, which the church provided, was the manse. The principal, modern definition of manse, according to Webster’s, is
the residence of a minister; especially: the house of a Presbyterian minister.
The first manse I lived in was an imposing house on a hill, which still stands, although it’s been sold, the land around the hill has been filled, and there’s a gas station where the front yard used to be. Then we moved to the city, and the manse we lived in was an ordinary, single-family house—big enough for a family of six, but not imposing.
There seems now to be a trend among the paid praters to use manse in its secondary (or, according to Webster’s, tertiary) sense,
a large imposing residence.
Just go to Webster’s and look at the examples from the Web. They all refer to large, imposing residences, rather than the homes of Presbyterian ministers. I guess the paid praters want a less-common alternative to the ordinary word, mansion, whose modern meaning is always “a large imposing residence” (unless you’re into astrology). Maybe it’s a kind of augmentation disease in reverse. It’s not wrong, but it bugs me.
I’ve said before that it is always wrong to start a sentence, a headline, or a title with a numeral. George Orwell’s most famous novel was originally published as Nineteen Eighty-Four, and it’s a bit sad that it has been reprinted as “1984”.
I complain from time to time about newspaper style-books, and I think it’s singularly inappropriate that they have been adopted by news outlets that exist only on the Web, where column-inches are virtually unlimited (at least in terms of production cost), and there is no need to conserve type. (The parsimony of the printed press has given us “kidnaper” and “busing“, among other monstrosities. I suspect it’s also to blame for “normalcy“.)
That’s why I was pleased today to see, on CNN’s Web site, the following:
Two hundred twelve people have gotten sick with salmonella since February due to poultry, the agency said Monday. The illnesses have been reported in 44 states.
JEN CHRISTENSEN AND DEBRA GOLDSCHMIDT, CNN, “WHY BACKYARD CHICKENS ARE A HEALTH RISK“, 26 JULY 2018.
CNN does seem to be using a newspaper style manual on its web site, whence the “44 states” instead of “forty-four States”, as I would have written it; but at least it starts the paragraph with words instead of numerals.
Probably forty years ago, maybe more, Americans, led by politicians and their flacks, started using the word perceived to mean false, usually in response to accusations of wrongdoing. “Perceived corruption”, for example, came to mean, not corruption that somebody has perceived, but something other than corruption—perhaps something that looked like corruption, to a hostile viewer, but wasn’t. It was a way of calling people liars without giving them the lie direct. Now, predictably, perceived has quit being a euphemism or indirection, and simply taken the place of false. Take the following example:
A lot of people perceive a bird with salmonella will look sick, but that is really not the case.
Dr. Megin Nichols, a CDC veterinarian, quoted in Jen Christensen and Debra Goldschmidt, “Why backyard chickens are a health risk“, CNN, 26 July 2018.
Here, perceive just means “wrongly believe”. How can anybody get a doctorate without knowing how to use the word perceive?
One of my very first blog entries (on my old blog, long since deleted) praised whoever wrote the announcements on the New York City subways for using momentarily correctly: “We are being held in the station momentarily by the train’s dispatcher. We expect to be moving shortly.”
Well, those days are pretty much gone.
Most of the announcements we hear on the subway are now canned, recorded by people with generic American-broadcast accents, in a gross affront to the few remaining people who still speak like New Yorkers. (We Southerners, of course, have been putting up with that since the dawn of radio, but it still gets up my nose.) Occasionally, on an older train, or when something unexpected happens, you still get a live person with a local accent on the P. A. (the conductor), and some of them still remember that momentarily means “for a moment”, not “in a moment”. (If that strikes you as odd, maybe it will help to think about the Pink Floyd album, “A Momentary Lapse of Reason”. Probably it won’t.)
Only now, it seems, those canned announcements will have to be re-recorded (as soon as the budget allows it), because the old “Ladies and Gentlemen!” is insufficiently inclusive. I’m not complaining about that. If a significant number of subway riders don’t consider themselves to be included in “Ladies and Gentlemen!”, I may disagree, I may frown and grumble a little (how many real ladies and gentlemen have there ever been on the subway anyway?), but who am I to tell them how to feel?
What I am complaining about is the syrupy “Hello Everyone!” which seems to have been selected as an alternative. It’s almost always delivered by a woman who sounds like a kindergarten teacher, and who almost always delivers the message that follows in a sing-song voice, as if commuters were little children.
Official announcements should sound businesslike and impersonal. When an announcement starts out, “Hello Everyone!“, my impulse is to ignore it. It strikes me like a commercial on the radio, and I automatically tune it out. I’m not advocating the bizarre announcementese that calls trash cans receptacles; but what’s wrong with, “Attention Passengers!”?
This morning, the F train was delayed because of “a track condition”, whatever that is. The nice lady who shared that news with “Everyone” told us, “We hope to return to normal operation as soon as possible.” They hope? Surely they will return to normal operation as soon as possible! What they hope, I venture to say, is that it will be possible for them to return to normal operation soon.
This morning on the BBC’s “Newshour” program, Razia Iqbal spoke of efforts’ being “under foot” to do something—I think to rescue the boys from the cave in Thailand. (I was getting ready for work and didn’t make a note.) Good old Razia Iqbal. Always good for a malapropism or two.
The metaphor under foot (or underfoot) means “in the way”, “presenting an impediment”. What Ms. Iqbal probably meant was either “on foot” (or “afoot”), an obvious metaphor, or “under way“, a metaphor borrowed from navigation, meaning “moving forward”. (In Two Years Before the Mast, if I remember right, Dana writes “under weigh”, presumably thinking that it has something to do with weighing anchor. I suspect he’s wrong.)