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cybersutra #1

aphorisms for the digital age

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principle: the perfect is the enemy of the good.
corollaries:
– beware feature creep
– heed the 80/20 rule
– dilute! dilute! OK?

notes:
– explain how this is particular to the digital age.

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  1. What’s the difference between “use” and “utilize”?

    Comment by Nick — February 24, 2007 @ 11:13 am

  2. Thanks for asking ;-), you just know I\’m always looking to share this one with all and sundry. Utilize means to employ a thing in a manner or for a purpose that it\’s not normally used. For example, you can utilize a pen to stir your coffee, but it\’s more common to use a spoon. Of course, these are matters of convention, so when spoons fall out of fashion, and everyone stirs with pens, will the polarity automatically flip?

    Though it indicates the distinction is not universally appreciated, this lovely bit of pedagogy quotes a zesty T.A.R. Cheney on the use/utilize distinction.

    Comment by Jenny Cool — February 24, 2007 @ 4:21 pm

  3. My coworker is convinced that the following sentence is grammatically incorrect:

    Utilize means to employ a thing in a manner or for a purpose that itís not normally used

    So is your grammar-correcting grammatically-incorrect? Or does my friend need to better utilize English?

    Comment by Nick — March 6, 2007 @ 3:33 pm

  4. Your coworker is right. Mea culpa. My corrected version would read:

    “Utilize means to employ a thing in a manner that, or to a purpose for which, it is not normally employed.”

    In practice, I’d probably go back and rewrite the whole ugly mess to avoid the various grammatical difficulties the original sentence poses. The obvious problem is using “that” when a preposition is needed. However, simply replacing “that” with “for which” creates another glitch. It’s wrong, or at least mighty inelegant, to say something is “employed in a manner for which it is not normally used.” Here a simple “that” would suffice, or perhaps the elliptical, “employed in a manner it is not normally.” But the problem is we have two clauses to insert.

    My corrected version, thus, uses a different conjunctive element to join each of the clauses (“in a manner” and “to a purpose”) and tweaks the wording to avoid writing “for a purpose for which.”

    Man, that was exhausting! It just goes to show the eternal vigilance needed to maintain grammatical correctness. Given enough eyes, all bugs are shallow, right? So, thank your friend and coworker for reminding me that everyone needs an editor, or two.

    Comment by Jenny Cool — March 7, 2007 @ 1:11 pm

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