Retsep appreciation post

Between the holidays I’d like to write about someone who helps me a lot with this blog. He comments on practically every post, but you rarely see his comments. Why? Because most of them look like this:

While spell checker helps with simple mistypes and spelling errors, it can’t help with do – does, then – than and similar grammar mistakes that can annoy readers or even make the text unreadable.

Also, remember my “favorite” mistake that comes from the fact that a sentence “This apple worths $10.” makes complete sense in my native Hungarian. In English, it should be “This apple is worth $10.” and I always mess it up.

Anyway, in this last blogpost of 2018, I’d like to show my appreciation of Retsep who helps keeping it clean.

Author: Gevlon

My blog:

19 thoughts on “Retsep appreciation post”

  1. practically every posts -> practically every post
    but you never see -> but you rarely see –(sometimes I do write a small remark or question about posts)
    Because they look -> Because most of them look –(again, sometimes I do write a small remark or question about posts)
    or even makes -> or even make
    the fact that -> the fact that a sentence
    “this apple -> “This apple –(two times)
    $10” -> $10.” –(two times)


  2. Thanks for public expression of gratitude.
    There are spell checkers and grammar checkers. Depending on software used, the latter can do quite a good work in detecting whether verb needs “s” in the end, then vs than, have went instead of have gone, etc. However, there are cases when automatic tools suggest wrongly or are silent. In addition, there are sentences that are correct per se but wrong when considered together, for example, if previous sentence mentions female and the next sentence uses pronoun “he”. So human proofreaders can’t be replaced yet.


  3. If only all things in the world were as easy to correct as language.

    Then again, a very real case can be made for all the things becoming that much easier and almost just naturally falling into place, once the language is corrected. This is kind of one of the big lessons of the Babylonian myth.

    Then again, which language should be our ideal form, towards which we correct things? There is a great merit to being multilingual. And even within a single language, sometimes the apple does actually worth, in that its worth is something that it impresses upon the world, not something that is assigned to it. The greatest of poets and writers have long since reveled in being able to pull off the craziest moves in a waltz of words and make them look adequate.

    Then again, i find that being a multilingual or a poet is definitely not the same as just mangling all languages and manner of speaking together. It is near impossible, even for poets, to truly understand and properly use something without developing a clear idea of it. When people who don’t put in the effort to construct their words properly say “apple worths”, it isn’t a deep treatise on a nature of value of anything …

    Then again, maybe, it is? And maybe we are shackling the expressive ability of our language by being overly correct? However, how would one be incorrect without knowing what being correct even looks like?

    I wonder, how many mistakes i made in this post. Figuring out the cultural genesis of such mistakes would be most fascinating. I’m not sure how apples can worth, but humans definitely can, and being able to evoke such a string of dialectic thought out of me is certainly a sign of a truly worthy individual.

    Hooray for for Retsep!


  4. Maxim:
    Indeed there is quite a large number of mistakes or unclear places in your comment. Pointing all of them would take too much time but below are some of them.
    The most visible error is probably uncapitalized I in “i find”.
    I suggest to reduce words per sentence.
    Which Babylonian myth do you refer? Assuming you have Christian roots and due to mention of languages, maybe more proper would be to use term “Tower of Babel myth”. However, it seemingly creates contradiction with previous sentence of your comment- if I remember correctly, according to myth, at first everyone spoke the same language and they almost managed to create the tower, however, the God made them speak different languages and thus their project was halted.

    Indeed, what is and what isn’t proper English is hard to define however dictionaries have rules of grammar documented and they mostly appear to be in agreement.
    Some info on word “worth” can be found in


  5. There is a great merit to being multilingual.
    Hrm, I don’t know. It is already hard enough to master one native language and vocabulary. The more languages you put into the mix the less words you have in one language to express yourself.
    I was raised dutch/german and I’m by far not a language geek. So for example; human anatomy is a mixed bag of german and dutch words in my head.
    It is great to follow news and stories from different countries in their language without waiting for translation and also to have a fringe perspective on neighboring people that are very different.


  6. @retsep
    The amount of words per sentence is, indeed, a problem.

    Non-capitalization of “i” is actually a language thing. In my language, we have a similar one-letter word “я”, and it has no special capitalization rules. In fact, capitalizing “Я” is seen to be a sign of unnecessary hubris. Since capitalizing “I” has unsavoury cultural connotations for me, while not offering any particular advantages in terms of conveyed meaning or readability, i don’t do it. Though if there is a particular meaning to said capitalization that makes it important, then i’d love to know said reason.

    As for the Babylonian thing, both interpretations can actually be valid. The Christian Tower of Babel myth, of course, affords a multitude of possible interpretations. One of the more direct and less questionable interpretations pertains to the necessity of proper shared language for large projects. Which is why interfering with the language proved to be an effective stopping measure.

    As for the mythology of Babylon proper, then i distinctly recall reading some analysis that points out the importance of Akkadian language to Babylonian myth and culture. Said analysis even went as far as making a hypothesis that the Babel tower myth was actually a direct and intended metaphor for the ultimate fate of the empire built around said language. Sadly, i am now unable to find this article, so i can’t got into any more detail on this 😦


  7. @retsep
    “I can’t go”, obviously. Not “got”. I am too used to being able to edit language mistakes after posting 😦

    “The less words in one language you have” argument is not supported by any linguistic study i know of.
    The advantage of knowing multiple languages, indeed, comes from having access to multiple linguistic points of view. Though i guess how much mileage you get out of that depends on the specifics of your usual daily activities. I know some extremely effective and successful people, who are perfectly fine with just one language.


