Saturday, August 23, 2008

The glory of googling

I've been trying to remember an obscure set of designators from 70 years ago grammar school (it's not called that any more). I was seeking the labels for aspects of the "good, better, best" construct and knew that "better" was called the "comparative" and "best" the "superlative" but I couldn't remember what "good" had as its category.

I consulted with colleagues, some of whom consulted with other colleagues, but in the end I did a fairly simple search and found that "good" was the "positive" layer in a field called "degrees of comparison" that is characteristic of adjectives.

I had correctly remembered "rules of thumb" by which adding "-er" and "-est" did the job - except for "irregulars" such as "bad, worse, worst" and for three-syllable adjectives which are handled by preceding them with "more" and "most". Two-syllable constructs are somewhat subjectively addressed so that "politer" doesn't "sound right" but "more polite" does!

Now I can get into the treat of discussing what something is if it's neither "good" nor "bad" but somewhere in between. Since this is the condition of most of our labeling, it's important to sanity to examine it semantically. It has no "degree of comparison", nor does it seem to have a label like "positive" - perhaps "neutral" is applicable?

It's amazing what one finds to do in one's dotage!


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