Hardcore English Grammar (i)

The following collection of grammatical errors are fine examples of a number of complex and indeed very complex mistakes in English grammar. The corrections are based on Swan’s Practical English Usage (2005).

“Hours before dawn, it are the women of the household that get up to milk and feed the animals.” = Hours before dawn, it is the women of the household that get up to milk and feed the animals.
(131.1) In a cleft sentence, a singular it + singular is/was is used; this is a structure used to emphasize a sentence element, here: ‘the women’.

“England faced invaders around 787. First, it were isolated gangs that plundered the country.” = England faced invaders around 787. First, it was isolated gangs that plundered the country.
(131.1) In a cleft sentence, a singular it + singular is/was is used; this is a structure used to emphasize a sentence element, here: ‘isolated gangs’.

See other: Notes On English Grammar


When contemplating the property truth, as with knowledge, it turns out to be very difficult to provide an uncontentious analysis. Because of its many different conceptions and dimensions, the full value of truth is surprisingly hard to capture. To that end, below is a list of quotations to help sketch a definition of the property truth.

“No persons are more frequently wrong, than those who will not admit they are wrong.”
– François de La Rochefoucauld

“Men occasionally stumble over the truth, but most of them pick themselves up and hurry off as if nothing ever happened.”
– Winston Churchill

“The truth is rarely pure and never simple.”
– Oscar Wilde

“The truth will set you free, but first it will piss you off.”
– Gloria Steinem

“The unexamined life is not worth living.”
– Socrates

“If you tell the truth, you don’t have to remember anything.”
– Mark Twain

“Facts do not cease to exist because they are ignored.”
– Aldous Huxley

“Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.”
– Pablo Picasso

“The more I see, the less I know for sure.”
– John Lennon

“Books are mirrors: you only see in them what you already have inside you.”
– Carlos Ruiz Zafón

“There are no facts, only interpretations.”
– Friedrich Nietzsche

See more: Approximations

Romeo and Anal Love

William Shakespeare is without argument the most recognizable, famous playwright in the English language, and for good reason. His words, rich and dense in their poetry, tickle the academic sensibilities, while his still-relevant portrayals of humanity touch the hearts of readers and audiences alike. And of course when it came to sex jokes, no one wrote them better.

Shakespeare realized sexual jokes, especially double entendres, like no one else. He is never crude but he always reminds us of our humanity on every level. Now, of course, Shakespeare was not straight-up writing porn (his most explicit play, Henry VI, Part II, contains a total of just six kisses). He used his gift for wordplay to weave some clever sexual imagery and naughty puns into every play.

At the beginning of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet, Romeo is feeling blue, lonely and his sex life is as dull as an afternoon of golf, or the US State of Nevada. And as he laments this fact, his friend Mercutio shares a rather odd suggestion with Romeo:

Romeo and Juliet (Act II Scene i)
‘If love be blind, love cannot hit the mark.
Now will he sit under a medlar tree,
And wish his mistress were that kind of fruit,
As maids call medlars when they laugh alone.
O Romeo! that she were, O! that she were
An open et caetera, and thou a poperin pear!’

– Reed International Books Ltd. 1992. The Illustrated Stratford Shakespeare London, Great Britain: Chancellor Press (1996) p. 708

Mercutio is talking about the fruit of a medlar tree. In Elizabethan England, this was colloquially referred to as a so-called open arse, for reasons that can never be adequately explained.

What we do know for sure, however, is that there has never been such thing as a poperin pear; in fact, it’s another old-timey play on words. Separate poperin into its three syllables and you get an Elizabethan penis euphemism “pop ‘er in.”

Yes, that’s right. Mercutio is saying, “What you need, my friend, is a girl who does anal.”

“The plays are absolutely packed with filth, […] I’ve found more than a hundred terms for vagina alone.” – Héloïse Sénéchal

Duck [Noun.]

‘[Old English] Old English duce describing this swimming bird, is from the Germanic base of the verb duck ‘to dip under’. It is sometimes used as a term of endearment (Shakespeare Midsummer Night’s Dream: “O dainty duck, o deare!” Dickens Old Curiosity Shop: “How is he now my duck of diamonds”).

The use of the word in cricket to signify no score, is short for a duck’s egg, because of the similarity in shape between the egg’s outline and the figure zero.’

– Chantrell. G. edt. 2002. The Oxford Essential Dictionary of World Histories New York, United States: Berkley Publishing Group (2003) p. 163

Cosmological Argument For God

In the 13th century, at the highpoint of the middle ages, Thomas Aquinas formulated one of the most famous proofs for the existence of God: the Cosmological Argument.

That is to say, it was Aquinas who phrased the argument we know today; the cosmological argument however, had been formulated centuries earlier by the Greeks. The fact that it was theorized by Ancient philosophers, like Aristotle, is especially impressive when you consider that at the time, the Universe was not known to have had any sort of origin – the event we nowadays call The Big Bang. The argument consists of the following axioms:

1. Every finite and contingent being has a cause.
2. Nothing finite and contingent can cause itself.
3. A causal chain cannot be of infinite length.
4. Therefore, a First Cause (or something that is not an effect) must exist.

There are two fundamental problems with this argument:

First of all, the cosmological argument is dependent on either a causal chain being of infinite length, or a finite causal chain with a First Cause or Prime Mover at its base.

In any case, it would seem that the argument commits the logical fallacy of infinite regression. If the universe had a first cause, what caused that first cause? Defenders of the argument declare that it is unfair to argue for the cause of every single thing, but then those defenders in turn argue for the sole exception of a First Cause, which according to them did not have a cause.

However, since the third axiom of the argument refutes the existence of any infinite causal chain, a so-called Prime Mover becomes necessary to make the argument work. The problem with any First Cause in the context of this argument however, is that it is just a logical convenience – it is the easiest way out.