  8. @Maxim, that is a pretty flimsy reasoning for i instead of I.
    You are basically saying, because in another language a different word with the same meaning would be a sign of hubris, I am going to purposefully misspell this English word, even though the connotation does not exist in English, and it makes me look lazy.
    It is a really convoluted and nonsensical reason. Also, it opens the door for things like ‘because the ‘language x’ version of the word cocksucker is not a curse, it is fine for me to use cocksucker as a regular term of addressing someone in English.


  9. @Caldazar
    That’s a personal reason, though? I’m not forcing you to spell that way.
    Also, i am actually lazy. So if it makes me look lazy, then you’d be correct.

    As for the “cocksucker” bit, this is a bad example, as the related translation to my language is actually an insult in my language as well. A better example would be the word “negr”, which is no more and no less than an adequate description of a biological reality of an individual’s descent, with no insulting connotations whatsoever. Should i stop using it, now that the entire world apparently gets its panties in a bunch every time a similar sounding word is used in English?


  10. @Maxim:
    You should not stop using the world negr. However, you should not use nigger in English.
    Just as you should not use “Я”. However, you should use I.
    The words have different meanings in their own language. The meaning in language A has no relevance to the meaning in language B and should not influence usage.


  11. @Caldazar
    Strange that you should mention “meaning” as your argument without directly explaining the meaning of capitalizing the “I”. As far as i can tell, this particular capitalization is pretty meaningless, compared to other instances of capitalization.

    Also, language rules are not dogma. Not adhering to language rules carries with itself the risk of being misunderstood, but in case of capitalization of “I”, given the absence of a compelling meaning behind the capitalization itself, i gladly accept said risk.


  12. @Maxim, the meaning harkens back to your initial reasoning: As you stated, capitalizing “Я” is seen to be a sign of unnecessary hubris. In English, capitalizing I is just correct spelling, it does not change the meaning of the word.

    There is no meaning to not capitalizing I, that is the entire point I am making. What you are doing is not conveying some meaning to something. You are making grammatical errors for no reason. ‘I’ is the correctly spelled version of ‘i’, there is no difference in meaning or connotation, and the meaning of things in your native language does not carry over to English.


  13. @Maxim: Why apple is “apple” and not “ApPl3”? Just because. The correct spelling in English is that way, period. In Hungary, there is an archaic letter pair “ly”. They are pronounced “j” all the time. If you write “juk”, you probably get forever banished from any educated place in Hungary.


  14. @Caldazar
    Meanings can and do carry over all the time. Language osmosis is a real and undeniable thing. In situations when there is no meaning beyond “just grammar” on the receiving side, the osmosis tendency is particularly strong.

    Because ApPl3 runs a great chance of being incomprehensible for the target audience.
    Archaic letter pairings are a more interesting example, as are letters that don’t get pronounced at all. We actually have a lot of these in my language as well. When it comes to my language, these are (in all cases i can think of right now) justified either as a way to preserve some linguistic relationship to other words, or as a way to prevent such a relationship, or as a way to preserve the legacy of the word. Writing these incorrectly results in actual loss of meaning (in the form of linguistic context and possible associative connections). I am completely unfamiliar with the case of hungarian “ly”, but the same just might be the case there too. Archaic writings are not preserved without a meaning behind preserving them.


  15. @Maxim: I am sorry man, that is a nonsense argument. It is irrelevant to what you are doing and capitalisation of ‘I’ has other meanings in other languages (eg. denotes royalty).

    And even if meanings would change, although that is massively unlikely, let alone in that specific direction, it hasn’t yet, and you are just wrong in spelling, nothing more, nothing less.

    As a sidenote to your reply to Gevlon: There might be a linguistic reason for keeping I instead of i. None of us are native English speakers. That said, we do know that there is no difference in meaning or connotation between i and I, which is what we are talking about.


  16. @Caldazar
    Nothing you have said so far has compelled me to begin capitalizing “i” midsentence.

    The strongest part of your argument is a righteously indignant “you are making a mistake”. That doesn’t work, because i’m generally not scared about making mistakes. In fact, my entire life has conditioned me to think that there is nothing more precious than a well-made mistake.

    The thing to be worried about is not the mistake itself, but rather its consequences. And, in this case, there are two consequences – you initiating personal attacks on me and you hinting at a deeper meaning of language that i should respect even without knowing it. Note how none of these actually involve a misunderstanding of my use of “i”, so none of these are in themselves a reason to change my use of “i”.

    Your personal attacks on me are a curious side effect, but nothing worth losing sleep over. Your hints at a deeper meaning can actually be consequential, but that would require said meaning to be made explicit – something you have confessed to being unable to do. So we are at an impasse.


  17. @Caldazar
    I realized one thing needs to be made clear here. When you say “there is no difference in meaning here”, i straight up don’t believe you. There are two reasons for that:
    1) There is a difference in meaning for me, which is why i spell the way i do.
    2) You are surely spending a great deal of effort defending something meaningless. It is not like i’m violently preaching complete upending of all language norms here. I just insist on my own personal right to have a mostly harmless quirk of my language use. And if the difference is completely meaningless to you, then why are you making this a thing?


  18. @Maxim: the consequence is that people who care about grammar think that you are a primitive savage. I’m not sure how bad it is, but surely worse than having to press the shift key


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