# It's a Different Set of Rules

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• There but for the grace of God... 2007-10-15 14:05
Angie suffers from the malady "English Major's Brain". People who choose English as their major area of study in college instead of Computer Science or Engineering aren't thinking ahead to what can make them a decent living.

Even though my speling, grammer, and punctuation are'nt exactly correct, I can at least make a better living than most people who pursued liberal areas of study in college.
• Pap 2007-10-15 14:05
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.
• ObiWayneKenobi 2007-10-15 14:07
The REAL WTF(TM) is how did this person manage to get a job as a programmer to begin with? Even a neophyte should understand that programming syntax is not the same as English syntax.
• Lynx 2007-10-15 14:16
ObiWayneKenobi:
The REAL WTF(TM) is how did this person manage to get a job as a programmer to begin with?

Eh? You're reading WTF and actually asking this question?
• 1337 2007-10-15 14:24
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?
• MikeCD 2007-10-15 14:30
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean 0xf0rd
• Critic 2007-10-15 14:33
There but for the grace of God...:
Angie suffers from the malady "English Major's Brain". People who choose English as their major area of study in college instead of Computer Science or Engineering aren't thinking ahead to what can make them a decent living.

Even though my speling, grammer, and punctuation are'nt exactly correct, I can at least make a better living than most people who pursued liberal areas of study in college.

Too bad making a better living doesn't make you a better person.
• Vechni 2007-10-15 14:33
outprinting "the result is " and naming your variables 'value'.... classic WTF signs.
• Jaap-Jan 2007-10-15 14:35
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?
Off course not.

By the way, you spelt 'write' wrong, wright?
• gabba 2007-10-15 14:48
I, for one, hope she finds a good job as an editor somewhere. I'm glad to see someone standing up for proper grammar these days.
• etr 2007-10-15 14:48
Neither does being able to spell correctly...
• Spoe 2007-10-15 14:49
A comma outside the quote is perfectly acceptable English syntax. It just depends on the style book you're using. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, lists this as a perfectly acceptable alternate syntax for quotations. There's a couple of others containing similar rules.
• RadiantMatrix 2007-10-15 14:50
Oh, this makes me happy:
Their our alot of common mistakes that people make to often that could of easily been avoided.

Very well done, sir.
• An honest mouse 2007-10-15 14:51
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...
• Mark 2007-10-15 14:53
Simple, all we need to do for this programmer is write a macro which reverses the order of arguments. Then she can write the grammatically correct:

PRINT( x, "The value is %s." );

The macro should probably also add a \n onto the end of the format string too, since that was absent.

Why bother learning the programming language when you can just rewrite it to satisfy how you think it should work?
• phaedrus 2007-10-15 15:02
An honest mouse:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...

I would only had have corrected this statement if I saw all the errors.
• K 2007-10-15 15:03
Pap:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

Oxford commas are related to use of commas in lists, not in quotations.
• Brilliance 2007-10-15 15:07
Angie went on to conceive a much simpler programming language based heavily on common English conventions. She never acted on the idea. Instead, she simply vented to her friend Matsumoto and then changed careers to red gemstone wholesales. Go figure.
• There but for the grace of God... 2007-10-15 15:07
Spoken like a true English Major...
• J 2007-10-15 15:14
Angie should check out Inform 7: http://www.inform-fiction.org/I7/Inform%207.html
• Sean 2007-10-15 15:15
The comma (or period) inside the quotes thing is ridiculous in English anyway. If you're quoting someone, and they didn't have a comma in what they said/wrote, it makes no sense to add the comma inside the quotation marks, given the meaning of "quoting" someone. Also it looks "stupid."
• Troy Mclure 2007-10-15 15:15
Oh I get it - the WTF is that she's a girl and she's in programming. Good one!
• Calli Arcale 2007-10-15 15:17
There but for the grace of God...:
Angie suffers from the malady "English Major's Brain". People who choose English as their major area of study in college instead of Computer Science or Engineering aren't thinking ahead to what can make them a decent living.

My bachelor's of arts is in English and Computer Science (double major). I most certainly know the difference between natural language and programming languages. For one thing, programming languages make considerably more sense. ;-)

Anyone who can grasp the often perplexing rules of English grammar should have no trouble accepting that C++ is different, especially given its relative simplicity of syntax. This woman is an embarrassment to English majors.
• Harrow 2007-10-15 15:17
I think you can test for computer programming talent long before going anywhere near LOGO or BASIC or any other formal language. Just look for the kids who are always asking why English syntax and spelling are so wierd^Wweird^Wstupid.

I don't care what languages he's worked in or what project experience he's had; send me the candidate who's comfortable punctuating the English sentence
I said 'Did he ask "Are you going?" or "Aren't you going?"?'.
and I'll teach him what he needs to know about #@%*ing ASP.

-Harrow.
• Jo 2007-10-15 15:20
No wait - I get it!

The WTF is that printf is a C (without any pluses or anything) function, right?
• evil muffin 2007-10-15 15:25
the lack of \n ;)
• Pap 2007-10-15 15:40
K:
Pap:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

Oxford commas are related to use of commas in lists, not in quotations.

I'm saying they do it differently in Britain.
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Comma_(punctuation)#Differences_between_American_and_British_usage

Note the British usage in conformity with that of a programming language.

Sean knows what I'm talking about.
• Mike 2007-10-15 15:42
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

Hands up...who, like me, didn't even notice the mistake in this sentance until it was brought up in comments?
• xix 2007-10-15 15:45
I bet they hired a pure mathematician later on, and unfortunately thier head exploded at the impossibility of i = i + 1
• snoofle 2007-10-15 15:47
Mark:
Simple, all we need to do for this programmer is write a macro which reverses the order of arguments. Then she can write the grammatically correct:

PRINT( x, "The value is %s." );

The macro should probably also add a \n onto the end of the format string too, since that was absent.

Why bother learning the programming language when you can just rewrite it to satisfy how you think it should work?

Oh goody:

#define PRINT(a1,s) printf(s,a1)
#define PRINT(a1,a2,s) printf(s,a1,a2)
...
#define PRINT(a1,a2,...,a100,s) printf(s,a1,a2,...,a100);
...

puhleeze don't give them any ideas!
• wtf 2007-10-15 15:49
im just happy we had 3 stories today
• Tim 2007-10-15 15:50
It's not even a matter of being an alternative. It's the correct form in Britain, to say nothing of being far more logical - people do not say ",", therefore they should not be reported as such! Silly left-pondians...
• snoofle 2007-10-15 15:51
Brilliance:
Angie went on to conceive a much simpler programming language based heavily on common English conventions.

Sorry, already done:

000100 IDENTIFICATION DIVISION.
000200 PROGRAM-ID. HELLOWORLD.
000300
000400*
000500 ENVIRONMENT DIVISION.
000600 CONFIGURATION SECTION.
000700 SOURCE-COMPUTER. RM-COBOL.
000800 OBJECT-COMPUTER. RM-COBOL.
000900
001000 DATA DIVISION.
001100 FILE SECTION.
001200
100000 PROCEDURE DIVISION.
100100
100200 MAIN-LOGIC SECTION.
100300 BEGIN.
100400 DISPLAY " " LINE 1 POSITION 1 ERASE EOS.
100500 DISPLAY "Hello world!" LINE 15 POSITION 10.
100600 STOP RUN.
100700 MAIN-LOGIC-EXIT.
100800 EXIT.

