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Roy Janik

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taboo words [Nov. 5th, 2002|11:34 pm]
Roy Janik
There was an honors professor at the University of Alabama that had some very singular ideas about grammar and writing. I didn't agree with all of them, but his rules still gnaw at the edge of my mind whenever I'm writing. In particular, I knew there was one word which he said we should never use, because it was almost meaningless, and was a cop-out for a more descriptive word. For a while I couldn't remember it, but when working on my Java security paper, it suddenly came to me.

"Aspects" is the taboo word.

[User Picture]From: cha_chee
2002-11-05 11:12 pm (UTC)
I am entirely intrigued.

How does he mean this?

I was under the impression that when you talk about certain aspects of an object, you talk about particular pieces, instead of the whole, a distinction which can be useful.

Please explain more.
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[User Picture]From: zinereem
2002-11-06 04:14 pm (UTC)
I think his argument was that "aspects" is vague. Here's an excerpt from "Less than Words Can Say":

"Writer B: " ... "If the subject area being covered is weather, than the different aspects of weather will be introduced."

"Can’t you just hear teacher B in class? "Dear children, I will now introduce an aspect of weather." What does he do then? What is an aspect of weather? What idea of the meaning of "weather" must we have if we are to separate it into its "aspects"? Is an aspect of weather a kind of weather—rainy, sunny? Is it a particular event like a hurricane? Is it an attribute of weather? Nice weather for ducks, for instance? Leaving weather aside entirely, what exactly is an aspect? Is "aspect," as so many seem to think, just another way of saying "phase" and "factor"? Is phase, perhaps, just one of the factors of an aspect? Can we divide just anything up into aspects or only certain kinds of things?"
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[User Picture]From: vyvyanbasterd
2002-11-06 07:46 am (UTC)
In some programming languages, member variables are called "aspects". Does that mean they don't exist?
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[User Picture]From: geeklet
2002-11-09 02:26 pm (UTC)

ya know,

one of my high school profs said the same thing about "aspect" and it took this post to jog the memory, thanks!
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[User Picture]From: zinereem
2002-11-10 09:04 am (UTC)

Re: ya know,

I think it's one of those things that just sticks with you. Teachers hear the rule once in college, and then every time the come across the word, it triggers this memory.

I'm still not sure whether I agree or not. I understand that it's a vague word, but that can be useful, too. Sort of like how when there's dialogue in novels there's just endless reams of:

X said "blah."
Y said "blah."

To the new writer all those "X said" lines look repetitive and boring, so they try to spice things up with:

X shouted "blah."
"blah", Y exclaimed!

not realizing that it's just distracting, whereas the "boring" style above drops away from the readers consciousness and serves as punctuation. So "aspects" can act the same way, simply telling the user that "We're going to talk about a bunch of stuff that are parts of the same system now."

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