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sword
tiger_spot
"And" and "as well as" are not quite equivalent. If you find yourself torn between them, go with "and".

No, writing "and as well as" is not an improvement.

Just "and" will do nicely.

Thank you.
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I'm reminded of a point that the professor made in the hard-to-explain class I recently took. He claimed that "but" is a useless word, and that most of the time, what people really mean when they use it is "and".

For instance, consider the phase, "I'd like to go to dinner with you this evening, but I'm picking Les up at the airport." The word "but" usually means "everything before this word is not true." In constructions like that, however, both parts are true. It is true that I'd like to go to dinner with you. It is true that I am planning to pick Les up. The fact that I am planning to pick Les up doesn't actually the fact that I'd like to go to dinner with you. And so, in his opinion, the correct conjunction for that situation is "and": "I'd like to go to dinner with you this evening, and I'm picking Les up at the airport."

(Now, admittedly, mostly he was talking about modifying the language one uses to talk to oneself in order to affect how one views the world and one's circumstances in it, rather than modifying the language one writes or speaks so it sounds correct to other people. And this sort of achieves the former more than the latter. Even so, though.)

(Oh, and "and as well as"? Argh, indeed!)

The word "but" usually means "everything before this word is not true."

No it doesn't. Make up a sentence where it means that.

It may sound easy, but it's not.


Well, okay. I'm paraphrasing (well, pretty much quoting) the professor there, and he was oversimplifying at best. I guess the closest it really means is "the obvious implications of the preceeding bit are not true".

E.g., "It may sound easy" implies that it is easy. And the "but" introduces the fact that it's not, in fact, easy.

He's rather fond of sweeping overstatements like that to make a point, though.

In the sentence you quoted, "but" is short for "but I can't, because".

If you substituted "and", it would be unclear whether you could or not.

"I'd like to go to dinner with you this evening, but I'm picking Les up at the airport."
If you substituted "and", it would be unclear whether you could or not.

Absolutely. In fact, I would interpret the statement with an "and" as some sort of suggestion about where/when to have dinner -- just after the picking-up with Les, for instance.

Oh, indeed. The point wasn't "you should rephrase your sentences like this when you were talking to other people." (At least, not without making certain you're still being clear.)

Actually, the other point he was making with this, which I just forgot: "I would like to go to dinner with you this evening" and "I am planning to pick Les up at the airport" are independent facts. They are both true. Linking them together with "but" is choosing a particular way to combine them, and they have no innate need to be combined that way. I could just as easily choose to abandon Les and have dinner with you. (And then I get to deal with the consequences of that choice, just like any other choice.) His bugbear on this, I think, was that a lot of times when people use that sentence construction they're doing so to present a situation where they have a choice as one where they don't, and when one is talking to oneself -- which was his main focus -- that's liable to keep one in a box that one would be happier out of, or at least happier actively choosing to stay in.

Linking them together with "but" is choosing a particular way to combine them, and they have no innate need to be combined that way.

Well, that's what the conjunction is for, is to indicate the connection!

I could just as easily choose to abandon Les and have dinner with you.

Except you're you.

to present a situation where they have a choice as one where they don't

Okay, that's a more valid point. I don't tend to use the word that way; instead, I get strings of statements connected with "but"s of the form "[A], but [drawback of A], but [way to mitigate said drawback], but [reason A may not be practical], but [advantage A has over the most obvious alternatives], but [way in which a particular alternative is better], etc." I try to keep it to one per sentence when I'm talking to other people, but the way I think does involve a lot of back-and-forthing like that. Hm -- exactly like that; I see I've just done it again.

True, yeah, and I agree that doing that by itself does make things unclear.

I think the fact that it's short for "but I can't, because" is also part of why he dislikes that construction -- that contains two of the other language things that he was advocating against. He's one of the people who doesn't like "I can't", and he also says that reasons are nonsense (though he used rather stronger language) -- that the only reason they exist in that sort of construction is because they're socially expected, but that it's not actually _why_ I'm not having dinner with Theresa (if having dinner with her were sufficiently important to me, I wouldn't have volunteered to give Les a ride), and it doesn't change the fact that I'm not having dinner with her.

So, his revised version of that sentence would be something like "I would like to have dinner with you. I am choosing to give Les a ride home from the airport instead."

