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  1. Editor, UsingEnglish.com
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    #11

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Maybe it's a regional collocation because I would also always say 'the wrong bus' in the context above, but I can take a wrong turning, etc.

  2. Monticello's Avatar
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    #12

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Quote Originally Posted by Tdol View Post
    Maybe it's a regional collocation because I would also always say 'the wrong bus' in the context above, but I can take a wrong turning, etc.
    Hi Tdol,

    Which context? Snappy has suggested two:
    1. wrong meaning bad, inconvenient, substandard, etc. (i.e., a bad ride)
    2. wrong meaning incorrect bus route (i.e., thus, a bus that takes one to an unexpected destination)

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    #13

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Yes, we don't often say "a wrong" anything, although logically it would seem to make more sense. I suppose it was seen as tactful to pretend there were only 2 alternatives, and mistaking one for the other may seem less foolish than mistaking a random bus for the correct one. I agree we sometimes hear a wrong turn, though.

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    #14

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia View Post
    Yes, we don't often say "a wrong" anything, although logically it would seem to make more sense. I suppose it was seen as tactful to pretend there were only 2 alternatives, and mistaking one for the other may seem less foolish than mistaking a random bus for the correct one. I agree we sometimes hear a wrong turn, though.
    Hi konungursvia,

    Though tact was of course considered, it would be wrong (i.e., Not in conformity with fact or truth; incorrect or erroneous.) to think that any pretending was ever intended. in any of my previous responses to any of Snappy's questions.

    As you will find from a careful rereading of my previous post, the cited entry for the word in question -- wrong -- provides eight different nuances for its adjective form alone. Narrowing this list down to just two potential meanings was done clearly for the purpose of showing the richness of the language even within a very limited scope.

    Though I did not take it there, logically it follows that extending the list of possibilities according to the cited entry's definitions results in a corresponding multiplicity of meanings. Pretending? - Not a hint. Oversimplification? - Not at all. Clarification of meaning? That is, and remains, the intent.
    Last edited by Monticello; 09-Apr-2009 at 21:36.

  5. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #15

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Quote Originally Posted by Snappy View Post
    I must say thank you to those who gave me useful information, but I am still confused.

    Isn't it possible to use "a wrong ..." in the following cases, where "wrong" means "bad" rather than "unsuitable"?

    I had a wrong impression of her. (bad impression)
    I made a wrong decision. (bad decision)
    That is a wrong idea. (bad idea)
    To make a long story short, I have taught Asian students for many years, and find that in some ways, their languages are sometimes more logical than ours.... For example, when responding to a negated verb question -- "Is it not raining?" -- "No, it is raining" / "Yes, it isn't."

    And as a result of the different logic of the various language groups, we often see errors on the part of Asian students that differ from those of, say, Italians or Poles.

    Indeed I have seen my Asian students write "a bad number" "a wrong bus" "another way" where we native speakers almost always say "the wrong...."

    So I think it best to enjoin our Asian friends learning English to avoid "a wrong such-and-such" in favour of "the wrong such-and-such."

    Therefore, you may regard these three as corrections of your three proposed sentences:

    I had the wrong impression of her. (a bad impression)
    I made the wrong decision. (a bad decision)
    That is the wrong idea. (a bad idea)


    I hope this helps.

    PS. Monticello -- your erudite input is always welcome and fascinating. But my use of the word "pretend" was not intended in the infantile sense, but rather in the etymological sense -- to hold that, to maintain, to assume... My assumption was that in matters of courtesy, a great deal of tactful simplification goes on. Thanks for your thoughts, however.

  6. Monticello's Avatar
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    #16

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Hi konungursvia,

    Hmmm ...

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    To make a long story short, I have taught Asian students for many years, and find that in some ways, their languages are sometimes more logical than ours.... For example, when responding to a negated verb question -- "Is it not raining?" -- "No, it is raining" / "Yes, it isn't."
    Your point on the English language's seeming illogic in its idiomatic affirming replies -- as quoted above -- does demonstrate a hurdle that some foreign language students might have to overcome in understanding common idiomatic English usage.

    But when one talks about the usage of "a/the wrong bus," is one really talking about the same thing? i.e., an idiomatic English phrase that carries within itself possible illogic, and thus sets of potentially contradictory meanings?

    Further, does advising such a foreign language student to use "the wrong bus" over "a wrong bus" really help here?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    Indeed I have seen my Asian students write "a bad number" "a wrong bus" "another way" where we native speakers almost always say "the wrong...."

    So I think it best to enjoin our Asian friends learning English to avoid "a wrong such-and-such" in favour of "the wrong such-and-such."

    Therefore, you may regard these three as corrections of your three proposed sentences:

    I had the wrong impression of her. (a bad impression)
    I made the wrong decision. (a bad decision)
    That is the wrong idea. (a bad idea)
    I'm not sure I understand how going from the general -- a wrong impression, decision, or idea -- to the specific -- the wrong impression, decision or idea -- brings any real clarity of meaning, or assists the student toward understanding what the real issue is:

    Isn't the difficulty here for a student such as Snappy one of not being aware of the breadth of meaning that a single word might hold (In Snappy's example, the word, wrong), and so confining usage to a single misapplied meaning?

    Finally: "the infantile sense" vs. the etymological sense for the word, pretend:

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    PS. Monticello -- your erudite input is always welcome and fascinating. But my use of the word "pretend" was not intended in the infantile sense, but rather in the etymological sense -- to hold that, to maintain, to assume... My assumption was that in matters of courtesy, a great deal of tactful simplification goes on. Thanks for your thoughts, however.
    Here's a note on the word's etymology, taken from the entry cited in the above link:

    ETYMOLOGY:Middle English pretenden, from Old French pretendre, from Latin praetendere : prae-, pre- + tendere, to extend; see ten- in Appendix I.

