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10:50 AM
@Martha Merge complete.
This is another question that comes up all the time:
Q: Should I use "is" or "was" in this example?

nicholas ainsworth They knew what mercy is. They knew what mercy was. Mercy is something that always exists so can I say is as in the above example?

Q: He didn't know where New Jersey was...

sombeI know the past tense carries the past tense in every dependent clause, but referring specifically to places or to things that are eternal, like the Earth, seems a bit weird and therefore we sometimes (I believe incorrectly) say He didn't know that New Jersey is actually in the East Coast. Beca...

Q: Tense change: previous actions on something that's currently true

Craig WalkerI'm describing a situation that happened in the past. To explain it, I want to use a description that is both true now and true when the situation happened. Specifically, I want something like: She touched me where my neck met my collarbone. Since my neck is still attached to my collarbone...

Q: Should we use past tense here?

ablmfIn this sentence, should is be was"? On April 13, 2009, Lugo admitted he is the father of a child conceived with Viviana Carrillo.

Q: Should I say 'What I wanted to say is' or 'What I wanted to say was'?

Eugene StrizhokFollowing Martha's advise I am splitting up a question Compound sentences, the punctuation and mooore. Let's put what I said / wrote something in the past. And now I want to elaborate some key points of spoken / written. So I start: What I wanted to say [is/was/are/were] ... What form of ...

11:15 AM
How's it going?
Q: Is there a word for "clever fool?"

Edwin RossWhat do you call a person who despite being very clever in one field, e.g. math or physics, behaves very unwisely or impractical in real life? I know some people who are very well educated and can solve difficult scientific problems, but they seem to belong to some different society. They can eas...

This feels like a T-Rex question.
@Kosmonaut: I know you're not here right now, but I was wondering if phatic communication is studied in linguistics, and if so does it form a separate branch governed by separate rules and grammar in many cases. It appears in all registers, I think, so I suppose grammar and structure would vary, but it seems to obey rules all its own.
Firefox 4 finally released.
They've upped the Canvas performance in FF 4, which is good to see ...
Hmm ... seems faster in chat than Safari Mac
@RegDwight — Voted to close as dupe.
11:52 AM
@Robusto it has much faster startup on my Mac
and I have to say, nearly instantaneous startup is soooo coooool
Firefox 3.x was soooo slow to startup.
I hope they've kicked the memory leak business for good now.
but one major issue bugs me: the in-browser PDF plugin was not updated
so, now I have to open them in Preview or download them, which hinders my workflow
No? Well, give Adobe a couple of weeks.
it's not Adobe, it's an open source thing
but really, it should be the browser's responsability
I'm trying a new wired mouse on my Mac. Still not sure I like the acceleration, but at least the Bluetooth lag is gone.
11:58 AM
Bluetooth lag?
I don't feel any
I use the  WunderMouse, and it feels just right
My bluetooth never worked well on my Mac Pro. Failing common to that model.
Is that the Mighty Mouse (US)?
WunderMouse is just my own silly name for it
I tried that and the new Magic Mouse, both of which would lag out with my 3rd party Bluetooth dongle.
So I got a Razer Naga. If I can get the acceleration right it should be OK. But it feels weird in my hand, as new mouses do.
gotta go, see you
Me too. Cya.
12:28 PM
I have no idea why this is still open:
Q: Are complex sentences uncommon or unwanted in English?

DafrI wrote my opinion essay using a lot of different complex grammatical structures, linking words and so on, and some of the sentences were even over 4 lines long. However, I was afterwards told by my English teacher that this is a bad habit, and any sentence one has to read twice to grasp is simp...

It has "subjective and argumentative" written all over it, and every single answer is an "it depends".
It's an excellent fit for Writers, though.
And "bad habits like the passive voice" got 41 upvotes, for crying out loud.
1:05 PM
@RegDwight: didn't I flag this for migration to writers?
No. No flags, no close votes. I am at a loss of words.
well, there reason I didn't flag is purely because I thought I already had
let me correct that right now
there, voted and flagged
Thanks a bunch.
can't you migrate if noone flagged?
I can do whatever I please, but I don't want to be doing that.
Sometimes I don't even close the most obvious dupes, but post them here first.
1:10 PM
Honestly, I'm not crazy about that question at writers.se
i think i'd close it as NARQ over there
yeah, power is supposed to corrupt, but I see it just makes you weak :)
too vague, etc.
@JSBangs That's an interesting point.
well, it's still the right place for it to be closed!
If it's too vague for Writers, which is all about "soft" questions such as this one, how come it ain't too vague for ELU?
1:12 PM
we accept critique questions at writers.se, but we prefer that you actually post a few paragraphs to look at
eg, this is a fine question: writers.stackexchange.com/questions/2165/…
@JSBangs I'm not talking about tagging this [critique]. I'd leave it as a general questions about writing.
Well, you're going to lose Satanicpuppy half his rep. ;)
Voted to close anyway, as it is certainly subjective and argumentative.
@JSBangs, there are a lot of generic questions over at Writers, such as how do I write an exposition, or how I name my characters, etc. I was thinking of fitting this one with those ones, rather than with [critique] questions.
Q: How can one make technical issues more accessible to a non-technical audience?

