Wednesday, September 20, 2006

Linguistic embarrassments

I have always thought that 'concision' was much more elegant than the clumsy formation 'conciseness'. Today, I started reading some articles on Perl, where, I suppose predictably, I found the concept of concise-itude referenced repeatedly -- and always it was the latter word that was used. Well, I gritted my teeth, much as I do when I find yet another example that people just haven't learned that not all thei'r possessives need to have apostrophes 1, and moved on; but then I came to Larry Wall's Apocalypse 5, on regular expressions (because I had heard that Perl 6 was completely reimplenting regular expressions, and, together with, I must imagine, every civilised programmer, had salivated at the thought that to all Perl's other power would now be added the Holy Grail of named capturing parentheses), where he, too, uses 'conciseness'! "Oho", thought I, "now to catch the linguist at his own game, for he, at least, should be careful of language!" I zipped triumphantly to the OED, only to discover that the synonymy of 'concision' with 'conciseness' is only the third definition, the first referring instead to cutting to pieces. This failure comes so close on the heels of the recent demonstration of my inability correctly to conjugate 'to lay' (I bridled, incorrectly, at the grammar -- never mind the content -- of NPR's report that President Bush Junior "laid a wreath" at the reflecting pools at Ground Zero) that I begin to wonder whether I can trust my own pedantry.

UPDATE 3 October 2006. In my post Utilities for the Mac, I used the word 'conformance', and wondered whether I might actually mean 'conformity'. A visit to the OED didn't help much, since the first definitions for the words in question are, respectively:

Conformance. The action of conforming; the shaping of action in conformity to or with.
Conformity. Correspondence in form or manner; agreement in character; likeness, resemblance; congruity, harmony, accordance; exact correspondence to or with a pattern in some respect or matter.
Well, I'll be damned if I know which one I meant.

1 I mean, seriously. No one ever writes 'hi's', 'her's', or 'their's'. Why do they write 'it's' 2?
2 I know, I know. Because 'it's' is a word, whereas 'hi's' &c. are not. My blog, my illogical rants.


Blogger naper271 said...

circumcision and circumcise

10:58 am  
Blogger Loren said...

I think I don't quite understand. Are you drawing a parallel with 'circumspection'?

12:29 pm  

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