Interestingly though, there is no proof whatsoever that a causal chain of infinite length could not exist; it is merely philosophical rhetoric of pre-renaissance quality. Simply put, this fact invalidates axiom three of the argument and it makes axiom four – the Prime Mover – unnecessary.

Furthermore, it is simply not necessary for the universe to have had a cause, original purpose or prime mover, nor is it necessary that there was at some time in the past ‘nothing’. If fact, it seems unlikely that it did. There is no evidence to suggest that there ever was a state without matter – that something came out of nothing. Of course, it might well be true, but as yet, it is impossible to determine. That, however, does not change the fact that the need for a First Cause, which Aquinas outlines in his argument, is outdated.

See other: Arguments Concerning God

26/iii mmxiv

Buenos Aires has more psychiatrists per head than any other city in the world.

In 1813, Camembert cheese was made an honorary citizen of the town of Caen in Normandy.

The first commercially viable lightbulb, patented by Thomas Edison in 1880, used a filament made from bamboo.

The name Imogen is a mistake. Shakespeare wrote ‘Innogen’ in the play Cymbeline and the printer misread it.

Andrés Escobar Saldarriaga, commonly known as Andrés Escobar, was a Colombian footballer who played for the national team as a defender. Escobar scored an own goal in the 1994 FIFA World Cup against the United States. Because of this, he was shot and killed three weeks later in his hometown of Medellín aged 27.

See other: Quite Interesting Facts


In order to celebrate Knowledge Guild’s 1500th (consecutive) post, we are going to take a closer look at the number 1500. Do not worry, it is not as dull as it sounds.

  • The number 1500 is located between the number 1499 (the Sophie Germain prime) and 1501 (centred pentagonal number).
  • Google.com provides over 2.610.000.000 results for the number 1500.
  • A bullet fired from a Kalashnikov weighs only a quarter of an ounce, but leaves the barrel at more than 1,500 mph. This gives it a force of impact equivalent to that of a brick dropped from the top of St Paul’s cathedral.
  • One of the strongest fascia in the human body, the tensile strength of the tunica within the penis is around 1200-1500 millimetres of mercury. For reference, the average human blood pressure is 120/80 millimetres of mercury.
  • In the United States, the average child will eat 1500 peanut butter and jelly sandwiches before he/she graduates.
  • 1500 plastic water bottles are consumed in the US every second.
  • There were 1500 gallons of fresh milk, 1500 bottles of wine, 1500 mustard spoons, salt spoons and soufflé dishes aboard the Titanic.
  • The 1500 metres or 1,500-metre run (approximately 0.93 miles) is the foremost middle distance track event in athletics.
  • 1500 is the UN number for Sodium nitrite, the inorganic compound with the chemical formula NaNO2.
  • The year 1500 was seen as being especially important by many Christians in Europe, who thought it would bring the beginning of the end of the world. Their belief was based on the phrase “half-time after the time”, when the apocalypse was due to occur, which appears in the Book of Revelation and was seen as referring to the number 1500.
  • In the year 1500, Christopher Columbus was arrested for mismanaging the New World.
  • Around 1500, Europe’s population is estimated at 56.7 million.
  • On April 22, 1500 the Portuguese navigator Pedro Álvares Cabral officially discovers Brazil and claims the land for the Kingdom of Portugal.
  • Some time around 1500, after being hit by a terrible earthquake, the residents of Crete tried to calm the earth by lowering a large basket of olives into a well.
  • There were already millions of books in Europe by the year 1500, just half a century after the first printed page flew from the press. To read a million books in a lifetime you would have to read forty a day for seventy years.
  • Although other reports exist, it is thought that the last wolf in England was killed in 1500, making the species extinct in that country.
  • The year 1500 in the common European calendar was the year 7008–7009 in the Byzantine calendar, 5260–5261 in the Hebrew calendar, 3833 in the Korean calendar, 878–879, in the Iranian calendar, and 9 Meiō in the Japanese calendar.
  • The Holy Roman Emperor Charles V of Germany, who was born in 1500, was said to have spoken French to men, Italian to women, Spanish to God and German to horses.

See other: Anniversaries

Garbled Cause and Effect

Rhetorical fallacies are subtle errors in speech and writing. – The manipulation of rhetoric and logical thinking. The following fallacies can be categorised as ‘Garbled Cause and Effect’.

Affirming the consequent

Assuming there’s only one explanation for the observation you’re making.

“Marriage often results in the birth of children. So that’s the reason why it exists.”

Circular logic

A conclusion is derived from a premise based on the conclusion.

“Stripping privacy rights only matters to those with something to hide. You must have something to hide if you oppose privacy protection.”

Cum hoc ergo propter hoc

Claiming two events that occur together must have a cause-and-effect relationship. (Correlation = cause)

“Teenagers in gangs listen to rap music with violent themes. Rap music inspires violence in teenagers.”

Denying the antecedent

There isn’t only one explanation for an outcome. So it’s false to assume the cause based on the effect.

“If you get a degree, you’ll get a good job. If you don’t get a degree, you won’t get a good job.”

Ignoring a common cause

Claiming one event must have caused the other when a third (unlooked for)  event is probably the clause.

“We had the 60s sexual revolution, and now people are dying of AIDS.”

Post hoc ergo propter hoc

Claiming that because one event followed another, it was also caused by it.

“Since the election of the President, more people than ever are unemployed. Therefore the President has damaged the economy.”

Two wrongs make a right

Assuming that if one wrong is committed, another wrong will cancel it out.

“Sure – the conditions in this prison are cruel and dehumanising. But these inmates are criminals.”

See other: Rhetorical Fallacies