Pedantic Digressions

IMHO, a David Lean Dune would have (based on Lawrence of Arabia and A Passage to India) more smoothly, economically and effectively portrayed the book’s characters’ motivations and actions (and without all of Lynch’s infuriating voice-overs), things that, for me, provided the most interest in and enjoyment of the book.

Is “too far” a thing in this thread? That seems to be the game, push the minutia as far as you can, until you vanish into the quantum realm and emerge in another timeline!


Surely you mean minutiae, since there are more than one of them. :wink:


Indeed. :grinning_face_with_smiling_eyes:


Here’s a thought: The phrase “I’ll bet dollars to donuts” is a relic from a bygone era when donuts cost significantly less than a dollar.


Just to be insufferably pedantic, it should be “…to the tune of Country Roads by John Denver.”

John Denver is not a song. The song is Country Roads. Not to be confused with Randy Rhoads.

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Does being pedantic really mean you’re not allowed to understand metonymy? :confused:

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I think it’s synecdoche.

Remember, skirt is metonymy, tail is synecdoche.

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I guess so.

The phrase “to the tune of” is appropriate when it refers to a tune.

Would you say “My favorite novel is Dostoevsky”?

No, because that’s not a single novel. But I would definitely say I was reading Dostoevsky while listening to Tchaikovsky, you know, had I been doing so.



If I didn’t already put too fine a point on it, here’s my hangup:

The phrase “to the tune of” is used to recall in the reader’s mind a particular musical melody. As in, ‘she was singing satirical lyrics to the tune of The Star Spangled Banner.’

Let’s assume that most people are generally familiar with the melody of that song.

Now in the case of this BoingBoing lede, if John Denver had only written one famous song, then one could argue that it was obvious which melody is being referred to.

But because John Denver wrote many well-known songs, not just one, it’s not appropriate to use the phrase ‘to the tune of’ in conjunction with ‘John Denver.’ It’s simply not obvious which tune is they’re talking about.

Either of these alternatives would be correct:

In his latest IG post Mark Zuckerberg rides a waterski waving an American flag to the tune of ‘Country Roads’


In his latest IG post Mark Zuckerberg rides a waterski waving an American flag to the music of John Denver

Hope this makes my point clear.

Really, then, I guess your complaint would be with the word the. It should be to a tune of John Denver. :thinking:


That would also work! :slight_smile:

When off is a preposition, the phrase off of could almost always be shortened to just off. The unnecessary of is common in informal speech and writing, though, and using it is never a serious usage error. But writers who value concision can avoid it.

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Agreed - especially when the form ‘off of’ is used to mean ‘on’! Boy does that grind my gears. If people using it that way were forced to remove the ‘of’ perhaps they’d see how dumb it is to use ‘off of’ to mean ‘on’.

Does it? I have heard that the flicking cigarettes to blow up leaking vehicles thing is movie nonsense, but gasoline is still really flammable. I don’t really want to experiment myself exactly how much, but here is a video where they seem to have no trouble lighting it with a match, at least.

(Put here to avoid derailing the political topic.)


Hmmmm, never has worked for me before. I go try again…

ETA: not going to burn a house down, in case it needs saying.
Oh, and just watched video: the difference is that they are lighting the fumes, not touching the match to the puddle (pedantic, but that’s why we’re here, right? :wink: )


I have experience here. I did a bunch of commercial construction labor back in the day and was sent to a remote job site to deal with the burn pile one Monday morning. At first I was flinging lit matches at it from as many paces away as I possibly could, terrified of the inevitable blowback. An hour later I was crouching in wet diesel, trying vainly to ignite anything at all.


AIUI, gasoline is remarkably not terribly flammable, but gasoline vapors are a totally different story. Not gonna do the experiment, though.


In my experience lighting a puddle of gasoline is very easy, but a match will definitely go out if submerged in a puddle of diesel fuel. Diesel generally requires pressure or sustained flame to light.

Edit: this video shows a nice comparison. Kinda alarming that the filmmaker seems to be doing the experiment on their kitchen counter though.

Aaand now I just realized I posted the exact same video that’s included upthread. Oh well.