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Graham
2021-04-05 16:35:07 UTC
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Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
sentence:
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-05 16:50:50 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Only if you can pinpoint the year in which the feelings began. It's
"ago" if it's 20 years before the time of writing, "before" if it's 20
years before a year ago.
Post by Graham
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2021-04-05 17:09:43 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20 years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
A agree with your analysis.
--
Athel -- British, living in France for 34 years
Stefan Ram
2021-04-05 18:46:29 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
As a confirmation of your thoughts, Swan:

|4 "ago" and "before" with time expressions: counting back
|
|We use "ago" with a past tense and a time expression to 'count back'
|from the present; to say how long before now something happened.
|We can use "before" in the same way (with a past perfect tense)
|to count back from a past moment. Compare:
|"I met that woman in Scotland three years ago."
|(NOT: *"... three years bofore / before three years.")
|"When we got talking, I found that I head been at school with her
|husband ten years before. (NOT: *"... ten years ago")
|
|"I met her three years ago. I had been at school with her husband
|ten years before."
|PAST---...--->"ten years before"---------->"three years ago"--->NOW

It also reminds me somwhat of the difference between
"since" ("from then until now") and "from" ("from then"):

For example, when a general rules is given:

We're open from 9 o'clock.

, but when one speaks of today:

We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.

.
Chrysi Cat
2021-04-05 21:34:15 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
|4 "ago" and "before" with time expressions: counting back
|
|We use "ago" with a past tense and a time expression to 'count back'
|from the present; to say how long before now something happened.
|We can use "before" in the same way (with a past perfect tense)
|"I met that woman in Scotland three years ago."
|(NOT: *"... three years bofore / before three years.")
|"When we got talking, I found that I head been at school with her
|husband ten years before. (NOT: *"... ten years ago")
|
|"I met her three years ago. I had been at school with her husband
|ten years before."
|PAST---...--->"ten years before"---------->"three years ago"--->NOW
It also reminds me somwhat of the difference between
We're open from 9 o'clock.
THAT one, without an ending time, is largely considered UNACCEPTABLE in AmE.

Basically, either you have a closing time, or you re-phrase to "we open
at". I'm not sure there's a passive voice equivalent in AmE, and British
radio programs running "from x hour" is the thing that still puts me off
most when I'm stuck in an ad space while streaming BBC content.
Post by Stefan Ram
We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.
And similarly here, as far as I'm aware, ONLY "since" would be
acceptable. Same rule--"from" needs a "to" unless one's using it in the
physical-distance sense.
--
Chrysi Cat
1/2 anthrocat, nearly 1/2 anthrofox, all magical
Transgoddess, quick to anger. [she/her. Misgender and die].
Call me Chrysi or call me Kat, I'll respond to either!
Stefan Ram
2021-04-05 18:49:41 UTC
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Supersedes: <ago-***@ram.dialup.fu-berlin.de>
[Typos]
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
As a confirmation of your thoughts, Swan:

|4 "ago" and "before" with time expressions: counting back
|
|We use "ago" with a past tense and a time expression to 'count back'
|from the present; to say how long before now something happened.
|We can use "before" in the same way (with a past perfect tense)
|to count back from a past moment. Compare:
|"I met that woman in Scotland three years ago."
|(NOT: *"... three years before / before three years.")
|"When we got talking, I found that I had been at school with her
|husband ten years before. (NOT: *"... ten years ago")
|
|"I met her three years ago. I had been at school with her husband
|ten years before."
|PAST---...--->"ten years before"---------->"three years ago"--->NOW

It also reminds me somewhat of the difference between
"since" ("from then until now") and "from" ("from then"):

For example, when a general rules is given:

We're open from 9 o'clock.

, but when one speaks of today:

We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.

.
Peter Moylan
2021-04-06 00:34:13 UTC
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Post by Stefan Ram
It also reminds me somewhat of the difference between
We're open from 9 o'clock.
We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.
"From" is incorrect in both of those examples.
--
Peter Moylan Newcastle, NSW http://www.pmoylan.org
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-06 02:01:01 UTC
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Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Stefan Ram
It also reminds me somewhat of the difference between
We're open from 9 o'clock.
We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.
"From" is incorrect in both of those examples.
Isn't it correct in British English?
--
Jerry Friedman
Peter Moylan
2021-04-06 01:14:45 UTC
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Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Peter Moylan
It also reminds me somewhat of the difference between "since"
We're open from 9 o'clock.
We've been open since/from 9 o'clock.
"From" is incorrect in both of those examples.
Isn't it correct in British English?
"We're open from 9 to 5" is correct, but I'm less confident about
whether it's acceptable when the "to" part is removed.

A bare "from" seems to work, at least in AusE, when it's unambiguously a
future-tense sentence: "We'll be open tomorrow from 9". Even there,
though, I'd expect "at 9" rather than "from 9".
--
Peter Moylan Newcastle, NSW http://www.pmoylan.org
Lewis
2021-04-05 19:42:22 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
No really. Before would require a specific "before what" while ago means
"from now (the time of the statement)"
Post by Graham
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
It is not an error.
--
'Never say die, master. That's our motto, eh?' I CAN'T SAY IT'S EVER
REALLY BEEN MINE. --Hogfather
Eric Walker
2021-04-05 21:41:24 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
Is it? Wilson Follett, in _Modern American Usage_, says (in part):

_Ago_ covers the range from indefinitely far back to now; _before_
covers the shorter range from indefinitely far back to a fixed point
already past. _I knew that long ago_ is from a point of view in the
present. _He had known that long before_ is from a point of view in
the past. _Ago_ = earlier than now; _before_ = earlier than then.

So yes, it is. What would work would be:

"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."

But that says something different about the point-of-view moment.

(Obviously, the present tense needs 'ago' and the past perfect 'before'--
or one could say 'ago' needs the present tense and 'before' the past
perfect.)
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Bebercito
2021-04-05 22:20:47 UTC
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Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
_Ago_ covers the range from indefinitely far back to now; _before_
covers the shorter range from indefinitely far back to a fixed point
already past. _I knew that long ago_ is from a point of view in the
present. _He had known that long before_ is from a point of view in
the past. _Ago_ = earlier than now; _before_ = earlier than then.
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses
her point of view as of now instead of as of one year ago. The
following two forms are therefore correct:-

- "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 21
years ago."

- "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years before."

(Provided, as Graham explained, that the author is writing about
early 2020 in early 2021.)
Post by Eric Walker
But that says something different about the point-of-view moment.
(Obviously, the present tense needs 'ago' and the past perfect 'before'--
or one could say 'ago' needs the present tense and 'before' the past
perfect.)
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Eric Walker
2021-04-06 00:40:17 UTC
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On Mon, 05 Apr 2021 15:20:47 -0700, Bebercito wrote:

[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before" is
proper there.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Graham
2021-04-06 00:43:38 UTC
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Post by Eric Walker
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
Peter Moylan
2021-04-06 00:37:34 UTC
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Post by Graham
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
--
Peter Moylan Newcastle, NSW http://www.pmoylan.org
Eric Walker
2021-04-06 06:08:57 UTC
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Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Graham
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of
view as of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before"
is proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
That is perhaps so, but the thrust has been the choice between just those
two words: ago & before. Usage manuals (and web articles) tend to
present the issue under that heading. That other words might make a
better alternative to one or the other is, for these purposes, beside the
point.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2021-04-06 07:43:00 UTC
Reply
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Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Graham
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
Yes. On the whole I prefer "earlier".
--
Athel -- British, living in France for 34 years
Graham
2021-04-06 14:44:34 UTC
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Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Graham
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work.  I am convinced that only
"before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
Yes. On the whole I prefer "earlier".
But it doesn't really matter.
Sam Plusnet
2021-04-06 20:36:10 UTC
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Post by Graham
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Graham
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work.  I am convinced that only
"before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
Yes. On the whole I prefer "earlier".
But it doesn't really matter.
Then there is:

It was twenty years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.

(Make that 74 years ago.)
--
Sam Plusnet
Wales, UK
Quinn C
2021-04-06 21:46:26 UTC
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Post by Sam Plusnet
Post by Graham
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Peter Moylan
Post by Graham
[...]
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work.  I am convinced that only
"before" is
proper there.
Of course it is!
I'm surprised that everyone in this thread has chosen "before" as the
replacement word. OK, it is acceptable, but in my opinion "earlier"
would be a superior choice.
Yes. On the whole I prefer "earlier".
But it doesn't really matter.
It was twenty years ago today
Sergeant Pepper taught the band to play.
(Make that 74 years ago.)
FOUR SCORE minus six years ago ...
--
Where we are, when we are ... nothing but lies told by the senses.
-- Trance Gemini
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-06 14:16:45 UTC
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Permalink
But "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago" also works" - only, the author expresses her point of view as
of now instead of as of one year ago...
I do not believe that it does work. I am convinced that only "before" is
proper there.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
bebe... is correct this time.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-06 14:15:35 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
This is a frequent error in literature. Even the Nobel Laureate Alice
Munro slips up.
Is it? Wilson Follett
Jacques Barzun, probably

Does EW _never_ read the Introductions to his worthless "references"?
_Ago_ covers the range from indefinitely far back to now; _before_
covers the shorter range from indefinitely far back to a fixed point
already past. _I knew that long ago_ is from a point of view in the
present. _He had known that long before_ is from a point of view in
the past. _Ago_ = earlier than now; _before_ = earlier than then.
That is not relevant to the matter at hand.
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
But that says something different about the point-of-view moment.
(Obviously, the present tense needs 'ago' and the past perfect 'before'--
or one could say 'ago' needs the present tense and 'before' the past
perfect.)
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
He really should have read what I wrote earlier.
Mark Brader
2021-04-06 03:45:47 UTC
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Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
In reference to her immigration in 2002, yes.
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Nonsense. It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago,
but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
Post by Graham
This is a frequent error in literature.
If you think that, it's evidence that you are the one who's in error.