• FredSaw 2007-10-15 15:59
Mike:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

Hands up...who, like me, didn't even notice the mistake in this sentance until it was brought up in comments?
By the mistake, do you mean using "could of" instead of "could have", or using "to" for "too"?
• Random832 2007-10-15 16:01
I'd have said "Well, it's not really the same as a comma in english, it just looks like one - it goes before each parameter other than the first" - and corrected it to printf("The value is %d" ,value);
• mare 2007-10-15 16:01
That <i>sentence</i> made absolutely no sense to me until I read it out loud :P

And the real WTF are commas in English in general... i never get them right.
• mare 2007-10-15 16:03
FredSaw:
Mike:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

Hands up...who, like me, didn't even notice the mistake in this sentance until it was brought up in comments?
By the mistake, do you mean using "could of" instead of "could have", or using "to" for "too"?
That sentence made absolutely no sense to me until I read it out loud :P

And the real WTF are commas in English in general... i never get them right.

And please ignore my previous post... it's late ;)
• ParkinT 2007-10-15 16:07
gabba:
I, for one, hope she finds a good job as an editor somewhere. I'm glad to see someone standing up for proper grammar these days.

That's right.
The days of good English has went!
• Kiasyn 2007-10-15 16:08
#define PRINT( ..., s ) printf( (s), __VA_ARGS__ )

doubt this would work though.
• Spacewarp 2007-10-15 16:11
Me spell chucker work grate, butt eye knead a grandma chicken.
• Spoe 2007-10-15 16:12
Tim:
It's not even a matter of being an alternative. It's the correct form in Britain, to say nothing of being far more logical - people do not say ",", therefore they should not be reported as such! Silly left-pondians...

It is an alternative, no? You just happen to speak and write a dialect of English that uses the logical method of handling quotations as the default.

At least we don't stick extra letters and syllables in to perfectly serviceable words like "color" and "aluminum". Just think of the wasted ink and paper! ;)
• rank this 2007-10-15 16:14
mare:
That <i>sentence</i> made absolutely no sense to me until I read it out loud :P

And the real WTF are commas in English in general... i never get them right.

It's bb code, not html.

Again, trouble with language differences

Captcha dubya
• Jon B 2007-10-15 16:21
Reminds me of Dilbert's code review: "I don't think you understand the proper usage of the semicolon. And I'm not too fond of your over usage of curly braces, either."

As for good grammar for software engineers... The rest of the world thinks we're somehow smarter than everyone else. When people find out you can't spell you're [sic] way out of a paper bag, they suddenly loose [sic] confidence in your programming abilities. If they can spell better than you, then they're smarter than you, and if they're not smart enough to write software...
• FredSaw 2007-10-15 16:31
Jon B:
they suddenly loose [sic] confidence in your programming abilities.
One of the funniest things I ever saw on the internet was a heated exchange by two guys on a forum. Couched in the middle of a stream of vituperation was this gem: "Can you spell looser?"
• Anon 2007-10-15 16:37
The whole "comma inside or outside the quotes" thing isn't even a grammar issue. It's a typographic issue. It only comes up when you're printing. Otherwise the correct answer is to write the quote marks above the comma like a normal person.

Problem is that simple typography can't do that. So American typographers decided that the comma should come before the quote because it looked better.

But grammatically, it's completely irrelevant: they both come at the end of the phrase, and there is no specific order: they're just there.
• Michael 2007-10-15 16:41
Critic:
Too bad making a better living doesn't make you a better person.

You don't go to college to be a good person. You go to learn the skills you need to make a good living. At least thats why I thought I was spending assanine amounts of money to have some professor state the obvious to me for 8 hours a week so I can get a pretty piece of paper with my name on it.
• Ancient_Hacker 2007-10-15 16:54
Oh Lord, this reminds me of when I was writing a User Manual.

I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

I tried to persuade them that these were not quotation marks, but "literal marks", and putting the comma inside would be commanding the user to type Quit comma, which was incorrect.

I never did manage to convince them of the right way to do this. So every instance of a command example in the manual was correct English, but wrong, in that it did not work.

I almost changed the program to accept a trailing comma, but that would have been unpalatable (to me).

• purge 2007-10-15 17:07
Mark:
Why bother learning the programming language when you can just rewrite it to satisfy how you think it should work?

Seriously, what's wrong with creating wrappers for standard library functions that allow you to reorder the parameters as you see fit? If a function takes n parameters, a series of simple tests (type, length, range) would tell the function which is which. This is how all programming languages should be.
• ajb 2007-10-15 17:12
I remember that commas can be used for english if,then conditions and as brackets around text that can be ignored.
Some early versions of Basic, pre .NET, back in line numbered days even allowed it in place of the THEN.
You can't have a . in the middle of a sentence either.
Oops, done it again!

• Gamen 2007-10-15 17:13
An honest mouse:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...

You win a free internet for that Loudon Wainright reference.
• Zygo 2007-10-15 17:28
FredSaw:
vituperation

This is the second most interesting word I've looked up in a dictionary today.

Earlier this afternoon I discovered that the word "towel" can be used as a verb, meaning "to beat with a stick."

O_o

• Dot For Now 2007-10-15 17:38
I worked with a guy whose girlfriend had almost no understanding of programming. She did, however, know enough to call him 10 times a day for help.

I suppose it was worth it to him to put up that so she could earn \$60,000.

I knew both of them from college and she'd taken one CS class and done quite poorly.

Later at another job I met someone who had worked with her and he said she was quite pleasant but got very defensive when asaked any kind of technical question. I suppose because it is bad form to call your boyfriend up in the middle of a discussion with a coworker.

Lost touch with the happy couple and can't tell you what happened after that.
• foxyshadis 2007-10-15 17:50
Tim:
It's not even a matter of being an alternative. It's the correct form in Britain, to say nothing of being far more logical - people do not say ",", therefore they should not be reported as such! Silly left-pondians...

People generally don't say full-stop, tend to stutter, and use a lot of ers and ums. Writers and editors are there to distill that into something more readable.

Commas on the outside do seem more logical, and I've been annoying teachers/TAs since junior high by doing that, long before programming anything. Some conventions are more useful than others.
• PT 2007-10-15 17:56
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?

common like "there" "are" and "a lot" ?
• Franz Kafka 2007-10-15 17:58
purge:
Mark:
Why bother learning the programming language when you can just rewrite it to satisfy how you think it should work?

Seriously, what's wrong with creating wrappers for standard library functions that allow you to reorder the parameters as you see fit? If a function takes n parameters, a series of simple tests (type, length, range) would tell the function which is which. This is how all programming languages should be.

Pity the poor bastard who has to maintain your gratuitous nonstandard crap. It's not as if there's a reason for swapping the parameters al around.
• chris 2007-10-15 18:36
It's not a Loudon Anything reference, it's how you form that friggin sentence. It's called the goddamned subjunctive mood, and you best learn it if you want to speak English.

Right: "...if she were educated at Oxford."
Wrong: "...if she was educated at Oxford."

Right: "I wish that every kiss were never-ending."
Wrong: "I wish that every kiss was never-ending."
• real_aardvark 2007-10-15 18:47
Anon:
The whole "comma inside or outside the quotes" thing isn't even a grammar issue. It's a typographic issue. It only comes up when you're printing. Otherwise the correct answer is to write the quote marks above the comma like a normal person.