HedgeMageMost of what I write is non-fiction -- technical books, blog posts on open source topics, political stuff, etc. Lately, I find that some of the topics I am trying to present are much more technical than the intended audience is used to. I already plan to: Explain terms the first time they are...

Q: The "Rules" of Writing

sjohnstonThere are a lot of axioms that get tossed around in creative writing courses, books on writing, and of course, the internet. Often, these little gems are explained to new writers as though they were fact, to be taken for granted. Just as often, experienced writers will respond by saying "there ...

Q: How to overcome the fact that I can't write?

Jakub HamplMy problem is that I basically suck at writing. Especially prose. Part of it is basically because I don't practice as much as I could. Part of it is because I'm just not talented in that way. However (seemingly) brilliant ideas for stories keep invading my head bugging me to write them and de...

Q: How to name the characters of your story?

MnementhI find it hard to name my characters. Every normal name sounds funny if applied to a product of my fantasy. If I take a common name, I may get the image of someone I know into my head. And that may influence my vision of the character in a way I didn't intended. If I choose an uncommon name or in...

Q: How can one effectively organize scenes and snippets?

HedgeMageI tend to write bits of stories out of order. If I have a great idea for a scene, I want to get it down it while I have it, even if it doesn't come until three chapters later than the part I'm on right now. I also have smaller bits lying around -- a line of snappy dialog I haven't figured out w...

Q: How do you avoid purple prose?

BenI try to watch out for bland, overused adjectives and I keep adverbs to a minimum but -- I hear this phrase a lot and I'm not even sure what it means?

This type of questions, basically. The last one seems especially related.
good point
i'm not a mod over there, so my word is not law
the gist of my complaint is, basically, that i don't think it's a great question for any forum
@JSBangs Yeah, but you're probably more of a regular there than I am, so I certainly appreciate your thoughts on this.
1:18 PM
@JSBangs: In that question, trVoldemort asks: "I smell uncomfortable in this one, do you guys have any suggestions to polish it a little?" Very odd way to phrase that.
Wait, what? He smells uncomfortable in that one?
That's what he says.
How's that for purple prose...
This is why I avoid Writers.SE. Someone dumps a tub of sweaty, malodorous prose in front of you and asks for a sponge bath.
Well, you can always take revenge.
And don't tell me you wouldn't.
1:20 PM
I'm not the vengeful type.
I'm the sarcastic type. There's a difference.
About the "complex sentences" question: I took the non-argumentative part, or what I perceived as such, and answered that first: long, complex sentences are generally less common in modern English than in German etc...
@Cerberus Yeah, there certainly is an on-topic question buried deep in there. The thing is, it's mostly a dupe of the far better
Q: Is there a historical trend towards shorter sentences?

SeamusFrom my own reading of older books (eg. 18th, 19th century) in various styles (novels, philosophical treatises, scientific publications), it seems that sentences were longer back then. Is there good hard data on this? Have sentences in fiction shrunk faster than sentences in, say philosophy jour...

I mean, just look at Claudiu's answer there!
A: Is there a historical trend towards shorter sentences?

ClaudiuI believe the answer is definitely yes. A quick google search turned up this book result, "The History of the English paragraph," by Edwin Herbert Lewis, where it says: In view of the now well known fact(1) that the English sentence has decreased in average length at least one half in three ...

