Taking things literally . . .
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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Mon, 11 May 98 15:53:10 -0700
Subject: Taking things literally . . .
[There is a disease that college freshmen (especially non-native speakers)
get called "Thesaurusitis" -- it involves rewriting a paper by replacing
all short words with long synonyms from the thesaurus. Unfortunately, the
results are usually dreadful, if not amusing. The babelfish game of using
computer programs to translate a paper from English into French ("It loses
something in the original." -James Thurber) and then back again, can give
equally atrocious results. And then there are the long unreadable articles
with every word misspelled, but in such a way that spell-checkers can't
tell. But this Fun-Item describes something else altogether... -psl].
Forwarded-by: "Jack D. Doyle" <doylej@PEAK.ORG>
[Mark Israel posted this in misc.education.language.english. He is the "I"
in the following.]
I was correcting the English in a report written by my roommate (who is
Swiss-German and is here doing postgraduate work in educational psychology).
She had written: "Mike prevented William from working by putting his hand
over William's keyboard. Mike found this very sparingly and did it again
I asked her, "What do you mean by 'sparingly'?"
She replied that she had originally written "funny", but when she ran
the report through the grammar-checker on her computer, it told her that
"funny" was trite and suggested "sparingly" as a substitute.
Baffled, I crossed out "sparingly" and wrote "amusing".
The next morning, it hit me: the grammar-checker must have said something
like: "The word 'funny' is trite. Use sparingly."
© 1998 Peter Langston