Problem is that simple typography can't do that. So American typographers decided that the comma should come before the quote because it looked better.

But grammatically, it's completely irrelevant: they both come at the end of the phrase, and there is no specific order: they're just there.

Well, there's written grammar and there's spoken grammar. Indeed, pushing a point, there's even demotic grammar, which rarely makes much sense when written down (unless by a writer with a perfect ear), but differs considerably from "received" spoken grammar.

Thinking about it, the logical place for a comma is outside the parentheses (and quotation marks are nothing if not parentheses). This is therefore one of those rare cases where computer languages have got it right and natural language/typography has got it wrong. But, we're stuck with convention. The point of convention is that you don't (mentally) stutter when you read something -- just as the compiler won't (umm ... mentally) stutter when it reads something.

Of course, if you expect an Oxford liberal arts graduate to be any use at computers, then you're dreaming (spires or otherwise). Believe me. I'm one, and we're all idiots.
xix:
I bet they hired a pure mathematician later on, and unfortunately thier head exploded at the impossibility of i = i + 1

Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.
• Opie 2007-10-15 19:21
purge:

Seriously, what's wrong with creating wrappers for standard library functions that allow you to reorder the parameters as you see fit? If a function takes n parameters, a series of simple tests (type, length, range) would tell the function which is which. This is how all programming languages should be.

I hope there was heavy sarcasm there.
What are you going to do with a function with the following prototype, using your logic?

void someFunction(int a, int b, int c)

Yeah...
Good luck reordering those and getting proper output that means anything...

Type checks are useless, here, as are range checks, depending on what, exactly, the function does. Length is also useless, since they're all the same type.

Good job.
• Opie 2007-10-15 19:23
real_aardvark:

Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.

They'd easily be able to cope with it because they are logical, thinking individuals.
However, even if they were being pedantic, you could point out that i = i + 1 is equivalent to i = add(i,1) and they would likely be happy.
• guest 2007-10-15 19:36
Spoe:

At least we don't stick extra letters and syllables in to perfectly serviceable words like "color" and "aluminum". Just think of the wasted ink and paper! ;)

You do, and in some cases you make it harder to write while being efficient with letters. If English had a proper spelling, your post would have looked something like this:
Et liist wi don't stik ekstra letəz and siləblz in tuu pəfektli səvisbl wərds layk "color" end "aluminum". Jəst ink of the weystd ink end peypr! ;)

(at least if I can get the pronunciation of words correct, but with the current spelling of English, it's not that simple.)

But no, such a spelling doesn't seem to work with English. It works better with languages like Italian.
• guest 2007-10-15 19:45
Aha (or does it have to be "uh huh", or something like this?), interesting: http://www.spellingsociety.org/

• jmroth 2007-10-15 20:31
A second comma would have been too creative.
Oh well, some people may also not be able to count to two.
Never mind.
• Math PhD 2007-10-15 21:40
Opie:
real_aardvark:

Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.

They'd easily be able to cope with it because they are logical, thinking individuals.
However, even if they were being pedantic, you could point out that i = i + 1 is equivalent to i = add(i,1) and they would likely be happy.

Why would that make me happy? In case you haven't noticed, mathematicians invented operator overloading.
• Daniel Beardsmore 2007-10-15 22:05
Spoe:
At least we don't stick extra letters and syllables in to perfectly serviceable words like "color" and "aluminum". Just think of the wasted ink and paper! ;)

Burglarized vs burgled ...
• operagost 2007-10-15 22:55
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?

off course
• Atario 2007-10-15 23:05
Harrow:
send me the candidate who's comfortable punctuating the English sentence
I said 'Did he ask "Are you going?" or "Aren't you going?"?'.
and I'll teach him what he needs to know about #@%*ing ASP.

I do it that way all the time. Sometimes I even purposely reformulate a sentence to make it come out with nontraditional, but logical, punctuation like that.
• Googlewhack! 2007-10-15 23:52
Adam V.'s real name is Dr. Joe Newcomer.

Angie's real name is unpublished, but she graduated from CMU.

http://www.flounder.com/bricks.htm

(And how did I find this? My Google search produced exactly one result. But while producing it, Google asked if I meant print instead of printf.)

(Hey you stupid captcha, it should be print not paint.)
• immibis 2007-10-16 00:12
"I can't figure out why it won't complile?"

A spaling error AND an out-of-place question-ma?k in the same sentence? From a grammer expert?
• Adam 2007-10-16 03:34
Rather ironic that the article is littered with grammatical errors.
• Pete 2007-10-16 03:35
Sadly, it would seem that Angie never managed to reconcile all of the differences between English and C++ and was let go less than a year later.

Wow. Cheap shot from the story poster.

Under a year sounds about right for any junior programmer. If they're actually good, they'll move on as most companies don't promote. If they're as hopeless as the above snide remark suggests, they'd not have have lasted past the first couple of months.

To be honest, the way this story's written makes me wonder if it's intended to be a "code" version of the coffee cup holder story. On any other grounds, it's just a typo story with the poster attributing it (the junior's explanation of the typo and why she didn't immediately spot it) to stupidity.
• aet 2007-10-16 03:48
Ancient_Hacker:

Oh Lord, this reminds me of when I was writing a User Manual.

I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

I tried to persuade them that these were not quotation marks, but "literal marks", and putting the comma inside would be commanding the user to type Quit comma, which was incorrect.

I never did manage to convince them of the right way to do this. So every instance of a command example in the manual was correct English, but wrong, in that it did not work.

I almost changed the program to accept a trailing comma, but that would have been unpalatable (to me).

This is so much better than the original story :-)
• Hognoxious 2007-10-16 05:53
They might (in the sense that it indicates a pause) if they later went on and said something else.

My punctuation's got terrible, what with years of programming plus confusion between English and American styles.

http://catb.org/jargon/html/writing-style.html
• Thief^ 2007-10-16 05:56
Ancient_Hacker:
Oh Lord, this reminds me of when I was writing a User Manual.

I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

I tried to persuade them that these were not quotation marks, but "literal marks", and putting the comma inside would be commanding the user to type Quit comma, which was incorrect.

I never did manage to convince them of the right way to do this. So every instance of a command example in the manual was correct English, but wrong, in that it did not work.

I almost changed the program to accept a trailing comma, but that would have been unpalatable (to me).

You should have made it so that on receiving "Quit," it would print a message about how this is an error in the manual, that the ',' should have been outside the quotes and the correct command is "Quit".

Though be careful, some people will type the command with the quotes intact.
• NiceWTF 2007-10-16 06:04
I have never understood this peculiarity of the english language.

Quotation marks are used to, well, quote text. The comma itself does clearly not belong to the quoted text itself, but serves to separate it from the surrounding text.

Thus, to me (as a programmer, obviously..sure) it seems completely illogical to place the comma within the quotes, ever.

IMHO, it should be considered wrong in English for the same reason that it is wrong in most programming languages.
• Hognoxious 2007-10-16 06:06
real_aardvark:
Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.
I assume that's supposed to be an arrow. It's lucky you don't want to decrement the variable, because i <= i - 1 is pretty confusing too. How can i be less than or equal to one less than itself?

