Happy New Year to all J&M readers!

Have you considered following us on Twitter? We are approaching a thousandth of a million followers, don’t you know?

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Discussion (82)¬

  1. HaggisForBrains says:


    Happy New Year, Author!

  2. DeafAtheist says:

    Seems to me that Jesus would indeed be more concerned with the number of people following him. Omnipotent god-figures tend to require copious amounts of adulation from numerous people in order to keep their egos well-stroked.

  3. A great start to the year, Author. Bravo. And a quarter of a hundred sounds so much more than, say, twenty-five.

  4. Runar says:

    I always had the impression (from good authority) that The Beatles were more popular.

  5. Sgeo says:

    Would “nearly an eighth of a hundred” have been more appropriate? Less impressive sounding though.

  6. Marc says:

    Why am I not surprised that a person that claims to be the messiah is using a Mac?

  7. Terry Collmann says:

    I always had the impression (from good authority) that The Beatles were more popular.

    Yeah, but how many Twitter followers does John Lennon have, eh?

  8. JohnnieCanuck says:

    Marc, I wonder if Jesus saves using a Time Capsule with His Mac.

    Repent of your Windows, send me 10% of your total income and I can show you how to save, too.

  9. Unruly Simian says:

    @ Canuck is there a “tything app” for my iPad????

  10. Nassar Ben Houdja says:

    Twittering, a form of insanity
    Afflicting a segment of humanity
    Who could care less
    Of what dullards confess
    The epitome of electronic banality.

  11. @Nassar You are finally hitting your stride with these limericks but the devil is in the details when it comes to English. One doesn’t care “of” something. One cares “for” something or “about” something.
    Also, if they could care less then they must be caring a certain amount. I think the phrase you want is “could not care less”, meaning they care so little that it is impossible to care any less.
    Here’s your verse corrected by a native speaker:

    Twittering, a form of insanity
    Afflicting a segment of humanity
    Who could not care less
    For what dullards confess
    The epitome of electronic banality.

    Did you ever read any of those books I recommended to you, ever so long ago now? I’m particularly interested in your reaction to “The Greatest Show on Earth” by Richard Dawkins.

    Oh yes, and Happy New Year NBH and everybody else.

  12. Dave Weaver says:

    @Darwin. The idiom “could care less” is the norm in the US. I hear it regularly and being an English ex-pat it grates every time.

  13. Brother Daniel says:

    @Harmless: I think you’ve erred here. If one asks a rhetorical question “who does X”, the implicit suggestion is that no one does X, which is to say that everyone doesn’t X. So Nassar is right to say “who could care less”, because that is consistent with claiming that he couldn’t care less. By changing it to “who couldn’t care less”, you’re suggesting that you COULD care less.

  14. scottspeig says:

    Brother Daniel,

    I think rather the US version of “I could care less” is supposed to be sarcastic to actually mean the plain saying “I couldn’t care less” stating as fact that you care so little as you cannot actually care any less.

    The problem is of course, that I don’t think the Americans actually do sarcasm very well and so they, as usual, completely destroy the language they imported.

  15. nik says:

    following 🙂

  16. xxxFred says:

    @Nassar – just claim Poetic Licence. It’s the grammatic equivalent of Diplomatic Immunity.

    @scottspeig – your last sentence is not even wrong….

  17. joe says:

    “The problem is of course, that I don’t think the Americans actually do sarcasm very well and so they, as usual, completely destroy the language they imported.”

    Dear Satan below, do I hate the priggish morons who know nothing about their language or language in general, yet try to play the intellectual (very badly).

    Could care less — couldn’t care less — only over-educated buffoons try to parse these statements. These are frozen phrases that aren’t broken down for meaning, but are used as multisyllabic words. Parsing them has the intellectual rigor of claiming that submarine refers to objects embedded in the seafloor, or for that matter demanding that german compounds should have meanings that are unambiguously the combination of the roots.

    If you’re going to be pedantic and arrogant, you need to be actually right and not merely repeat middle-brow pseudo-sophistication (a particularly common disease among atheist circles, where folks somehow think that because they have an ounce of brains in one area, the knee-jerk intuition that their momma gave them is a poundful)

  18. xxxFred says:

    @joe: That’s what I said.

  19. hi. jesus, how many followers do you have on Facebook??
    heehe i bet you know it

  20. DeafAtheist says:

    I’m an American and when I use that idiom I always say, “I couldn’t care less” simply because “could care less” seems to imply that you at least care enough that it would be possible to care less.

