Sunday, April 19, 2009

English Usage: Tip 01

English is not my first language. But having lived the language for better part of life, I observe pattern in its usage by its users, especially in writing. So much has been written about "English Writing" that a newcomer like me would be discouraged to write anything any more. But that's not what I am trying to achieve with these posts. It's just a set of observations I have made. It's just an attempt to provide simpler alternatives to convoluted usage without loss of intended meaning. I am doing it in the same vein as the great Patricia O'Conner does it in her seminal book, Woe is I (of course, with much more capacity and capability).

Of course, this is a daunting task and I make no claims of its success or validity. Linguists and English language professors and other references should be consulted for the same, but hey -- it's my blog and I am not fooling around. It's an expression of "nobody" observing something. I will try not to make my own mistakes while I post, and I provide a blanket apology for the same right here ;).

So, without any further ado, here I go.

Tip 01
I see use of these kinds of requests ...,


We're trained to respond to these kinds of requests with a sharp intake of breath.

I often stumble upon such use. Questions like "is singular (this kind) more appropriate than the plural?" trickle to my mind.

Doesn't just the same get captured with:

We're trained to respond to such requests with a sharp intake of breath.


Saturday, April 18, 2009

What's wrong with

While reading the enjoyable Agile Web Development book, I came across the word perversion. Of course, I started looking for its meaning on, by using the search engine addon on Firefox.

The first thing I realize is the clutter they have added to the site. Wow. If the caret browsing is on, you just can't use the site. I almost decide that I should now devise a new model for displaying paid advertisements and actual content better. Anyway, I will bite the bullet and turn the caret browsing off. I press on to understand meaning of this word: Perversion

Here is what I find:

  1. the act of perverting.
  2. the state of being perverted.
  3. ....
OK, so I need to look into what pervert means. Sadly, there is no double clicking on the word to look a word up. So, I either choose it from the related word list or look "pervert" up explicitly. And this is what I get:

  1. to affect with perversion.
  2. to lead astray morally.
  3. ...

Put literally, the first bullet point on pervert means -- to affect with "the act of perverting". Does that even make any sense?

Again, there is no criticism of this web-site (which I use heavily) meant here and I have no relationship with their business. I have no business affecting their traffic. It's a subtle usability observation about the web-site and probably structure of English Dictionaries in general. Why can't the first given meaning be the one a dictionary user would look for? I mean if Google weren't to put the most relevant search result at the top, how good would they be?