1

I would like to know whether the explanation given here: explanation is clear and unambiguous. It seems to me that the comments leveled against it are not fair.

If I say in English: "It would seem that the reasoning here is A, B, C", that that phrase provides an explanation that is not based on any particular standard but it attempts to show the logic behind a particular usage might be based on what is standard grammar. It implies one is explaining what is found in usage and not what is prescriptively "mandated". And in this particular case, there is really no way to prove my opinion.

I am going to give the example again: - US GAAP (US Generally Accepted Accounting Principles)

That is a fact. What could possibly be the explanation about why one does not use the determiner the as in "The US GAAP" as part of the name for this set of principles?? It seems reasonable to me that the reasoning here is that since those writing about this know what the abbreviation stands for and those who created them did not put "the" in their name, it's because these are principles. And plural nouns in English don't require a "the". In the same way as any other general statement: Apples are good for you. Horses neigh. Laws are made to be followed.

And how could this, in any case, be "proven"? I don't think it can. However, it does cohere with English usage.

There is no way to "prove" why the original creators of the US GAAP [the is not part of the title here] didn't make the word "the" part of the title.

I found that I had to repeat my reasoning about three times, and still the comments to me were repeated over and over. I asked for mod intervention and did not receive any help. Meanwhile, there has been no other effort to help the OP and the question remains open.

Not everything can be proven. But facts (the fact US GAAP does not contain the determiner THE) can be reasonably explained. So, my question remains: what does one do when a question requires a reasonable and reasoned explanation because there is not way to "prove it"?

| |
  • 1
    I found your explanation clear and unambiguous, but the problem with your answer seems to be that it's context-dependent. I.e., it seems that you, like me, understood the question as asking why, in general, without mentioning the acronym previously (such as in this very question where you add that the isn't part of the title there) and therefore obviously requiring the, etc. (more generally, without having made the acronym known in some way), the acronym isn't used with the definite article. – user3395 Apr 17 '18 at 10:57
5

As for this tidbit:

I found that I had to repeat my reasoning about three times, and still the comments to me were repeated over and over. I asked for mod intervention and did not receive any help.

There are quite a few upvoted comments in that dialogue, but, as of this writing, none of the upvotes are on your comments. Perhaps you are looking at this backwards. Maybe your answer is faulty, and the community in general agrees with the person who tried to point that out politely.

As you are aware, there is already one recent meta question asserting that you are prone to make "incorrect and categorical statements” on SE, ones that could easily mislead a learner. Yet another glaring example is found in your answer (in bold print, no less):

The reasoning here, therefore, is: A plural noun doesn't take "the”.

Then, in your comments, you seem to contradict your own assertion, by saying:

I did not say that all plural nouns never take "the”.

You can argue this three times in your comments, you can argue it again here in meta. None of your arguments change the fact that you made yet another “incorrect and categorical statement” and then tried to defend it instead of correct it. In other words, maybe you didn’t mean to say:

No plural noun ever takes “the”

but that’s how your answer reads, and I assume that’s why it has attracted its downvotes.

I don’t understand why it is so difficult to simply say, “Oh, I guess that didn’t come out right at all; I should fix that and make it more clear,” instead of contending that the problem is with the reader and not your answer:

You are trying to make me say something which I didn't say at all. I said it is the reasoning here. What I said is useful and correct. I was very, very careful in answering, precisely so the type of misreading you are making of my answer could not be made. But you misread that fact.
(emphasis in original)

Not to beat a dead horse, but the reasoning here reminds me of our conversation about fruits, where your answer plainly states:

In everyday English (not biology, botany or Biblical contexts), the word fruit is never plural.

and then you later chided me in the comments by saying:

You did not read my answer carefully enough. In every day [sic] conversation (about fruit) the plural is never used.

Um, your answer doesn’t say, “In everyday conversation,” it says (in bold print), “In everyday English.”

Perhaps the most revealing (and amusing) part of your meta question is in its title:

Misunderstood albeit clear explanations

If an explanation is “clear”, then it should not be “misunderstood”. If it’s “misunderstood”, perhaps it isn’t as clear as you think it is.

I don’t think the problem here is a community that can’t follow your "clear and unambiguous” reasoning. I think it’s simply that your reasoning isn’t nearly as faultless, clear, or unambiguous as you seem to think it is.

