Philosophical Multicore

Sometimes controversial, sometimes fallacious, sometimes thought-provoking, and always fun.

Archive for the ‘Language’ Category

Topics on language and grammar.

The PSAT: an Objective Assessment

Posted by Michael Dickens on October 24, 2009

This is a biased student’s unbiased assessment of the fun and frenzy that the PSAT brings to the world.

The PSAT had the usual categories that you find on a standardized test: math, reading comprehension, critical reading. The math was pretty simple stuff: basic geometry, basic statistics (median, mode, etc), basic math rules (absolute value, integers vs. rationals, etc). It’s actually been a while since I did any of that stuff, but I managed to remember it all. After I finished, I tried to find a generalized form for approximating the nth root of a number.

The most fun part, though, was the part where we had to read a story or an essay and then answer questions about it. The questions themselves weren’t so interesting; but some of the little writings were actually very fascinating. There was one section with two short essays about grammar sticklers, which I found to be pretty hilarious. And there was one where somebody was bad-mouthing Wikipedia. I wrote notes all over the test booklet, deconstructing the essay. The essay cited a study that Wikipedia has four errors for every three that Encyclopedia Britannica has. And the essayist’s response was something along the lines of “no reference work is infallible.” While true, he or she is completely disregarding the fact that this study demonstrates just how accurate Wikipedia really is. Wikipedia is moderated; 99% of websites are not moderated. While there are many sources that are more reliable than Wikipedia, there are very few that achieve the same balance of reliability and accessibility. I could write about the benefits of Wikipedia for hours.

I certainly hope that the SAT is as amusing as the PSAT was for me.

Posted in Language, Math | Leave a Comment »

The PSAT: an Objective Assessment (preview)

Posted by Michael Dickens on October 17, 2009

This morning, I spent four hours taking the PSAT. Without a doubt, it is the best standardized exam that I have ever taken.

As much as I would love to, I am not allowed to talk about the PSAT for one week after taking it. So return in one week to hear my fascinating insights!

Update: It is now available!

Posted in Language, Math | 1 Comment »


Posted by Michael Dickens on August 19, 2009

Literal: in accordance with, involving, or being the primary or strict meaning of the word or words; not figurative or metaphorical: the literal meaning of a word. (

People seem to frequently misunderstand what “literally” means. Here are some rather humorous examples that I have actually heard people say.

“It literally blew my mind.”
Oh, so your mind actually exploded? Your head looks intact to me.

“The housing market in Holland is buoyant, literally.”
This quote is from a video about how some people in Holland have floating houses. While almost applicable, the use of “literally” here is still incorrect. The houses are buoyant, not the housing market.

“Join us at [company] when we will be slashing prices, literally.”
Just because you have a chainsaw doesn’t mean you’re actually literally slashing PRICES.

“Literally, I’ve been devouring [this idea].”
This needs no explanation. Like, wow.

“[Obama] is literally ripping apart the foundation of the America that we knew and grew up with.”
This one is just utterly ridiculous. How do you rip apart an entire country? (By the way, that was Sean Hannity who said that.)

“How do you then counter this irrational fear by some whites that they are literally losing their country?”
Interestingly enough, I heard this one and the previous one on the same episode of The Daily Show. But back on topic, this reminds me of a time that I lost my country. I had it right in my pocket, and the next thing I knew, it was gone. I found it the next day. It turns out I had been STANDING ON IT.

That’s all for now. In a few months, though, I may have another compilation; the grammatical hilarity never ends.

EDIT: Oh God . . . how could I? I accidentally . . . used a *colon* instead of a *semicolon* in my last sentence! Augh! /cry

Posted in Humor, Language | 8 Comments »

FYI: “Lead” (pronounced “led”) is not the past tense of “lead” (pronounced “leed”). It is a type of metal. The past tense of “lead” is “led”. Seriously, people.