They just need to understand that it,s not an equation, it's a command; there's an implied make or let before it.
• Synonymous Awkward 2007-10-16 06:11
NiceWTF:
I have never understood this peculiarity of the english language.

Quotation marks are used to, well, quote text. The comma itself does clearly not belong to the quoted text itself, but serves to separate it from the surrounding text.

Thus, to me (as a programmer, obviously..sure) it seems completely illogical to place the comma within the quotes, ever.

IMHO, it should be considered wrong in English for the same reason that it is wrong in most programming languages.

It is considered wrong in English. Can't speak for American, though.
• LightningDragon 2007-10-16 07:10
Harrow:
I think you can test for computer programming talent long before going anywhere near LOGO or BASIC or any other formal language. Just look for the kids who are always asking why English syntax and spelling are so wierd^Wweird^Wstupid.

I don't care what languages he's worked in or what project experience he's had; send me the candidate who's comfortable punctuating the English sentence
I said 'Did he ask "Are you going?" or "Aren't you going?"?'.
and I'll teach him what he needs to know about #@%*ing ASP. Plus I occasionally wish English had something like lisp parentheses.

-Harrow.

I think I've written several of these kinds of sentences, and thought they were actually pretty cool (allowed by logical grammar, which nobody realises). The most frequent (which I will write without thinking about it) is:
The system will reply with "You need foobar-6 to run this.".
This is the only real resolution to the problem of having punctuation as the last character in the string, and the string immediately preceding it.
• rumpelstiltskin 2007-10-16 07:16
Opie:
real_aardvark:

Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.

They'd easily be able to cope with it because they are logical, thinking individuals.
However, even if they were being pedantic, you could point out that i = i + 1 is equivalent to i = add(i,1) and they would likely be happy.

Why would that make him happy? The problem isn't the "+" operator; the problem is the relationship implied by "=".
Give the mathematician a pure functional language to work with. That will make him happy.
• Hognoxious 2007-10-16 07:21
real_aardvark:
Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.
I assume that's supposed to be an arrow. It's lucky you don't want to decrement the variable, because i <= i - 1 is pretty confusing too. How can i be less than or equal to one less than itself?

They just need to understand that it's not an equation, it's a command; there's an implied make or let before it.
• ParkinT 2007-10-16 08:59
PT:
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?

common like "there" "are" and "a lot" ?

The poor English language
• ParkinT 2007-10-16 09:01
immibis:
"I can't figure out why it won't complile?"

A spaling error AND an out-of-place question-ma?k in the same sentence? From a grammer expert?

An old favorite puzzle:

There is three errers in this sentence.

Find them
• K_Logic 2007-10-16 09:02
Both Adam and Angie deserve a WTF award... maybe Angie intended for the comma to be part of the output... Adam should have just advised that Angie add another comma after the quotes!!!

Klassick!!!
• K_Logic 2007-10-16 09:16
Harrow:
I think you can test for computer programming talent long before going anywhere near LOGO or BASIC or any other formal language. Just look for the kids who are always asking why English syntax and spelling are so wierd^Wweird^Wstupid.

I don't care what languages he's worked in or what project experience he's had; send me the candidate who's comfortable punctuating the English sentence
I said 'Did he ask "Are you going?" or "Aren't you going?"?'.
and I'll teach him what he needs to know about #@%*ing ASP.

-Harrow.

echo ("I said, Did he ask \"Are you going?\" or \"Aren't you going?\"?");
• Sgt. Preston 2007-10-16 09:27
Pap:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.
Perhaps you meant, "She wouldn't have had this problem if only she had been educated at Oxford."
• DaveK 2007-10-16 09:40
Spoe:
A comma outside the quote is perfectly acceptable English syntax. It just depends on the style book you're using. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, lists this as a perfectly acceptable alternate syntax for quotations. There's a couple of others containing similar rules.

There are a couple of others containing ....

• Dan Krüsi 2007-10-16 09:59
Ha Ha that is hilarious!

I would have added support for a trailing comma though. A lot of times us poor (but highly superior -of course) programmers have to conform to stupid ideas.

-Dan Krüsi
• Aaron 2007-10-16 10:15
Googlewhack!:
Angie's real name is unpublished, but she graduated from CMU.

http://www.flounder.com/bricks.htm

Thanks, I knew I'd seen this exact story somewhere before but I couldn't remember where!
• PleegWat 2007-10-16 10:17
I think the use of assignment and functions by mathematicians predates programming. But what do I know, I'm just a math graduate...
• different anon 2007-10-16 10:21
Synonymous Awkward:
NiceWTF:
I have never understood this peculiarity of the english language.

Quotation marks are used to, well, quote text. The comma itself does clearly not belong to the quoted text itself, but serves to separate it from the surrounding text.

Thus, to me (as a programmer, obviously..sure) it seems completely illogical to place the comma within the quotes, ever.

IMHO, it should be considered wrong in English for the same reason that it is wrong in most programming languages.

It is considered wrong in English. Can't speak for American, though.

It's British or American English. Sorry, but it's still one language.

The Chicago Manual of Style (15th ed.) gives the following:
Periods and commas. Periods and commas precede closing quotation marks, whether double or single. This is a traditional style, in use well before the first edition of this manual (1906)...In the kind of textual studies where retaining the original placement of a comma in relation to closing quotation marks is essential to the author's argument and scholarly integrity, the alternative system described in 6.10 could be used, or rephrasing might avoid the problem. In computer-related writing, in which a file name or other character string enclosed in quotation marks might be rendered inaccurate or ambiguous by the addition of punctuation within the quotation marks, the alternative system may be used, or the character string may be set in another font, without quotation marks...For related matters in computer writing, see Eric S. Raymond, "Hacker Writing Style," in The New Hacker's Dictionary.

Colons, semicolons, question marks, and exclamation points. Unlike periods and commas, these all follow closing quotation marks unless a question mark or an exclamation point belongs within the quoted matter.

Alternative system. According to what is sometimes called the British style...a style also followed in other English-speaking countries, only those punctuation points that appeared in the original material should be included within the quotation marks; all others follow the closing quotation marks.

All typos are my own.
• Tonio 2007-10-16 10:26
ParkinT:
immibis:
"I can't figure out why it won't complile?"

A spaling error AND an out-of-place question-ma?k in the same sentence? From a grammer expert?

An old favorite puzzle:

There is three errers in this sentence.

Find them

1. grammatical: should be "There ARE..."
2. spelling: should be "errors"
3. factual: there are only two errors.

Of course, that just turns it into a paradox... the existence of the third error makes that third error not exist. =)
• Thief^ 2007-10-16 10:30
ParkinT:
An old favorite puzzle:
There is three errers in this sentence.
Find them

is/are, errers/errors, three/no.

Simple.
• Kraken 2007-10-16 10:33
rumpelstiltskin:

Why would that make him happy? The problem isn't the "+" operator; the problem is the relationship implied by "=".
Give the mathematician a pure functional language to work with. That will make him happy.

Or, if he must work in a programming environment with state, something like i := i + 1 would work too to indicate assignment, and i = 1 to indicate equality.

I think that's the only useful thing that I've seen from any Pascal-like languages.
• Dana 2007-10-16 10:34
This is the kind of reasoning that gave us lolcode.. ; )
http://lolcode.com
• DWalker59 2007-10-16 10:45
Someone said that putting the commas inside the quotes (in English) looks funny. I think it looks funny too, but apparently, typographers of old thought it looked better.

