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Sunday, April 19, 2009

Grammar Peeves Update

I met a friend Dawn at Norwescon, and she has enlighted me on one of my pet peeves, the sudden usage of "troop" in referring to an individual soldier. Here's what she found out:

* Webster's New World College Dictionary 4th edition (often used in newsrooms) allows for such a use, but not as the primary definition. "... 3: [pl.] a) a body of soldiers b) soldiers [45 troops were hurt] ..."

* The 2008 AP Stylebook allows for troops to be used when meaning soldiers in certain instances. It is a change, though, because my older version made no mention of it. [AHA, says Carol, I knew it!]

"troop, troops, troupe: A troop, in its singular form, is a group of people, often military, or animals. Troops, in the plural, means several such groups. But when the plural appears with a large number, it is understood to mean individuals. There were an estimated 150,000 troops in Iraq. [But not: Three troops were injured.] ..."

So, it still sounds wrong to me. But thanks, Dawn!


JamieCam said...

Being a fully-fledged grammar nerd, I'm absolutely loving this post and it's yet another grammatical enigma that's not necessarily logical, but nonetheless makes sense, to add to the pile. Another of my favourites is this: how do you convey a single branches ownership of its leaves vs a group of them?
1) A branch's leaves
2) The branches' leaves
Now that sort of anomaly is just plain rare... Oh yeah - love your books Carol, you and Robin Hobb would have to be amongst the most talented authors in the industry.

carolwriter said...

OK, you're just trying to confuse us here, JamieCam! (Which is not always hard.) But I'll take this one on: I'd say a single branch is always branch. Thus in speaking of its leaves, we would say the branch's leaves. The branches' leaves would always refer to the leaves of multiple branches.

Thank you so much for the good words. It just makes a huge difference every day! (And I'm honored to be in such company!)

Fabulist said...

If you haven't already read "Eats,Shoots, and Leaves" I loved it for a laugh.

However, I would highly recommend the book "On Writing Well" by William Zinsser. All though you don't really need it Ms. Berg as you already write quite well thank you very much.

Please overlook any grammar problems, I have never been good at it. That's what my husband is for. *smiles*

JamieCam said...
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JamieCam said...

It's a fantastic book isn't it? Although waving placards outside the premier of some movie whose title was missing an apostrophe was a little extreme. Funny, but extreme.
And I should've been a little clearer in my original post - I was more commenting on the fact that pluralizing 'branch' introduces an extra 'e' to the word, and including the apostrophes was meant to further highlight that.
Another word that's buzzing me out these days - 'queuing'. Doesn't it just look plain wrong? I mean 4 consecutive vowels? Please...

JamieCam said...
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JamieCam said...

You do raise a very good point Fabulist - that Carol does write extremely well.

But what does that rather vague statement actually mean? Well, when I’m at a book store, and just having a general rummage-around, I’ll pick up a book (only occasionally doing so on the merit of its cover) and read the first paragraph or two, or more, depending on my initial reaction. Now, when I’m reading these paragraphs, I’m not necessarily absorbing the seedlings of whatever story is being planted, instead I’m processing the words themselves, their syntactical arrangement as well as their appropriate usage. If I reach a stage where I find myself no longer ‘reading’ per se, but rather absorbing a mellifluous flow of words that completely disengage my subconscious, then I’ll buy the book without reservation, then and there. And invariably, I’m never disappointed – great writing and great storytelling beget one another. Take Robin Hobb, Carol, Patrick Rothfuss and yes, Tolkien himself and it soon becomes evident that the richness of their stories, their worlds, their characters, rides upon the back of carefully-crafted, beautiful writing.

The fantasy genre is an easy one to become disillusioned with these days. There’s too much bandwagon-jumping and a disturbing lack of original ideas, compounded by terrible writing and just plain laziness, which is why I’m grateful for authors like those aforementioned for giving me something to look forward to each time I have to catch a train, relax at lunchtime or pass some time before heading to bed, invigorating my dreams.

Allen said...

I've assumed up until now that troop was just short for trooper, and troops was a pluralization after the abbreviated form became accepted usage.

carolwriter said...

Ah, but how often do we actually call soldiers troopers? And we don't abbreviate California state troopers to California state troops. I truly believe it originated either with troop being picked up as a euphemism for soldier or as someone's attempt to be gender neutral, ie. thinking that somehow soldier was too masculine. No matter that it was a collective noun to begin with. But as with so many irritations, it seems to be embedded. I'm trying to get past it. Really...