O-New: Now Extinct Website

Calvary, Vocabulary and Dictionary

[note: no I will not edit this mess but comments about where I went wrong would be cool. actually if you’re really good at linguistics please stop laughing at my stupidity immediately I demand you speak to my lawyer. immediately. immediately demand a lawyer you can immediately speak to immediately]

today we will drunkenly muse about English grammar. there are four sections in this post: the introduction in which I explain my plight, the section about dictionary definition in which I scour dictionaries, the paragraph on zero articles and grammar, and finally the conclusion in which I barf out puke

many things are lower case because I don’t feel like pressing the shift key to capitali-whoops I just did

also this makes things seem more informal and thus less pretentious

introduction

one day I was reading about sword art online subtitle reviews and somebody translated ‘hill of crosses’ to ‘Golgotha’. I thought this was quite weird and through shallow research, discovered that Golgotha was where they crucified Jesus.

it is also known as Calvary

at first glance, Calvary looks like cavalry, and many mispronounce mounted soldiers as Jesus’s crucifixion’s location (due to Metathesis, which is like a thesis but it’s a thesis about a thesis and nope.avi). I thought so too at first glance but a simple definition check turned up differing results:

1. cavalry are mounted soldiers
2a. Calvary is the place of Jesus’s crucifixion
2b. Calvary/calvary is a sculpture of his crucifixion
2c. calvary is an experience of extreme (especially mental) suffering

well that’s cool. so like any guy who’s found a new esoteric word to toss around in irrelevant posts, I decided to search for example sentences of usage. definitions a and b were easy: ‘Jesus was crucified in Calvary.’; ‘We visited the calvary erected outside St. Paul’s Church.’

but what about definition c? that was much harder.

dictionary definitions

the confusion here lies in the use of articles. take ‘heresy’. ‘heresy’ is ‘opinion at variance with accepted doctrine’. thus, we should be able to replace ‘heresy’ with ‘opinion at variance with accepted doctrine’ (and vice versa) in appropriate contexts. however, we cannot: ‘they held an opinion at variance with accepted doctrine’ cannot become ‘they held a heresy’.

the error in replacing ‘heresy’ with ‘opinion at variance with accepted doctrine’ is that the lack of an article before ‘opinion’ means that ‘heresy’ itself lacks an article, and not that articles prefixed to ‘opinion’ be similarly prefixed to ‘heresy’.

to illustrate: ‘protest’, ‘an expression of disapproval’. the presence of an article before ‘expression’ means that ‘protest’ itself has an article. thus, ‘the union held an expression of disapproval’ becomes ‘the union held a protest’.

but wait. what about things like ‘controversy’, both ‘a prolonged contention’ and ‘contention’? ‘sword art online’s stupidity has become a prolonged contention’ -> ‘sword art online’s stupidity has become a controversy.’ ok, and ‘there is much contention over o-new’s post quality’ -> ‘there is much controversy over o-new’s post quality’. so they both work, but the million-dollar question is

what’s the difference?!

zero articles

“The zero article is the omission of the article ‘the’ or ‘an’. English omits the article before a noun if the noun is a mass noun or a plural, either in an indefinite reference or in a definite but generic reference.”

thank you, wikipedia

brief grammar recap from two years of mandatory french classes:

– definite articles refer to a specific thing: he ate the cat (a specific cat), she bought the dogs (specific dogs), it ate the rice (specific rice)
– indefinite articles refer to any random thing: he ate a cat (any random cat), she bought dogs (any random dogs), it ate rice (any random rice)

– singular nouns are of one thing: a cat (one cat), the cat (one specific cat)
– plural nouns are of more than one thing: dogs (more than one dog), the dogs (more than one specific dog)

– mass nouns are usually of quantities that cannot be inherently measured. in simpler terms, you can’t directly smack a numeral in front of it: ‘two waters’, ‘five furnitures’, ‘one sand’, ‘it eats seventy-three rices’ are all obviously wrong. you have to add a unit of measurement between: ‘two litres of water’, ‘five pieces of furniture’, ‘one armpitful of sand’, ‘it eats seventy-three bucketfuls of rice’.