I helped proofread a couple of my parents' books, and when I came across instances where the comma was outside of the quotes, I wanted to leave them alone, and Mom & Dad said that was OK with them (but they thought the publisher's proofreader would probably catch it).

I think commas outside of quotes looks more balanced and logical. The most common rule, however, is for the comma to go inside the quotes. It's not logical, but many rules aren't.
• Anonymous Pedant 2007-10-16 10:48
chris:
It's not a Loudon Anything reference, it's how you form that friggin sentence. It's called the goddamned subjunctive mood, and you best learn it if you want to speak English.

Right: "...if she were educated at Oxford."
Wrong: "...if she was educated at Oxford."

That depends on what you're trying to say.

Right: "If she was educated at Oxford, I'm a monkey's uncle."
Wrong: "If she were educated at Oxford, I'm a monkey's uncle."

For extra points, remember to use the subjunctive in "that" clauses indicating wishes:

Right: "It is desired that the software implement this functionality."
Wrong: "It is desired that the software implements this functionality.

I had to correct my advisor on this one in my Master's thesis.
• DWalker59 2007-10-16 10:49
"Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it."

If i represents infinity, then indeed i = i + 1. For either countably infinite or uncountably infinite.
• Tom 2007-10-16 10:50
ObiWayneKenobi:
The REAL WTF(TM) is how did this person manage to get a job as a programmer to begin with? Even a neophyte should understand that programming syntax is not the same as English syntax.

It was all a misunderstanding. She's actually "pro-grammar".
• DWalker59 2007-10-16 10:51
AAArgh. Banner ad on this page about who should carry the Olympic torch:

"Support your country's finalist!"

Why? What if I think some other country's finalist is more deserving? Why push isolationism and narrow-mindedness?
• bambuti 2007-10-16 10:56
DaveK:
Spoe:
A comma outside the quote is perfectly acceptable English syntax. It just depends on the style book you're using. The Chicago Manual of Style, for example, lists this as a perfectly acceptable alternate syntax for quotations. There's a couple of others containing similar rules.

There are a couple of others containing ....

Nice try. Had it been

"There's two others containing..."

then you would be unarguably right. But "a couple of others" can function either as a plural noun (two others), or a singular noun (one couple (of others))...
• Anne 2007-10-16 11:06
Can I just say that all of the intentional grammar mistakes in the description and comments REALLY hurt my brain?

That being said, I can still write syntactically correct C code. (Although sometimes if I've been writing a lot of Perl, I accidentally slip some perl into my C ("you got your Perl into my C! You got your C into my Perl! Hey...").) Maybe I started programming early enough so that my brain could handle the different syntaxes -- sort of like how kids who grow up bilingual are able to learn other languages much more easily.
• ChiefCrazyTalk 2007-10-16 11:11
The Real WTF (tm) is that it took a YEAR to fire her. It would be one thing if after her mistake was pointed out to her she laughed and said "my bad", but it was clear that she doesn't understand even the most basic concepts of programming, in any language. I would have fired her on the spot.
• Jno 2007-10-16 11:14
Jaap-Jan:
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?
Off course not.

By the way, you spelt 'write' wrong, wright?

By the way, you wrote wrong when you should have written wrongly.

This could go on all day.
• Jno 2007-10-16 11:14
Jaap-Jan:
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?
Off course not.

By the way, you spelt 'write' wrong, wright?

By the way, you wrote wrong when you should have written wrongly.

This could go on all day.
• Rance Mohanitz 2007-10-16 12:14
It's misssteaks, not mistakes.
• Random832 2007-10-16 12:15
Ancient_Hacker:
I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

To exit the program, type Quit, then press the Enter key.

I'd also have set it in a monospaced font, but the comment software doesn't allow it (why is it that we have completely different rules here than the real forums?)

If you can't trust the users not to type the comma, can you really trust them not to type the quotes?
• Random832 2007-10-16 12:21
They just need to understand that it's not an equation, it's a command; there's an implied make or let before it.

I've always imagined an implied prime sign after the variable name, too - one more for each time it's assigned. It's helpful for working things out on paper.
• Rance Mohanitz 2007-10-16 12:22
FredSaw:
Mike:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

Hands up...who, like me, didn't even notice the mistake in this sentance until it was brought up in comments?
By the mistake, do you mean using "could of" instead of "could have", or using "to" for "too"?

Or, were you referring to Their (instead of there) or alot (instead of a lot)?
• real_aardvark 2007-10-16 12:23
bambuti:
DaveK:
Spoe:
There's a couple of others containing similar rules.

There are a couple of others containing ....

Nice try. Had it been

"There's two others containing..."

then you would be unarguably right. But "a couple of others" can function either as a plural noun (two others), or a singular noun (one couple (of others))...

Strictly, it am a noun in the singular, and should never be accompanied by a verb in the plural. However, I note that the fine folk in Redmond ("In the beginning was Word" -- well, after just about everybody else, really) believe that "a couple" is always plural, and go all wavy and green if you attempt to make it singular. DaveK gets away with a bit of nit-picking here, I suppose.

I wonder how Microsoft would parse "a set?" Does the conjugation depend upon the quantity of objects contained in the set?
• Rance Mohanitz 2007-10-16 12:26
Here, here!
• JohnB 2007-10-16 13:17
An honest mouse:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...
Only if you wanted to use the subjunctive. If you use the indicative then it would be quite correct. Use the subjunctive if you are referring to an impossibility ("If I were the President ... ") but use the indicative if it is possible ("If I was to take the train to New York the journey would take longer than if I was to take the plane.")

Or something like that
• Ada Lovelace 2007-10-16 14:06
[quote user="Critic"][quote user="There but for the grace of God..."]

Too bad making a better living doesn't make you a better person.
[/quote]

But then neither does making a worse living.
• icelava 2007-10-16 14:14
Sounds like somebody applying for a job as a magazine editor and ended up in the wrong office.....
• Anonymous Pedant 2007-10-16 15:24
Anne:
Can I just say that all of the intentional grammar mistakes in the description and comments REALLY hurt my brain?

That being said, I can still write syntactically correct C code. (Although sometimes if I've been writing a lot of Perl, I accidentally slip some perl into my C ("you got your Perl into my C! You got your C into my Perl! Hey...").) Maybe I started programming early enough so that my brain could handle the different syntaxes -- sort of like how kids who grow up bilingual are able to learn other languages much more easily.

You think that's bad, I've been doing most of my work recently in a semi-functional language that does invocation and composition by juxtaposition (e.g. "f(x)" is just "f x" and "g(f(x))" is just "g f x"). Now I keep trying to do things like "file which foo" in the shell.
• Gene 2007-10-16 16:02
"There's a couple of others containing similar rules."

You mean "There're a couple of others containing similar rules."
• bit 2007-10-16 16:13
Of course, the Real WTF here is English punctuation. Every sensible language encloses the phrase in quotes and lets the comma out of them.
• Zylon 2007-10-16 17:32
Didn't all this "punctuation inside the quotes" nonsense arise due to technical issues with early printing presses?
• BrownHornet 2007-10-16 17:54
NiceWTF:
I have never understood this peculiarity of the english language.

Quotation marks are used to, well, quote text. The comma itself does clearly not belong to the quoted text itself, but serves to separate it from the surrounding text.