Periodic sentences are pretty much a relic in modern English. Other than that, read The New Yorker and you will find plenty of long, complex sentences.
There you have some hard data.
And it only got him 13 upvotes.
@Reg: Wow, agreed.
1:23 PM
@RegDwight Well, is the sample size statistically significant?
Could one prove the opposite with cherry-picked examples?
I will happily sacrifice the 200ish rep I got from the former question if it should be closed as a dupe.
Now compare that to the answer by Satanicpuppy, which is basically speculation (Short sentences are clear and easy to read -- says who?), that contradicts itself (he goes on to provide a long sentence that is clear and easy to read).
Well, I took it as a joke, not an analysis...
But I agree that it is generally not the highest-quality answers that get the most votes, compared with better answers to less popular questions.
@Cerberus Yes, but look at the very first comment. It takes that weakness and makes it appear as a strength. "The only way this answer could be better is if the second sentence didn't read so well. :) " Which is just another way of saying, "The only way this answer could be better is if it were actually correct".
I linked to the wrong chat message. I meant to link to this one:
3 mins ago, by RegDwight
A: Is there a historical trend towards shorter sentences?

ClaudiuI believe the answer is definitely yes. A quick google search turned up this book result, "The History of the English paragraph," by Edwin Herbert Lewis, where it says: In view of the now well known fact(1) that the English sentence has decreased in average length at least one half in three ...

Comparing five or six books across the centuries does not seem sufficient.
1:28 PM
@Robusto I have no idea, but at least it attempts to provide some data, which is certainly more helpful than bluntly stating "short sentence good, long sentence bad".
@Reg: I suppose it might be bad if people took his answer as an analysis rather than an artistic attempt... but who would be so foolish? Frankly it doesn't bother me a great deal.
@Cerberus Well then go upvote nohat for his Kiwi answer. Pronto.
@Reg: Eh, where?
P.S. I have to leave in 30 secs, hehe...
A: What is the origin of "kiwifruit"?

nohatBecause, you see, the fruit actually comes from the Kiwi bird from New Zealand:

@RegDwight Well, I think maybe it is worse to dress up an opinion in faulty statistics. At least it is easy to tell that SatanicPuppy is giving an opinion, not making a so-called "factual" statement.
1:31 PM
@Reg: Aww.... okay that deserved an upvote! Especially the razor is a felicitous addition.
@Robusto You certainly have a point. On the other hand, don't you find it disturbing how actual data gets criticized so quickly, while opinion gets a free ride?
This is not Fox News.
@RegDwight — I mind when opinion masquerades as fact. "Lies, damned lies, and statistics."
Yeah, I totally see your point. I'm not sure if I'm clearly articulating mine...
Gotta go, bye!
1:35 PM
The fact is, when someone begins a sentence with "the fact is," that sentence will probably contain not a single provable fact.
I can keep going forever.
This is the answer that never ends...
Heh. Or maybe it's better with "the question."
Mar 11 at 15:44, by drachenstern
ahem > longest running community wiki thread ever ahem
@Robusto hear, hear!
1:37 PM
This one does go on forever.
Yeah, I love Kosmonaut's avatar.
Never got to compliment him/her on it.
How clever of @Kosmonaut to have harnessed the power of the wheel.
Thear, thear! But what if I begin the sentence with "the fact of the matter is," -- am I safe then?
I also nominate "It turns out that..."
@RegDwight — I refer you to The White Company for a discussion of matter and mind: William of Ockham vs. Duns Scotus.
My favorite is: "Studies show ..."
1:38 PM
My favorite would be "I think ...". That one gets me in trouble most often.
oh, yeah. "Studies show" : people with a college degree :: "The Bible says" : fundamentalists
Are you a translator, Robusto?
@Robusto What's with that link???
Mar 12 at 1:30, by RegDwight
Coito ergo sum.
This has never gotten you into trouble?
1:40 PM
Too late to have full effect.
No, as it doesn't begin with "I think".
Stupid C&P.
I know that.
Remember the "Joke" idea you taught me yesterday? I'm just trying to use that for the first time.
The thing is, many more of my sentences begin with "I think" than with "Coito ergo sum".
@Billare — No, not a translator, except informally for my own (legal) purposes.
1:42 PM
You misspelled illegal.
@RegDwight — The "il-" is silent the way I pronounce it, so why not leave it out?
It must leave a trace. According to Chomsky. Or something.
What, like the circumflex over the vowel in French?
Yeah, or that.
Hmm ... I'm afraid to agree with that lest I be labeled a Chomskyite.
1:45 PM
I'll label you things anyway.
I know. You already cruelly mocked me for my age.
did somebody say chomskyite? let me sharpen my pitchfork...
@Robusto If you're not a translator, why are you reading obscure translation in what seems to be Old English?
Feb 18 at 17:08, by Michael Myers
@Robusto If people don't get your jokes, there are several possible explanations. Only one of them is that they lack humor. ;)
@Billare — I studied Old English (among other things) as an undergrad in English. I had to translate Beowulf as part of the advanced class.
But that doesn't make me a translator.
1:47 PM
You were an English major?
@RegDwight — And yet that is the simplest explanation. So, applying Occam's Razor, we have to conclude that it is more likely that others lack humor.
@Billare — As an undergrad, yes.
Being the simplest explanation to you doesn't make it the simplest explanation in general.
@RegDwight — Well, I am a man among Turing machines here. We've been over this before ...
Alan Turing would have loved the sound of that. "A man among Turing machines". Yummy.
Bagels beckon, wanting breakfast
I leave for luscious food at last
Gone not long, but gluttony gleaning
Cream cheese and chives on the toast.
Make sure you sing it with the coesuras.
2:08 PM
Q: Is there a word for "clever fool?"