    What, exactly, would "the infantile sense" be?
    Last edited by Monticello; 10-Apr-2009 at 21:57.

  7. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #17

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus


    Further, does advising such a foreign language student to use "the wrong bus" over "a wrong bus" really help here?

    I'm not sure I understand how going from the general -- a wrong impression, decision, or idea -- to the specific -- the wrong impression, decision or idea -- brings any real clarity of meaning, or assists the student toward understanding
    Well the use of the indefinite article in such cases almost always sounds erroneous. To sound idiomatic, we use the definite article, in almost all cases, even though this practice may not really match the material logic of the situation.

    The infantile sense of "pretend" is make believe, cf. the etymological sense, from prétendre to hold forward, to maintain, to hold, to claim, etc. I was surprised you were apparently so struck by my choice of the word. I think you may have the wrong idea about what I meant.

    I don't agree it was about whether the student understood the full range of meanings of "wrong" but rather, about whether he knew "the wrong bus" was in fact a fixed phrase, a common idiotism, a cliché usage, etc.

    I felt it would be best if we just told him or her "most times, the wrong X sounds more normal."

    I hope you don't mind my attempts to help.

    Konung

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    #18

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    But does this mean that the sentence ''That's a wrong bus.' would always be incorrect?
    Incorrect is one thing, but unnatural speech that is not idiomatic is another. I would venture to say that the statement "You've got a wrong number", like the sentence "I took a wrong bus", always sounds incorrect in the sense that it is not idiomatic, at least in my region. Perhaps in Delhi, or Manchester, they'd say otherwise.

    Apology: Sorry, Monticello, for getting you so riled up. If it's any help I'm a Red Sox fan. Please take it easy.

  9. Monticello's Avatar
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    #19

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Hello again konungursvia,

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    I hope you don't mind my attempts to help.
    This is a public forum. Why should anyone mind another's input per se? When that input appears at odds with what one has already posted, however, the nature of such a public forum invites, if not at times, demands, follow-up. Should one expect anything different?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    I don't agree it was about whether the student understood the full range of meanings of "wrong" but rather, about whether he knew "the wrong bus" was in fact a fixed phrase, a common idiotism, a cliché usage, etc.
    Your confusion here seems to be based on the fact that Snappy has posed three sets of questions in multiple posts to this thread. If you are having any trouble following this thread, please review these posts in the order and context in which these have been presented. When you do, you should be able to find and apply those responses provided to the appropriate question(s) and context. Taking things out of context, as you must know, only serves to muddy the waters.

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    Well the use of the indefinite article in such cases almost always sounds erroneous. To sound idiomatic, we use the definite article, in almost all cases, even though this practice may not really match the material logic of the situation.


    Really? You appear to be expressing an opinion here. Fine. The question is: Does your opinion here reflect common usage? Can you supply some examples cited from impartial sources to demonstrate your assertion? If you wish to back up your statement with such, specificity in your examples would be appreciated. (Otherwise, posts that continue to obfuscate the real issues here will be the result.) If not, let's recognize your assertion here as simply your own opinion, which may or may not reflect common usage.

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    The infantile sense of "pretend" is make believe, cf. the etymological sense, from prétendre to hold forward, to maintain, to hold, to claim, etc. I was surprised you were apparently so struck by my choice of the word. I think you may have the wrong idea about what I meant.
    You may want to recheck your understanding of the word, infantile, especially as it might apply to your above context. Also, you are quite right about the etymology of the root ten- (i.e, "to hold, keep, maintain" -from this cited link.) But this, as I'm sure you know, is a root from which the word in question, pretend, has been derived.

    Can removing words, phrases, roots, from their context ever possibly bring any clarity of meaning to this (or any other) thread (in these forums)?

    Is there a pattern that is becoming apparent here?

    Quote Originally Posted by konungursvia
    I felt it would be best if we just told him or her "most times, the wrong X sounds more normal."
    I reckon that the difference in approach here is a philosophical one, .i.e., should the student be asked to give thought to his or her usage, or simply apply ready-made, automatic responses?
    Last edited by Monticello; 11-Apr-2009 at 02:05.

  10. konungursvia's Avatar
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    #20

    Re: Took the/a wrong bus

    Since it came up, the word I used was also correct, though dated:

    idiotism
    Definition:
    (1) The type of speech that is peculiar to a particular place, group, or class.
    (2) A group of words that has a meaning different than that suggested by the individual words. For example, saying "I see the light" when you mean to say "I understand."
    Etymology: The word derives via French from the Late Latin idiotismus, common or vulgar manner of speaking, which ultimately derives from the Greek idiotismos, "the fashion of a common person" or "a vulgar phrase."
    Note: In the 16th and 17th centuries the words idiom and idiotism were synonymous in the above senses. Since then, idiom has superseded idiotism.
    Oxford English Dictionary: The word's first citation for sense 1 — which is its first citation in any sense — is from 1588:
    "Some patcheries bungled up in an uplandish Ideotisme."
    (J. Harvey Disc. Probleme 65 )

    synonym: idiom

    Source: Online dictionary of language terminology definition of idiotism

    In any case, I believe we have both given our best help to the original poster, and can call it a day. I certainly hope so. This was getting too warm for my taste. Bonne nuit!

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