  21. Unruly Simian says:

    I’m sure it stems from a common error of any lanuguage which over time develops regional strands of meaning. I know a lot of people who say regardless or irregardless not realizing they mean the same thing. I heard a professional person speaking to a group of professionals who used the phrase “for all intensive purposes”. I asked him about this after our meeting to verify that those were the actuall words he meant to say. I then corrected him in that the saying is “for all intents and purposes” needless to say this sparked a heated arguement and it was weeks before he came back to me to apologize for his several year long problem with this saying. In sumation I try to correct dialect problems like this wenever possible even though I couldn’t care less if people want to project themselves incorrectly….

  22. David B says:

    I check in here regularly, and often link to J&M at my discussion board.

    I will follow on Twitter when I get a Twitter account, which I estimate will be some time after Hell freezes over.

    David B

  23. ronmurp says:

    And they are? @God, @HolySpirit, @Mum, @MaryM, @Homie-1, …, @Homie-12, @rowanwilliams (but maybe not:, @John, @Matt, @Luke, @Marky, @Mo, @MrDeity, @pzmyers, @jandmo (author)

  24. Chip Camden says:

    @Unruly Simian: “for all intensive purposes” == “good for any crusade.”

  25. European says:

    @David B: Get your twitter ready, Hell’s all one frozen pond (read Dante’s Inferno…)

  26. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    If I alter one word, and add another to DH’s re-write of NBH’s ditty, I think it all makes much more sense.

    Twittering, a form of insanity
    Afflicting a segment of humanity.
    I could not care less
    For what dullards confess.
    It’s the epitome of electronic banality.

    DH is correct in that ‘could not care less’ is the correct wording. ‘Could care less’ suggests that one posssibly cares a little too much, so the misuse grates on me almost as harshly as does that other Americanism, ‘my bad’. WTF does that mean? Your ‘bad’ what? It isn’t even grammatical. If you want to say ‘my mistake’ then just say it.
    I suppose that I could care less about my mother tongue but then I’d be as bad as those who couldn’t; maybe worse in fact, as I know better.

  27. HaggisForBrains says:

    @AoS &DH

    DH is correct in that ‘could not care less’ is the correct wording. ‘Could care less’ suggests that one posssibly cares a little too much, so the misuse grates on me almost as harshly as does that other Americanism, ‘my bad’. WTF does that mean? Your ‘bad’ what? It isn’t even grammatical. If you want to say ‘my mistake’ then just say it.

    Thank you – I could not agree more ;-). I don’t understand how Joe thinks it makes no difference, when one phrase is the negative of the other! As a Grumpy Old Git™ I’m trying hard not to criticise every new usage I come across, recognising that language always changes, but I hate fashions that mangle the sense as this one does. Don’t get me started on basic grammar – I blame the parents, and comprehensive education! End of rant.

    I’ve now proof-read this four times, but if I’ve still made an idiot of myself, I’m sure some kind person will let me know.

  28. BrainLogic says:

    Two generations ago, “couldn’t care less” actually was the norm. With the dumbing down of America, “could care less” creeped in, along with “irregardless”, and more recently, “preventative”, where “regardless” and “preventive” should be. A childhood friend used to say “comftitable” rather than “comfortable.” I begin to wonder why that didn’t take off. At least, she knew she was joking.

  29. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Another bugbear of mine is SMS / twitter shorthand creeping into formal usage. It’s fine even neccesary when used with a character-limited medium, but it’s just sheer idleness to use it in formal written or typed exchanges, and plain stupid when used in a professional environment.
    I once e-mailed a job applicant to offer an interview; the reply was (all sic) “thnx bt no cn do. on hols wv m8s. b bk 20 aug wv big angova lol so will cum on 22. tb if ok 4 u”. And this was for a post-graduate management training course. Needless to say, I didn’t ‘tb’.

  30. noreligion2 says:

    Nothing is wrong with Nassar Ben Houdja’s line “Who could care less”
    He’s asking a question, who could care less?
    I, for one, couldn’t care less about twitter followers, but I probably could care less than NBH.
    Then again I could care a little less about careless grammar corrections.
    I do love this comic, and probably couldn’t care more.

  31. Jerry w says:

    I have found that “I couldn’t care less” and “I could care less” can be easily replaced with “I don’t give a shit”, which is hard to misunderstand or parse, other than when using it in a constipation sense. To the english majors out there, to continue exploring the language, if sane is the opposite of insane, what is the difference between flammable and inflammable? Not that anyone has ever asked, of course, I’m just saying…..

  32. the bonus says:

    Author, perhaps quote your 1,000th of a million in scientific notation to avoid confusion (apart from for my wife 😉

  33. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    Jerry w, the differences are subtle but they are there. For example, if ones knee or elbow joint is prone to swelling it becomes inflamed and is therefore correctly described as inflammable – probably because the swelling is likely to be accompanied by a burning pain – , but is not flammable (under normal conditions, SHC and cremation notwithstanding). Likewise, ones mood or passion can be said to become inflamed rather than flamed. It seems that flammable is normally only used in conjunction with actual combustion, whilst inflammable has a more widespread descriptive use.
    Incidentally, because many people think that inflammable means ‘unable to burn’ – and also because we live in a ‘compensation culture’ -, it is rarely used on warning signs, the preference being for flammable and non-flammable.

