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... as no longer having any meaning in common usage.

1) exclusive (as in, 'this exclusive offer' -- which we have shoved through your letterbox and that of everyone else in the neighbourhood)

2) prestigious ('the prestigious award'; if you have to *tell* people it's prestigious...)

3) confidential (no, dear bank/credit card company, my statement is not 'private and confidential', it is merely private)

Thanks, I feel better now.
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[livejournal.com profile] gerald_duck's bit of linguistic peeving reminds me that I meant to post about something very odd that I came across recently.

In the course of writing a big proposal last week I got a comment back from one of my colleagues that the phrase

where the jet first brightens appreciably

was wrong because "the adverb shouldn't be at the end of the sentence". When I called him on this, it turns out that this was advice from his girlfriend, with a Harvard PhD in "English" (not specified what variety!).

Now it seems to me that this is obviously loopy. Obviously we could have rewritten the offending sentence

where the jet first appreciably brightens

but that looks less natural to me. And clearly the 'rule' can't possibly be a rule, in the sense that some adverbs have to go at the end of the sentence:

He's coming soon.
*Soon he's coming.
*He's soon coming.

I tried to argue this point with my colleague but clearly he didn't want to fight his girlfriend on my behalf. The sentence stayed how it was. But I'm puzzled: usually with something like this you can find a trace of it on the internet; for example, if you Google for 'less vs fewer' you can find both sides of the argument on the first page, and the same goes for split infinitives, prepositions at end, that vs which and the rest of the prescriptivist bugbears. Here, though, I can't find any evidence that even the most prescriptive of style guides has ever claimed anything about not putting adverbs at the end of sentences.

So my questions for y'all are: has anyone else come across this ever? Can it be traced back to a particular style guide? Is the US/UK difference at all significant here?
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So I gave my first undergrad lecture for 4 years today. Also my first at current-workplace, my first attempting to teach maths to engineers rather than physics to physicists, and the first to last two hours, but that's another story. But it was also, and this is the blogworthy bit, my first use of exciting new technology: powerpoint + tablet PC. You can make powerpoint slides and then you can write on them! In the lecture! How cool is that! etc etc.

So it all goes fine except that I keep indicating stuff to the students by pointing at the screen of the tablet PC with my fingers, which of course they can't see. I can't figure out why I'm doing this. Then some time after the end of the lecture it dawns on me:

The relevant bit of my brain thinks the slides are acetates and the tablet PC is an OHP.

1990 called, they want their teaching method back...
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If Downing Street petitions are your thing, here's one about Jodrell Bank.
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'nephelometry': measurement of the light-scattering properties of clouds.
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Happy New Year, everybody.

Oops

Sep. 13th, 2006 02:30 pm
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mf -f /dev/st0 setblk 10240 may be a silly thing to type, but a kernel oops seems excessive.
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I have been away from meaningful contact with the internet for a couple of weeks. I'll catch up on LJ at some point but if there's something I need to know e-mail would be helpful.

Also, I dropped my mobile phone in the sea a week ago (jumping over waves with Kathy rather than as part of a grand renunciation of electronic gadgets) so in the unlikely event that anyone has tried to phone me that's why I haven't been answering.

There may have to be a new mobile number. Stay tuned.

[ETA: no, I have new phone and old number. Orange have become more enlightened since I last switched phones.]
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K: Daddy, had they invented colours when you were born?

Hornet

May. 11th, 2006 09:58 pm
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While clearing out the loft (move is tomorrow: all packed and ready to go) I found the largest wasp I'd ever seen -- it looked a good 4 cm long. I wish I'd got a picture, but my main concern was not to be sharing a dark hot loft space with this thing, so I let it out through the (otherwise completely pointless) loft skylight. Afterwards I found the little paper nest it had been making, and that let me convince myself it had been a hornet, presumably a lone queen setting up a new home.

In spite of the fact that I know one doesn't want hornets nesting in one's loft, the fact that they exist outside books makes me feel obscurely pleased.
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http://news.bbc.co.uk/1/hi/world/americas/4203302.stm

President Bush's aircraft circled low over the stricken region on Wednesday as it flew him to Washington, ending his month-long break in Texas a few days earlier than scheduled.

As he passed over towns whose rooftops alone remained visible above flood waters, Mr Bush said: "It's devastating."

"It's got to be doubly devastating on the ground."


Well, duh.
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Since other people are doing this, here's a bee I saw on Sunday.
insect closeup photography )
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Academic publishers' promotional material is a scream.

`NEW! Discover the new accelerated convergence method for Sturm-Lioville problems!'
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K: What's this?
M: It's a camel.
K: But it only has one hump!

That's my girl.

(Later she told me what the French is for `camel'.)
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I've just had to buy a cleaning tape for the tape drive in my workstation. It turns out the little green light on the front that's been there for about the last year was not `power' but `clean me' and the cleaning tape that came with the drive is probably still in Bristol. The tape drive was sold by a certain large disc drive company, but since then they appear to have sold off their tape division and renamed it with one of those names that sound as though they ought to mean something, but don't, a la `Consignia', `Accenture'. Feh. So much fun was had actually buying the tape.

Anyway, the point I was going to make was this. They sent me an invoice: one of these things printed on backed paper where bits of it get peeled off and stuck on the parcel. And next to various details on the invoice were... little scroll bars.

Scroll bars on paper? After all that faffing around with the desktop metaphor, are we going to solve all the problems by doing it the other way round and making paper look like a computer screen?

OK, I know they're probably just printing out a web page. It's still rubbish, though. How do I scroll down if I want to know what I can't see?
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Happy New Year, everyone.

My new year's resolution is to make more time to see (or at least interact with) friends and family. If you'd like to see more of me in 2005, let me know.
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`as to'. Why do we need this? You can always use `on', `of' or `about'.

Even Michael Howard is doing it. As for graduate students writing papers, there seems to be about one `as to' per line...
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