(And I think he was also of the opinion that the "I would like to have dinner with you" is also in its way just meaningless social fluff -- if you never actually say yes, then it's obvious whether you do or not, and if you do say yes sometimes, then it's obvious too. So the actual content of the conversation is "I'm choosing not to have dinner with you. Here is some reassurance that you're important to me anyway.")

He was -- and this is also rather an important piece of context -- pretty clear that he meant this as (again, loose quote), "I'm not saying don't tell your friends reasons. They'll be upset and think you're a jerk, and it's what society expects. But realize that it's just BS, and it doesn't mean anything." I think the "replace 'but' with 'and'" was at least partly in that category too.

"I'm choosing not to have dinner with you. Here is some reassurance that you're important to me anyway."

That is not meaningless social fluff. Reassurance or clarification or whatever you want to call it is important.

As Well You Know. ::stern look::

I'm not saying don't tell your friends reasons. They'll be upset and think you're a jerk, and it's what society expects.

In my experience, this is not the case. If you're making plans, "No, Thursday doesn't work for me -- how's next Wednesday?" is perfectly acceptable with no reasons at all. Canceling previously made plans might go better with a reason, but "I can't make it on Thursday after all -- how's Tuesday?" is usually going to work just fine.

I note that the rescheduling part is important there, because it serves the "Actually you are important to me" function a hundred times better than just saying that you're sorry to miss dinner.

"It may sound easy" implies that it is easy.

Does not. All by itself, that bit fairly clearly implies that it is not, in fact, easy. "It sounds easy" could go either way, depending on context, but that "may" functions, well, rather like a "but".

He's rather fond of sweeping overstatements like that to make a point, though.

I would have so much fun in that class. Like the German folktales class, where every other day was "Listen to Theresa argue with the professor day". It was awesome.

I'm talking about a surface level implication; you're talking about the gestalt of all of the levels of meaning. Sort of like how "Yeah, right" does not mean "yes, that's right."

You would have had a lot of fun, yes. It was a good class. (And there were a lot of bits I wanted to share with you, too.)

I don't think that surface level implication exists.

I'm not sure anything that could be accurately described as a "surface-level implication" exists -- implication is all about going past the literal meaning of the words. (By literal meaning, "it sounds easy" doesn't say anything at all about whether it is easy.)

No it doesn't. Make up a sentence where it means that.

Linguistically, no it doesn't mean that. Psychologically though, it does. Most people hear "but" as negating everything that came before. (so "I love you, but..." means "I don't love you.")

The unknown team of researchers known as "they" proved it by running MRIs of people's brain while they read a variety of statements. The brains' reactions to falsehoods was the same as the reactions to "but."

Bizarre, but true.

The brains' reactions to falsehoods was the same as the reactions to "but."

Clearly I am not a people. :/ This is disconcerting.

Clearly I am not a people. :/ This is disconcerting.

*hugs* could be a conditioning thing. /They/ are wrong sometimes. I do know that it is true for me. If someone says "I love you, but..." my entire body tenses up and I wait for the hammer to come down on my head. That's probably why Brooks has the same idea in his head, I've trained him to use "however" instead.

suzi

I agree that "I love you, but" is usually leading up to something unpleasant, so it makes sense for that phrase to make one nervous.

When I use it (and I do!) it is usually meant as kind of reassurance: "I am about to say something unpleasant, but this does not mean that I wish to dissolve our relationship or never talk to you again." (Although I could also see using it in something like "I love you, but we can't possibly continue having this relationship," where it wouldn't quite have that function.)

Usually, I follow it up with something like "I love you, but that thing you're doing is really annoying and it needs to stop." Or "I love you, but I don't want to do whatever it is you want to do with me right now."

Is this an "in-person" based rant, or one in reference to text? If text it could be a case of trying to be less repetitive.
"And as well as" gives me fits too. Sheesh.

Text. I'm fairly sure it was a misguided quest for variety, but there was a distinct tendency in the whole document to use sixteen words where two would do. And then rephrase the idea in the next sentence, just to be clear. And add a footnote with the same information in a slightly different order.

She only did "and as well as" once, after she'd seen that I was changing all the "as well as"s to "and"s, so maybe she'd meant to change it but forgot to delete the original.

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