    And personally, I prefer ‘don’t give a flying fuck’, although I’m careful where I use it. Apparently it’s not an appropriate response to ‘What do you want for tea, love”? Especially when it’s my old nan asking!

  34. My Cat Is God says:

    Noreligion2 is correct.

    The phrase used to be always, “I couldn’t care less” in both British and US English, which makes sense. But “I could care less” is now common in US English (despite making no sense at all, in my opinion).

    Regardless, when turned into a question such as, “Who could care less?”, that is correct in both dialects. It is rhetorical: “Who could care less?” implies the answer “No-one could care less” which equals “it is not important”.

    “Who could not care less” would be wrong. It’s (a) very awkward English (it’s almost a double negative), and (b) is the equivalent of saying, “who cares more? [e.g. than me]”, which implies that it is difficult to care more (e.g. than me), and so the subject (in this case, Twitter) is important.

    Hope that clears that up. Well done, NBH (and a nice limerick too…!)

  35. Terry Collmann says:

    Fopr such an intelligent cartoon series, this certainly attracts a large number of idiot commentators. Joe: “middle-brow pseudo-sophistication (a particularly common disease among atheist circles …)” – you’re making that up. You have no evidence for that, you’re simply exercising your own prejudice. Haggis for brains – “mangles the sense” – do you really hear/see “I could care less” and not understand what the person means? If so, you DO have haggis for brains. Unruly Simian – you really are a most unpleasant person. Do you keep friends for very long?

  36. mary2 says:

    Unruly Simian, I love ‘for all intensive purposes’; I might use it myself. The best I have heard is ‘escape-goat’ instead of ‘scapegoat’. This was from a non-native English speaker and when I challenged them I discovered that half of the room (all English speakers) used ‘escape-goat’ as well.

  37. Strobes says:

    I rather like escape-goat but it indicates that people who use it don’t read English much. Like a child I know who talks about Farmer Christmas and a Polish girl who had to embrace herself for a hike in the snow.
    P.S. Thanks Author

  38. HaggisForBrains says:

    Unruly Simian – you really are a most unpleasant person. Do you keep friends for very long?

    I’ll be your friend, Unruly Simian; we pedants need to stick together. Let’s not allow that nasty Terry into our gang, though. 😉 😉

  39. @Mary 2 I love the poetry of the non-native speaker. I worked with a man who had a deal go south on him. “They dropped me like a hot tomato,” he told me. Same guy would talk about listening to music using “hear phones”.

    @Terry Collman I think it’s rather unpleasant of you to call people idiots. Perhaps you are projecting?

  40. chigau says:

    I’d like to be in your gang with Unruly Simian.
    Pedants of the world unite!

  41. some Matt or other says:

    @Darwin Harmless: I was in Italy talking to a local about things to see, and at one point she apologized for not knowing the English word for a thing and said she would try to adapt an Italian word: “It’s an… autodrome?” “Ah, you mean racetrack!” “Yes, yes!” I laughed and told her that “autodrome” is way cooler, and I was going to start using it. AUTODROME!

  42. Peakcrew says:

    I’m married to someone with English as a second language, and even though her English is very, very good, there are still lovely little variations that she brings to things. Often it is just a change of the usual rhythm which makes me think “oh, that sounds better”. However, it was my gran, a native English (well, Derbyshire) speaker, that caused me the most difficult “should I correct that?” moment, when she said “I pacifically want Lurpak butter”, meaning, of course, that it was *specifically* Lurpak that she was after!

    @Terry – your comment is almost perfectly ironic, assuming you mean what you say about others without reflection on your own words.

  43. TonV says:

    @haggisforbrains on the 6th:
    two opposed words may actually mean the same. Given pedantry (is that a word?) though, i have exactly two chances of you agreeing with me. Slim and fat..

  44. HaggisForBrains says:

    OK fellow pedants, perhaps we need to think of a new name, before we are attacked by mobs of angry illiterate parents intent on protecting their children from sexual abuse.

    @TonV – fair point, but let’s not drag anorexia and obesity into the discussion.

    @ Nasser – I’ve criticised you before, but you’re definitely improving again – keep it up.

  45. @HaggisForBrains I think you should stick with Pedants. I did hear of a pediatrician who was attacked by an angry mob, but in a world where a man was fired for using the word “niggardly”, defense of perfectly legitimate words against the tidal wave of ignorance and illiteracy has to start someplace. As an autodidact, I suggest you call your gang UPW (pronounced UpWuh), United Pedants of the World. And sign me up. We’ll give Pinker a run for his money. Now my question: Is it pedant, pronounced as in “pee dant” or pedant as in peddle?