Edwin RossWhat do you call a person who despite being very clever in one field, e.g. math or physics, behaves very unwisely or impractical in real life? I know some people who are very well educated and can solve difficult scientific problems, but they seem to belong to some different society. They can eas...

i'm a little bit appalled at the leading answer for this question
@RegDwight Damn you. I had to sign up at Writers.SE just to post a comment on that question. Hmph. I had been resisting so well up 'til now.
@JSBangs Yeah, hence my comment about borrowing the German Fachidiot.
Which would be a perfect fit. Idiot savant makes me think of mentally disabled people. Though looking at the M-W definition number 2, the meaning seems to be shifting / have shifted.
Idiot used to mean a mentally disabled person.
i've actually never observed the second meaning in action
if you called me an idiot savant, i'd be pretty deeply insulted
@JSBangs Neither have I. But M-W is not pulling it out of nowhere, I imagine.
(Though I am not sure out of where exactly.)
2:18 PM
50-69 Moron
20-49 Imbecile
below 20 Idiot
Moron, imbecile, idiot. Very precise terms in their day, denoting IQ thresholds and precise functional capabilities, now relegated to vague generalities.
What is it called again? The pejorative windmill?
Either way, I am not sure how ivory tower is an answer at all.
It's not.
A lawyer would call that a non-responsive answer.
Autistic is also not a very good answer.
I remarked earlier that this felt like a T-Rex question anyway.
@Martha Resistance is futile. What are you complaining about anyway? You now have two comments, an answer, badges, and 30 rep.
Yeah, I was surprised by those badges and rep, then found the migrated question that's responsible for them. It was... unexpected.
@Martha You wanted to reply to ShreevatsaR here:
Q: What's the indent rule of poetry?

trVoldemortI've seen people indent their poems like below: Writing on wall It was just plane writing on wall I must have taken it a serious call She was on and off repeating same thing There was hidden message through something There may be long wait All dependants on fate How can on...

2:28 PM
Um. Yeah. Don't remember what I was gonna say. Hm.
Well, I can't remember your thoughts for you.
That's a terrible deficiency in an omniscient being.
Interesting, my and Martha's comments at the start of the series got stripped, but someone is clearly referencing them.
Yeah, I wonder why they haven't just stripped them all.
@Robusto I must admit I rather like "normal" as an answer, even though it isn't right.
This might have to do with recognising myself in that description, though :-)
2:38 PM
@Rhodri — haha.
3:07 PM
@RegDwight — Did the Powers That Be ever release the new data dump?
@Robusto I gave up looking/waiting for it.
But it turns out, there is a new dump.
Except that it somehow doesn't seem right... Some queries return old data.
... actually, all of them.
That's what they call Etikettenschwindel in Germany.
Just label something as "21 Mar" and be done.
Hahaha. Good one.
3:22 PM
Hi @ArthurRex. Are you the ArthurRex or an evil impostor?
Q: Stack Exchange Data Explorer was not really updated

FXThe Stack Exchange Data Explorer page claims that the “English Language & Usage” data was last updated on March 21, but the data is much older than that. One example of query where this is highlighted: http://data.stackexchange.com/english/qe/208/keystrokes-per-rep-point returns reputation f...

