Choice or choices

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Choice or choices

Post by Bobinwales » Fri Jul 08, 2005 8:34 am

"A range from which to choose" what a simple phrase.

Sir Clive is going into soccer management with Southampton next season. I wonder what position Jonny will play. As for the 3-0 bit, wait until Wales has a go at the job when you come to see us.
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Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Fri Jul 08, 2005 8:55 am

AllanRobert (sorry),
Usage which is initially strange, gradually becomes common and then normal is simply right because it's the way people use the language.

Some time in the 14th/15th centuries, people started using the word "dog" in preference to the word "hound". Nobody knows why, but it happened, and now it's just part of the language. But nobody said "Hey, that's not a proper word". There's not a lot of point in trying to freeze the grammar or lexicon of a language at a given time (13th May, 1952 perhaps?) and saying "right, no more changes as of now!" If thousands of speakers use it and it is well understood by the audience, then it's right. It's the reason that we constantly need new dictionaries, the reason why we no longer rely on Samuel Johnson's 1755 Dictionary of the English Language.

And there are plenty of words and new senses of words that haven't made it into the great dictionaries yet, but that are perfectly good and useful. The most recent major dictionary of the English language is the new Collins, published last month. Mine's on order! Perhaps at last I'll see what the dictionary-makers have to say about "tapping up". Or do you think that "tapping up" has no place in a dictionary, because people weren't using it ten years ago?
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Choice or choices

Post by Alton » Fri Jul 08, 2005 6:07 pm

Both Ken and Phil pointed out that"choice" is not a verb but a noun,
my mistake. But isn't it used here as part of a verb phrase
"Allan has a choice". If this is the case doesn't my point remain that one word is being used to describe both and therefore they are being confused as the same.

Alton
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Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:15 pm

Hmmmm, "verb phrase"? Don't go there!

Oh, all right!
A "verb phrase" is a critical syntactic category which comprises a verb, its objects (if any), complements and modifiers, but does not include its subject. Most often, it corresponds to the "predicate" of a sentence.
The verb phrase in the sentence below is in angle brackets:
"Phil's sister <is talking utter garbage on the phone again>.

So, "choice" is of course part of a verb phrase, but so is "choices" in
"He <has several different choices>"

But, terminological nitpicking aside, I can see what you're getting at.

Ken put it clearly enough:
I think what you were probably wanted to say was "in this case ‘choice’ referred to the ‘act of making a choice’ as opposed to ‘the object chosen.’" But in either case, they are nouns.
Your argument is that the same word is used as a noun denoting an action and as a noun denoting a (relatively) concrete object.

But this happens all the time. The more concrete the object is, the less we are aware of a problem.
"Sally had a slide on the slide."
"I need a drink of Coke. - Sorry, we've no Coke, but we've got plenty of other drinks over there."

One word bearing plenty of different senses, often very closely related, is commonplace.

When the senses are extremely close, it's occasionally difficult to identify exactly what's meant.
"The North Face of the Eiger was the most difficult climb I've done."
"That was a difficult climb."
In the first case, the sense is a specific route up a mountain or rock face. In the second (without further context), it's not clear whether the primary sense is the activity of climbing or the nature of the rock face being climbed.

But as I say, it happens all the time. Context generally sorts it out.
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Choice or choices

Post by Alton » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:16 pm

Phil,
I have wondered about this before and am glad you brought up the question of usage of a new "slang" until it becomes standard.Clearly you are right about this in your previous statement but how are we to know when said expression crosses the line of acceptability. Conversley does a word, having fallen into disuse, somehow loss it"s "acreditation".
Alas how's a poor boy to know!
Alton
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Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Fri Jul 08, 2005 7:35 pm

Oh dear, I'd hoped to get back to some work. What a drag! I'll have to ponder this one as well.

Ah, saved myself the effort! Have a look here, where I tried to distinguish between slang and colloquial language. Maybe that will help.
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Choice or choices

Post by Alton » Fri Jul 08, 2005 9:26 pm

It doesn't.
Sorry for the bother.
Alton
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Choice or choices

Post by Phil White » Fri Jul 08, 2005 10:40 pm

New words which come into the language (like "dog" in the above) aren't always slang. Indeed, most of them aren't. "Laser", "outsourcing", "Euroland", "saxophone", synthesizer" were all acceptable from their very inception. Slang words, on the other hand, very rarely make it into formal language and are very often short-lived. What words become accepted, why they become accepted and what words die out and why they die out are things which are simply unpredictable. Only some of the linguistic mechanisms at work are understood resonably clearly.

Some aspects which affect the adoption of a particular word or pronunciation are:
- prestige (do I hear the word being used by a person or group of people that I admire?) This, of course is a two-edged sword. The fact that Tony Blair uses a certain turn of phrase or a certain term may influence me to adopt it as well, or it may just as well be a perfectly good reason for me to avoid it.
- new objects and concepts need new words, and equally words for old technologies and concepts die out.
- some new words may make it quicker and simpler to express something complex.
- contact between cultures and with other languages lead to new ideas and words being adopted.

But exactly why some words enjoy popularity and others don't is often simply inexplicable. They just catch on. But what is pretty clear is that it is the speakers themselves who decide whether a word is used or not, whether a particular sense of a word is acceptable or not. If nobody uses a word, it's dead, and the fact that it's in a dictionary doesn't bring it back to life.

How long is the word "clubbing" (for "going to nightclubs") going to last? No idea! Maybe the 2102 edition of the Merriam-Webster will have an entry:
clubbing: (archaic, late 20th, early 21st century) The activity of going to nightclubs.
Or maybe it won't.
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Choice or choices

Post by mongrowl » Sat Jul 09, 2005 6:56 pm

When the ‘smart’ shopkeeper said there are two choices A OR B, I would have to assume that he/she meant exactly what they said
Well now, there you go. What is not clear is that Gould and others are "meaning" { two choices A (exclusive OR) B} when they hear/say choice.
nb
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