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More or -er: Which do you prefer

Crumbly Writer
Updated:

There are certain valid English words which just stick in the craw of your neck and you find yourself unable to utter them.

One, which I've run across a couple times recently, presents a dilemma: do you use the correct form of English, or the incorrect but more natural-sounding alternative.

Take the following sentence for example:

The world was not only more vast than they suspected, but was packed tight with congested buildings.


Is it just me, or does the word "vaster" just sound wrong?

If this is just my particular oddity, I'll swallow my pride and use it, but if, as I suspect, it's a general dissatisfaction with the legitimate word, then I'll stick to my guns and use the more natural-sounding illegitimate version.

awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

My preference in this context is 'more vast' because it takes longer to read/say.

AJ

richardshagrin

@Crumbly Writer

does the word "vaster" just sound wrong?

Lets try vast, vaster, vastest. Nope, doesn't work. ER is not always the best way to get a comparative or EST for superlative. Consider super, superior, supreme instead of super, superer, and superest. And ER words aren't always comparatives. Super isn't a comparative. Mast, Master, and Mastest don't work either.

Hard, harder and hardest work, but I don't like Richard, Richarder and Richardest.

Replies:   awnlee jawking
robberhands

Why not just read the previous thread about that topic?

awnlee jawking

@robberhands

Good spot!

Perhaps it's like Tarot Cards - if you ask the same question a second time you're likely to get a different answer.

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

Why not just read the previous thread about that topic?

Damn, and the previous thread was also initiated by me! I'd completely forgotten about it.

OK, that solves my problem. "Move vast" it is.

Ross at Play
Updated:

TO: Switch Blayde

Oh boy! Did this one ever give me a Time-for-that-Alzheimer's-Checkup moment this morning.

This was the first thing I looked at after waking up. But, but, but ... We discussed this before ... I was the only one who thought nobody would prefer 'vaster' ... ngrams proved a larger majority do.

I'm grateful it was not long before robberhands posted:

Why not just read the previous thread about that topic?

At least now, we both know who really needs that damn checkup, eh?

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

I was the only one who thought nobody would prefer 'vaster' ... ngrams proved a larger majority do.

I always have difficulties to understand those damn ngrams search results! Does it mean that 'more vast' and 'vaster' are both used by majorities but one majority is larger and the other majority is smaller?

Ross at Play

@robberhands

Does it mean that 'more vast' and 'vaster' are both used by majorities but one majority is larger and the other majority is smaller?

Nothing like that.
Did you notice the italics for entire sentences to indicate internal thoughts?
The actual explanation is simple. As stated, I had just woken up -- and this was all CW's fault -- the typo was a consequence of my having a bad-brain day.

Replies:   robberhands
robberhands

@Ross at Play

... this was all CW's fault

I certainly agree on that; I always will.

Crumbly Writer

@robberhands

More likely, since the ngrams typically report usage patterns in research papers, rather than literary fiction, it simply indicates that technical papers tend to use the more precise, as opposed to the more 'natural' sounding term.

You need to always be cautious about interpreting ngrams to the wider world, as they lump everything into the same package. Although they provide separate categories for fiction and non-fiction, often the 'fiction' category only consists of a couple books, dramatically skewing the results. When they first launched the ngrams program, they never dreamed it would become as broadly used as they first envisioned.

Ross at Play

@Crumbly Writer

You need to always be cautious about interpreting ngrams

Perhaps you could try an internet search for 'corpus+fiction'?
I expect you'll be amazed by the number of relevant results that returns.

Replies:   Crumbly Writer
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

More likely, since the ngrams typically report usage patterns in research papers, rather than literary fiction, it simply indicates that technical papers tend to use the more precise, as opposed to the more 'natural' sounding term.


I suspect people writing research papers don't have to worry about managing the pacing of a story ;)

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Ross at Play

Perhaps you could try an internet search for 'corpus+fiction'?
I expect you'll be amazed by the number of relevant results that returns.

No doubt, but the main claim to relevance of ngrams is their historical data, which given the scant references to fiction in their early history, makes the results hardly reliable.

I'm not suggesting the results aren't informative, but I've never trusted the results without any ability to examine the actual underlying data (i.e. number of data-points for each period, sources for each category, etc.).

REP

The way I see it is - 'vaster' and 'more vast' are both grammatically correct. Which to use is a choice that the author makes. Therefore, what should an Author use as the determinate in selecting between two options that are both correct:

1. A rule that says X is better than Y.
2. An Ngram that indicates more people chose X than Y.
3. What the Author believes best fits the context of what they are writing. You can call this 'sounds better'.

Another way of looking at this issue is – Who is in Control?

For me, I am in control of what I write, so I choose 3.

The rest of you are in control of what you write, so choose one of the 3 listed above, or some other rationale.

awnlee jawking

@richardshagrin

Interesting that in dig - digger - digest, only the comparative has the double letter ;)

AJ

Dominions Son

@awnlee jawking

Interesting that in dig - digger - digest, only the comparative has the double letter ;)


???

Isn't the est postfix for adjectives? Dig is a verb.

make a hole, made a hole, a magazine or what your body does to food.

Ross at Play
Updated:

@DS
make a hole, made a hole, a magazine or what your body does to food.

make a hole, Australian soldier, a magazine or what your body does to food.

@AJ
Should we tell DS about Bernard Woolley's irregular verbs?

awnlee jawking

@Dominions Son

You're overthinking a piece of humour aimed at Richard.

AJ

sejintenej

@Dominions Son

Dig is a verb.

in the archeological context it is also a noun.

awnlee jawking

@awnlee jawking

And in spelt - spelter - spelltest, only the superlative has the double letter ;)

AJ

Crumbly Writer

@Dominions Son

make a hole, made a hole, a magazine or what your body does to food.

Or what your body does with the magazines it consumes. 'D

Replies:   awnlee jawking
awnlee jawking

@Crumbly Writer

Eat lead, punk!

AJ

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