Sunday January 15, 2006
I'm in the middle of revising my thesis for submission to Linguistic Typology and in the journal's very thorough instructions for contributors, I came across a bit of cleverly-worded advice that I thought was worth repeating:
Avoid being sexist, ageist, racist, X-centric, plagiarist, libellous, or dull.
Words to live by, I say, and not just when you're writing.
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That is really, really funny. And true. (but should it be "and dull"?)
I thought all linguists were a bit X-centric. Oh wait, that's eccentric.
I hate to put on my grammar hat (as it's hard to take off and makes me smugly survey the lesser hordes superciliously) but I think it actually should be 'or dull' for the reason that you're trying to NOT be those things - it would only be 'and' if you were trying to achieve those qualities.
To my mental ear, "avoid being X, Y, and Z" means "avoid being all three", while "avoid being X, Y, or Z" means "avoid being any of the three". I'm pretty sure the latter is the intended meaning of the sentence above, so or seems like the right choice.
I acknowledge, however, that the and version could also mean "avoid being X, avoid being Y, and avoid being Z", and I guess the corresponding alternate reading is available for the or version (i.e. "avoid being X, avoid being Y, or avoid being Z"), so I guess it's a question of the scope of the coordination. These latter readings seem sort of clever and less natural to me, though.
I really ought to have a more coherent opinion, here—I'm supposed to know something about coordination.
Posted by: The Tensor at Jan 17, 2006 2:18:20 PM