Maybe it’s my less-than-prime cognitive state right now, but I’m beginning to notice little grammatical quirks and ambiguities that I’d normally have overseen (that was silly of me – thanks for pointing it out, David) overlooked completely.

This web page popped up when I opted out of a frankly unsolicited email advertising list:

You have been opted out.

Pardon? Is that an applicativised use of the phrasal verb opt-out? My understanding of this verb is that you opt out of something, you do not get opted out. Then again, if this use doesn’t strike you as odd; if it’s alright to you, to say that someone has opted you out of something, please feel free to digress.

Incidentally,¹ shows that the strings have opted out and has opted out together generate about 188,400 results, while been and get opted out only generate about 2,000. Be opted out is surprisingly common though, with about 12,500 hits, so maybe it isn’t as ungrammatical as I thought.

The other thing I noticed today was the packaging on a salami from the supermarket, which read:

Ideal for entertaining.
For entertaining recipes, visit our website.

Honestly. Recipes are matter-of-fact, functional things. How entertaining do they have to be?

Seriously though, I was just having a conversation about a very similar thing in the linguistics room on I was previously under the impression that the term operating system is a paraphrase of something like a system that operates, in which case you’d call operating a verb participle, I guess. But since an operating system is actually a system that pertains to operating, it’s accurate enough to call it a gerund.


In other news, I just upgraded my wordpress software from 2.3.1 to 2.3.2, because apparently there was a security fault with 2.3.1, and readers were occasionally able to see drafts, which are usually hidden. In fact I noticed a while back that my stats page showed many of my drafts as having been visited, which concerned me slightly. But it should be fixed now, so I can feel free to draft on.


¹I’ve mentioned before, and I’ve been using it now for well over a year. In fact up until an hour ago I though I had originally coined it. But it has come to my attention that there was a blog post that antedates my first use by over 18 months. Still, I certainly came up with it independently, so it’s much like arguing over whether it was Newton or Leibniz who invented calculus.

Here’s the relevant bit:

I wonder if Google will eventually offer such a service themselves? “”? (Apologies to those who thought this post was actually announcing such a service.)

Predictably, I’ve also variously had to offer up similar apologies to some of my readers who were misled by my reference, such as David.