Freedom and Freedom and Freedom For All

Reading Wikipedia in Spanish the other day (because why not) and stumbling through my usual Nick Cage inspired pidgin-translation process (primavera = ad for pasta primavera sauce = first movement of Vivaldi’s four seasons la primavera = spring) I had a sudden realisation. The Encilopdia Libre is of course the Free Encyclopedia to us who like to piss off linguists by mixing Germanic and Latin in a single sentence, but in the process of translation (libre = liberty = freedom = we have to kidnap the president of the United States) I suddenly realised that one of the most popular pieces of American rhetoric is a load of tautological nonsense, given that Freedom and Liberty are in fact, exactly the same freaking thing. Freedom just happens to be the germanic way of saying the more latinate liberty for those of us who prefer not to sound like pompous knobs.

That lovable boob of a tyrannical warmonger George Bush was, of course, the prime culprit of this literal doublespeak, but even the great orator himself, Barry Obama, recently perpetuated this gaffe when referring to punk icon Margaret Thatcher as “one of the great champions of freedom and liberty” (though to be fair this may have had more to do with padding out an otherwise rather barren list of positive traits).

Please leave your thesis for why St. Thatcher was a great reformer who I’m not worthy of even speaking the name of in the comments section below, or better yet, let us know of any circumlocutious and superfluous tautologies that you’ve run into!

An image of a picture.

Courtesy XKCD

If You Think That…

Finish this sentence: “If you think that, well then you’ve got another…”

You may be surprised to learn that the way you finish that seemingly cliched phrase may actually offend people! Fortunately they’d be the kind of pedantic bastards that you’d concuss yourself with a dictionary just to avoid, so you needn’t worry too much, but nevertheless Incorrections is here to save the day and to help guide you headfirst into that minefield of social pahriety!

Pahriety1[puhṟahyuh-tee] noun: 1. A party attended exclusively by social pariahs 2. ComiCon.

The sticking point comes with the words “thing” and “think”. Simple enough you’d think, some people have foolishly misheard the phrase “another think coming” as “another thing coming” or vice versa. Such folly! But here’s where it gets weird: neither can really be considered incorrect.

Plenty of debates have been had on the internet (well, more than the average ratio of topic-to-internet-debate) and plenty of statistics and dictionaries have been thrown around (not always metaphorically) citing sources and books and various institutions of learning, all of which hold the same kind of unquestioned authority in the world of language as Constable Clancy the Koala holds when drafted to a homicide investigation. (Constable Clancy the Koala being the foremost reason the reform of C to K should never, ever, take place).

Once everyone on the net calmed down a bit, and the doctors were done removing the shards of broken keyboard from the survivors of the great online debate of 5:37pm, everyone looked around and realised that the number of people on the ironically named Think side of the debate were pretty much equal to the opposing Things, which heavily implies that both sides could be considered not incorrect (it also heavily implies that people need to get out more).

As far as we can establish down here at the Incorrections Word Lab (i.e. the basement) the phrases probably grew out of the ‘thing’ derivation, with ‘think’ being a play on the original. If we had to guess (and this gun-wielding terrorist group of angry linguists is telling us that we do), the phrase probably started out as a masked threat:

“If you don’t give me back my lunch you’ll have something else (i.e. a knuckle sandwich) coming your way pretty quick.”

Then some poor innocent sole simply made the following pun, unaware he was about to unleash the literary equivalent of an A-Bomb onto an unsuspecting anglosphere.

“If you think that, well then you’ve got another think coming!”

See what they did there? HILARIOUS! Unfortunately for us the world is 1/10th people with no sense of humour, who upon hearing this, simply assumed it was the correct phrase for all situations, kept on using it regardless, and then went on to procreate somehow. Worse still another 5/10ths (or 1/2 for all you mathematicians out there) are just humour lemmings who will continue to use this ‘pun’ in all situations convinced that it is now somehow always humorous regardless of the obvious oncoming cliff face of unfunnyness until finally they topple over the edge in a shower of tiny furry jokes and yes it was a bad metaphor in retrospect.

All in all, if some people want to use the word ‘thing’ and some want to use the word ‘think’, it’s not that big an issue. Sure one might not make any sense out of context, but in fairness both rely heavily on the cliche factor anyway. Frankly I prefer to just flat out spurn the cliche altogether and threaten to murder the family of whomever I’m talking to, if I don’t like the direction they are taking. Cut to the chase I say!

When it comes to correctness in language, it always comes down to numbers, and in this unusual case opinion is divided down the middle. Sure you can cite one dictionary or one newspaper, but really people are just going to do what they’re gonna do. In the end, I feel at least, it’s really just not worth getting worked up about this kind of think.

Som Thins Nevr Chang (Sometimes for the Better)

We’ve all from time to time come across elements of English that are just begging for improvement. The old ‘why do we even need the letter k/c’ question is forever being mulled over by anyone who cares to give the topic a moment’s thought, as is the need for multiple words with the same spelling/pronunciation, or, even worse, spellings that just make no gosh darn sense (take ‘one’ for example).

But the obvious dilemma is who do you turn to for reform? The masses? The dictionary? The classroom teacher? Surely any attempt at serious change is bound to fail at the feet of wider cultural adoption. So it is because of this that I am simultaneously delighted and a tad palmfaced to learn about an attempt by none other that my own government, the government of Australia, to reform English through the addoption of the reform standard SR1.

The changes were unsurprisingly shortlived in a country where most national linguistic influence is primarily driven by outside forces, but for a short time the ‘Ministry of Health’ became the ‘Ministry of Helth’ and any wry student could get away with spelling ‘through’ as ‘thru’ and ‘draught’ as ‘draft’, assuming his or her teacher were to agree with the direction of their Union, and I suspect many did not.

Not all of the reform’s changes were sensible or palatable, no doubt playing a part in the eventual downfall of the adoption itself, but oddly the standard is far from dead. At least one of the proposed mechanism of the contraction is alive an well in the online world today, the digital world being a notorious driver for all spellings bastardised, even if it is ironic in delivery. Users can be seen to ‘laf’ until they’ve had ‘enuf’ and going even further than any standard of reform would dare, the digirati are forever asking ‘wat’ or ‘wut’ of their predicaments.

Some might disagree, some will inevitably lament it, but it seems for the English language reform many of us dream of, there is yet hope, albeit from the unlikeliest of places.

 

[Might I point out that in writing this article in my browser, the spellchecker has faulted me on the words ‘draught’ and ‘bastardised’, but not ‘wat’ ‘digerati’ or ‘thru’.]

If you were wondering

I know what you’re thinking… well actually you’re probably thinking who the fuck is this guy, and where does he get off claiming to know what I’m thinking… but I digress, umm yes… ummmm…. oh yea, that’s right, I know what you’re thinking, even though you’re not thinking it, for the sake of what was meant to be a smooth segway, we’re gonna say you’re thinking “what the hell happened to your hair Cameron?”.

Short answer I got drunk, and decided it would be a good idea if I spurned the barber with a good twenty years experience sculpting rags into respectable do’s and just give myself a haircut instead. What could go wrong? After a night of heavy drinking, at three o’clock in the morning, in low light, using a blunt pair of craft scissors.

But actually that wasn’t how my hair got like this. The danger of cutting your hair when you’re drunk is that you’re actually really careful, and to be honest I didn’t do too bad a job, and the mistakes made can be just laughed off. What’s dangerous is when you get sober, and you think… if I could do THAT drunk, imagine how good I’d be sober.

It does not end well. And what’s more, you’ve already played the drunk card to your friends over the first cut. The first time you make a mess of your hair after drinking too much, it’s a jovial story with mates. The second time, it’s an AA meeting. So you have the choice of either sounding like an alcoholic who has a certain panache for late night styling, or equally as bad, you’re stupid enough when you’re sober to do something that, even when you’re drunk, kind of seems like an idea that might lead to regret.

I’ll bet you’re sorry you ever asked.