[Smt-talk] One thought on Language Use (was: Two thoughts on Normal Form)

Slottow, Stephen Stephen.Slottow at unt.edu
Sun Sep 9 17:21:24 PDT 2012

Rex Stout's massive detective Nero Wolfe abhorred the use of "contact" as
a verb and would not accept anyone who so used it as a client--and what
better model for emulation (Wolfe, not Stout) could we possibly find?

Stephen Slottow
Associate Professor of Music Theory
University of North Texas

On 9/9/12 4:49 PM, "David K Feurzeig" <mozojo at gmail.com> wrote:

>art samplaski:
>> "Transition" is a NOUN, ladies and gentlemen.
>E.B. White:
>"Usage seems to us peculiarly a matter of ear. Everyone has his own
>set of rules, his own list of horribles. Dr. Canby speaks of 'contact'
>used as a verb, and points out that careful writers and speakers,
>persons of taste, studiously avoid it. They do--some of them, because
>the word so used, makes their gorge rise, others because they have
>heard that we sensitive lit'ry folk consider it displeasing. The odd
>thing is that what is true of one noun-verb is not necessarily true of
>another. To 'contact a man' makes us wince; but to 'ground a plane
>because of bad weather' sounds all right. Further, although we are
>satisfied to 'ground a plane,' we object to 'garaging an automobile.'"
>--"Comment," The New Yorker, January 30, 1937
>When I first read this, I was surprised to learn that the verb
>"contact" had ever been controversial.
>Here's another long-dead controversy, noted by White when it was
>apparently still live:
>"Not only did the author of the instruction book score badly on the
>front cover, but inside the book he used the word 'personalize' in an
>essay on how to improve one¹s writing. A man who likes the word
>'personalize' is entitled to his choice, but we wonder whether he
>should be in the business of giving advice to writers. 'Whenever
>possible,' he wrote, 'personalize your writing by directing it to the
>reader.' As for us, we would as lief Simonize our grandmother as
>personalize our writing."
>We're all entitled to choose, as White said, but I think Dmitri's
>usage has transitioned to status-quotitude.
>David Feurzeig
>University of Vermont
>"One never knows, do one?" ‹Fats Waller
>Smt-talk mailing list
>Smt-talk at lists.societymusictheory.org

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