A less argumentative spirit would go a long way here. Horses may neigh, and apples may be good for you, but the arguments are getting wearisome.

| |
  • First you say that there is a meta questions about my posts, and now, you tell me my answer is faulty. Let me ask you this: how to you prove that US GAAP has no article? Hmm? My answer merely took it as fact that it does not and merely attempted to point out why it might out based on what might be the reasoning for it. I pointed out what might be the reasoning. If you think that citing a generally accepted rule about English (plural articles take no the), is my explanation, you have not understood it. Really, you are trying to prove something about my attitude. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 14:14
  • Please see this: english.stackexchange.com/questions/439385/… My explanation takes US GAAP, no determiner as fact. Just like the organizations listed in the ELU question. My explanation begins as of that fact. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 14:32
  • 1
    Your meta question was: I would like to know whether the explanation given is clear and unambiguous. It seems to me that the comments leveled against it are not fair. I read your answer and the comments beneath it: I thought the explanation was confusing at best, and the comments pointing out the answer's shortcomings were fair. If others see it the other way around, they are free to chime in. – J.R. Apr 19 '18 at 16:22
  • What specifically is not clear in my original answer? – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 16:31
  • 2
    It's been explained over and over again; there's no point in arguing it ad nauseam if you want to insist it's clear enough as-is. – J.R. Apr 19 '18 at 16:34
  • Besides your general indictment of me, what specifically was not clear in my original answer?? You might give me the benefit of the doubt and read my response to Mr. Tuggy's response below. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 16:38
  • "If an explanation is “clear”, then it should not be “misunderstood”. If it’s “misunderstood”, perhaps it isn’t as clear as you think it is." Again, what was not clear specifically? It seems the specifics are the difficulty. My question here was: what does one do when a question requires a reasonable and reasoned explanation because there is not way to "prove it"? That is: How do you prove US GAAP takes no determiner?? You can't prove it. You can only comment on why that might be which is exactly what I did! – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 16:44
  • 3
    @Lambie On a collaborative site, it is far more important to be willing to accept feedback and refine your answers than to prove that you're right or someone is wrong. Stop arguing in comments with the folks trying to help you improve your answer. Edit your answer to clarify it. I have yet to see a non-trivial answer spring fully formed and perfect from the mind of its author. Almost every answer could be improved in some way, even if it isn't exactly the way that someone has suggested. – ColleenV Apr 19 '18 at 22:42
  • @CollenV I am the first to recognize an error or a helpful addition to any answer of mine. That said, I stand by the answer I gave for US GAAP. Please note: with all due respect to you, the actual question I posed here at the end of my question above has not been answered. I flagged the comments under my original answer to the GAAP question because it really seemed to me that the actual words I was using were not being properly understood. For me, that is the issue. As for collaboration, pissing contests abound (and not from me, I might add.) – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 22:52
  • The actual question I posed was: how do you deal with a question for which there is no proof? In other words, some things have names. US GAAP is a name. Ergo, I started from that premise and I believe it is fair. Then, I said what a reasonable person would say. Nothing crazy. The fact is that some people don't know the grammar that well so they misunderstood what I said.. Kindly read (if you will) my first two comments in response to Mr. Tuggy above. He misunderstood my grammar points. Am I responsible for that?? – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 22:56
  • He misread what I wrote about nouns in the plural in English. it is a fact; plural nouns in general statements in English do not take the. Principles are good things: everyone should have them. Also misunderstood was the fact that US GAAP is a fact. it exists as such written like that. (Let's not blame the messenger). And the fact of how it is written is the place where one starts...right? – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 23:02
  • @Lambie So, instead of accepting the feedback I gave you, you persist in arguing about something I didn't even mention. I didn't read your answer or any of your numerous comments about the correctness of it. I have no opinion on it. The issue is not whether you're correct. My concern is how you are interacting with the community and how that is impacting your and others participation. The mod team wouldn't be involved if there weren't numerous flags from multiple users. I am trying to help you. Surely answering questions and helping folks is more fun than this bickering. Let it go. – ColleenV Apr 20 '18 at 12:35
  • @ColleenV If you want to have a discussion about your feedback to me on attitude, I agree. But I do not think it is fair, in effect, to do so here and ignore my meta question which is at the root of the comments under my answer to the OP: provability of some issues in ELL and misunderstanding by a commenter. I even put in a smiley in my comments to try and be nice. On a separate note, I do answer many questions and help a lot of people. – Lambie Apr 20 '18 at 13:46
  • 1
    @Lambie RE: He misunderstood my grammar points. Am I responsible for that?? YES. You wrote the answer; you can edit and make it more clear. Instead of simply acknowledging that your downvoted answer could be made less misleading, you instead got into drawn-out debate under the answer on ELL, and you've continued that debate here. I think the main reason people are "ignoring" your question here is because they don't see it as the heart of the problem or the crux of the matter. (On a separate note, you do answer many and help many; if only you'd tweak a few answers every now and then!) – J.R. Apr 20 '18 at 14:29
  • @J.R. I just read the US GAAP answer I gave: and I said: "The reasoning here, therefore, is: A plural noun doesn't take "the" in a general statement:" [that is not my reasoning, it is theirs] I can only surmise the reason as the Securities and Exchange Commission does not explain it. Is it not reasonable to surmise that based on its usage. This is what I mean about not being understood. How would you say that if you wanted to say someone (some org.) must be reasoning in a particular way? – Lambie Jul 27 '18 at 18:55
3

