Punitive foot-shootery?

Yet another odd bit of language on mefi:

I’m looking at getting a new LCD that I’ll be using with my computer and really like the HP 2408 & LP2465. However, will I end up shooting myself in the foot for not having HDMI?

Usually, it’s the mistake itself that is evoked by the foot shot.  “I really shot myself in the foot (by buying a monitor without HDMI)” is how I’d expect someone to use the phrase.  But in this case, the author brings himself off as some sort of gizmo-flagellant, taking a gun to his own foot to atone for his errant hardware purchasing decisions.

Questions: did the author intend the traditional meaning and just type “for” instead of “by” as a sort of prepositional production error?  Or does his analysis of the phrase resemble what I’ve interpreted above?  Or somewhere between: a more generalized analysis of the phrase that allows for both uses?

Or was this a more convoluted production: the author being familiar with the common phrase but wanting to modify it to catch the future-sense nature of his question, the “what if I do this” aspect — and so, perhaps disliking the feel of something like “will I have ended up shooting myself in the foot by…” or “will I have shot myself in the foot by…”, tried a quick rewrite that hewed avoided any of that perfect-tense “have”-form stuff?  Or something like that?  I should probably just inquire.

And it all comes down to prepositions: “for” instead of “by” and the whole feel of the phrase changes.  Consider this a late fanboy coda to Language Log‘s recent National Preposition Day.

Formatting crossing the parenthesis barrier?

I guess it’s Metafilter Usage Spit-Take Week; here’s an odd violation of my sense of typographical propriety, in a metafilter comment this morning:

“…and even though I (like many others) called it “Iowa Shitty” all the time, and even though I quickly learned…”

I had a hard time parsing that at first, and I think I know why: the link that begins just inside the opening parenthesis includes and extends past the closing parenthesis. 

So what’s going on there?  Intellectually, it didn’t occur to me to look for the terminal paren in the link text; but a lot of reading is mechanical, at least semi-automatic stuff, and my eye didn’t catch the paren immediately either.  Is it possible that the bold-and-colorful closing parenthesis was by dint of that formatting visually dissimilar enough from the opening paren to throw off my parsing?  Or is this mostly just the strength of my expectation (i.e. that the paren would not occur in the link text, period) driving me past scanning the line carefully?

And then there’s the more general style question: is it just me, or is there some unspoken principle of formatting boundaries being violated here?  I don’t think I’ve ever specifically read or discussed the idea of parentheses (or other bracketing / dividing puncuation) as ‘style gates’, for lack of a better word.  I’d be curious to see anything on the subject of punctuation boundaries and typographic markup.

There’s another big question, of what portion of a sentence should be wrapped up in a hyperlink in the first place, assuming a person isn’t just kind of quickly and lazily linking to have done with it.  Should the commenter above have highlighted just “like many others”?  Just “‘Iowa Shitty'”?  Maybe “called it ‘Iowa Shitty'”?  So this particular gripe is sort of a specialized extension of that question.  Why would they link the whole bit that they did?  Could they have a compelling enough reason to violate the guideline that I’m supposing exists in more heads than just my own?

I’m trying to contrive an example where the answer to that last question could be yes — where breaking across the style gate would be less of a crime than failing to link a given string as a whole — but so far, nothin’.

Can you ‘complete’ a relationship?

Turn of phrase that struck me as odd, from this Ask Metafilter question:

“I recently completed my first serious relationship, a year-long cohabitation. It ended, in large part because…”

Emphasis mine.

The choice of “completed” seems really strange: a romantic relationship isn’t usually something that’s seen as having clear, pre-defined start- and end-points, nor some set of contraints that determine when it has, say, hit 100%.

A contract, that you can complete.  And I suppose there’s the contrivable case of a relationship that was planned down to the minute (or requirement) from day one or earlier, but the question this comes from doesn’t seem to be anything like that.  It’s a relationship that the poster has just ended — or at least I’m supposing he ended it, but it may have, with less unilateral agency, simply ended.


Introducing Big Big Question

I’ve just launched a new experiment: Big Big Question.

It’s a question-and-answer site, with a specific focus on big, talky, bull-session questions; exactly the sort of thing that’s often, for practical administrative reasons, a poor fit for the otherwise excellent Ask Metafilter.

Very much still in the leg-stretching, finding-one’s-feet state; there’s been a lot of support and site-functionality feedback from metafilter users, and I’ve got a lot of ideas in queue already to improve and extend the overall site experience.

So, hey, come check it out:  bigbigquestion.com