Another Example of Goedel’s proof

rogersgeorge on June 19th, 2017

Okay, I’m being lazy; this is an easy post. I do have some good stuff in the saddlebag, though.

A while back (actually last May) I wrote about Goedel’s proof, about how he proved that it’s impossible to have a completely consistent set of rules about anything. If you skipped the post, you should go read it. It’s not exactly about writing, it’s about a fact of life: We’ll never figure things out completely because contradictions always exist.

So here’s proof. Is this Break of Day comic logical or not?

Answer: Yes, it’s logical, but it’s also contradictory.

PS. I can’t help making a writing comment: It should be “…petition to help stop us.”

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Why you need a Proofreader

rogersgeorge on June 16th, 2017

I saw a version of this back in the 1960’s in Readers Digest.

http://www.gocomics.com/pearlsbeforeswine/2017/06/12

Denominatives and Verbal Nouns

rogersgeorge on June 14th, 2017

I mentioned this topic twice before over the years (here and here), but not with the actual names. So here’s an appropriate Calvin and Hobbes comic, and my definitions afterwards.

When you make a verb out of a noun, we call the word a denominative. For example, chair.

When you make a noun out of a verb, that’s a verbal noun. For example, run.

This is so common in English, and we’ve been doing it for so long, I think sometimes it’s hard to decide whether the verb or the noun came first. It’s easier in highly inflected languages; you just put a verb or noun inflection on the root word and there you have it. In English you need to rely on the context.

The humor comes in, of course, when you do this to a word that this doesn’t often happen to, such as the noun verb.

Anthropomorphism in Technical Writing

rogersgeorge on June 12th, 2017

A while back I wrote a series of posts on figures of speech. Figures of speech are ways of playing fast and loose with the language, on purpose, and managing to be understood when you do so. Someone (Hi, Sara) asked me to write about anthropomorphism, a figure of speech you don’t generally find in technical writing. Technical writing is supposed to be as direct and plain as possible.

Anthropomorphism is attributing animal (or inanimate) characteristics to humans (You lucky duck, you) or human characteristics to animals (or inanimate things), such as when you draw a comic with talking animals. Ahem:

Does this figure of speech have a place in technical writing? Perhaps, if it’s the best way to make an obscure point clear. Abstruse subjects can be made easier to understand with an illustration, an analogy, and that illustration could, sometimes, be an anthropomorphism.

I run into this a lot in the field of computing. We say computers think, have memory, and want things. A message recently popped up on my screen saying that a website wanted to know my location. Pure anthropomorphism! More than one mathematician has said that an asymptote (look it up) is a line that wants to approach something but never quite can. I’ve heard genuine astronomers refer to the man in the moon, an image of a face. As luck would have it, I just ran into this passage from a Scientific American article:

When I look at the Moon I see the history of our planet engraved on its pale grey surface. I have to see something, I still can’t make out this “man” you tell me about.

I suppose I could include an anthropomorphism that goes the other way. The first thing that came to mind was the title of an old hymn, Rock of Ages.

Now that you’ve seen a few examples, keep your eye open for this figure of speech in technical subjects. If you think of or notice a good one, share it in the comments.

Grammar Nazi gets it Wrong!

rogersgeorge on June 10th, 2017

Okay, sometimes those dogmatic folks who correct your English unasked get it wrong! Jump Start is a Case in point:

She makes three points, and two are wrong.

Split infinitive. Not putting an adverb between the “to” and the rest of the verb is a hold-over from Latin, promulgated by stuffy English teachers. English has been splitting infinitives for centuries. Just remember that Star Trek Movie, “to boldly go…”

Passive voice. She’s correct here. Not that the passive is ungrammatical, but writing that doesn’t use the passive is more energetic. Don’t go passive unless you want to hide the blame.

Ending a sentence with a preposition. Sorry, those are actually adverbs, part of separable verbs. Think of Churchill’s famous (and possibly apocryphal) remark, “Impertinence, young man, is something up with which I will not put.”

However, most of the time in this comic, she’s right.