The problem was not that the answer did not have a rigorous formal proof of why "US GAAP" has no article. Some sort of argument is generally required, yes, perhaps going as far as citations of textbooks, but an answer that does nothing but make unsubstantiated assertions can still be decent if those assertions are in fact correct and helpful.

The problem was, instead, that it gave a very simplistic rule, one which could not be correctly applied as stated to all possible cases, and then neither qualified it further to make it apply only in the cases it could rightly be applied, nor gave any sort of argument (never mind citation) for why in fact it was correct as stated. (Unless the argument was literally that the drafters of the GAAP sincerely believed that plural nouns in English did not take the definite article and therefore established a usage pattern that avoided ever using "the" in front of the name. This seems very hard to believe, and certainly would need citation; it's also not clear why their mistaken understanding should really govern the usage of English speakers in general.)

The form of your comments was basically "X phenomenon exists. Theory Y predicts that it exists. Therefore theory Y is correct." This is invalid logic. The rule or theory or guideline you use must not only explain the issue at hand, but do so without accidentally "explaining" things that simply are not so. And however the guideline in the answer was formulated, it couldn't be correct:

  • "Plural nouns do not take articles" would be falsified by the grammatical statements I put in my first comment.
  • "Principles and standards are two particular words that do not take articles when used as plural nouns" would be falsified by a similar grammatical statement, like "The principles of this website are very similar to the ones Stack Exchange as a whole espouses".

I don't know what set of rules you mentally use to navigate the maze of articles and plurality rules in English. It is quite possibly at least as good as mine, and almost certainly perfectly adequate for nearly all purposes in English. But I don't believe the answer correctly summarizes the important rules that you yourself would in fact follow to figure this out. Rather, it snips the first small piece that came to light and leaves it at that, with the result that a learner who follows the advice will get "US GAAP" right, but a lot of other stuff wrong. This is understandable, since fluent and especially native speakers tend to have considerable trouble extracting and properly formulating the full set of rules they're actually using for grammar. (See the entire history of formal English grammar for just how hard this actually is.) But, crucially, an answer on ELL that cannot manage this just isn't going to make the cut. "First, do no harm."