Thus, to me (as a programmer, obviously..sure) it seems completely illogical to place the comma within the quotes, ever.

IMHO, it should be considered wrong in English for the same reason that it is wrong in most programming languages.
Programmers are handicapped in arguing, because we have a need to make sense. English majors ain't gonna let a little thing like sense fuck up their argument.
• Flim McBoobie 2007-10-16 18:15
Rance Mohanitz:
Here, here!

Yes, hear hear here too.
This whole story sucked. This WTF is a WTF unto itself.

CAPTCHA = cognac - which I could use right now.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-16 18:49
JohnB:
An honest mouse:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...
Only if you wanted to use the subjunctive. If you use the indicative then it would be quite correct. Use the subjunctive if you are referring to an impossibility ("If I were the President ... ") but use the indicative if it is possible ("If I was to take the train to New York the journey would take longer than if I was to take the plane.")

Or something like that

No, that were to be the subjunctive.

Sorry.

No, that would be the subjunctive. And indeed is the subjunctive.

"If I was to take the plane" is a hitherto unheard-of form of the preterite that indicates that you are possibly about to steal a jumbo jet. The subjunctive, over the five thousand years or so of development in PIE languages, indicates that you might or might not perform the action to which you refer.

(I'm sure I'm wrong on Sanskrit here. Corrections humbly requested.)

There are many ways to indicate the impossible. My current favourite is "It's impossible, of course, but ..."

To indicate the unexpected, or the implausible, you might want to try on:

"Were I to take the plane..."

for size. This is, however, deep into Somerset Maugham territory, and we really don't want to go there at this late stage.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-16 18:55
BrownHornet:
Programmers are handicapped in arguing, because we have a need to make sense. English majors ain't gonna let a little thing like sense fuck up their argument.

Make sense? You haven't been reading this site for very long, have you?

Nice handicap to your argument, though. What, you argue off 24 or so? I'd stick to the nineteenth hole, were I you. Which, as a previous poster has (quite erroneously) pointed out, indicates an impossibility.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-16 19:11
Hognoxious:
real_aardvark:
Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.
I assume that's supposed to be an arrow. It's lucky you don't want to decrement the variable, because i <= i - 1 is pretty confusing too. How can i be less than or equal to one less than itself?

They just need to understand that it,s not an equation, it's a command; there's an implied make or let before it.

Thus, "discrete symbolic systems."

I probably screwed up though. I was thinking in terms of an operator indicating "produces." Somehow (being tired) I managed "arrowish" notation rather than traditional BNF notation (or even, if you prefer, the Wirth variant). However, I believe my point stands. Give a pure (or even impure) mathematician a rigorously defined notation, and they won't have a problem. They're certainly not likely to look at
i <= i + 1
and think "Ooh, look, a traditional boolean operator within C-related computer languages. That makes no sense at all, does it? My brain hurts!" given a context.

Any more than they'd look at
i = i + 1
and think "Bugger me. That doesn't work in C. I'll have to revise my entire notational system. Well, there goes solving that P-NP problem, then..."
• DaveK 2007-10-16 19:26
real_aardvark:
bambuti:
DaveK:
Spoe:
There's a couple of others containing similar rules.

There are a couple of others containing ....

Nice try. Had it been

"There's two others containing..."

then you would be unarguably right. But "a couple of others" can function either as a plural noun (two others), or a singular noun (one couple (of others))...

Strictly, it am a noun in the singular, and should never be accompanied by a verb in the plural. However, I note that the fine folk in Redmond ("In the beginning was Word" -- well, after just about everybody else, really) believe that "a couple" is always plural, and go all wavy and green if you attempt to make it singular. DaveK gets away with a bit of nit-picking here, I suppose.

I take it back. I'd rather be wrong than have MS agree with me!
• FredSaw 2007-10-16 22:13
BrownHornet:
Programmers are handicapped in arguing, because we have a need to make sense.
Actually, I have a need to make dollars. Contrary to the quote, I've found that if I take care of my dollars, the cents take care themselves.
• Wandering Pedant 2007-10-16 22:27
Ancient_Hacker: I don't suppose you could have persuaded the helpdesk to forward the resulting calls to the editor's desk?

(hmm, my CAPTCHA is the same as it was for a previous comment.)
• ur mom 2007-10-17 00:16
The real WTF is English. :-p I before E except after C. Just look at all the exceptions to that one.
• kobal 2007-10-17 03:27
phaedrus:
An honest mouse:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

You mean "if she *were* educated at Oxford"...

I would only had have corrected this statement if I saw all the errors.

Don't you mean "..if I seen da arrers"?
• kobal 2007-10-17 03:44
Atario:
Harrow:
send me the candidate who's comfortable punctuating the English sentence
I said 'Did he ask "Are you going?" or "Aren't you going?"?'.
and I'll teach him what he needs to know about #@%*ing ASP.

I do it that way all the time. Sometimes I even purposely reformulate a sentence to make it come out with nontraditional, but logical, punctuation like that.

The correct answer is "yes" to these types of questions - for example, "Is the stove hot or cold?" or "are the dishes clean or dirty?" - that means that yes is the correct return value for a logical OR, right?
• kobal 2007-10-17 03:58
PleegWat:
I think the use of assignment and functions by mathematicians predates programming. But what do I know, I'm just a math graduate...

I call BS! A real math major would NEVER:
A) think (they always KNOW)
B) use self-deprecating humor to avoid seeming arrogant or
pompous (it should be blindingly obvious to everyone
how superior they are)
C) avoid replying to a post like this (joke about
mathematicians - how dare you!)

captcha: smile - yes, you
• Michele 2007-10-17 05:03
Making a living shouldn't necessarily make you a better person, but I'd have hoped it would have made you a less ignorant one.

Firstly, many people go to college for the pure, unadulterated love of knowledge. As far as making a living--despite my woebegone status as an English major, I'm third in my class and have promising prospects for a future in academia. Sidenote: I'm also one of the most tech-savvy chicks you'll find around. I don't by any means program (though I have a tremendous respect for CS), but I can often out-geek the geeks.

Secondly, you do realize that at the college level, at any reputable college, students don't spend 8 hours a week learning grammar, right? In fact, I haven't heard a minute's lecture on it in my 3.5 years of college. English at the college level is about Literature and analysis and (in my case) creative writing. Grammar is something you'd damn well better know (or learn) by the time you set foot in the classroom. And if you find literary analysis to be "obvious" work, then by all means, please enlighten us all with your gift.

I'm no trying to convert you to a OMG, Liberal Arts are amazing mindset; I'm just hoping you'll try a little better not to present yourself as an empty person whose meaning in life is to make a living--who can't conceive of a love of knowledge that compels people to go to school for reasons other than to be just another gear in the grinding machinery of capitalism.
• jo-82 2007-10-17 05:11
The real real WTF(c) is, that she obvious isn't using an IDE with synthax highlighting...
• bambuti 2007-10-17 05:31
real_aardvark:

Strictly, it am a noun in the singular, and should never be accompanied by a verb in the plural. However, I note that the fine folk in Redmond ("In the beginning was Word" -- well, after just about everybody else, really) believe that "a couple" is always plural, and go all wavy and green if you attempt to make it singular. DaveK gets away with a bit of nit-picking here, I suppose.

