Any experts in the English language here? Technical question.

Discussion in 'After Hours Lounge (Off Topic)' started by Wayne A. Pflughaupt, Aug 5, 2004.

  1. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Okay, consider this sentence:

    Everything that’s not electrical is considered low voltage and can use the open boxes, a bare frame, or even a hole through the wall, with the plate screwed directly to the sheetrock.

    I know that if you mention the first item, “open boxes,” in a subsequent sentence, you refer to it as “the former.” The last item, “hole in wall with plate” is “the latter.”

    The question: What is the term for the one in the middle? “Medial?” “Median?” I saw it done in an article in the paper a few years ago, so I know there is a correct term, but I don’t remember what they used.

    Anyone know?

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  2. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I don't think I've ever seen the word you are looking for. Even if you find out it might be so obscure that it becomes a distraction to the readers - they'll be forced to go back and figure out what it means rather than proceed through the explanation. I would probably go with repeating the second item by name. It would be interesting to know just for a bit of trivia though.
     
  3. Ricardo C

    Ricardo C Producer

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    I believe "former" and "latter" are only used when speaking of two elements, so your example would never arise in a properly constructed sentence.
     
  4. Rob Gardiner

    Rob Gardiner Cinematographer

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  5. Craig F

    Craig F Second Unit

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    I'm more concerned with the sematics.


    How can something non electrical have a voltage? I would assume by "electrical" you mean the house power as opposed to Cable TV or in-wall speaker wire. Of course this is out of context and may have already been explained in whatever it is you're writing [​IMG]
     
  6. andrew markworthy

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    Ricardo and Rob are correct - 'former' and 'latter' can only refer to two items. However, you may get round this by dividing a longer list into two groups ('the former items' and 'the latter items'). In most cases, though, it's better to rewrite.

    If you're referring to the distance an item is away from you, then you could at a pinch adopt phrases from anatomy - distal, medial and proximal, anyone?
     
  7. Cees Alons

    Cees Alons Moderator
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    Yes, I too would think that the latter always refers to the last item mentioned, but the former could mean anything mentioned before that, and as such would be ambiguous in your sentence. Thus, the first and the second (mentioned) would look fine, but then you would need to use the latter before you use those.

    Mmm..."open boxes, a bare frame, or even a hole", I don't think I would go for anatomical references in this case.


    Cees
     
  8. Andrew Pratt

    Andrew Pratt Producer

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    [​IMG]

    I agree I'd rewrite that whole sentence to make it easier to read...plus I generally am not a fan of using that many comma's in one sentance.
     
  9. Wayne A. Pflughaupt

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    Craig,
    Yes, I could have done the sentence better, without as many commas. For instance - “...bare frame, or even a hole through the wall, with the plate...” - I could have correctly dropped one of those commas. Still often you can’t escape using multiple commas. Like, if you’re on the subject of food preparation, you might have something like “Salmon can be baked, broiled, grilled or poached.” You certainly wouldn’t want to break that up into two or three sentences just to avoid commas! [​IMG]

    Anyway, I did some digging around and I think I’ve managed to answer my own question. From Merriam-Webster Online, median means “a vertical line that divides,” so that’s out. However, medial means “being or occurring in the middle.” It can be used as an adjective or noun, so that seems to be the ticket.

    So, given the sentence in the example above (with less commas this time [​IMG] )...

    Everything that’s not electrical is considered low voltage and can use the open boxes, a bare frame, or even a hole through the wall with the plate screwed directly to the sheetrock.

    …a follow-up sentence could say, “The medial and latter are more commonly used for retro-installs, not new construction.”

    Yes, as noted in the reference Rob gave us, the reader has to go back and look at the previous sentence. But for the writer it’s more efficient than re-stating everything once again.

    Of course, as Cameron mentioned, it could be a distraction to readers. But it’s also a great way do dazzle them with your linguistic chops. [​IMG]

    Regards,
    Wayne A. Pflughaupt
     
  10. Cameron Yee

    Cameron Yee Executive Producer
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    I know you were joking, but too many times writers write what they do for this very reason and not for clarity.
     
  11. ChristopherDAC

    ChristopherDAC Producer

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    For two consecutive items of a group of three it is proper to say "the former two" and "the latter two". It is also proper to refer to the "first two" and "last two" of groups of four.
    [​IMG]
     
  12. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    (I always said I would be an English major but I don't know what I would do with it - and I don't like some typical literature. Now I am history and computer science dual-major).



    You are using the word Everything as a singular replacement for multiple items. Sounds awkward and I bet isn't very proper. And it places action verbs to an object. And you switch from singular to plural (can use open boxes, or a hole through the wall)



    And you are putting together a sentence with a list, creating a rather lengthy sentence that looses cohesion. I agree that the use of former and latter should be minimal, and I wouldn't go with "medial" at all! I would go with this:



    (I'm postulating at the sentence before)

    Non-electrical components are considered low voltage.
    A typical setup for this type of component could use an open boxes, a bare frame, or even a hole through the wall, in which the plate could be screwed directly to the sheetrock. The last two setups are more commonly used in retro-installs, and not in new construction, [and say why...due to, because, etc].
     
  13. Jeff Gatie

    Jeff Gatie Lead Actor

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    Sorry, I can't resist. Since this is a particularly bad pet peeve of mine and this is an English thread:



    The word that means "to misplace or degrade" is "lose" (or "loses"). "Looses" is not a word and "loose" means to set free or untighten. Sorry, but it is the one common internet mis-spelling that drives me mental. Thanks for indulging my petty annoyances.:b

    Nice job on the sentence reconstruction, though!
     
  14. DaveGTP

    DaveGTP Cinematographer

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    Just a typo! Oops! I know the difference, I promise [​IMG]
     

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