The article is here:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/magazine/2021/03/24/i-lived-us-18-years-without-wanting-become-citizen-2020-changed-everything/
--
Mark Brader, Toronto "A secret proclamation? How unusual!"
***@vex.net -- Arsenic and Old Lace

My text in this article is in the public domain.
Eric Walker
2021-04-06 06:13:57 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
In reference to her immigration in 2002, yes.
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Nonsense. It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past (and the appropriate tenses are needed).

"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years before." [the time of the feeling is in the past]

"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." [the time of the feeling is the present]
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Mark Brader
2021-04-06 06:34:58 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
--
Mark Brader | "I'm surprised there aren't laws about this in the USA..."
***@vex.net | "Of course there are laws about this in the USA.
Toronto | Without even reading further to find out what 'this' is."
| --Rob Bannister and Evan Kirshenbaum

My text in this article is in the public domain.
Eric Walker
2021-04-06 23:35:45 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.

"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."

Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-07 00:00:49 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
I agree with you overall that "before" or "earlier" is better than "ago" here.
I think that it's not just the past tense. "I made a lot more money last
year than I did twenty years ago" seems all right to me, with "ago"
measured from the present as usual. But in the original sentence, with
the "ago" in a past perfect clause , a reference point in the past is so
strongly established that "ago" seems incongruous.
--
Jerry Friedman
Eric Walker
2021-04-07 00:09:36 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Tue, 06 Apr 2021 17:00:49 -0700, Jerry Friedman wrote:

[...]
Post by Jerry Friedman
I think that it's not just the past tense. "I made a lot more money
last year than I did twenty years ago" seems all right to me, with "ago"
measured from the present as usual. But in the original sentence, with
the "ago" in a past perfect clause, a reference point in the past is so
strongly established that "ago" seems incongruous.
That's an interesting example. My gut feeling is that although a past
tense is being used ("I made"), the reference point of the remark is--s
you rightly say--the present moment rather than "last year". "Columbus
'discovered' America 529 years ago" is clearly a statement grounded in
the present moment, and the two sentences seem to me to be closely
parallel. So I agree that the example is indeed all right, but do not
feel it is any sort of exception to the general rule.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Quinn C
2021-04-07 00:41:13 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
A longer version of the above sentence is:

"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."

Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory that
the second time specification must take the first one as reference.

There are certainly contexts in which such a duplication feels more
natural or adequate:

When I came out 5 years ago, the nation wasn't nearly as hostile to
gay people as it had been 30 years ago, in your time.

(I made that up.)

In this case, there's good reason to anchor both points to the present,
rather than just to each other.
--
The least questioned assumptions are often the most questionable
-- Paul Broca
... who never questioned that men are more intelligent than women
Eric Walker
2021-04-07 00:53:45 UTC
Reply
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On Tue, 06 Apr 2021 20:41:13 -0400, Quinn C wrote:

[... re: "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago."
Post by Quinn C
"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."
Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory that
the second time specification must take the first one as reference.
Disagree. The wording "a year ago" irrevocably puts that reference in
the past (as "I had come to" puts its reference even farther back).
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Quinn C
2021-04-07 01:12:36 UTC
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Post by Eric Walker
[... re: "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago."
Post by Quinn C
"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."
Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory that
the second time specification must take the first one as reference.
Disagree. The wording "a year ago" irrevocably puts that reference in
the past (as "I had come to" puts its reference even farther back).
And ...? What is your explicit rule for this case?
And does it hold up in the example that you snipped? Why not?
--
The wrong body ... now comes not to claim rightness but to
dismantle the system that metes out rightness and wrongness
according to the dictates of various social orders.
-- Jack Halberstam, Unbuilding Gender
Eric Walker
2021-04-07 05:13:30 UTC
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On Tue, 06 Apr 2021 21:12:36 -0400, Quinn C wrote:

[...]
Post by Quinn C
And ...? What is your explicit rule for this case?
And does it hold up in the example that you snipped? Why not?
The rule is that when the reference point for the observation is the
present, the wanted word is "ago", whereas if the reference point for the
observation is sometime in the past, the wanted word is "before" (though,
as others have noted, "earlier" would also work there).
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Quinn C
2021-04-07 13:57:25 UTC
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Post by Eric Walker
[...]
Post by Quinn C
And ...? What is your explicit rule for this case?
And does it hold up in the example that you snipped? Why not?
The rule is that when the reference point for the observation is the
present, the wanted word is "ago", whereas if the reference point for the
observation is sometime in the past, the wanted word is "before" (though,
as others have noted, "earlier" would also work there).
AFAICS, that's something everyone agrees on. The question yet unanswered
is, when do you think a writer isn't free to choose the present as
reference point?
--
Quinn C
My pronouns are they/them
(or other gender-neutral ones)
Eric Walker
2021-04-08 00:16:08 UTC
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[...]
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
The rule is that when the reference point for the observation is the
present, the wanted word is "ago", whereas if the reference point for
the observation is sometime in the past, the wanted word is "before"
(though, as others have noted, "earlier" would also work there).
AFAICS, that's something everyone agrees on.
There are, I think, at least some who do not.
Post by Quinn C
The question yet unanswered
is, when do you think a writer isn't free to choose the present as
reference point?
When that writer has used a past tense: "America *felt* very different
from the place I *had come* to nearly 20 years ago." (And thus a past
perfect tense following.)
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-07 01:04:21 UTC
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Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."
Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory that
the second time specification must take the first one as reference.
There are certainly contexts in which such a duplication feels more
When I came out 5 years ago, the nation wasn't nearly as hostile to
gay people as it had been 30 years ago, in your time.
(I made that up.)
In this case, there's good reason to anchor both points to the present,
rather than just to each other.
I don't see that reason at all. The sentence is about the difference between
the two times of coming out. I want it to say "25 years earlier".

The same is true of the original sentence. It's about the difference between
last year and the year the author came to America. Maybe that, more than
the syntax, is why it feels wrong to me.
--
Jerry Friedman
Quinn C
2021-04-07 13:57:25 UTC
Reply
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Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."
Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory that
the second time specification must take the first one as reference.
There are certainly contexts in which such a duplication feels more
When I came out 5 years ago, the nation wasn't nearly as hostile to
gay people as it had been 30 years ago, in your time.
(I made that up.)
In this case, there's good reason to anchor both points to the present,
rather than just to each other.
I don't see that reason at all. The sentence is about the difference between
the two times of coming out. I want it to say "25 years earlier".
Maybe it's an LGBTQ thing, to judge times in the past by the distance
from now? 5 years ago means things were a little harder, 10 years
significantly, 15 years quite clearly harder etc. I've heard 5 years
called a "queer generation", because that age difference means you grew
up in different circumstances.

It's a bit like with the value of money. Don't tell me that $100 in 1950
is like $300 in 1970 - to really understand what that means, I need it
converted into today's dollars.
--
Quinn C
My pronouns are they/them
(or other gender-neutral ones)
Tony Cooper
2021-04-07 15:04:45 UTC
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On Wed, 7 Apr 2021 09:57:25 -0400, Quinn C
Post by Quinn C
It's a bit like with the value of money. Don't tell me that $100 in 1950
is like $300 in 1970 - to really understand what that means, I need it
converted into today's dollars.
Drifting slightly...Sometimes, in conversations about my youth with my
teenage grandsons, I will mention a product or a service or something
and include the price. If I say that the cost was $ X, they are
amazed that the cost would be such a trivial amount.

Rather than attempt to convert 1950s dollars to 2021 dollars, I use
hours required to earn a dollar.

When I was earning 75 cents an hour, two hours of my labor bought an
item costing $1.50. Two hours of my grandson's labor today would buy
an item in the $14 to $20 range.

