Sort out has legs. It is beyond the tipping point. It is everywhere.

That hit home to me last night while watching “30 Rock,” when Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), in trouble for uttering a gay slur in his comedy act, says:

“Remember when I offended stubborn people? That took forever to sort out!”

22 thoughts on “Legs

    1. Yes, as previously hashed (or hashed out), in this and some other idioms (sit/sit for an exam), Americans seem to prefer longer version which is outmoded in Britain. Go figure.

  1. What do you think of this common argument I’ve seen, between the hypothetical Englishman and American?

    E: You Americans butcher our language; you’ve misspelt words like “colour” etc. and you use horrible Americanisms such as “gotten”, “soccer” etc.
    A: Actually, our English is closer to old English than yours, and “soccer” came from England originally.
    E: Yes, but since English is our language, we’ve got the right to change it and you should keep up! As for “soccer”, it may be originally English but that’s irrelevant – it’s 100% American now!

    By the way, there’s a grammar mistake on your other website. Never use an apostrophe to make a plural. Do’s and Dont’s is wrong – it’s Dos and Don’ts.

    Finally, isn’t the word “Briticisms”? And logical punctuation is not wrong; it’s just a different style, and you should NOT dock marks if people prefer that style.

  2. Hello, Matt! The conversation is plausible. That said, I would not want to spend any time with that unpleasant hypothetical Englishman. I will fix the mistake (sometime). My sense is that “Briticisms” is the older form but that “Britishisms” is much more common and accepted now (and I like it a lot better).

    I agree that logical punctuation isn’t “wrong” (in a general sense). However, my journalism students aspire to write for the New York Times, the New Yorker, and the Associated Press. These outfits and in fact every American publication will dock and indeed mock them for punctuating that way. So I will continue to stress the point and take points away.

  3. “I’ve got to get that sorted” is latter day. Older people will say “I’ve got to sort that out.”

    “Sorted” is received from TV dialogues by “with it” writers wherein blokey types when asked if they had done something would reply, “It’s sorted.”

    So this has infiltrated younger minds for whom TV is the only reference and guide, the British education system being more to do with social engineering than actual education.

    As for British English spelling, there was no universal spelling style until the 18th Century when Dr Johnson compiled his dictionary. His spelling style favo(u)red the French influence (couleur) over the prevailing Latin (color) influence.

    The Pilgrims set sail before Johnson(s work and took with them the spelling convention. Both then are correct in context.

    Gotten is in fact correctly used as the past participle of to get, just no longer fashionable in the UK for some time, and indeed it may be heard in the phrase, still used in Blighty by some, “ill gotten gains”.

    Most British, these days, believe a pitcher should be hung on a wall, whereas most Americans would put water, or beer in one.

    Anyone arguing about “correct” pronunciation is on a loser. Britain has multiple dialect regions – the USA too – and the standard received pronunciation only reflects that which emerged in the Birmingham, London, Oxford triangle.

    If you want the “correct” pronunciation of English go to Northumbria wherein proto-English emerged from the Anglo-Saxon and Danish languages spoken prior to the Norman Conquests.

    Try the rhyme:
    Goosey, goosey gander
    Where shall I wander.;

    Originally wander rhymed with gander but these days they actually do not in standard received English. But go North and they still do.

  4. Not in the north of England (Manchester area). Unless you mean even further north? Possibly Newcastle or Scotland, maybe?

    As for gotten, I posted this elsewhere, but dictionary.net clearly indicates that gotten is “obsolescent”. Let’s see if I can find the link again: http://definitions.dictionary.net/gotten

    We know what a pitcher is (I think), but it’s a word that we don’t use ourselves. Beer comes in barrels / kegs, gallons, pint glasses, etc. (Although beer is the exception when it comes to measurements – everything else is measured in metric – Petrol in litres, spirits in millilitres etc. I think beer kept the imperial measurements because a pint is larger than a litre, and it was considered traditional. Even milk is measured in litres now – you can buy a pint of milk but the bottle will be labelled 568ml.)

    Finally, about “colour”. I’ve actually got a very good, compelling argument over why colour is a better spelling than color. You may, of course, not agree with me here, but here we go. This is the sentence I use to illustrate my point:

    Colour is more colourful than color.

    (Note that each individual letter of the words colour, colourful and color should be a different colour.)

    For instance, red C, orange o, yellow l, green o, blue u, purple r. Then, with color, since there are fewer letters, it becomes less colourful! I actually thin, since colourful things are usually considered aesthetically pleasing, this does make a difference.

  5. Sorry for the double post, but why use the word “pitcher”, when we have a perfectly acceptable word “jug”? You see, the word “pitcher” sounds old-fashioned, just like “pail” instead of “bucket”.

    Also, what about “tap” vs. “faucet”? Do people still use the word “faucet” to refer to a tap?

    My dad has a good way of describing this phenomenon: “Why use one syllable when four will do?”, the best example being lift vs. elevator.

