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Re: Proposed ballot for the constitutional amendment

On Tue, 2003-10-14 at 09:08, Manoj Srivastava wrote:
> > Manoj, you say you were taught English - I infer that it is not your
> > native language.  It is mine.  Furthermore, my father taught English
> > and I was at a good school while grammar was still being taught.
> 	I find that has little to recommend as a metric of fluency and
>  command of the language;

I assume that refers to the statement that I am native English.  If it
referred to the rest of what I said, it would be foolish and arrogant.

>  I have lived for the last decade and a half
>  in university towns, where I have seen the absolute ignorance of the
>  rules of grammar and lately, the ability to construct a grammatical
>  sentence by native speakers of the language.  Picking up a language
>  haphazardly when a child often does not compare to being taught the
>  language well.

I completely agree.  That is not my situation, as I explained above.  We
were taught grammar well, including the use of this particular rule.

> 	Additionally, I have observed that native speakers have
>  discarded the distinction between shall and will, and never learned
>  the rules governing the different usage, so one can very seldom trust
>  the gut of the native speakers when it comes to fine points of
>  usage. Perhaps the language is evolving to the point that these
>  distinctions have become moot.

That is probably so in colloquial English, whose speakers are largely
ignorant of grammar, and perhaps it is true of nearly all who left
school in England after, say, 1975.  The destruction of good English
teaching began with the move to comprehensive schooling beginning in

> >         "Do _NOT_ encrypt your ballot; the voting mechanism shall
> >         not be able to decrypt your message."
> > is to warn people that the mechanism cannot cope with encrypted
> > messages.  The sentence actually expresses your determination to
> > prevent its having that capability, which is a very unexpected
> > meaning.  Perhaps that is what you mean.
> 	*Sigh*. As I said before, I meant what I said.


Do you then truly mean that it is your firm intention not to allow the
software to decrypt voting messages?  Do you also wish that intention to
be the main thrust of the sentence?

Since that meaning is unexpected, it would be better to find another way
of expressing it.  For example:

        Do _NOT_ encrypt your ballot; I am determined not to give the
        voting mechanism the ability to decrypt an encrypted message.


> > It's your document.  However, since many non-English speakers read
> > this and may be guided by it, misinformation should not go
> > unchallenged.  There are no doubt many native English speakers who
> > need to learn it too.
> 	Misinformation?  Has imprecision of usage become so
>  commonplace that didactic phraseology is construed to be
>  misinformation?  If people do not understand what "shall" means in
>  context, then they have worse problems than understanding the ballot
>  when it comes to reading the constitution.

What you wrote is strained and unidiomatic.  That is something that
other non-native English speakers need to understand, lest they think it
is good style and reproduce it.

Oliver Elphick                                Oliver.Elphick@lfix.co.uk
Isle of Wight, UK                             http://www.lfix.co.uk/oliver
GPG: 1024D/3E1D0C1C: CA12 09E0 E8D5 8870 5839  932A 614D 4C34 3E1D 0C1C
     "I delight to do thy will, O my God; yea, thy law is 
      within my heart."             Psalms 40:8 

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