Today is Saturday, October 25, 2014

The Effect of How You Affect Too Much for Words

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By ANNE DONNELL

Would this sentence be correct? “The weather effected his sinuses painfully.” I saw this recently. What about it, O Grammar Guide? -Not Asleep at the Wheel 

Well, at least this guy didn’t sign it, “Old Grammar Guide,” a reference either to my advanced age (I keep insisting that 69 is “barely in my sixties,” but only other people who are 69 find that useful or witty), or to old grammar. People and grammar can become out of date. 

For an example of aging grammar: the often vaunted who-whom “crisis.” The careful usage of these pronoun forms (nominative and objective) was carefully taught to increasingly careless brains. The result: “Experts” have waved the white flag on this one. Modern speakers and writers have stumbled so often that our ears have lost sensitivity (the quality that makes people like me blanch at “he don’t”) to misplaced who’s and misplaced whom’s. Those who remain in the trenches on this one are fighting in the name of old grammar. Ivory tower grammarians still strive for correctness here, maybe, but the rest of us concede a losing battle.  Who or whom however you please is pretty much OK now.  Well, “Whom are you?” won’t work. 

So, fun with words, boys and girls. ONLINE DEPARTMENT (Thanks, PW) “ANNUAL NEOLOGISM CONTEST” Once again, The Washington Post has published the winning submissions to its yearly contest, in which readers are asked to supply alternate meanings for common words. [Some of the] winners are: • Coffee (n.), the person upon whom one coughs. • Flabbergasted (adj.), appalled over how much weight you have gained.• Abdicate (v.), to give up all hope of ever having a flat stomach.• Esplanade (v.), to attempt an explanation while drunk.• Negligent (adj.), describes a condition in which you absentmindedly answer the door in your nightgown.• Lymph (v.), to walk with a lisp.• Gargoyle (n.), olive-flavored mouthwash.• Flatulence (n.) emergency vehicle that picks you up after you are run over by a steamroller.• Balderdash (n.), a rapidly receding hairline.•  Rectitude (n.), the formal, dignified bearing adopted by proctologists.• Pokemon (n), a Rastafarian proctologist.• Frisbeetarianism (n.), The belief that, when you die, your soul flies up onto the roof and gets stuck there.

Our language is flexible, fun, and confoundedly confusing. The last one, the confoundedly confusing category, seems to be the best slot for today’s matter, the ever present difficulty in distinguishing between affect and effect.

Pause for a QUICK, HELPFUL REMINDER. Use between when connecting two persons or things; use among when connecting three or more persons or things. Grammar graduate school: Between is appropriate to use in a connection of more than two IF you are implying interactions on a one-to-one basis. EXAMPLE.  Aside from age differences, there is really no difference between the four brothers.  HINT TO UNDERSTANDING. Each brother is being compared to one brother, then another, then another. One to one. Thank you for this illuminating information, Grammar for Smart People by Barry Tarshis, page 11.

Affect and effect can both be used as a noun or as a verb.  The most helpful thing here is that affect is usually a verb and effect is usually a noun. And, yes, the sentence submitted by Not Asleep at the Wheel is incorrect. It should read, “The weather affected [verb] his sinuses painfully.” Rewording, “The effect [noun] of the weather on his sinuses was painful.” 

Checking with Phillip Gooden in Who’s Whose: A No-Nonsense Guide to Easily Confused Words [Why aren’t YOU buying these books? Why am I? Disliking grammar is no excuse. I buy cookbooks, which are about something I certainly dislike – cooking. Well, I do love food and colored pictures of kitchens and gardens and food. I’m not alone here.]

 Gooden says the embarrassment factor for misusing is not that high because “almost everyone mixes up their affects and effects from time to time. The general sense of what you are writing is unlikely to be affected, but it’s still a mistake.” (page 8)

MEANING OF VERB AFFECT: have an impact on, make a difference.

MEANING OF NOUN EFFECT: result, impact.

Now, let’s snarl it up a bit. Affect as a noun is a psychological term used to differentiate a feeling or an emotion from a thought or action. [Who wants to be bothered with that? Charge ahead with the whole bundle on your back – actions and emotions. So handy to have it all there when you want to “lose it.” I need a dreadful little smiley face emoticon here.]

Effect as a verb means to “bring about a result.” EXAMPLE. The Industrial Revolution effected great change in the small villages of the land, sending yeomen and their families to large cities to find work in factories. 

Hey, have a nice day. Don’t wear your head out on this one, although you can teach old dogs new tricks. If the aphorism fits, wear it.

BW (Bigtime Word) dragoman, an interpreter/guide.  No dragons, no St. George, just some kind, knowledgeable person like me to lead and inform you. I’m going to stop and design a banner for the castle right now.

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