I believe that what you say wioll haven be entirely correct in American English, but in British English it's perfectly grammatical to use plural verbs with nouns that are semantically plural, even if they're syntactically singular. "England are beating France 14-9" and "Microsoft are all retards" are both fine over here.

I wonder how Microsoft would parse "a set?" Does the conjugation depend upon the quantity of objects contained in the set?

I admit that even in Britain, you have to strain a bit to come up with a plausible use of "this set are". But not too much. "The set of forks are all dirty" really is OK.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-17 07:25
bambuti:
real_aardvark:

Strictly, it am a noun in the singular, and should never be accompanied by a verb in the plural. However, I note that the fine folk in Redmond ("In the beginning was Word" -- well, after just about everybody else, really) believe that "a couple" is always plural, and go all wavy and green if you attempt to make it singular. DaveK gets away with a bit of nit-picking here, I suppose.

I believe that what you say wioll haven be entirely correct in American English, but in British English it's perfectly grammatical to use plural verbs with nouns that are semantically plural, even if they're syntactically singular. "England are beating France 14-9" and "Microsoft are all retards" are both fine over here.

I wonder how Microsoft would parse "a set?" Does the conjugation depend upon the quantity of objects contained in the set?

I admit that even in Britain, you have to strain a bit to come up with a plausible use of "this set are". But not too much. "The set of forks are all dirty" really is OK.

Lynn Truss would kill you.

"England," "Microsoft," and the like are not "semantically plural." Semantically, they're abstractions, and singular abstractions to boot. Extrapolating plurality from the fact that you know there are fifteen people in a rugby union team is not semantics, it's meta-language. I know he was using flags, not words, but Nelson didn't say that "England expect," now, did he?

I'm English, and although it's a frequent usage, it's not correct. As I mentioned above, "demotic" grammar differs from "received" grammar; basically because it's verbalised, and there's a phenomenon of verbal drag that leads to associating the wrong noun with a verb or sub-clause. Few people actually write anything any more (emails and blogs being a wholly different medium), so I suspect that in a few short years this faux-pluralisation will become the norm. Unfortunate, but there you go.

The examples you quote are all particularlised, and mostly relevant to spoken English. If you don't feel comfortable with the singular, why not "The English players are ..." or "Microsoft employees are ...?" Usually, as in the latter case, this formulation also has the benefit of not anthopomorphising an abstract noun.

And "The set of forks are all dirty" really isn't OK. In fact, it even sounds horrible. "All the forks in this set are dirty" would be a better choice, both ways.
• bambuti 2007-10-17 07:59
[quote user="real_aardvark]Lynn Truss would kill you.[/quote]

She's entertaining, but I think she could be subdued or knocked unconscious with a stream of split infinitives.

[quote]"England," "Microsoft," and the like are not "semantically plural." Semantically, they're abstractions, and singular abstractions to boot. [/quote]

I can't argue with your point on terminology, so I'll avoid attempting to use terms I'm not qualified to use. Suffice to say, then, that the nouns there are certainly denoting plural concepts in the mind of the speaker. Indeed that's the whole point of using the plural verbs with them. "England is winning" and "England are winning" carry subtly different meanings, one of which isn't as pithily expressible if you forbid that form.

As for your saying it's just not correct, well, I guess we have to agree to differ there. I don't have a prescriptivist bone in my body... at least not for six days of the week. Secretly I still twitch when I see a grocer's apostrophe, but in general my criterion for acceptability is whether it's used by what are tweely called "careful users". I'm a "careful user", I see why a straightforward analysis would say this formation is ungrammatical, and I still consider it to be correct. I've never seen a (British) style guide complain about the form; rather, there seems to be plenty of evidence that it is regarded as an acceptable quirk of British usage. As for being uncomfortable with the singular, well I'd say it's more that I am comfortable with the plural as well as with the singular. I'd say "England is ahead" but "England are playing their socks off". The latter has nuances that I think you'd be churlish to lose by outlawing it.

A quick search of "manchester united" on BBC News (not the last bastion of careful usage I admit, but still a reasonable starting point), shows a roughly even mix of plural and singular forms. "The club Man Utd has signed..." is interspersed with "Man Utd eye up..."

I'd be interested to see evidence that its use was formerly less common.

But with that, I'm bowing out. Grammar gripes (and flamewars) are a popular topic on WTF, but they sap the soul, and in the end the only winner is Ms Truss.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-17 08:06
bambuti:
I'd say "England is ahead" but "England are playing their socks off". The latter has nuances that I think you'd be churlish to lose by outlawing it.

A quick search of "manchester united" on BBC News (not the last bastion of careful usage I admit, but still a reasonable starting point), shows a roughly even mix of plural and singular forms. "The club Man Utd has signed..." is interspersed with "Man Utd eye up..."

I'd be interested to see evidence that its use was formerly less common.

But with that, I'm bowing out. Grammar gripes (and flamewars) are a popular topic on WTF, but they sap the soul, and in the end the only winner is Ms Truss.

I'm not overwhelmingly prescriptivist; I merely maintain that there is a distinction to be made between the written and the spoken language. And I agree with you here: the plural form sounds more fluent (or nuanced, or whatever).

Since we're all going to end up talking and writing this way, however, can I make a plea for Ebonics?

"England be beating the mofos 14-9" sounds far more appealing than "The English are 14-9 up," and it obviates any need to argue about singular/plural, or even to think about the issue... Of course, it'll still have a greengrocer's apostrophe in it eventually, but you can't win 'em all.
• K_Logic 2007-10-17 08:09
Jno:
Jaap-Jan:
1337:
... Their our alot of common mistakes ...

that was a joke write?
Off course not.

By the way, you spelt 'write' wrong, wright?

By the way, you wrote wrong when you should have written wrongly.

This could go on all day.

I could have "wrote" wrong wrongly... wright? LOL!!!
• Emphyrio 2007-10-17 09:09
You mean, "She wouldn't *have had* this problem if only she *had been* educated at Oxford." Education at Oxford is a finite process with a definite end, which occurred in the (subjunctive) past. You could also say "... if only she were an Oxford graduate.", since that implies a continuing state.
• wtf 2007-10-17 09:09
Ancient_Hacker:
Oh Lord, this reminds me of when I was writing a User Manual.

I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

I tried to persuade them that these were not quotation marks, but "literal marks", and putting the comma inside would be commanding the user to type Quit comma, which was incorrect.

I never did manage to convince them of the right way to do this. So every instance of a command example in the manual was correct English, but wrong, in that it did not work.

I almost changed the program to accept a trailing comma, but that would have been unpalatable (to me).

Oh, I would have changed it, if I were you...
I would have made it print "Sorry, my editor is an idiot. Try without the comma." whenever a command ended with a comma.
• wtf 2007-10-17 09:18
Ancient_Hacker:
Oh Lord, this reminds me of when I was writing a User Manual.

I had the sentence:

To exit the program, type "Quit", then press the Enter key.

The editor person sent it back as:

To exit the program, type "Quit," then press the Enter key.

I tried to persuade them that these were not quotation marks, but "literal marks", and putting the comma inside would be commanding the user to type Quit comma, which was incorrect.

I never did manage to convince them of the right way to do this. So every instance of a command example in the manual was correct English, but wrong, in that it did not work.

I almost changed the program to accept a trailing comma, but that would have been unpalatable (to me).