When they understand the item required two hours of labor to buy, the
$1.50 doesn't seem as trivial.
--
Tony Cooper Orlando Florida
CDB
2021-04-07 16:26:17 UTC
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[ago agogo, with divers examples]
Post by Quinn C
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't see that reason at all. The sentence is about the
difference between the two times of coming out. I want it to say
"25 years earlier".
Maybe it's an LGBTQ thing, to judge times in the past by the
distance from now? 5 years ago means things were a little harder, 10
years significantly, 15 years quite clearly harder etc. I've heard 5
years called a "queer generation", because that age difference means
you grew up in different circumstances.
It's a bit like with the value of money. Don't tell me that $100 in
1950 is like $300 in 1970 - to really understand what that means, I
need it converted into today's dollars.
Or need to have lived in 1970. I remember both years, but in 1950 I
didn't concern myself much with large sums.
Quinn C
2021-04-07 17:08:04 UTC
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Post by CDB
[ago agogo, with divers examples]
Post by Quinn C
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't see that reason at all. The sentence is about the
difference between the two times of coming out. I want it to say
"25 years earlier".
Maybe it's an LGBTQ thing, to judge times in the past by the
distance from now? 5 years ago means things were a little harder, 10
years significantly, 15 years quite clearly harder etc. I've heard 5
years called a "queer generation", because that age difference means
you grew up in different circumstances.
It's a bit like with the value of money. Don't tell me that $100 in
1950 is like $300 in 1970 - to really understand what that means, I
need it converted into today's dollars.
Or need to have lived in 1970. I remember both years, but in 1950 I
didn't concern myself much with large sums.
A lot of people underestimate the meaning of a sum in their own past,
because they don't do Tony's thing and relate it to income.

I don't think I could, because I don't remember very well how much I
earned in past jobs.
--
Quinn C
My pronouns are they/them
(or other gender-neutral ones)
CDB
2021-04-08 11:38:12 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Quinn C
Post by CDB
[ago agogo, with divers examples]
Post by Quinn C
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't see that reason at all. The sentence is about the
difference between the two times of coming out. I want it to
say "25 years earlier".
Maybe it's an LGBTQ thing, to judge times in the past by the
distance from now? 5 years ago means things were a little harder,
10 years significantly, 15 years quite clearly harder etc. I've
heard 5 years called a "queer generation", because that age
difference means you grew up in different circumstances.
It's a bit like with the value of money. Don't tell me that $100
in 1950 is like $300 in 1970 - to really understand what that
means, I need it converted into today's dollars.
Or need to have lived in 1970. I remember both years, but in 1950
I didn't concern myself much with large sums.
A lot of people underestimate the meaning of a sum in their own
past, because they don't do Tony's thing and relate it to income.
I don't think I could, because I don't remember very well how much I
earned in past jobs.
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-08 16:47:18 UTC
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Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
Quinn C
2021-04-08 17:28:38 UTC
Reply
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
--
Quinn C
My pronouns are they/them
(or other gender-neutral ones)
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-08 17:48:16 UTC
Reply
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Post by Quinn C
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
What a rare day it was!
Sam Plusnet
2021-04-08 21:26:48 UTC
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Post by Quinn C
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
I think he was referring to the size of your coins - in contrast to the
banknotes which they still use for such a small value[1].

[1] At least, that's the most charitable explanation I can come up with.
--
Sam Plusnet
Wales, UK
CDB
2021-04-09 12:20:15 UTC
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Post by Sam Plusnet
Post by Quinn C
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
I think he was referring to the size of your coins - in contrast to the
banknotes which they still use for such a small value[1].
[1] At least, that's the most charitable explanation I can come up with.
Brace yourself: charity suffereth long.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 15:41:30 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Sam Plusnet
Post by Quinn C
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
I think he was referring to the size of your coins - in contrast to the
banknotes which they still use for such a small value[1].
[1] At least, that's the most charitable explanation I can come up with.
No, he was referring to the fact that for almost his entire lifetime,
$1C has been exchanged for slightly less than $1US. At times, businesses
in northern New York State would have signs "no Canadian money." At
other times, the currencies would be treated as equivalent. The difference
wasn't so great that they'd come Down Here to make major purchases.

Canadian $ have likely always been a bit bigger than Australian $.

Over the last few years, Australia issued a series of postage stamps,
one for each letter of the alphabet, with cute cartoons of things those
letters stand for (it's actually called the "Fair Dinkum" series). I'd love
to have a set -- but with a face value of $1each, they're quite pricey.
Quinn C
2021-04-09 21:50:29 UTC
Reply
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Post by Sam Plusnet
Post by Quinn C
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year. That was
a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was certainly a
living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
1 USD = 1.01 CAD (1 Jan 1971)
I think he was referring to the size of your coins - in contrast to the
banknotes which they still use for such a small value[1].
[1] At least, that's the most charitable explanation I can come up with.
Why would you do such a thing?
--
Quinn C
My pronouns are they/them
(or other gender-neutral ones)
CDB
2021-04-09 12:16:27 UTC
Reply
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Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year.
That was a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was
certainly a living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
Trolling again, I see.

Exchange rates fluctuate: in fact, in the early '70s our dollar was
worth a bit more than yours. So says the WParticle.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 16:02:26 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by CDB
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by CDB
I started a new job (at the bottom) in 1971 at $7,000 per year.
That was a little low -- it went up fairly rapidly -- but it was
certainly a living wage.
Those were your teeny-weeny Canadian dollars?
Trolling again, I see.
Exchange rates fluctuate: in fact, in the early '70s our dollar was
worth a bit more than yours. So says the WParticle.
It's a trope, me Canuck. Very rarely, the ratio has reversed.
CDB
2021-04-07 12:49:55 UTC
Reply
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Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came
"America felt very different from the place I had come to
nearly 20 years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when
the reference time of the statement is the present and "before"
when the reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed). "America feels very
different from the place I came to nearly 20 years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20
years ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in
the past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference
time of the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is
needed.
"A year ago, America felt very different from the place I had come
to nearly 20 years ago."
Both "ago"s have the present as reference time. It's not obligatory
that the second time specification must take the first one as
reference.
There are certainly contexts in which such a duplication feels more
When I came out 5 years ago, the nation wasn't nearly as hostile to
gay people as it had been 30 years ago, in your time.
(I made that up.)
In this case, there's good reason to anchor both points to the
present, rather than just to each other.
In both examples, the use of the past perfect indicates a
reference-point in the past, as Jerry has said. It should be "earlier"
or "before" in both. To use "ago", you would have had to write "...
from the place I came to ..." and "... as it was thirty years ago ...".
Lewis
2021-04-07 01:11:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
Your opinion is once again at odds with the way that language is
actually spoken.

The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.

There is absolutely nothing wrong with "The place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
--
Stupid men are often capable of things the clever would not dare to
contemplate... --Feet of Clay
s***@my-deja.com
2021-04-07 04:27:10 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
Your opinion is once again at odds with the way that language is
actually spoken.
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with "The place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
I think that when a sentence like this one does not read naturally the
first time you see it, then it is inadequate and needs clarification.
The situation can be different with spoken sentences if the speaker is still on
hand to be questioned.
Lewis
2021-04-07 04:40:25 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
Your opinion is once again at odds with the way that language is
actually spoken.
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.
There is absolutely nothing wrong with "The place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
I think that when a sentence like this one does not read naturally the
first time you see it, then it is inadequate and needs clarification.
But it reads perfectly naturally, and I expect it sounds perfectly
natural to the majority of English speakers.
Post by s***@my-deja.com
The situation can be different with spoken sentences if the speaker is still on
hand to be questioned.
--
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"I think so, Brain, but instant karma's always so lumpy."
Eric Walker
2021-04-07 05:21:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
...
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years ago, but
both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past...
Yes, that's why it was 18 years before, but 19 years ago.
Post by Eric Walker
(and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
That might be better, but the original isn't wrong. "Nearby 20 years
ago", in this context, simply means "in about 2001".
Yes, it is.
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
Your opinion is once again at odds with the way that language is
actually spoken.
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.
It is not simply "my" interpretation: it is the interpretation you will
find in most usage manuals and other sources. I have no idea whence your
claim that the incorrect version is "accepted and common usage", unless
you mean that there are quite a few people who aren't very good at
English usage.
Post by Lewis
There is absolutely nothing wrong with "The place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
Of course not, but that is not the casting at issue here. First off,
that is a sentence fragment; but let us assume it is supposed to be part
of something close to it, like "This is the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." That is fine, because the reference point in time for the
observation is manifestly the present.

But in "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago," the tense of "felt" makes it incontrovertible that the
reference point in time for the observation is in the past.

I am unclear as to why this extraordinarily simple principle seems so
hard to grasp.
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Lewis
2021-04-07 13:21:58 UTC
Reply
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[ Previous reference lines were clipped ]
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.
But in "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago," the tense of "felt" makes it incontrovertible that the
reference point in time for the observation is in the past.
And I still say you are misinterpreting. As I said before they are both
cast from the present the author is writing in.

And, most importantly, no one would misunderstand this to mean anything
another than what it clearly means.
Post by Eric Walker
I am unclear as to why this extraordinarily simple principle seems so
hard to grasp.
Right back atcha.

Mexico, when I last visited in 2013, was a vary different country from
the one I left <calculates number of years from 2013 to when I left>
before.

Mexico, when I last visited in 2013, was a very different country from
the one I left 45 years ago.

The first will at the very least cause some confusion as someone tries
to figure out when I left Mexico, while the second is much cleared IF
you know when the statement is written. And even if you don't know when
it was written, you know that I wrote is sometimes after 2013 and that
when I wrote it it had been 45 years since I left Mexico.

I know which one I would write if I wanted to be understood correctly by
the most people.

