Friday, March 29, 2013

How I dealt to checking a New Zealand idiom

The prepositions that most commonly follow the verb deal are with and in, depending on meaning. In fact these collocations are so common, that deal with and deal in are often treated as phrasal verbs (or sometimes, prepositional verbs), for example at the OALD (scroll down to Phrasal Verbs). But it appears that in one corner of the English-speaking world, at least, deal with has a competitor.
A commenter on the language blog Pain in the English had noticed this sentence in the New Zealand Herald:
“Perhaps it’s time to deal to the ads that are just plain downers?”
Of course, there's no logical reason why deal should be followed by with. After all, we have the very similar expression see to - If you deal with the soup, I'll see to the main course. But with is what we're used to, so anything else sounds a bit odd.

Sunday, March 24, 2013

Can 'a succession of' take a plural verb?

On the language website Pain in the English, in a discussion about whether it was ever posssible to use a capital letter after a colon, a commenter recently wrote:
Capitalize after the colon if there are a secession of sentences following
It wasn't so much the capitalisation issue that interested me as the next comment:
I am sure you meant to say, "Capitalize after the colon if there IS a succession of sentences," not "ARE."
Apart from the fact that I find it rather bad manners to "correct" other people's grammar uninvited, I wasn't totally convince that the second commenter was totally justified in his criticism. But I could find nothing about a succession of in any usage book or on the web, so I decided to investigate a bit.

Random thoughts on the expression vanishingly unlikely

At language blog The Stroppy Editor, Tom Freeman takes the Guardian to task for the way it treats part of a submission (for a government consultation process on child poverty) from a team led by Alan Milburn, "ex-Labour minister turned coalition adviser":
(the submission) adds: "It now seems vanishingly unlikely [sic] that this government will hit the targets in the Child Poverty Act."
By adding the expression [sic] after vanishingly unlikely, either the writer or a sub-editor seemed to be suggesting that these words contained an error of some sort, either grammatical or spelling.

Sunday, March 3, 2013

Some random thoughts on different to

If you're a foreign learner looking for advice as to what preposition to use after different, I'd recommend using from; that way you won't tread on anybody's toes. You can read more about the use of different and easily confusable words such as other and next here. That advice, however, turns out to be more of a case of 'do what the teacher says' rather than what the teacher does.
This post brings together information from dictionaries and usage guides, a few statistics, as well as examples from the press and a few books. There are also some links to linguistics books that discuss the question.