Tuesday, November 14, 2006

Linguifying Ad Hominem attacks

I've complained here and elsewhere about the tactic of disparaging Bush's intelligence based on his perceived grammatical mistakes. Of course, this type of argumentation is not limited to Bush. PZ at Pharyngula (who I really like to read) does the same thing to a creationist troll.

Please, if you're going to be sarcastic and tell me how stupid I am, don't make the first word of your diatribe grammatically incorrect.
The comments get particularly nasty when Lindsey tries to defend the grammar issue.
I'm going to have to call you out on this one. Using descriptive rules, "I wish I was..." is perfectly correct. It is a singular pronoun with a singular gerund. Being processed in society and academics trains you to ignore this rule.
J corrects her
Whoa, has no one learned the English subjunctive? "I wish I were" is correct. "I wish I was" is not. There is no gerund in the sentence.
Lindsey retorts, and links to our friend Eric
First, about the grammar. My comment was based on descriptive rules; those contained in our basic language instincts which tell us things like the number of two related objects must agree. Jenn spoke of a "prescriptive" rule which society creates to override our instincts. Most of these prescriptive rules are quite absurd from a descriptive standpoint because they insist on doing nutty things like making your helpers and pronouns disagree in number. (Steven Pinker is the man on this subject, and a great expose on this subject can be found here:
http://camba.ucsd.edu/~bakovic/ll/grammar_puss.html Down with the language mavens! :-D)
Then things really get heated
truthmachine:
I'm going to have to call you out on this one.
Well aren't you an arrogant twit.
Using descriptive rules, "I wish I was..." is perfectly correct.
What ignorant rot. descriptive rules aren't normative -- they don't establish what is "correct".
and
I don't think you should jump to conclusions about someone's intelligence because of their comments.
That's a lovely strawman to round out the rest of your patronizing foolishness. PZ pointed out the irony of the letter writer calling PZ stupid. Sheesh.
and

Remarkably, this Lindsey person managed to commit more in their first short paragraph than did the creationist. Think what the world would be like if we was all so thoroughly "processed in society and academics".


Ah, good times.

2 comments:

Eric said...

I think you mean "happy times" ...

liberal elite said...

Dude, if I meant "hapy times" I would have said 'happy times."

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