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 25, 2009

It’s not that difficult.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

Name Change

Posted by Michael Dickens on July 9, 2009

The observant viewer may have noticed that I changed the blog name to Philosophical Multicore. Over-the-top arrogance may be humorous, but I think that the new title is more descriptive of the blog’s purpose. This blog is, essentially, a philosophical multicore, with a wide range of philosophical topics. And the word “multicore” is cool.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

Another Reprehensible Infringement of "Literally"

Posted by Michael Dickens on June 1, 2009

“[W]ith Google or Yahoo, Jenny can explore any subject that fascinates her. She literally has the whole world at her fingertips.”

Wrong. She does not. Fail.

Posted in Language | 4 Comments »


Posted by Michael Dickens on May 31, 2009

That: a type of creature

I heard that that That (that That that that That (that That that that That mentioned earlier) that that That was referring to) grew four inches yesterday.

That’s right. Thirteen “that”s in a row. Beat that.

Actually, it’s not that hard to beat. A simple formula can be applied to create an unlimited number of “that”s in a row. You can probably derive it from my big sentence.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

Trick Questions

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 20, 2009

What is a trick question? How does one quantify a trick question?

This has arisen because during a math test, there was a true/false question that read,

“Planets in the solar system move in an elliptical orbit around the earth.”

Some people in the class got it wrong, and were angered because it was a “trick question”. The teacher responded by saying that all true/false questions are trick questions. But is this really true?

No. The typical intention of a true/false question is to test the knowledge of the reader. For example,
“T/F: Abraham Lincoln was the 6th president of the United States.”
This is to test the reader’s knowledge. If the reader is knowledgeable on U.S. history, she will know that Lincoln was actually the 16th president. If she is not, she may answer “true”.

But the intention of the question in math class was not to test knowledge. It was to test attention. It is taken for granted that everyone knows that the Sun, not the earth, is at the center of the solar system; the question does not test for this knowledge. It instead tests if the reader read the question correctly. Since the intention of the problem is not the expected intention, it is therefore a “trick question”.

So what is a trick question? It is a question in which the method used to determine the answer is different from the expected method.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

A Comma is Not a Colon

Posted by Michael Dickens on May 19, 2009

It’s about time people stopped using commas when they meant colons or semicolons.

A comma is used to separate two sentence fragments, or items in a list. It is NOT used to begin a list.

“Get three items at the grocery, milk, eggs, and sausage.” WRONG! Correct usage is like this:

“Get three items at the grocery: milk, eggs, and sausage.”

Colons are used when the part after the colon supplements the part before. Semicolons are used when two complete sentences are similar enough to be put in one sentence; it is used when the sentence could be over, but there’s more to say.

For more information, see on commas.

Posted in Language | 1 Comment »

Stupid grammar mistakes

Posted by Michael Dickens on September 17, 2008

People should be redirected to this page before saying anything, ever.

Feel free to add your own in a comment below.

These sentences are wrong.

“That begs the question: why do you own a tractor in the first place?”
No. Say “that raises the question.

“I could of jumped over that building.”
It’s “could have”, sometimes written as a contraction: “could’ve”. “Could’ve” is not to be confused with “could of”.

“I am literally shooting fish in a barrel.”
Oh, so you have a barrel, in which is some fish. And you have a gun pointed at that barrel of fish, and you are pulling the trigger? Is that so?

“Is that it’s coin slot?”
That means “Is that it is coin slot?” Don’t use an apostrophe there.

“Their’s my car!”
“No, that’s there car.”
“It’s my car! Their stealing my car!”

That should be
“There’s my car!”
“No, that’s their car.”
“It’s my car! They’re stealing my car!”

“There” is locational. It is over there. “Their” is possessive third person plural. It is owned by them. “They’re” is a contraction. They are over there.

Another one:
“and etc.” is redundant. “etc” means “and so on”. Don’t say “and and so on.” That sounds funny.

Posted in Language | Leave a Comment »

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