If I needed precision for some reason (unlikely in most contexts) I
would use the actual years in both places, but that is rely needed and
often not desirable.
--
Alice: You should be happy. Less competition.
Margo: I like competition.
Eric Walker
2021-04-08 00:56:22 UTC
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Permalink
The quoting indentations are getting to be too much for me. Let's start
over.

The original sentence at issue is:

America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago|before.

Almost all sources agree on this: when the temporal reference point of a
statement is the present, "ago" is used, whereas when the temporal
reference point is in the past, "before" (or "earlier") is used.

Quinn C has said that apparently everyone on this thread agrees. If that
does not include you, we end here. I think, though, that the problem is
And I still say you are misinterpreting. As I said before they are both
cast from the present the author is writing in.
Obviously, the writer, lacking a TARDIS, is writing in the present. But
that is immaterial: the temporal reference is determined by the "when" of
what the writer is writing about. A writer who says "I felt bad" is not
writing with the present as the temporal reference point: the statement
describes a situation in the past. If the sentence is instead "I felt
bad, as I had the previous time that had happened," there are two
temporal reference points: the time in the nearer past when the writer
felt bad, and the time in the further past when the writer had previously
felt bad.

Again: that the sentence is being written or spoken in the present has
zero effect on or relation to the times being referenced in the sentence.
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage.
One, I doubt that, and would be interested to see on what data you base
the claim. Two, even were it so, lots and lots of errors in language use
are common (and, in certain circles, accepted); that does not make them
less wrong (unless you think something like "I don't got none," which is
probably "common and accepted" by a fair number of English speakers, is
thereby rendered sound English usage).
The ago refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke,
[your] interpretation is flawed.
How in Heaven's name do you come to think so? "America felt very
different..." Is it your contention that "felt" is a temporal reference
to the present?

I think this will likely be my last post on this thread, as all that
needs saying has been said.
--
Eric Walker
Lewis
2021-04-08 03:39:35 UTC
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Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
The quoting indentations are getting to be too much for me. Let's start
over.
America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago|before.
Almost all sources agree on this: when the temporal reference point of a
statement is the present, "ago" is used, whereas when the temporal
reference point is in the past, "before" (or "earlier") is used.
Quinn C has said that apparently everyone on this thread agrees. If that
does not include you, we end here. I think, though, that the problem is
And I still say you are misinterpreting. As I said before they are both
cast from the present the author is writing in.
Obviously, the writer, lacking a TARDIS, is writing in the present.
No, not obviously. Writers often writ in the pastl in this case, the
writer is writing about their present feelings, and thus ago is proper
and perfectly understood.
Post by Eric Walker
But that is immaterial: the temporal reference is determined by the
"when" of what the writer is writing about.
And the writer i writing about the present as opposed to twenty years
ago, not about 5 years ago and 20 years ago, but the immediate past. "I
realized today that I felt very different than I did 10 years ago" which
is also proper and understandable.
Post by Eric Walker
A writer who says "I felt bad" is not writing with the present as the
temporal reference pointi
I didn't go to work today because I felt bad.
Post by Eric Walker
Again: that the sentence is being written or spoken in the present has
zero effect on or relation to the times being referenced in the sentence.
The sentence is ABOUT the present.
Post by Eric Walker
One, I doubt that, and would be interested to see on what data you base
the claim. Two, even were it so, lots and lots of errors in language use
are common (and, in certain circles, accepted); that does not make them
less wrong
Of COURSE it does. There is no stone tablet outlining the proper rules
of English. Never has been, never will be. "Proper" English is what
people agree proper English is, and if you think it is invariant then I
suggest you need to travel more.
Post by Eric Walker
(unless you think something like "I don't got none," which is
probably "common and accepted" by a fair number of English speakers, is
thereby rendered sound English usage).
Depending on the context, absolutely. Also "borrow me a sawbuck" is not
something I would say, but it is also not something I would correct
someone else for saying, nor would I be confused by it nor chide them on
their "improper English".
Post by Eric Walker
How in Heaven's name do you come to think so? "America felt very
different..." Is it your contention that "felt" is a temporal reference
to the present?
I didn't go to work today because I felt bad is talking about RIGHT NOW,
--
Vitamins are a waste of money, you can eat like $200 worth and still feel hungry.
Tony Cooper
2021-04-08 15:40:56 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Thu, 8 Apr 2021 00:56:22 -0000 (UTC), Eric Walker
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage.
One, I doubt that, and would be interested to see on what data you base
the claim. Two, even were it so, lots and lots of errors in language use
are common (and, in certain circles, accepted); that does not make them
less wrong (unless you think something like "I don't got none," which is
probably "common and accepted" by a fair number of English speakers, is
thereby rendered sound English usage).
This is one of those arguments that will never result in agreement.

EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules"
that he observes.

Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.

The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be
more acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the
absolute declarations.
--
Tony Cooper Orlando Florida
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-08 16:52:50 UTC
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Permalink
Post by Tony Cooper
On Thu, 8 Apr 2021 00:56:22 -0000 (UTC), Eric Walker
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage.
One, I doubt that, and would be interested to see on what data you base
the claim. Two, even were it so, lots and lots of errors in language use
are common (and, in certain circles, accepted); that does not make them
less wrong (unless you think something like "I don't got none," which is
probably "common and accepted" by a fair number of English speakers, is
thereby rendered sound English usage).
This is one of those arguments that will never result in agreement.
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules"
that he observes.
Actually, he's using the "rules" that he read in some book. If he
actually _observed_, he would see that those "rules" have little
to do with the actual English language.

As was discovered by the generation _after_ Curme, basically --
when the techniques that had worked in studying the languages
of Native America, of Africa, and so on began to be applied to
the "prestige" languages of Europe, including English, French, etc.
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
He and you are absolutely correct.
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be
more acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the
absolute declarations.
EW needs to concede first. Next up: reviving the Iran Nuclear Deal.
Eric Walker
2021-04-09 00:46:00 UTC
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On Thu, 08 Apr 2021 11:40:56 -0400, Tony Cooper wrote:

[...]
Post by Tony Cooper
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules" that
he observes.
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
So "ain't" is good English? How about "I don't got none"?
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be more
acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the absolute
declarations.
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me. If principles vary from
person to person, they are scarcely rules. Is it OK if "the rules I
follow" include driving on the left side of a two-lane road? If not, why
not?

"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.

About all I feel need be said on all this is here:

https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Brianna Oxendine
2021-04-09 01:02:02 UTC
Reply
Permalink
[...]
Post by Tony Cooper
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules" that
he observes.
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
So "ain't" is good English? How about "I don't got none"?
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be more
acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the absolute
declarations.
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me. If principles vary from
person to person, they are scarcely rules. Is it OK if "the rules I
follow" include driving on the left side of a two-lane road? If not, why
not?
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
heyyyyyyyyyyy
Lewis
2021-04-09 01:12:11 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
Post by Tony Cooper
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules" that
he observes.
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
So "ain't" is good English? How about "I don't got none"?
Depending on where you are and who you are talking to, absolutely.
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be more
acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the absolute
declarations.
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me.
The rules you follow are the better part of a century old, and are
extremely prescriptive and ignore how people actually speak. And you seem
to believe there ARE rules which is something I, and many others, do not
accept.

I am reminded of the hyper correction some people love to make about
fewer and less, insisting that fewer must always be used for countable
words. When you point of the MANY exceptions to this, they get flummoxed
and point to the checkout sign "It should be 15 items or FEWER" while
stamping their foot in frustration.

When the teacher or editor says "I need 600 words or less" on a topic,
that is not an error, nor is "That store is less than 4 miles away" or
"it cost less than $20" and no one would say "one fewer book to read"
The "rules" is not a rule, it is a way for petty people to feel
superior, while also getting to be wrong at that checkout line.
Post by Eric Walker
If principles vary from person to person, they are scarcely rules.
They do not vary from person to person, but they vary by time, location,
demographics, and many other variables. If you're in Georgia and you
correct someone on their use of "coke" "y'all" or "ain't" you are not
only going to by unpopular, you're going to be *wrong*.
Post by Eric Walker
Is it OK if "the rules I follow" include driving on the left side of a
two-lane road? If not, why not?
I think you now the answer to that straw man you've erected.
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
I predict that was written by an over-privileged white man who looks
down on anyone who speaks differently as ignorant and lesser. It's real
easy to try to enforce your ideals and think they are special and
obvious when they're yours and you get to ignore everyone else you
consider to be lesser than you; the sort of asshole who corrects people
for saying "borrow me twenty bucks" with "It's 'LEND me twenty
DOLLARS!'" while thinking "you ignorant peasant scum."
Post by Eric Walker
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
Oh look, that looks like "Prescriptive" there, I am shocked. Shocked I
tell you.

Not shocked.
--
There is NO Rule six!
Eric Walker
2021-04-09 01:40:58 UTC
Reply
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[...]
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
Oh look, that looks like "Prescriptive" there, I am shocked. Shocked I
tell you.
Not shocked.
Have you read it? If so, with what, and why, do you disagree? If not,
why do you think you can comment on it?

Mind, I pretty much give up. As a wise man once said, "You cannot use
reason to get people out of a position they never used reason to get
into."
--
Eric Walker
David Kleinecke
2021-04-09 05:59:58 UTC
Reply
Permalink
[...]
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
Oh look, that looks like "Prescriptive" there, I am shocked. Shocked I
tell you.
Not shocked.
Have you read it? If so, with what, and why, do you disagree? If not,
why do you think you can comment on it?
Mind, I pretty much give up. As a wise man once said, "You cannot use
reason to get people out of a position they never used reason to get
into."
The primary objection to the POV you expound is that your rules are
eisegesis on actual language rather than, as descriptivists would prefer,
exegesis. It is extremely doubtful that language is, in any sense, in its
actual creation and use, based on rules.
Eric Walker
2021-04-09 07:32:37 UTC
Reply
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On Thu, 08 Apr 2021 22:59:58 -0700, David Kleinecke wrote:

[...]
Post by David Kleinecke
It is extremely doubtful that language is, in any sense, in
its actual creation and use, based on rules.
Creation, who can say? Use? You think that when people write or speak
they perceive no rules? "Millennium hand and shrimp." Why is that not a
meaningful statement in English? Perhaps because it follows no rules?

All language use is based on rules: that's what a language is, a set of
rules defining certain arbitrary symbols and the equally arbitrary rules
for assigning meaning to them based on their arrangements. It is just
that some people cannot be bothered to learn the existing rules, and so
use, shall we say, "expansive" versions of the rules--and, not wanting to
seem ill-spoken, insist that the rules are whatever they say they are.
Millennium hand and shrimp!
--
Eric Walker
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 15:55:54 UTC
Reply
Permalink
[...]
Post by David Kleinecke
It is extremely doubtful that language is, in any sense, in
its actual creation and use, based on rules.
Creation, who can say? Use? You think that when people write or speak
they perceive no rules? "Millennium hand and shrimp." Why is that not a
meaningful statement in English? Perhaps because it follows no rules?
?? It's a perfectly normal compound noun phrase, following all the
"rules" (in the Chomskyan sense) for forming compound noun phrases.

It has no immediately clear interpretation, but it would not be difficult
to devise one. Have you ever heard of "Colorless green ideas sleep
furiously"?
All language use is based on rules: that's what a language is, a set of
rules defining certain arbitrary symbols and the equally arbitrary rules
for assigning meaning to them based on their arrangements. It is just
that some people cannot be bothered to learn the existing rules, and so
use, shall we say, "expansive" versions of the rules--and, not wanting to
seem ill-spoken, insist that the rules are whatever they say they are.
Millennium hand and shrimp!
--
Eric Walker
Too bad you can't be bothered to learn some FACTS about language
and its use but rely on centuries-old myths.
Lewis
2021-04-09 13:52:49 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
Post by Lewis
Post by Eric Walker
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
Oh look, that looks like "Prescriptive" there, I am shocked. Shocked I
tell you.
Not shocked.
Have you read it? If so, with what, and why, do you disagree? If not,
why do you think you can comment on it?
I commented on the text you quoted and on the URL. I did look at the
page, but it was formatted very poorly and was visually hostile and I
did not feel like turning off some settings to read it. But based on
what you quoted and the URL, there's likely nothing there I am
interested in.

I am familiar with the prescriptivist arguments, I reject the basic
premise. I didn't always, but I have come around to a move reasonable
and rational and realistic view in my dotage.
Post by Eric Walker
Mind, I pretty much give up. As a wise man once said, "You cannot use
reason to get people out of a position they never used reason to get
into."
Right back atcha. You believe your prescriptivist stance is reasonable
and I think it is not. Sorry, but your opinion on proper English is
YOURS, and is no better than anyone else's.

And you thinking your stance is "based on reason" and that every one else
is incapable of it is exactly predicable. "We'd al get along if you all
just did what I say!" Pfft!

It's real simple, would you say that someone in Georgia, drinking an
orange Fanta, saying "I ain't had a cold coke all day, this one really
hits the spot!" was wrong? Inferior? Didn't know "proper" English? Do
you cringe when someone says "aks" instead of ask? Do you feign
confusion when someone says 'it's been a minute' when they obviously
mean it's been a long time?

If so, you too may be a classist and elitist snob.

That's fine, there are a lot of classist and elitist snobs when it comes
to English.

But there is a big difference in "This is the way I speak and the
English I use" and "this is the RULE and the RIGHT WAY and everyone else
is ignorant, incapable of reasoned thought, and can't speak properly."
--
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"Wuh, I think so, Brain, but how will we get three pink flamingos
into one pair of Capri pants?"
Eric Walker
2021-04-09 20:32:09 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Fri, 09 Apr 2021 13:52:49 +0000, Lewis wrote:

[...]
Post by Lewis
I commented on the text you quoted and on the URL. I did look at the
page, but it was formatted very poorly and was visually hostile and I
did not feel like turning off some settings to read it.
Curious. It looks perfectly fine on my desktop (at all widths), my iPad
tablet, and my Pixel 4 cell phone. I cannot, of course, known what
"settings" you may be using.
Post by Lewis
But based on
what you quoted and the URL, there's likely nothing there I am
interested in.
Ah, that's the spirit. I don't have to read it because I know I can't be
informed or persuaded.
Post by Lewis
I am familiar with the prescriptivist arguments, I reject the basic
premise...
The "basic premise" is very, very simple: placing thoughts in the mind of
another by the use of language is facilitated by both sender and receiver
having an agreed-on set of conventions for that language. The end.

Good night and good luck.
--
Eric Walker
Lewis
2021-04-09 20:59:01 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
[...]
Post by Lewis
I commented on the text you quoted and on the URL. I did look at the
page, but it was formatted very poorly and was visually hostile and I
did not feel like turning off some settings to read it.
Curious. It looks perfectly fine on my desktop (at all widths), my iPad
tablet, and my Pixel 4 cell phone. I cannot, of course, known what
"settings" you may be using.
Post by Lewis
But based on
what you quoted and the URL, there's likely nothing there I am
interested in.
Ah, that's the spirit. I don't have to read it because I know I can't be
informed or persuaded.
There's a lot of things out there, I have no interest in reading them
all. There was a barrier to entry for me, so closing the window is
simpler.
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
I am familiar with the prescriptivist arguments, I reject the basic
premise...
The "basic premise" is very, very simple: placing thoughts in the mind of
another by the use of language is facilitated by both sender and receiver
having an agreed-on set of conventions for that language. The end.
Which is demonstrably false since millions of people have no problem
communicating without buying in to the prescriptivist bullshit.
--
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"Whuh... I think so, Brain, but... but if Charlton Heston doesn't eat
Soylent Green, what will he eat?"
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 21:24:47 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
I am familiar with the prescriptivist arguments, I reject the basic
premise...
The "basic premise" is very, very simple: placing thoughts in the mind of
another by the use of language is facilitated by both sender and receiver
having an agreed-on set of conventions for that language. The end.
And DIFFERENT GROUPS OF PEOPLE HAVE DIFFERENT (TACITLY) AGREED
CONVENTIONS.
s***@my-deja.com
2021-04-09 04:18:36 UTC
Reply
Permalink
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners advises against this use.
"Use AGO to say how long before the present time something happened.
Use BEFORE to say how long before a time in the past something had happened"
Eric Walker
2021-04-09 07:35:16 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago"
is OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners advises against this use.
"Use AGO to say how long before the present time something happened.
Use BEFORE to say how long before a time in the past something had happened"
Um, is that not what was said? "Ago" is not to be used when referring to
in the past: that's what you said, and that's what I said, saved that I
put it in the negative ("I would like to see citations from any
reasonably respectable source that say..." meaning that few or none will).
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Lewis
2021-04-09 14:00:56 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners advises against this use.
"Use AGO to say how long before the present time something happened.
Use BEFORE to say how long before a time in the past something had happened"
that doesn't cover the issue at hand.

The issue is that in the following exchange, EW thinks 'felt' is past
tense.

One: Why aren’t you at work.
Two: I felt sick.

Now, to most anyone, that would indicate that 1) I felt bad when it was
time to go to work (past) and 2) I still feel bad (I'm not at work now
either). For EW 'felt' is an absolute that puts all context into the
past, so saying "I felt the country was worse than the one I'd come to
20 years before" is wrong. To most everyone else, including the author
and the author's editors, it is perfectly natural and understood.

I suspect EW is still lobbying Marlboro to change their adds to reflect
'proper' grammar and change 'like' to 'as'.
--
"They always say time changes things, but you actually have to change
them yourself." Andy Warhol
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-09 15:12:34 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Lewis
Post by s***@my-deja.com
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners advises against this use.
"Use AGO to say how long before the present time something happened.
Use BEFORE to say how long before a time in the past something had happened"
that doesn't cover the issue at hand.
The issue is that in the following exchange, EW thinks 'felt' is past
tense.
One: Why aren’t you at work.
Two: I felt sick.
Now, to most anyone, that would indicate that 1) I felt bad when it was
time to go to work (past) and 2) I still feel bad (I'm not at work now
either).
I've argued with Eric about this sort of thing, and I might do it again except that it's clear his position won't change, but I don't agree with you on this example.

One: Why aren't you at work?

Two: I felt sick.

One: So why are you playing basketball?

Two: I feel better.
Post by Lewis
For EW 'felt' is an absolute that puts all context into the
past, so saying "I felt the country was worse than the one I'd come to
20 years before" is wrong.
You mean "ago", not "before".
Post by Lewis
To most everyone else, including the author
and the author's editors, it is perfectly natural and understood.
I'm not sure about that at all. A.u.e. is not a representative sample of English speakers, but we haven't seen results from a representative sample. It's true that the editors passed it, but I wouldn't assume that means that to most people it's natural and the year counted back from is understood.
Post by Lewis
I suspect EW is still lobbying Marlboro to change their adds to reflect
'proper' grammar and change 'like' to 'as'.
Winston, by the way.
--
Jerry Friedman
Lewis
2021-04-09 16:09:44 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Lewis
Post by s***@my-deja.com
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
The MacMillan English Dictionary for Advanced Learners advises against this use.
"Use AGO to say how long before the present time something happened.
Use BEFORE to say how long before a time in the past something had happened"
that doesn't cover the issue at hand.
The issue is that in the following exchange, EW thinks 'felt' is past
tense.
One: Why aren’t you at work.
Two: I felt sick.
Now, to most anyone, that would indicate that 1) I felt bad when it was
time to go to work (past) and 2) I still feel bad (I'm not at work now
either).
I've argued with Eric about this sort of thing, and I might do it again except that it's clear his position won't change, but I don't agree with you on this example.
One: Why aren't you at work?
Two: I felt sick.
One: So why are you playing basketball?
You are adding context that changes the meaning.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Lewis
For EW 'felt' is an absolute that puts all context into the
past, so saying "I felt the country was worse than the one I'd come to
20 years before" is wrong.
You mean "ago", not "before".
Yes. I recast and didn't edit everything.
Post by Jerry Friedman
I'm not sure about that at all. A.u.e. is not a representative sample
of English speakers, but we haven't seen results from a representative
sample. It's true that the editors passed it, but I wouldn't assume
that means that to most people it's natural and the year counted back
from is understood.
Post by Lewis
I suspect EW is still lobbying Marlboro to change their adds to reflect
'proper' grammar and change 'like' to 'as'.
Winston, by the way.
I was not a smoker and the ads predate me, so I have no attachment to
the brand.

Now that you mention it, Winston does sound right, but I am sure I will
forget soon enough.
--
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"I think so, Brain! But no more eels in jelly for me, thanks—I like
my gelatin after lunch."
Kerr-Mudd,John
2021-04-09 08:41:59 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Fri, 09 Apr 2021 00:46:00 GMT, Eric Walker <***@owlcroft.com>
wrote:
[]
Post by Eric Walker
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me. If principles vary from
person to person, they are scarcely rules. Is it OK if "the rules I
follow" include driving on the left side of a two-lane road? If not,
why not?
Of course. This is the natural way.
--
Bah, and indeed, Humbug.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 15:43:37 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Tony Cooper
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules" that
he observes.
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
Who gets to decide what is "reasonably respectable"?

I would refer him to Hans Keller's *Language Change*, which sets forth
the "invisible hand" principle (Adam Smith)
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
So "ain't" is good English? How about "I don't got none"?
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be more
acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the absolute
declarations.
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me. If principles vary from
person to person, they are scarcely rules. Is it OK if "the rules I
follow" include driving on the left side of a two-lane road? If not, why
not?
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-09 15:50:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Tony Cooper
EW is taking the position that a usage that is not supported by the
rules of grammar is "wrong". He is, of course, using the "rules" that
he observes.
I would point out that I am scarcely the Lone Ranger there. I would like
to see citations from any reasonably respectable source that say "ago" is
OK to use even when the temporal viewpoint is in the past.
Who gets to decide what is "reasonably respectable"?
I would refer him to Hans Keller's *Language Change*, which sets forth
the "invisible hand" principle (Adam Smith) as it relates to, well, language
change. (There's a second German edition but it hasn't been translated.)
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Tony Cooper
Lewis taking the position that a usage that has become commonly used,
even if considered to be against the rules of grammar, becomes "not
wrong" because it is now common usage. While he might not cite this,
he's saying that language evolves and the acceptance of this evolution
redefines the rules.
So "ain't" is good English? How about "I don't got none"?
They are PERFECT English in the social situations where they are used.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
Post by Tony Cooper
The problem I see is that "wrong" and "not wrong" are incomplete
declarations. "Wrong according to the rules I follow" would be more
acceptable from EW, and "Not wrong in common usage today" would be more
acceptable from Lewis. Those two statements eliminate the absolute
declarations.
The phrase "the rules I follow" gravels me. If principles vary from
In what language is (not "was," IS) "gravels me" acceptable English?
Post by Peter T. Daniels
person to person, they are scarcely rules. Is it OK if "the rules I
follow" include driving on the left side of a two-lane road? If not, why
not?
They DO NOT vary from person to person. They vary from speech
community to speech community;
Post by Peter T. Daniels
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
https://owlcroft.com/english/prescrip.php
Well, whadya know. It transpires that all of his b.s. all these years has
not been about English, but about Formal Written English, which very
few people ever have any need to employ.

Too bad he's too dishonest to admit that in any of his bloviating here.
Post by Peter T. Daniels
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
Quinn C
2021-04-09 21:50:44 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.

I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.

A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.

Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.

Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.

"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.

Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.

The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.

Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
--
Certain writers assert very decidedly that no pronouns are
needed beyond those we already possess, but this is simply a
dogmatic opinion, unsupported by the facts.
-- Findlay (OH) Jeffersonian (1875)
David Kleinecke
2021-04-09 23:08:08 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
This is my attitude also.

The language I speak and expect to hear is, if it can be said to be an actual
real entity, the set of all utterances I have ever heard suitably weighted by
the contexts. But practically it is the AI analog in my brain. Normally AI is
read as "artificial intelligence", as a machine imitating a human. But that
analogy cuts both ways - a human mind is best modeled (today) as a
computer black box. A human mind accepts patterns, processes them
and creates new patterns based on other things going on in the mind and
utters speech in patterns.

Linguistics is essential a commentary on language - hopefully a very well
informed commentary.
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-10 15:28:15 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by David Kleinecke
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
This is my attitude also.
The language I speak and expect to hear is, if it can be said to be an actual
real entity, the set of all utterances I have ever heard suitably weighted by
the contexts. But practically it is the AI analog in my brain.
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them. Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.

Otherwise you might as well say that practically, food is a kitchen.
Post by David Kleinecke
Normally AI is
read as "artificial intelligence", as a machine imitating a human. But that
analogy cuts both ways - a human mind is best modeled (today) as a
computer black box. A human mind accepts patterns, processes them
and creates new patterns based on other things going on in the mind and
utters speech in patterns.
That idea will be much better when (if ever) computers can pass the Turing
test, and it would still be better to say there's a computer analogue, not an AI
analogue, in your brain.
Post by David Kleinecke
Linguistics is essential a commentary on language - hopefully a very well
informed commentary.
Well-thought-out is nice too.
--
Jerry Friedman
Lewis
2021-04-10 17:22:13 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them. Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.
You do not need to speak to have an understanding of language, but you
need language to speak. And think.

In one of the Oliver Sacks books he talks about the differences between
people who grew up as isolated deaf people and people who grew up with
at least one other deaf person.

The difference was language. The solitary deaf person has no language,
and as an adult cannot acquire a language (or only at the most
rudimentary level).

If a deaf child grows up with a deaf adult who never developed language
because the adult was isolated, the child will develop an entire
language.

Oh, this must have been in Seeing Voices, of course.

What we can take away from this is that language is at once a
fundamental human trait but that it requires two people for it to
develop.

But we know, absolutely for a fact, that language has no rules because
it will arise naturally and uniquely between two children who have no
other way to communicate. And we have examples of this all the time.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by David Kleinecke
Linguistics is essential a commentary on language - hopefully a very well
informed commentary.
Well-thought-out is nice too.
Most researchers do not want to be researching a moving target, so
linguist are prone to think of language as a fixed point that must be
aspired to.

This is bollocks.
--
"Yessir, Captain Tight Pants."
Athel Cornish-Bowden
2021-04-10 18:49:44 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Lewis
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them. Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.
You do not need to speak to have an understanding of language, but you
need language to speak.
Yes, probably.
Post by Lewis
And think.
No, probably. No one who has watched cats can doubt that they can
think, but they don't have language. Crows too, perhaps.
Post by Lewis
In one of the Oliver Sacks books he talks about the differences between
people who grew up as isolated deaf people and people who grew up with
at least one other deaf person.
The difference was language. The solitary deaf person has no language,
and as an adult cannot acquire a language (or only at the most
rudimentary level).
If a deaf child grows up with a deaf adult who never developed language
because the adult was isolated, the child will develop an entire
language.
Oh, this must have been in Seeing Voices, of course.
What we can take away from this is that language is at once a
fundamental human trait but that it requires two people for it to
develop.
But we know, absolutely for a fact, that language has no rules because
it will arise naturally and uniquely between two children who have no
other way to communicate. And we have examples of this all the time.
Nicaraguan Sign Language is a fascinating example.
Post by Lewis
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by David Kleinecke
Linguistics is essential a commentary on language - hopefully a very well
informed commentary.
Well-thought-out is nice too.
Most researchers do not want to be researching a moving target, so
linguist are prone to think of language as a fixed point that must be
aspired to.
This is bollocks.
--
Athel -- British, living in France for 34 years
Tony Cooper
2021-04-10 19:14:59 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Sat, 10 Apr 2021 20:49:44 +0200, Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Lewis
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them. Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.
You do not need to speak to have an understanding of language, but you
need language to speak.
Yes, probably.
Post by Lewis
And think.
No, probably. No one who has watched cats can doubt that they can
think, but they don't have language. Crows too, perhaps.
Post by Lewis
In one of the Oliver Sacks books he talks about the differences between
people who grew up as isolated deaf people and people who grew up with
at least one other deaf person.
The difference was language. The solitary deaf person has no language,
and as an adult cannot acquire a language (or only at the most
rudimentary level).
If a deaf child grows up with a deaf adult who never developed language
because the adult was isolated, the child will develop an entire
language.
Oh, this must have been in Seeing Voices, of course.
What we can take away from this is that language is at once a
fundamental human trait but that it requires two people for it to
develop.
But we know, absolutely for a fact, that language has no rules because
it will arise naturally and uniquely between two children who have no
other way to communicate. And we have examples of this all the time.
Nicaraguan Sign Language is a fascinating example.
I often watch Jen Psaki's White House press conferences at
https://www.whitehouse.gov/live/ (It's only "live" when there's a
press conference or other event. The presser is usually about 12:30
PM on weekdays.)

When a press conference is "live", there's a small window where a
person provides the dialog in sign language. It can be distracting.
It's not just hands; the person waves her/his arms wildly (to me).
--
Tony Cooper Orlando Florida
Graham
2021-04-10 21:17:53 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Tony Cooper
When a press conference is "live", there's a small window where a
person provides the dialog in sign language. It can be distracting.
It's not just hands; the person waves her/his arms wildly (to me).
Press conferences by government spokespeople here, started using an ASL
arm waver at the beginning of the pandemic.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-11 12:42:01 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Graham
Post by Tony Cooper
When a press conference is "live", there's a small window where a
person provides the dialog in sign language. It can be distracting.
It's not just hands; the person waves her/his arms wildly (to me).
Press conferences by government spokespeople here, started using an ASL
arm waver at the beginning of the pandemic.
Your "here" (wherever that may be) seems to be several decades
behind the times. Early SNL -- nearly 45 years ago, that is -- satirized
the practice by having Garrett Morris "interpret the newscast for the
hearing-impaired" by yelling the news from an inset on the screen.
The practice must have been widely familiar by then.

Sam Plusnet
2021-04-10 22:39:26 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Lewis
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them.  Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.
You do not need to speak to have an understanding of language, but you
need language to speak.
Yes, probably.
Post by Lewis
 And think.
No, probably. No one who has watched cats can doubt that they can think,
but they don't have language. Crows too, perhaps.
Having had a cat swear at me today[1], I can attest they certainly know
bad language.

[1] We no longer have any cats, but a whole range of cats feel quite at
home in our garden.
--
Sam Plusnet
Wales, UK
Lewis
2021-04-10 22:53:29 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Lewis
Post by Jerry Friedman
I don't think language can consist of both utterances and the thing that
understands and produces them. Practically, your language is what that
natural intelligence understands and produces.
You do not need to speak to have an understanding of language, but you
need language to speak.
Yes, probably.
Post by Lewis
And think.
No, probably. No one who has watched cats can doubt that they can
think, but they don't have language. Crows too, perhaps.
FSVO think.

We know cats can think because they think about murder, beyond that is
an open question.
Post by Athel Cornish-Bowden
Post by Lewis
But we know, absolutely for a fact, that language has no rules because
it will arise naturally and uniquely between two children who have no
other way to communicate. And we have examples of this all the time.
Nicaraguan Sign Language is a fascinating example.
Sacks covered Martha's Vineyard, IIRC.
--
"Are you pondering what I'm pondering?"
"Wuhhh... I think so, Brain, but if a ham can operate a radio, why
can't a pig set a VCR?"
CDB
2021-04-10 11:23:11 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or
of language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for
effective communication (or for effective pretty much anything,
from chess to driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just
that--rules, principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body,
and language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent
behavior, which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word
and Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell
it without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants.
From a distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up,
you'll see that how the individual branches are arranged to create
the elephant shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow
the same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much
alike. But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually
arrive at the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual
words also differs in many cases.
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually
intelligible, but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some
expressions are truly idiosyncratic, some are understood within a
family, or a social circle, some in a small region or in a wide
region, and others across a country or multiple countries.
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust
our internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more
and another one less, so that we arrive at a state where
misunderstandings are down to a level we can manage. But this is a
continuous never-ending process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many
or most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those
many subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile
equilibrium, and forces continually pull at it in various
directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce
or interpret a sentence.
I believe you are mostly right about language in general. I have
maintained here before that the "English" whose usage we discuss is
properly the formal version of the language, and that has rules that can
be appealed to.

Something that Quine may not have mentioned is codified language's
usefulness as a springboard. The rules are something one can play with
to good effect, as (say) Shakespeare played with iambic pentameter to
achieve his brilliant metrical effects.
Jerry Friedman
2021-04-10 14:13:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
Is there any evidence for this view, or is it just a plausible alternative to the
view that all speakers of a language have nearly the same set of rules in
their brains?
Post by Quinn C
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.
Likewise we differ somewhat in understanding. This appears well when
there's a discussion of ambiguous sentences (or headlines)--some people
see one interpretation, some people see the other, some see both.
Post by Quinn C
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
There's also the (Chomskyan?) picture of the supposed actual rules, which
are not consciously accessible to speakers but grammarians try to determine
as a research project. Eric believes, I think, that for English this project was
completed by the 1930s, except maybe for some trifles.
--
Jerry Friedman
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-10 14:56:46 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
Is there any evidence for this view, or is it just a plausible alternative to the
view that all speakers of a language have nearly the same set of rules in
their brains?
I've only just received a copy of the *Blackwell Handbook of the
Neuropsychology of Language*, going all the way back to 2012
(but my friend who has a chapter in it said not to worry, the field
doesn't change that fast -- maybe there's something to be said
for being paid "honoraria" for writing chapters in books rather
than cash), and the editor's introduction begins by pointing out
that new brain-imaging techniques are showing us that even with
such evolutionarily ancient abilities as language, there's far more
individual variation in localization than had been realized, and here's
900 pages of examples. (Well, about 500 pages -- the second part is
about clinical applications).
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Quinn C
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.
Likewise we differ somewhat in understanding. This appears well when
there's a discussion of ambiguous sentences (or headlines)--some people
see one interpretation, some people see the other, some see both.
Hush, arthur will get the impression that he doesn't need to worry about
context!
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Quinn C
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
There's also the (Chomskyan?) picture of the supposed actual rules, which
are not consciously accessible to speakers but grammarians try to determine
as a research project. Eric believes, I think, that for English this project was
completed by the 1930s, except maybe for some trifles.
One of the first things neurolinguists did was look for evidence in the brain
of Chomskyan rules. I suppose that was like physiologists putting dying
people onto scales so they could measure the exact weight of the soul as
it left the body.

I think Chomsky may have been explicit around 1955 that he was creating
something that could be programmed into a computer to generate language,
but if he was, that aspect was soon forgotten. Computer science was very
fond of something called "Chomsky-grammars" -- maybe they still are?
Peter Moylan
2021-04-11 00:00:24 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Peter T. Daniels
I think Chomsky may have been explicit around 1955 that he was
creating something that could be programmed into a computer to
generate language, but if he was, that aspect was soon forgotten.
Computer science was very fond of something called "Chomsky-grammars"
-- maybe they still are?
For computer programming languages you need a precise specification of
the meaning and syntax of each construct, so there are public language
standards that include a description of the grammar. The notation is
recognisably similar to Chomsky's, although the credit for the earliest
version of the notation usually goes to computer people called Backus
and Naur.

In fact, it's not only programming languages. You can look at just about
any internet standard and find formal descriptions, in the same
notation, of the grammar of commands and responses. Just last week I was
writing some software to read and write ASN.1, which is a language used
to encode data in things like public key certificates.

Writings on automata theory use terms like regular grammars,
context-free grammars, context-sensitive grammars, and so on. Some
people talk of type 1, 2, 3, and 4 languages, but that's less popular
because it's harder to remember which is which.
--
Peter Moylan Newcastle, NSW http://www.pmoylan.org
Stefan Ram
2021-04-10 16:40:41 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Post by Quinn C
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
Is there any evidence for this view, or is it just a plausible alternative to the
view that all speakers of a language have nearly the same set of rules in
their brains?
A slightly different POV (as "agnostic" is to "atheistic")
would be to say that we cannot know what's in the heads, we
can only observe behavior. So our assumptions / explanations
should not rely on what we don't know.

The color "green" is a certain quale to me, but this might
be what in another brain is "blue", and there's no way to tell.
(A possible consciousness of other people is a black box.)

However, - knowing that - for simplicity, one might well
develop a "model" of the brain and show that people behave
/as if/ the brain was working according to this model.
Such a model might be useful, even if it is not the reality.
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise we differ somewhat in understanding. This appears well when
there's a discussion of ambiguous sentences (or headlines)--some people
see one interpretation, some people see the other, some see both.
There sometimes is some truth in Wittgensteins words:

|Perhaps this
...
|will be understood only by someone who has himself already
|had the thoughts that are expressed in it

.
Stefan Ram
2021-04-10 16:50:42 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Jerry Friedman
Likewise we differ somewhat in understanding. This appears well when
there's a discussion of ambiguous sentences (or headlines)--some people
see one interpretation, some people see the other, some see both.
Communication might not need "understanding".

Some behavioral scientist say that when a dog puts his
raised front paws on the body of a standing person,
it is a gesture of dominance.

However, the owner of a dog might say that the gesture
expresses that the dog is happy to see the owner.

So everyone involved (the dog and the owner) is happy,
and insofar the communication was successful, even if
the interpretations given (if dogs could talk) might
differ.

It is sufficient if communication always works in this way:
to satisfy the needs of the parties involved. It is not
necessary that they understand everything as the other party
(and besides, we can't tell anyway).
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-10 14:47:15 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Quinn C
Post by Eric Walker
"Rules" are more or less arbitrary, whether rules of the road or of
language use; but that is not the point. The point is that for effective
communication (or for effective pretty much anything, from chess to
driving), there need to be _some_ rules that are just that--rules,
principles accepted by all.
But rules of traffic or chess are codified by an authoritative body, and
language "rules" aren't.
I think you're lacking a concept of collective and emergent behavior,
which language is.
A simile that WVO Quine used has stuck with me from when I read Word and
Object at age 16 or so, so it must have hit a nerve. I'll retell it
without having re-read it for decades, so it might differ.
Imagine a row of topiaries, bushes cut in the shape of elephants. From a
distance, they all look alike. But when you look close up, you'll see
that how the individual branches are arranged to create the elephant
shape is quite different for each bush.
Language is like that: on the surface, it looks like we all follow the
same rules, because the shape of sentences we produce is so much alike.
But in fact it differs from person to person how we actually arrive at
the sentences in our mind. Our understanding of individual words also
differs in many cases.
"A language" is a bundle of idiolects that are mutually intelligible,
but the degree of intelligibility varies. Some expressions are truly
idiosyncratic, some are understood within a family, or a social circle,
some in a small region or in a wide region, and others across a country
or multiple countries.
Every day, when we have difficulties communicating, we subtly adjust our
internal language system, unconsciously, by using one thing more and
another one less, so that we arrive at a state where misunderstandings
are down to a level we can manage. But this is a continuous never-ending
process in each individual.
The "rules of language" (or a grammar) are a model, a simplified and
normalized, and always incomplete, description of patterns that many or
most of the speakers of one language have arrived at by those many
subtle adjustments to each other, but they form a labile equilibrium,
and forces continually pull at it in various directions.
Only in languages with writing and schools, and even then rarely, do
people consciously apply any of those model rules in order to produce or
interpret a sentence.
Beautifully put.
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-08 16:44:36 UTC
Reply
Permalink
The quoting indentations are getting to be too much for me. Let's start
over.
America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago|before.
Almost all sources agree on this: when the temporal reference point of a
statement is the present, "ago" is used, whereas when the temporal
reference point is in the past, "before" (or "earlier") is used.
Quinn C has said that apparently everyone on this thread agrees. If that
does not include you, we end here. I think, though, that the problem is
Post by Lewis
And I still say you are misinterpreting. As I said before they are both
cast from the present the author is writing in.
Obviously, the writer, lacking a TARDIS, is writing in the present. But
that is immaterial: the temporal reference is determined by the "when" of
what the writer is writing about. A writer who says "I felt bad" is not
writing with the present as the temporal reference point: the statement
describes a situation in the past. If the sentence is instead "I felt
bad, as I had the previous time that had happened," there are two
temporal reference points: the time in the nearer past when the writer
felt bad, and the time in the further past when the writer had previously
felt bad.
Again: that the sentence is being written or spoken in the present has
zero effect on or relation to the times being referenced in the sentence.
Post by Lewis
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage.
One, I doubt that, and would be interested to see on what data you base
the claim. Two, even were it so, lots and lots of errors in language use
are common (and, in certain circles, accepted); that does not make them
less wrong (unless you think something like "I don't got none," which is
probably "common and accepted" by a fair number of English speakers, is
thereby rendered sound English usage).
Post by Lewis
The ago refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke,
[your] interpretation is flawed.
How in Heaven's name do you come to think so? "America felt very
different..." Is it your contention that "felt" is a temporal reference
to the present?
I think this will likely be my last post on this thread, as all that
needs saying has been said.
--
Eric Walker
Interesting. When you get him mad, he abandons all that high-
falutin', pretentious 19th-century decorative prose and writes
Modern English.

Exactly as Labov noted 60 years ago.

And does not claim to be "Cordial."
Peter T. Daniels
2021-04-07 14:47:51 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
Post by Graham
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
Let me say it again: "ago" applies when the reference time of the
statement is the present and "before" when the reference time is in the
past. Since the tense of "feel" used is "felt", the reference time of
the statement in the past and "before" (or "earlier") is needed.
Your opinion is once again at odds with the way that language is
actually spoken.
The original is NOT wrong, and is accepted and common usage. The ago
refers to the past from the PRESENT time the author spoke, you
interpretation is flawed.
It is not simply "my" interpretation: it is the interpretation you will
find in most usage manuals and other sources.
Which have no validity whatsoever regarding the spoken language
of the 21st century.
Post by Eric Walker
I have no idea whence your
claim that
"whence your claim that"?? Jeeezus.
Post by Eric Walker
the incorrect version is "accepted and common usage", unless
you mean that there are quite a few people who aren't very good at
English usage.
Oh, for Christ's sake.

Where the hell does he think "English usage" comes from?
Post by Eric Walker
Post by Lewis
There is absolutely nothing wrong with "The place I came to nearly 20
years ago."
Of course not, but that is not the casting at issue here. First off,
there's that idiosyncratic buzzword "casting" again. Did he crib it
from Curme, a century ago?
Post by Eric Walker
that is a sentence fragment; but let us assume it is supposed to be part
of something close to it, like "This is the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." That is fine, because the reference point in time for the
observation is manifestly the present.
It is a Noun Phrase, and the original context, copied by himself,
is at the top of this message.
Post by Eric Walker
But in "America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly
20 years ago," the tense of "felt" makes it incontrovertible that the
reference point in time for the observation is in the past.
It most certainly does not, as several contributors to this thread have
clearly shown.
Post by Eric Walker
I am unclear as to why this extraordinarily simple principle seems so
hard to grasp.
Because it is, simply, wrong and incompatible with the facts of English
usage.
Post by Eric Walker
--
Cordially,
Eric Walker
That's "cordiality"??
s***@my-deja.com
2021-04-06 09:57:23 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
In reference to her immigration in 2002, yes.
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Nonsense. It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past (and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years before." [the time of the feeling is in the past]
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." [the time of the feeling is the present]
There are three times involved.
"In 2010 the city of X looked cleaner than it had when I first
saw it 10 years before. Thinking about it now in 2021 I realise
that my first visit occurred 21 years ago.
Lewis
2021-04-06 16:12:27 UTC
Reply
Permalink
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
In reference to her immigration in 2002, yes.
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Nonsense. It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past (and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years before." [the time of the feeling is in the past]
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." [the time of the feeling is the present]
There are three times involved.
"In 2010 the city of X looked cleaner than it had when I first
saw it 10 years before. Thinking about it now in 2021 I realise
that my first visit occurred 21 years ago.
Yes, but that is not the construction being discussed here.
--
I WILL NOT TRADE PANTS WITH OTHERS Bart chalkboard Ep. 7F05
Mack A. Damia
2021-04-07 01:05:10 UTC
Reply
Permalink
On Tue, 6 Apr 2021 16:12:27 -0000 (UTC), Lewis
Post by Lewis
Post by s***@my-deja.com
Post by Mark Brader
Post by Graham
Reading an article in the Washington Post last week, I came across this
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years ago."
The author was writng about her feelings in early 2020.
In reference to her immigration in 2002, yes.
Post by Graham
Of course, "ago" should be replaced with "before".
Nonsense. It works either way. It was 18 years before, and 19 years
ago, but both of those intervals are "nearly 20 years".
That is immaterial. The distinction is that "ago" applies when the
reference time of the statement is the present and "before" when the
reference time is in the past (and the appropriate tenses are needed).
"America felt very different from the place I had come to nearly 20
years before." [the time of the feeling is in the past]
"America feels very different from the place I came to nearly 20
years ago." [the time of the feeling is the present]
There are three times involved.
"In 2010 the city of X looked cleaner than it had when I first
saw it 10 years before. Thinking about it now in 2021 I realise
that my first visit occurred 21 years ago.
Yes, but that is not the construction being discussed here.
Ago fuck yourself.
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