| |
  • "The problem was not that the answer did not have a rigorous formal proof of why "US GAAP" has no article." There is no proof for something like that. There is just the fact of the organization's name as it appears in documents. What proof do I have that you are not "the Nathan Tuggy"? The last paragraph in your answer is incorrect. What important rules are not summarized? I addressed only the US GAAP name. There is no rule about it. We can only surmise why it is. Now, I will point out your grammatical misunderstanding. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 14:04
  • 1) I was not giving a rule on overall usage of determiners. 2) Your second bullet point is not right. Here's why: "The principles of this website are very similar to the ones StackExchange as a whole espouses". Of course, The phrasing "The y of x" takes a determiner! But that was not the example from grammar I was citing. I was citing the use of nouns in general statements. Perhaps that was not clear to you: Ideas are fun. "The ideas of the teacher were odd". Perhaps I should have added: Plural nouns in general statements. – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 14:09
  • Kindly take a look at this recent post on ELU: english.stackexchange.com/questions/439385/… The question takes as fact that certain organizations "take" the determiner the and others do not. Ergo, my assuming that US GAAP does not is the same thing. My explanation starts "as of the fact that" US GAAP does not "take the". – Lambie Apr 19 '18 at 14:29
  • 2
    @Lambie: "Perhaps I should have added: Plural nouns in general statements." Yes, that would have been desirable. (Also clarifying "general" a bit more would be nice.) – Nathan Tuggy Apr 19 '18 at 19:13
  • @Lambie: The first answer to that question starts with "Convention, yes, and, I think. there is a reason for the convention", then … does not appear to give the reason. The second one seems better, giving a rule (proper nouns do not take articles unless they contain common nouns) that explains why it is not necessary for someone to know that Greenpeace dislikes using articles, and the Red Cross uses them, in order to get article usage correct around them. This rule seems applicable to the question that started this. (There's some possible glitches in it, though, that need clarifying.) – Nathan Tuggy Apr 19 '18 at 19:17
  • Sorry for the late response, but they did clarify what they meant by that statement; they clarified it the moment you posted your comment under their answer: "The reasoning here, therefore, is: A plural noun doesn't take 'the'." – note the bolded part. I think that's the best explanation there's going to be, because it leaves open all the possibilities where that's not true, which is particularly common with acronyms. The answerer cannot know what the actual reasoning is because they weren't the one inventing the acronym. – user3395 Apr 26 '18 at 11:24
  • "The form of your comments was basically 'X phenomenon exists. Theory Y predicts that it exists. Therefore theory Y is correct.' This is invalid logic." They're only offering one reasoning; they're not saying this is absolutely true, but that it seems that that was the reasoning used there. – user3395 Apr 26 '18 at 11:38
  • "The problem was, instead, that it gave a very simplistic rule, one which could not be correctly applied as stated to all possible cases" – the answer doesn't attempt to do that; nevertheless, the asker might draw a general conclusion from it (and that's their problem, because they're asking the wrong question if they want that). "...and then neither qualified it further to make it apply only in the cases it could rightly be applied" – but they did just that! – user3395 Apr 26 '18 at 11:39
  • @userr2684291: Check the revisions; all the qualifiers in the answer were added after I posted this, except for "here", which is not at all helpful, since it does not actually constrain the answer much. Does "here" mean literally "for these two acronyms only"? (If it does, it's overly-restricted.) Does it mean "for acronyms that include plural nouns only"? (Same.) So what exactly does it mean? – Nathan Tuggy Apr 26 '18 at 19:27
  • 1
    @userr2684291: Also, if a question is making a common-enough error (say, asking too generally about a rule that doesn't exist), and an answer makes no attempt to correct that, the answer is flawed. That is, the asker drawing a too-general conclusion from a poorly-worded answer is the fault of the answer. Not the question. (Of course you expect askers to be ignorant about how generally applicable some pattern would be. Our purpose is to dispel that ignorance, not to encourage it with misleadingly authoritative generalizations.) – Nathan Tuggy Apr 26 '18 at 19:35
  • "The problem was, instead, that it gave a very simplistic rule". No, that is not right. I said US GAAP does not use "the" and then said the reasoning for that here (with US GAAP) is x. That is not a rule. There is no rule for organizations (SEC) unless you ask them. These usages are singularities. – Lambie Jul 27 '18 at 19:01
  • @Lambie: The question has been deleted, so I don't know why you're still trying to argue about this. – Nathan Tuggy Jul 28 '18 at 3:21
  • @NathanTuggy Well, it might very well come up again. There are tons of organizations out there. And the only rule is 1) their usage and 2) press usage from good newspaper 3) usage in think tank-type or academic papers. The rest is a pipedream. – Lambie Oct 2 '18 at 21:31
  • I came back here and have reread this whole debate. My question was generic so it does not matter that the question was deleted. And I stand by my position: organizations do refer to themselves, and expects others to refer to them using some style or other. Only the organization decides how their "stuff" is referred to: not you, not me, and not anyone else. This idea is perfectly valid and might come up again. So, I stand by my answer and my argument. The style they choose can generally be explained within the confines of English grammar. Basically, that is all I said in my answer and here. – Lambie Mar 16 '19 at 14:25

You must log in to answer this question.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged .