Friday, April 24, 2009

When writing fades in the wash

And make n't bury that, ascribable the freakish nature of the creation, rectifications of somebody else 's address or composition are more likely to comprise faults themselves and place you upwards for others ' mirth the following clip you do a fault.


The whole post was more of the same. And little by little it seeped into place. I recognized this as another case of "text laundering": covering your plagiarizing tracks by using synonyms.*

Using disturbed instead of crazy is passable. State instead of say is a bit awkward, but trifle instead of bit is an improvement isn't it? Precisely what our English teachers assured us is the more interesting word?

Here's an important point. Listen, all you Roget's wielders who believe a huge vocabulary is impressive: the programs that rely on an exhaustive thesaurus to do this are obviously limited by the fact that they rely only on forms, and syntax isn't used as a clue where it could help to disambiguate the actual use.

So the phrase a couple of weeks is replaced with a couple of hebdomads. That's a fancy schmancy word. Surely the work of a wordsmith. But If I write well, that huge vocabulary doesn't tell you if it's an adverb meaning properly/in a good manner or if it's an adjective meaning in good health or a noun meaning a hole full of water? Language is not an SAT vocab quiz.

Once I'm laughing at these posts I love finding words that are taken away not just from their meanings, or connotations, but out of their lexical categories as well. Such as the analysis of the auxiliary verb have (I have eaten) as a main verb have (I have food). There's really no synonym available for AUX have. But the main verb have can be replaced (more or less successfully) with various words: possess own contain and as the post has chosen, hold. So we get
I inquired why I holded n't seen any new columns…

Hadn't becomes "holded n't"? Of course. The program apparently can't recognize that had followed by a verb is an AUX and not a main verb. That's in the first lecture of the syntax unit! And it has no idea what to do with -n't because it obviously has no heading in the thesaurus.

And this machine is also unable to produce irregular past tense forms such as held instead of holded. It speaks like a toddler.

But by far the most amusing substitutions in this post were the proper names.

We know that a 'john' is a toilet or a 'can', and 'chief' is another word for 'head', and altho 'justness' isn't common, it's a fair substitute for 'justice' if you need it.

But saying Head Justness Can Roberts instead of Chief Justice John Roberts strikes me as non-native speech.

Jan Freeman becomes January Freewoman for some reason. Since when is woman a synonym for man?

And how many of you knew that Murphy is slang for potato? If you ask me, Lynne Spud deserves a better nickname.

* Once I realized what this was going on I remembered this post by Neal Whitman, obviously the source of the original text.


  1. Well, I knew it, and so does the Scrabble world, apparently as that's what they call me! (Just Spud, not Lynne Spud, though.)

    When I was a child, interested in etymology, I asked my dad what 'Murphy' meant, and he said 'potato'. So, for years, I assumed that I came from an honorable potato-farming people and proudly went around school proclaiming my certainty that my name came from the Irish for 'potato'. Being gullible is not very helpful when trying to be a know-it-all.

    (Incidentally, 'Murphy' comes from O'Murchadha 'sea warrior'. I think I'm more like a potato.)

  2. Links becomes Associates? Oh, my goodness.

    I'm so using this when I talk about Roget's...


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