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. What does based off mean?
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 snazzier alternative to the ordinary word, mansion, whose modern meaning is always “a large imposing residence” (unless you’re into astrology). It’s not wrong, but it bugs me.
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.
There aren’t many of you, I know. I’d like to thank you, and especially the people who have “liked” some of my posts. WordPress gives me some statistics on my readership—what pages people look at, what country they’re in, what link, if any, they clicked to get here, that sort of thing—but it doesn’t really tell me who you are. The only way I know that (or anything approaching that) is if you click the “Like” button, or leave a comment, or sign up as a follower.
Of course I’m most grateful to my old friend, Ted Ficklen, whom I’ve known since first grade, and who seems to read every one of these entries as soon as I post it, even though he is now far away, across the wide Missouri. (Well, just this side of it.) He is the only person so far (besides me) who posts comments. (I think I got one comment from somebody else, early on, but I don’t think he’s been back.) I could almost address “Dear Teddy”, instead of “Dear Reader”, only I know that once in a while somebody else reads this blog.
For instance, I appear to have a regular reader from South Korea who visits every week or so. Of course, she or he never clicks a link or goes past the front page, so maybe he or she is the spambot that gives me so many fake followers with @outlook.com addresses. But I refuse to think ill of anybody without evidence! Dear Korean Reader, you are welcome here, and I am grateful for your visits.
At any rate, I enjoy writing this blog, and I enjoy even more knowing that somebody is reading it. Thanks, Teddy, and thank you, Dear Reader!
“Centuries and How to Refer to Them
“Is it the 1600s or the 16th century?
Right away we start worrying. “The 1600s” and “the 16th century” are not alternatives for referring to any century. The sixteen-hundreds were (except for 1600) the Seventeenth Century. The article itself straightens that out, I’m glad to say. But it gets worse:
Yep, that’s what’s coming next: the 22nd century. Its years will all* start with 21, proceeding up to the distant 2199.
Notice the asterisk in that fallacious claim? It doesn’t link to anything (a bad mistake on a web page), but if you scroll down you’ll come to a note (almost as long as the article) in which the writer cravenly declines to take a position on the question, whether a century contains ninety-nine or a hundred years?
The note claims that the matter is unsettled, and cites the London Times as authority for the contention that a millennium has only 999 years:
The world has voted with its cheque book in the debate on precisely when the millennium ends. While pedants continue to pit December 31, 1999, against the end of the year 2000, everyone who is anyone, it seems, has opted for the earlier date as the time to organise what they hope will be the mother of all parties.
— The Times (London), 2 Apr. 1991
The London Times being a Murdoch rag, it naturally defers to the market on all matters, even on matters of objective fact. If the market decides that 1000 = 999, then there is no more to be said.
Those of us who believe in counting, however, (we pedants) think different.
I’m not the first person to point out that, during the past century, “the world” (meaning, those of us who matter to the Times) grew accustomed to seeing odometers roll over, and to feeling that something momentous has happened when we see a string of zeroes. Indeed, when the odometer turns over to 2000, our car has travelled two thousand miles. On the other hand, we hadn’t completed the second millennium until the year-counter read 2001. The odometer starts with zero, but the year-counter starts with one. We count a mile when we finish it, but a year when we start it.
All this should be clear to the people at Merriam-Webster, and it troubles me that it’s not.
Yesterday, I commented here on an article in the Washington Post. Unfortunately, I was in a bad mood and also posted comments on the Post‘s web site, one repeating my criticism of the writer’s use of tacitly, and another criticizing another commenter’s use of shined and “Klieg lights“. That was bad manners on my part, and I later posted an apology for the latter criticism. On the other hand, the commenter defended his or her writing, so I feel free to continue the debate here. This was the exchange:
. . . Numerous reporters relentlessly shined Klieg lights on this abomination and shamed every political supporter of the ignorant poseur potus. . . .
I wrote in response,
Shone Kliegl lights.
and the other person replied,
‘Shine’ has two acceptable past tense forms. ‘Shined’ and ‘shone.’ And klieg light is named for the Kliegl brothers, but spelled differently. But thanks for your contribution to the conversation.
Shine does indeed have two acceptable past-tense forms, but they mean two different things. Shined means “applied a shine to”, as in “He shined his shoes.” The only form that means “did what one does with a Kliegl light” is shone.
“Klieg light” is a very common error, but it is nevertheless an error. The Kliegl Brothers Universal Electric Stage Lighting Company produced a variety of lights, but none of them is called a “Klieg light” except by people who don’t know any better.
I hold no brief for Donald Trump, but when one accuses somebody of ignorance, one should be careful not to put one’s own ignorance on display.
A headline on Google News today, attributed to the BBC, reads,
Grenfell Tower fire: Minute’s silence marks one-year anniversary
Apparently somebody got to the BBC, though, because the web site now shows this headline:
Grenfell Tower fire: Silent walk marks first anniversary
The word anniversary already includes the concept of a year. It comes from Latin annus (= a year) and versus, past participle of verto (= to turn), and means [the day] of the turning of a year. To add “year” to it is like saying “your birthday day”.
I keep reading, though, of “one-year” and “ten-year” anniversaries. Maybe people have started adding “year” to anniversary because of the even stupider practice of celebrating “one-month” and “six-month” and suchlike “anniversaries”.