  6. Matt, “gotten” may be obsolescent in the U.K., but it is the word people use in the U.S., pretty much all people (unless they are writing for the New Yorker). That is, if someone saw his nephew for the first time in a year, he would not say “My, you’ve become taller” or “My, you’ve grown taller”–both sound too formal. He would NEVER say, “My, you’ve got taller.” That would just sound weird. He would say, “My, you’ve gotten taller.” That is the way people talk over here, for good or ill.

  7. @Matt: Trans Pennine Mercia is not the “North” to us Cis- Pennine Northumbrians who are the original Anglo-Saxon settlers.

    The English language has one of, if not the, largest vocabs in the World. Part of that is because it draws from Norse, Saxon, Dutch, French with some Latin and Greek thrown in and a bit of Celt.

    Why would anyone have such a rich and beautiful gift like that and not use it to its full potential?

    Language is about communicating thoughts and ideas, emotions, the richer and more varied it is the better one can do that.

    We probably could get by with just a hundred words, and these days that applies to too many people, which is why so many conversations include – “know what ah meeen”, and “innit?”

    Shakespeare invented hundreds of words which did not exist before, and the language invents or borrows new words all the time from other languages – pyjama, bungalow, ombudsman – and (gasp!) from our American cousins such as agonise and escalate.,

    You say why use “pitcher” when “jug” is available, but you then say about beer, it comes in kegs or barrels – why do you not follow your own reasoning?

    Then you dismiss pail in favour of bucket – what sense then the Bucket of whitewash song: A Whiter Shade of Pale?

    You would restrict our English sense of humo(u)r and word-play?

    Why use lorry when truck is available or use either when wagon is available – and then what shall we make of Constable’s Hay wain? Then we have coach and bus, why both? – and you will like this one – charabanc – but that’s an oldie so I am not playing fair I suppose.

    Your colo(u)rful defence (our cousins would say (defense) of English spelling is indeed clever, then by the same virtue are the British more smelly than Americans – our odour versus their odor?

  8. Kegs and barrels are not the same thing. Keg beer is “smooth” and barrel beer is hand-pumped.

    I agree with using language to its full potential, but people both sides of the Atlantic often only use their own preferred subset of words.

    As for odo(u)r, does each letter smell different? Fail!

  9. @Matt: A keg is a small barrel or cask – oops a third word – so keg and barrel are interchangeable although keg would not be used for large size barrels. In passing… oil comes in drums but is priced in barrels.

    No idea what “smooth” beer is. A lot of beer is dispensed by CO2 pressurisation and is gassy. Some beers delivered by mechanical pumps are flatter.

    Pressurised beers are more advisably stored in and dispensed from metal barrels – kegs if you prefer – but most industrial scale beers are shipped in metal containers – a neutral word – to avoid damage in transit and handling.

    My sources tell me that in parts of the US they use spigot rather than faucet, but, back to beer, Americans say “tap” when we say draught.

    I had a very frustrating exchange in the late 70s, when asking for a Tab (soft drink) in an eatery near Penn station in NY, the server kept brining me bottled beers. It was my “adorable British accent” making Tab sound like tap, which they did not have, hence the parade of bottled beers.

    And finally.

    “As for odo(u)r, does each letter smell different?”

    O -Oh!
    D – Dah:
    O – Oh not again!
    U – Ugh!
    R – Rank!

    I guess so.

    1. Smooth beer is like “John Smith’s Smooth”, where the barman simply pulls a lever and lets it run, as opposed to hand-pulled beer. People use “keg beers” to refer to that type of beer, as well as lager sometimes.

      The words “British accent” annoy me no end. I know that they can be used correctly, but in my experience they NEVER are. Let me give you an example: I saw on Yahoo! Answers the following question – “Which accent do you prefer, British or Scottish?” I’m sure I don’t need to explain the many reasons why that is SO ANNOYING and blatantly incorrect.

      ARRRRGGGHHHH! Why can’t people say “Southern English accent” when that is what they mean?

      1. Because:
        “When I use a word,” Humpty Dumpty said, speaking for all of us,
        ” it means just what I choose it to mean – neither more nor less.”

      2. When americans say “british accent” what they mean is “Received Pronounciation” or BBC english”, the only one familiar to them presumably from its use in official media outlets and spokespersons. They’re also familar with Scottish or Oirish which exist… outside that somewhere. I read somewhere that less than 3% speak with an RP accent. I do not apparently because everyone I meet in the US thinks that because I’m not american/canadian and I’m not Oirish or Scottish I must, therefore, be australian.

  10. Avengah and John, this is terminably dull, but in the interests of nerdy accuracy, “smooth” beer is served under mixed gas (nitrogen and carbon dioxide) pressure, “keg” beer under carbon dioxide pressure only, and “cask” beer either by handpump or straight from the cask. And a “barrel” is strictly a cask (or keg) of a specific capacity – 36 (Imperial) gallons in the UK, 31 (US) gallons in the US.

    “Shakespeare invented hundreds of words which did not exist before” – no he didn’t, he is simply our first source for them. They all, or most of them, must have been common at the time, or there wouldn’t have been any point in his using words in his plays that nobody else would understand.

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