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Thursday, October 08, 2009
My Morning in ExileNew York, Los Angeles and Philly won yesterday. FOX and TBS smile . . .
*If I may, please allow me to ask all of you not to use this phrase unless you know what it means. It does not mean "the exception which renders the rule valid." That's how people almost always use it, but it makes no sense if you think about it for more than 3 seconds. In this instance, "proves" takes on an alternate, and somewhat more antiquated meaning; that being "tests," in the same way that "proving grounds" really means "testing grounds." Ergo, "the exception which proves the rule" means "the exception which really tests and challenges that rule, and may in fact make us consider whether or not it is still a rule." And no, I will not accept the recently cited "2000/2001 is the end of the century" or "-gate = scandal" argument, which holds that if enough people f*ck something up those of us who had it right all along should just fall in line with the morons. The last time I ever gave in on that was with UNABOM/Unabomber thing and I still hate myself for it.
UPDATE: OK, based on the comments, it seems that I'm wrong about this too. Whatever. Let's not lose sight of the important thing here: there are a lot of people in the world who annoy me, and whether it's over their turns of phrase or on general principles, I am going to use this space to attack them whenever possible, because I am a small, small man.
Posted by Craig Calcaterra at 1:35pm
Please keep your guard up at the Blue Network, Craig. A guy says he would never show up drunk to work, signs himself David Wells and you answer it straight?
Posted 10/08 at 01:58 PM
Now, is that your interpretation of the phrase, Craig, or do you have some sort of etymology to prove it (ie, verify)?
I think most people assume “proves the rule” means “corroborates the rule” because of the folk belief that all rules have an exception (and, thus, “if this is the one exception, then the rule follows our collective folk wisdom”). I accepted it that way (ie, as a folk saying), even if it doesn’t make sense, because, really, when does folk wisdom ever make perfect sense?
Posted 10/08 at 01:59 PM
Dan Friedman said...
Nice footnote, Craig… crotchety much?
Posted 10/08 at 02:00 PM
That’s not what “exception that proves the rule” means either, at least not as originally conceived. It typically applies to something like a no-turn-on-red sign. The presence of the sign (the exception) proves the rule for all other cases (i.e. the general rule is that you can turn on red).
You can look it up in Fowler’s usage guide, if you want. I suspect you already know that, though, since you’re more or less quoting from Fowler’s secondary usage of it.
Posted 10/08 at 02:18 PM
I believe, Craig, that you are wrong about the original meaning of the phrase.
It was orginally intended to mean that the fact we have to except something proves the rule exists. For example, On Sunday, you can stay up past 10:00, proves that the rule exists that on other days is that you can’t stay up past 10:00. If there was no rule, there is no purpose for the exception. Derived from the latin exceptio probat regulam in casibus non exceptis (“the exception confirms the rule in cases not excepted”). source http://www.phrases.org.uk/meanings/exception-that-proves-the-rule.html
Either way, the common usage is incorrect. I just tend to not get all upset about it.
Posted 10/08 at 02:21 PM
Craig Calcaterra said...
OK, I’m willing to accept that I am wrong if it means that the common usage is wrong too. I just really don’t like that common useage.
Posted 10/08 at 02:23 PM
Alex Poterack said...
Can you give an example of the “common” and “correct” usages of the rule? I think the “correct” usage is the main way I’ve heard, but I’m trying to make sure there’s not a subtle distinction I’m missing.
Posted 10/08 at 02:25 PM
I meant it as a joke, but after reading much of what goes on over there at CTB I later realized that the stupidity knows no bounds in that comment section.
Posted 10/08 at 02:25 PM
(sorry for the double post) but according to Klaw, the Andy Oliver/NCAA case was settled. From his latest chat:
Posted 10/08 at 02:27 PM
A: “I never eat dessert.”
Posted 10/08 at 02:36 PM
Craig, do you know how hard it is to read comments over at your NBC blog? I really like the back and forth thing that comments allow you to have, but it is impossible to tell whether anyone is being sarcastic or not over there.
Posted 10/08 at 04:11 PM
Going after people for screwing up English (e.g. “begging the question”) is like getting all angsty over sports writers for using batting average and grit to evaluate baseball players. Proverbial fish-in-a-barrel stuff, plus your boxing with drunk trolls. No victory, not ever.
Posted 10/08 at 07:22 PM