Issue Date: May 4, 2009
Chemists And Grammarians
READING RUDY BAUM'S thought-provoking editorials on a wide range of issues, often stretching beyond the conventional boundaries of the chemical enterprise, has become a part of my weekly routine.
Most of the time, it's pleasurable. For example, I share his concern posed in the piece entitled "More on Limits," questioning "whether capitalism itself is a viable organizing principle for society in the 21st century" (C&EN, Feb. 23, page 3). However, the second sentence of paragraph four merits comment: "Neither are cars or appliances or tools or furniture or home improvement items or McMansions" does not seem to bode well with the English grammar I learned years back in China. The correct combination should be "neither...nor," or "either...or," but not "neither...or." Has this particular rule been changed or relaxed recently that I am not aware of? In addition, perhaps a few properly placed commas would have made it more readable.
"HAND OVER HAND" uses the phrase "beg the question" to mean "raise the question" (C&EN, March 23, page 38). This is becoming more and more common. Language changes, but it would be a shame if we lost the useful traditional meaning of the phrase—to commit the logical fallacy of assuming as a premise that which is to be proved—because "beg the question" captures the concept in just three words! Some folks feel so strongly about this that they started a website, begthequestion.info. And it's not just humans who are riled up (www.qwantz.com/archive/000693.html).
Howard J. Wilk
- Chemical & Engineering News
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