Oh, I would have changed it, if I were you...
I would have made it print "Sorry, my editor is an idiot. Try without the comma." whenever a command ended with a comma.
• NIghtCactus 2007-10-17 11:10
> There is three errers in this sentence

The 3rd errer is the one who wrote (typed) the sentence.
• bambuti 2007-10-17 13:07
real_aardvark:

"England be beating the mofos 14-9" sounds far more appealing than "The English are 14-9 up," and it obviates any need to argue about singular/plural, or even to think about the issue... Of course, it'll still have a greengrocer's apostrophe in it eventually, but you can't win 'em all.

Deal! But only if it can be UK London-Subcontinental Ebonics. You know, phrases from Indian English pronounced with a hybrid Cockney/Afro-Caribbean accent, and ting. Innit. Admittedly, not being a Londoner, I only know it from seeing Catherine Tate, but I want to speak like that. Is it?
• Synonymous Awkward 2007-10-18 04:31
Anonymous Pedant:
You think that's bad, I've been doing most of my work recently in a semi-functional language that does invocation and composition by juxtaposition (e.g. "f(x)" is just "f x" and "g(f(x))" is just "g f x"). Now I keep trying to do things like "file which foo" in the shell.

The obvious solution is just to write your own shell.

Do I have to think of everything?
• Cloak 2007-10-18 05:51
Spoe:
Tim:
It's not even a matter of being an alternative. It's the correct form in Britain, to say nothing of being far more logical - people do not say ",", therefore they should not be reported as such! Silly left-pondians...

It is an alternative, no? You just happen to speak and write a dialect of English that uses the logical method of handling quotations as the default.

At least we don't stick extra letters and syllables in to perfectly serviceable words like "color" and "aluminum". Just think of the wasted ink and paper! ;)

Well, I think an "i" doesn't spoil a lot of ink but do you still spell aluminum as aluminium?
• RK 2007-10-18 11:17
"Yeah, I know," replied Angie. "But I'm using it right — the comma is supposed to go inside the quotes!" Angie's strengths lie in English syntax.

If you wanted to be REALLY gramatically correct it would be

"But I'm using it correctly..."

No problem ending her quote with the comma though!
• SuperCritic 2007-10-18 14:16
True, but I think we'd all agree that non-computer-scientists are generally inferior.
• FredSaw 2007-10-18 19:21
Emphyrio:
You mean, "She wouldn't *have had* this problem if only she *had been* educated at Oxford." Education at Oxford is a finite process with a definite end, which occurred in the (subjunctive) past. You could also say "... if only she were an Oxford graduate.", since that implies a continuing state.
Y'all are all dumbasses. It should say, "She wouldn't of had this problem if..." etc.

Or possibly, "woodn't of", if originating from the Loozeana-to-Jawja section of The South.
• Anonymous Coward 2007-10-19 06:14
RadiantMatrix:
Oh, this makes me happy:
Their our alot of common mistakes that people make to often that could of easily been avoided.

Very well done, sir.

I had to read it alout to discern what word was replaced by "our".
• Nas 2007-10-19 13:13
In North America we "tuck" punctuation inside quotation marks, true (see Chicago Manual of Style), but in the UK they put punctuation *outside* the quotation marks, so presumably people using C++ across the pond don't have this problem.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-19 19:18
FredSaw:
Emphyrio:
You mean, "She wouldn't *have had* this problem if only she *had been* educated at Oxford." Education at Oxford is a finite process with a definite end, which occurred in the (subjunctive) past. You could also say "... if only she were an Oxford graduate.", since that implies a continuing state.
Y'all are all dumbasses. It should say, "She wouldn't of had this problem if..." etc.

Or possibly, "woodn't of", if originating from the Loozeana-to-Jawja section of The South.

... which is the most inapposite use of the word "Deep" that I have ever encountered.

For six months.

Eeeewww.

Addendum (2007-10-19 19:27):
Oops, sorry. "I lived there (Atlanta) for six months..."

And Norleans is a superb place to visit. Wouldn't want to live there, either.
• real_aardvark 2007-10-19 19:24
Nas:
In North America we "tuck" punctuation inside quotation marks, true (see Chicago Manual of Style), but in the UK they put punctuation *outside* the quotation marks, so presumably people using C++ across the pond don't have this problem.

"Punctuation?" No, we don't.

Where do you guys read this crap? Wikipedia?

And just to kick off yet another flame war, since when was Chicago an arbiter of style? An arbiter of large-scale, unsophisticated, macro-economic damage, possibly, but style?
PS. I like Chicago. I'm just depressed at the things that people attach to it (like the White Sox, for example.)
• me 2007-10-19 21:16
I can't think of a good argument for colour, but the British pronunciation of aluminium is more logical, given that the name comes from Alum [a mineral]+ in [its in alum]+ ium [to identify it as an element], so the name means "an element found in alum".

If only Webster had been able to spell, a lot of hassle could have been saved.
• me 2007-10-19 21:53
Hognoxious:
real_aardvark:
Not very likely. Most pure mathematicians past the age of, oh, around nine and a half can cope with discrete symbolic systems. They might bitch at the fact that this is not expressed as i <= i + 1, but they'll deal with it.
I assume that's supposed to be an arrow. It's lucky you don't want to decrement the variable, because i <= i - 1 is pretty confusing too. How can i be less than or equal to one less than itself?

They just need to understand that it,s not an equation, it's a command; there's an implied make or let before it.

If you were using i in the mathematical sense ( i = \sqrt{-1}), then |i| < |i-1|.
• guineapigs 2007-10-20 00:08
English major married to Aeronautical Astronautical Engineer who writes software for fun as a living: This is hilarious! Thanks for sharing.
• Arancaytar 2007-10-20 18:56
In English as in programming, I put the comma where it ought to be - into the quotes if it's part of the stri--- I mean, quote, otherwise outside. Screw illogical grammar rules.

I've pulled something like this before though, and admit it looks awkward in spite of making perfect sense:

"You can't use two commas in a row,", he paused, "can you?".
• Richard Nixon 2007-10-23 13:58
Pap:
She wouldn't had have this problem if only she was educated at Oxford.

Don't you mean WERE educated at Oxford (subjunctive mood)?
• Fernando 2008-01-17 11:32
"Their our"?
Do you mean "there are"?
You can't be serious, can you?
• Paolo G 2008-01-24 05:41
Ah, but Humphrey Davy, the British chemist who first isolated the metal, used "aluminum" (he first called it "alumium"), and the original American spelling was "aluminium". See http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Aluminium#Etymology

"Aluminum" is not the only exception to the rule that elements names ending "um" have to have an "i" before the "um": there are four others, namely lanthanum, molybdenum, platinum and tantalum.
• ELIZA 2008-08-29 07:01
Cloak:
Spoe:
Tim:
It's not even a matter of being an alternative. It's the correct form in Britain, to say nothing of being far more logical - people do not say ",", therefore they should not be reported as such! Silly left-pondians...

It is an alternative, no? You just happen to speak and write a dialect of English that uses the logical method of handling quotations as the default.

At least we don't stick extra letters and syllables in to perfectly serviceable words like "color" and "aluminum". Just think of the wasted ink and paper! ;)

Well, I think an "i" doesn't spoil a lot of ink but do you still spell aluminum as aluminium?

What about "burgled", which you spell and say "burglarized"?