Wednesday, May 4

Adding an S

How many people do you know who say “driver’s license” rather than “driver license”? Or “daylight savings time” instead of “daylight saving time”? While it’s true that some states do call their privilege-to-drive cards driver’s licenses, nobody should add the extra s to the time-change thing.

To carry this added-s-ness even further, there are those loathsome people who say Sierras. The mountain range is officially called the Sierra Nevada, shortened to the Sierra. One of the few times you can legitimately say Sierras is when you’re referring to more than one GMC pickup truck of that name.

In the central California community of Clovis, there is a neon sign looming over the main drag that was installed decades ago declaring Clovis to be the “Gateway to the Sierras.” There have been endless arguments ever since about the appropriateness of the added s. To resolve this morphological conundrum and still allow the Clovens to cling to their idiocy, perhaps they could modify their sign to say “Gateway to the deers, trouts and quails.”

To make themselves even more right, they could change the town’s name to Cloviss.


Pete S. said...

Surely some flexibility is allowed in informal speech. For example, it's OK to call the Olympic Games "the Olympics."

What about the La Brea Tar Pits in Los Angeles? "La" translates as "the" and "Brea" translates as "tar," so people are really saying "the the tar tar pits."

The bigger question worrying me is whether it's proper to type two spaces or one space after a period. I was taught to use two spaces but I read commentary by someone in the publishing or typesetting business who went to great lengths denouncing two spaces as being horribly wrong. I see that you use one space. Do you have a strong opinion on the subject, or are you indifferent?

I saw a guy that typed with zero spaces after a period. He probably figured that a period provides a perfectly good break between sentences so why waste ink on a space?

Tom Hurley said...

Pete S.: Olympics is the correct term. It's just the hoity-toity fancy folks who call it the Olympic Games.

As for the La Brea Tar Pits, the Spanish terms La and Brea are simply wrong, another hoity-toity thing. It's The Tar Pits.

As for two spaces after a period (or full stop, as they call it across the pond), that's done in typewritten matter. I learned that in high school. When you're typing something that will appear in printed matter, two spaces after will cause an uneven-looking left margin when the first space causes a line break (return to the left margin) and the second space indents the line of type by one space.

As for the guy who eschews spaces after periods, think about it—how can putting in a space waste ink? (You left yourself wide open on that one, Pete.)

Susan said...

@Tom: Over here (across the pond) the Plain English police have done away with full stops and commas after information like addresses, abbreviations and salutations. An address (with salutation and abbreviation example) therefore looks like this:

Mr Com Pute
PO Box 010
Anywhere Qld 4000

I'm curious. Do your customs mirror ours?

@Pete: While you may not be actually wasting ink on a space, you would be wasting time by typing in spaces and your poor computer may be overloaded with the additional space statistics being recorded over its lifetime. Then the Humane Computer Use Police would probably be knocking on your door with a complaint, properly typed out and spaced of course.

Tom Hurley said...

Susan: I use as little punctuation as necessary, and often don’t use periods in things like US (United States). When I send out label sheets to backpackers for use on their resupply buckets, I hardly use any punctuation. It’s cleaner that way.

Some smart programs automatically delete a second space and don’t even let you know.

As for Pete not wasting ink on a space, that statement could actually be a very clever joke that I missed. Pete’s sense of humor borders on imperceptibly subtle sometimes and you have to be on constant guard.

HHhorses said...

I'm positive that Pete's comment about not wasting ink on a space was indeed a joke. I laughed the first time.


Susan said...

Yes, I did realise Pete was joking and actually was trying to be supportive of him by adding some more nonsense.

Guess my sense of humour is a tad more clumsy than Pete's :)

Pete Ss. said...

Keeping humor at the nearly imperceptible level is a defense mechanism: if the joke flops, you can act as if there was no joke at all and move on without losing face.

But most of the problem is that so much is lost in the text medium. For example, a happy person can type something pleasant that somehow appears angry and mean to the person at the other end. Lots of misunderstandings happen in email.

Susan: I believe our post office too asks for no punctuation in addresses. It makes it easier for the automated mail sorters that scan the addresses and perform optical character recognition to direct the mail. For the addresses that the machine can't interpret, a scanned image of the address is beamed to a human at a remote computer terminal who interprets and types in the address which is then beamed back to the mail sorting machine so it knows which slot the envelope should go to. At least that's what I read a while back. This is not a joke. But if anyone finds it hilarious, then I'll be happy to take credit for a joke.

But since this thread has gone stale, I'm talking to myself.

Tom Hurley said...

It turns out Pete S’s “waste ink on a space” joke was a joke. How I missed it at first is a mystery to me since Pete S is usually in joke mode when making comments on this blog. I apologize, Pete, for missing it. From now on I am going to study your comments for awhile before blundering into a response that may be inappropriate.