@Fx Oh, cool.
Strangely, keeping an eye on the chat causes me to waste less time on this site
@MrHen Yup, I barely answer any questions these days.
Robusto is the only one who can reliably get 300+ rep on the main site and post 300+ rubbish messages here every single day.
As far as answers/comments, I sort of lurked around a bit before posting but let me know if I am getting annoying :P
@RegDwight Haha
3:30 PM
@RegDwight That's because @Robusto is special.
You mean spatial?
No, I mean special said with a southern drawl. ];->
Ah, I thought you were referring to this:
Feb 8 at 10:29, by Robusto
user image
"Why's everybody always pickin' on me?"
He sure looks like a spade in that photo.
Spade => Spaten in German => spatial.
3:34 PM
"Spade" is an ethnic slur for African-American. Just another data point for you.
Mar 13 at 15:15, by Cerberus
Ah! So épée is cognate with spade. I should have known.
@Robusto Eh? Really? Since when?
"Derogatory meaning "black person" is 1928, from the color of the playing card symbol."
@Robusto really? i've never heard that
Heh, interesting. I suppose anything black was a slur at some point in history.
3:37 PM
has anybody used it since the 30's, though?
So I figure native Americans must be called Hearts then?
@JSBangs It was current while I was in school (in the UK) in the 70s, but I haven't heard it since.
Hey, here is an opinion question: How much editing should be done on questions that are formatted poorly?
4:06 PM
I would say almost anything goes as long as the reformatting actually makes the question easier to read/understand (instead of just making it conform to the editor's pet peeves).
@MrHen Formatting problems should be fixed with extreme prejudice, but grammatical mistakes and even typos are arguably a different beast altogether.
Duplicate alert:
Q: "All Things Is/Are Ephemeral"

JFW All Things Is/Are Ephemeral I know that are is meant to be the verb connecting the two fragments together, but why...? (Gut instinct)

Q: "Is there any proof" versus "are there any proofs"

mplungjanThe stack exchange question "Is there any concrete-solid proofs of this space odyssey?" made me want to edit it to remove the s in proofs (someone with enough flair did), however it made me wonder about the plurality of any and proofs. So please enlighten me about which one is correct. Is t...

I suppose it's not incredibly obvious, but they are basically the same question.
Hmm. The more I think about it, the less duplicative they look.
@Rhodri meh, I think that these are not the same
Great, now I'm going to be spending the afternoon creating random adjectives from "duplicate".
Duplicious implies that we like the things. Duplicatory might work.
4:12 PM
I like it.
@RegDwight — Wow, I had no idea the amount of resentment seething under the surface here.
@Robusto Hahaha. Whaddayamean, "under" the surface?
Well, it bubbles and boils and erupts from time to time.
Like a volcano.
Or like Malcolm Lowry.
4:27 PM
Hm. But how is appreciation a resentment?
I said you were the only one capable of pulling off both A and B. And it was rather obvious that I am only capable of pulling off B. So?
Nothing was said about you pulling anything. I guess that was implied.
Or assumed.
Oder selbstverstaendlich.
Anyway, lunch now. Psychiatry later.
Sometimes I have no idea if you're really in your let's-take-stuff-literally mood, or just messing with me...
Is there a practical difference?
4:34 PM
Well, not for me, but there could be one for him.
Anyhow, I have to go home. TTYL!
A: Why does "I got 'busted' for smoking weed" mean 'caught'?

RhodriEtymonline tends to back up MrHen's guess: variant of burst, 1764, Amer.Eng. The verb sense of [...] "arrest" is from 1953 (earlier "to raid" from Prohibition). Unfortunately this doesn't give us a lot of insight into how that meaning involved, but "bu[r]sting in" to places where criminal a...

@Rhodri: Was "involved" supposed to be "evolved"?
Er, yes, thanks. That's what I get for multitasking.
:) No worries. I was too lazy to look it up. :P
BTW, I upvoted your comment since you didn't put it as an answer I could upvote
I kind of feel like I'm stealing your kudos
It's cool; I figured making the comment would force an answer to go look it up for me :D
As opposed to the other answer on that question which basically said the same thing as the comment :P
4:42 PM
Damn, I fell for it. And I'd been trying to avoid doing any work for a T-Rex question today too!
To be fair, I'd been trying to avoid doing any work full stop :-)
5:01 PM
@Rhodri "Hear, hear" for avoiding work, full stop.
5:50 PM
@RegDwight — The literal is a sleeping demon that lies just beneath the surface of any facade that the mind can project; just when you think it is safely tamed and powerless it lunges through the veneer of pretension and buries its fangs in your heart.
Huhuh, fangs, huhuh.
Stop bursting through my pretensions.
Huhuh, bursting, huhuh.
I told you to stop. That's two warnings.
Don't push me, young man. I will turn this chat around right now.
Laughable. Only I can start talking about tea in received pronunciation. Your accent is too thick.
Anyhow, did ArthurRex leave before or after Rhodri's comment?
5:58 PM
IDK but he is still peddling his particular brand of pre-digested questions.
I'm just saying that we should be super-duper careful now or something. Big Arthur is watching us.
I ain't afraid of no T-Rex.
Who do you call?
I generally call the Grammar Police.

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