Oceans apart

Just a quick one today. Can anyone spot the difference between the two words below?

specific PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic adjective: relating to one thing and not others; particular

pacific PhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhoneticPhonetic adjective: peaceful or helping to cause peace

If you can see where the two differ, please try to extend this differentiation, and use them correctly when talking loudly into your wireless phones, or whatever they’re called.

Published in: on November 3, 2006 at 11:00 am  Comments (3)  

Of course not

With this post, I expose to you my deepest vulnerability; the most virulent of all my bêtes noires.

I accept that—with a little interpretation, perhaps across a noisy room—the words “have” and “of” could be construed as homophonic. However, to follow the past tense of “will,” there is only one possibility from the two choices presented.

Would HAVE. At a stretch, I’ll plump for “would’ve.” But please, never “would of.”

What better way to advertise that you were thrown out of a stonemasonry apprenticeship for being less erudite than the very stone you were working, than to say “would of?”

Published in: on October 29, 2006 at 8:17 pm  Comments (3)  

The pedant’s weapon of choice

The pedant’s nemesis is the intellectual peasant. In our long running war with the dullards of this world, we pedants often have to resort to extreme measures when faced with the ill-informed machinations of these characters who lower themselves to estimations and good enough. Nothing gets on our nerves more than the words approximate or roughly. In the first of a series of posts, we at Pedants’ Corner will outline the pedagogical weapons with which we wage war against these purveyors of best efforts.

The first item in our arsenal is an old friend, the 1911 Edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica as edited by Hugh Chisholm. The library at Schloss Graham contains the full 29 volumes in all their leather-bound glory. Many a peasant has been reeducated by a reference to an entry in the encyclopedia. Here at Pedants’ Corner our favorite volume is Volume 21 (Payn, James-Polka). But why Volume 21 we hear you ask? The answer is contained at the bottom of Page 36.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 6:44 pm  Comments (7)  

Proof Positive


Call it ethanol, ethyl alcohol, grain alcohol—we don’t care. We do, however, care very much about how one measures its concentration. An evening spent in a pub is often soured when fellow drinkers start bragging about the “140 per cent proof” rum they brought back from Cuba. 140 per cent? To deconstruct that sentence, every 100 mL of the rum being drunk contained 140 mL of ethanol, and then the word “proof” is appended as some kind of catch-all mathematical-abberation nullifier. Preposterous.

The correct sentence would contain the description “140 degrees proof”. To get from there to a percentage value, one can either side with Americans, and divide by two, to give a 70% concentration, or keep things old-school and revert to the 4/7 ratio of Olde England, to give an 80% alcohol concentration. Or use this handy calculator. Which do we prefer? The 4/7 degrees/per cent, for two reasons. Firstly, any measure defined by an ability to ignite gunpowder has to be the correct one, and secondly, taking the time to multiply a number by 4/7 in the middle of a heated debate—often whilst drunk—is the true mark of the pedant.

Published in: on October 23, 2006 at 12:30 pm  Comments (1)  

Actus Primus. Scoena Prima.

The library at Chateau Pease; a bright fire burns in the great fireplace; the shelves are lined with learned tomes; in the corner, a computer monitor glows bright displaying a Wikipedia page in Edit Mode. Enter Dr. Mushy and Mr. Decster.

Mushy: So foul and fair a day I have not seen
Decster: Indeed, a foul day for erratum but a fair day for pedantry
Mushy: I presume you meant ‘errata’
Decster: Of course. So what are we going to do tonight?
Mushy: The same thing we do every night, engage in a night-long litany of pedantry and moral self-rightousness
Decster: You mis-spelled ‘righteousness’
Mushy: Well spotted

The fire hisses as Decster throws another peasant on it. Mushy takes a seat at one of the ornate tables, the 20 volumes of the Oxford English Dictionary (0198611862 ) spread out before him. Decster, at the computer, browses to the Recent Edits page of the Wikipedia and starts to note down the mistakes of mere mortals.

Decster: So it begins, Dr. Mushy
Mushy: So it begins.

Published in: on October 21, 2006 at 6:59 pm  Comments (1)  

Pedants’ Corner—An Introduction

What is pedants’ corner?

It’s a forum in which Mushy and Decster will be dwelling on the minutiæ of life, and occasionally talking about themselves in the third person.

You can therefore look forward to some very in-depth discussions of grammar, seamanship, organic chemistry, and the Napoleonic Wars.

Yes—for those of you who are wondering, that’s an em dash in the title.  Please note the lack of spaces either side.

Published in: on October 20, 2006 at 7:59 pm  Comments (5)