– finally, generic nouns don’t refer to anything in particular (hence their genericness): they make broad statements. ‘dolphins are whales’, ‘rice is white’, ‘the dog is a symbol of western east asia’, ‘sand makes glass’.

so, if something has an indefinite article and is a plural or mass noun, they use the zero article instead: ‘she bought dogs’ (referring to any random dogs, and not specific dogs), ‘it ate rice’ (any random rice, and not specific rice)

if something has a definite article BUT is a generic noun that is also a plural or mass noun, they use the zero article instead: ‘dolphins are whales’ (referring to all dolphins, and not just specific dolphins that happen to also be specific whales)

however, if something has a definite article that is a generic SINGULAR noun, they still use the definite article: ‘the dog is a symbol of western east asia’ (not ‘dog is a symbol of western east asia’)

furthermore, if something has a non-generic definite article, they still use the definite article: ‘it ate the rice’ (specific rice, and not any random rice).

finally, if something is a singular noun, they always have an article: ‘he ate a cat’, ‘he ate the cat’

conclusion

what does this mean?

firstly, the dictionary definition will not tell you how to properly use an article. only the above rules will.
secondly, to apply the above rules, think:

does your noun apply to everything of its kind? (if yes, you have a generic noun (G))
do you have only one noun? (if yes, you have a singular noun (S). if not, a plural or mass noun (P))
are you referring to a specific thing? (if yes, you are using a definite article (D). if not, an indefinite article (I))

then take the letters you get and find the right article below:

SD: The
SI: A(n)
GSD: The
GSI: A(n)

PD: The
PI: Zero
GPD: Zero
GPI: Zero

returning to our original word: calvary. calvary is a singular noun. if calvary refers to a specific ordeal, it uses a definite article: the calvary of the bar exam. if calvary is specific yet generic, it still uses a definite article: the calvary is an experience of extreme suffering.

if calvary refers to any random ordeal, it uses an indefinite article: writing this post was a calvary. if calvary is generic, it still uses an indefinite article: a calvary is simply unacceptable.

calvaries is a plural noun. if calvaries refer to specific ordeals, it uses a definite article: the calvaries suffered by martyrs are painful. HOWEVER, if calvaries is specific yet generic, it does not use an article: calvaries of Christianity span centuries.

if calvaries refer to any random ordeals, it does not use an article: he suffered through calvaries long and short. if calvaries is generic, it still does not use an article: calvaries are emotionally painful.

does that clarify things? probably not. it took me much longer than 5 minutes to write this, and I am now definitely sober (not that I was actually drunk in the first place, heh.)

writing this post was a calvary

9 responses

  1. i am making sword art online

    2012/08/19 at 08:16

  2. vae victus

    Stfu u
    Waste my time
    Diaf with your Calvary
    Vae victus

    2012/08/19 at 08:26

  3. 8C

    Good detective work, though I think your conclusion doesn’t paint the full picture.

    I took a look at the free-yet-invaluable Corpus of Contemporary American English – http://corpus.byu.edu/coca/
    Try searching “[at*] calvary” for all article-first uses, then “[app*] calvary” for all possessive-first uses

    “Calvary” seems to usually be used (either incorrectly or) metaphorically, as a cultural reference – makes sense, since it’s a reference to a famous event. Compare “it was their Alamo” or “this could be his Watergate”. It’s sort of locked into a sense of “event”ness, rather than a properly uninteresting singular indefinite like “ordeal” or “banana”.

    On the other hand, googling “it was a calvary” does pull up one or two relevant results, so maybe the word’s usage is changing. It’s probably archaic enough that nobody’s going to check you on it anyway, so

    2012/08/19 at 09:13

  4. I’m gone to convey my little brother, that he should also go to see this blog on regular basis to take updated from latest information.

    2012/08/19 at 09:18

  5. more like sword art offline

    2012/08/19 at 17:22

  6. mouretsu pirates sucks asses

    2012/08/19 at 17:25

  7. no thank you mr. fullseo.org, everything on this blog is utter bullshit

    2012/08/19 at 17:27

  8. Wow, thanks for the link. I’ve never seen such a comprehensive text database before…

    Another note about using words like this is that knowing how to use them properly doesn’t matter too much, since nobody knows how anyways. Best thing to do is then to not use them at all.

    2012/08/19 at 17:29

  9. fine then

    it’s persona 5

    2012/08/19 at 18:05