February 24, 2005

Hoo! hoo!

Why is it that I'm so much more efficient at night? I'm hard pressed to explain why my productivity shoots up so much when I take a nap in the evening and then work through the night, but it does. And really, it pretty much always has.

Some recent observed and reported linguistic usages:

"...the Virgin Mary...Joseph, her most chaste spouse..."
This is part of one of the Catholic adoration prayers, and it cracks me up every time. Of course, they're using 'most' in its emphatic sense (as in, "Most understandable, sir."), not its comparative one, but I still get a first reading from it that implies a whole series of spouses (or perhaps several in parallel) for Mary, of whom Joseph was merely the least unfaithful. What a thought.
"cogs in a wheel...cogs---but in a broken wheel..."
I was reading US News the other day (the 31 Jan/7 Feb issue, p74), and I ran across this usage. It's clear what they intended, but I don't think I've ever heard it that way before; it's usually "cogs in a machine", right? Google gives 4,820 occurrences of "cogs in a machine", but it does register 966 occurrences for "cogs in a wheel", so that's clearly far from unknown. Looking up the definition of "cog", I'm not even sure which one makes more sense---I had thought that "cog" was basically a synonym of "gear", with perhaps more emphasis on the individual round thing than on its role in the system, but it turns out it refers to the teeth around the rim. Which makes either phrase work, more or less, but I think it decreases the efficacy of the people-as-cogs metaphor. Or does it improve it? I can't even tell; now I've thought about it too much.
A while back I noticed Ryan pronouncing the word "influence" and its derivatives with the emphasis on the middle syllable, fairly consistently, and he had no idea that this was unusual or anything. At the time, I just sort of filed it away. But this weekend at the retreat, I counted no less than four people, all in the same 18-22 age range, pronounce it exactly that way. MW10 lists this as a secondary pronunciation and calls it "chiefly Southern", but I wonder if it's spreading.
"I'm for sure that..."
I was eating dinner the other day with a former math prof from QU, and he picked on me for one of my dialect usages ("less" with a count noun, if you're keeping track at home). This launched into a discussion of various dialect usages, and he reported that down in Quincy, a lot of people are saying "I'm for sure that...", meaning "I'm sure that...". I'm almost positive I've never heard this before, so this is kind of exciting; now I get to keep an eye out for it as I travel, and see where its boundaries are or if it's spreading. Neat!

"The Charter was enshrined to ensure that the rights of minorities are not subjected, are never subjected, to the will of the majority. The rights of Canadians who belong to a minority group must always be protected by virtue of their status as citizens, regardless of their numbers. These rights must never be left vulnerable to the impulses of the majority." --Canadian PM Paul Martin

Posted by blahedo at 6:02am on 24 Feb 2005
I've heard 'for sure' used instead of predicative 'sure', but only in negative sentences: "I'm not for sure about that." Posted by Neal Whitman at 9:48pm on 28 Feb 2005
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