Killing The Language Rafael | April 15, 2012 | Just Wow, Writing | 5 Comments Related Posts Hospital Admits Performing Illegal Kidney Transplants No Comments | Nov 10, 2010 Tips For Setting Photography Prices No Comments | Aug 16, 2010 You know you’re serious about exercising when you go to… No Comments | Nov 17, 2014 The Body Farm 2 Comments | Dec 2, 2010 About The Author Rafael Rafael is an aviation geek, a consumer advocate, a dad, a multiple personality blogger, a photographer, politically opinionated, a videographer and many other things as well. 5 Comments Darren Doyle April 15, 2012 Rafael sat down and brainstormed… “what series of posts could I write about that would virtually guarantee responses from Darren.” Well played, sir. Actually, the car wash example you gave is perfectly grammatically correct and properly punctuated to boot. You have an ordinal number (the number of washes), followed by two non-coordinate adjectives modifying the noun “washes.” Coordinate adjectives are those with equal importance; since they share equal importance, their order can be swapped at will. Coordinate adjectives must be separated by a comma. Thus, you can have a big, flimsy, important box; a flimsy, big, important box; an important, big, flimsy box; and so on. When some adjectives are more important than others, order becomes important (non-coordinate… not of the same order). Thus you can have a big cardboard box, but you can’t have a cardboard big box. In some cases multiple words form a single adjectival modifier and cannot be used on their own without breaking or changing the intended meaning. This is where you need a hyphen. You can have a five-year-old cat, but a five, year-old cat; a five-year, old cat; a five, year, old cat; and so on all have different or gibberish meanings. Unfortunately, there is a little bit of linguistic ambiguity that has arisen out of the series of non-coordinate adjectives in the example (you don’t usually see that many in a row). Our brain wants to throw hyphens in there. They aren’t “three-hand car washes” nor are they “three hand-car washes”. They are car washes. More specifically, they are hand car washes. Even more specifically, there are three hand car washes. Darren Doyle April 15, 2012 As a linguist, I’ll throw another observation at you. What you describe as “killing the language” is the EXACT OPPOSITE of killing a language. To kill a language, you remove its changing and growing and insure that it completely follows all prescribed rules to the letter all the time. Latin is an example that comes to mind. ALL living languages are constantly growing and changing in sound, grammer, vocabulary, and in their written form, too (if they have one). It is this constant state of flux and adaptation that makes a language ALIVE! Indeed, if you have living individuals speaking a language natively, IT WILL CHANGE! If it did not, then you wouldn’t be able to say that you are “Texting,” you wouldn’t be able to say that you have three “mouses” for one computer (and, yes, that is correct—so is mice, but that’s a whole other discussion), you wouldn’t be able to say you are “Surfing” the “net” or visiting a “website” (one word), and the list goes on and on and on. Having said that. It absolutely does frustrate me when people use this property of living language to try to justify blatant apathy, ignorance, and flat-out laziness when it comes to reading, writing, and speaking. RafaelTwitter: rafaelmarquez April 16, 2012 It just looked funny to me. Regardless of whether it’s accurate or not. RafaelTwitter: rafaelmarquez April 16, 2012 Yes, I know that language is a living thing that evolves over time. After all, we’re not all speaking Middle English, nodamene? Moses LeosTwitter: m512915 April 20, 2012 Admittedly, I shamefully put “Segway” in a college paper. I’d like to think that I have progressed enough to write better, but I know that is not the case. The rules governing the English language are numerous and extensive. Too extensive for today’s world of Twitter and text messaging. I feel sorry for those who are English professors/teachers. The amount of papers they deal with containing, “wuz”, “iz”, “bcos/bcuz” and other text shorthand words has got to be mind-numbing.