Vail Daily letter: Showing my age |

Vail Daily letter: Showing my age

Modern-day electronic gadgets and changing contemporary habits have eroded some old-time traditions of grammar, spelling, enunciation, basic math and reasonability.

Different words:

There are words that may seem the same, but are really quite different for different situations — noting this is one area where spell check may be doing us a mis-service:

• Principal vs. principle.

• Complementary vs. complimentary.

You even see misuse of these words in big print advertising, such as “complementary parking.”

Alternate spellings:

Some spell-check packages accept alternate spellings of American words with the British versions — here those labeled “OK” were accepted by my particular version of spell check:

• Color vs. Colour.

• Center vs. Centre (OK).

• Check vs. Cheque (OK).

• Acclimatizing vs. Acclimatising.

• Aging vs. Ageing.

• Banisters vs. Bannisters (OK).

• Of course: Self-aggrandizement vs. self-aggrandisement.

So if someone corrects your spelling of the British version, just say it’s your British (England, Wales and Scotland) ancestry coming through.

Un-enunciated speaking:

Nowadays I hear:

• International slurred to “Innernational.”

• Hunting becoming “Hunning.”

• “Winner” is the new Winter.

• Hundred mumbled as “Hunert.”

Listening to BBC commentators on radio or TV helps to understand “proper” speaking.

Reasonability and basic math:

Computers, smart phones and inexpensive calculators, coupled with the “gospel of the internet,” appears to be taking away the need for basic math skills, big picture perspectives and “reasonability” checks in our lives:

For example, folks entering a number of digits involving decimal points (where it’s easy to mis-key) to do multiplication or division on their smart phone and accept the result without applying a reasonability check of the result — for illustration, should the result be in hundreds or thousands of whatever they were dealing with. Further, can we assume people still know their “times tables,” seeing six times 12 (or six times eight) being keyed in to get a result?

In 1999, a NASA Mars orbiter was lost due a mix-up of two groups from different countries working as part of a team — one group was using the metric system (meters, liters, newtons, etc.) while the other was using the British Imperial System (feet/inches, gallons, pounds, etc.). Each group computer-checked their math multiple times, but not the big picture for reasonability — in this case calculations were off by a factor of 4.5, where a pound of force is equal to 4.5 newtons of force.

Some of these issues may no longer matter, but some just might. And I am sure this letter has some grammatical or spelling errors!

Paul Rondeau


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