  46. HaggisForBrains says:

    Firstly, Sorry Nassar for the misspelling.

    @DH – Actually, I was about to ask how it is that idiots can confuse “pedant” with “priest” ;-). I like UPW if we pronounce it upyoo.

    I was going to say that I’d pronounce it as in pedal, only to realise that pedal can be pronounced with a long of short “e”, depending on whether you are referring to the adjective that goes with “extremity” when talking about the end of your leg or the bit that works the brakes. Isn’t English wonderful (that’s British English, of course). Anyway I’ll go with a short “e”. Wouldn’t it be ironic if we were to have a pedants’ schism over how to pronounce our name? Perhaps we need to study our holy text (OED) more closely, or pray to Saint Christopher (Hitchins, that is) for guidance.

  47. Unruly Simian says:

    @ Haggis – Thanks for the support and I will accept your friendship happily. I do have a thick skin so comments from Terry and his ilk will not bother me in the slightest.

  48. @HaggisForBrains It’s your club. You can pronounce UPW any way you want to. If St. James can be pronounced Sinjin, there’s a lot of lattitude in the English language.

  49. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ DH – point of order. that’s St John you’re thinking of.

  50. @HFB as a pedant I must point out to you that it was not a point of order. It was a point of information. 🙂 Thank you.

  51. HaggisForBrains says:


  52. Unruly Simian says:

    The soldier had to desert his dessert in the desert.
    After a number of shots the patients gums grew number.
    I wound the bandage around the wound.
    There was a big bass on the big bass drum……

    Plenty more where these came from….

  53. @Unruly Simian Yes, I’ve seen the list. Joys of the Internet. What amazes me is that I read those sentences without a stumble. It does make me sympathetic to anybody learning English. Just the various pronunciations of ough – cough, bough, though, rough, through – makes one wonder who formalized our spelling. I still remember cracking up in Latin class when the teacher told us about the foreign student who said she had “a cow in her box”. (Figure that one out, fellow pedants.)

  54. mano says:

    @Darwin Harmless,

    Just the various pronunciations of ough – cough, bough, though, rough, through – makes one wonder who formalized our spelling

    These words once rhymed, but have since diverged in pronunciation.

  55. @Mano. Whith which pronunciation did they rhyme? I’ll start using it immediately.

  56. Peakcrew says:

    @DH – my wife once told me that we could meet friends at “The Pluff”. It took me a little while to work out that she meant “The Plough”… worse yet, though, was when she said “It has that beer you like – Twats”. The brewery is, of course, Thwaites …

  57. Brother Daniel says:

    Imagine the mirth when a foreign-born employee in a medical clinic stepped into the waiting room to call the next patient (whose name was Hugh Cork), and announced “Huge Cock”. (At least, that’s how it sounded to most of the listeners there.)

  58. Jerry w says:

    Point of personal privilege, I need to get all of that religion out of my system.

  59. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    DH; Not being a Latin speaker, I’d appreciate the solution to your ‘cow in the box’.
    I’d like to join the UPW, but being pedantic I must point out that ‘United Pedants of the World’ should strictly become ‘UPOTW’, pronounced ‘you potwa’. We could issue ‘potwas’ for crimes against the English language.

    All this talk of grammar reminds me of a puzzler our English teacher once gave us;
    Compose a sentence using the word ‘and’ five times in immediate succession. The sentence must be grammatically correct, punctuation between ‘ands’ is permitted, but references to stammerers or the fictional band name ‘And And And’ (from ‘The Commitments, which wasn’t out when I was school but I thought I’d pre-empt it for this exercise) are not.

  60. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ K……..i – Wow!

    @ AoS I did Latin too many years ago, so I’d like the answer too.

    I don’t know the answer to your puzzle, but I can compose a sentence with four consecutive “that”s. Not very grammatical, but it works.

    ” He saw that that, that that man said, was true.” The third “that” should really be “which”.

    How about: ‘You should never end a sentence with a preposition, and “And” and “And ‘and” should never be used at the beginning of a sentence’? The last one is an abbreviation of “hand”. Or include a reference to a Panda called And-And.

  61. @AoS and HfB Sorry. The Latin class reference, while true, was a red herring as a clue. She had a cough in her chest.
    Your puzzle using and and and and and and is beyond me. 🙂

  62. P.S since “box” was a common euphemism for female genitalia, what cracked up the boys was “she had a cow in her box”. I think the class reaction came as a surprise to our teacher, a sweet middle aged woman who knew Latin but not teenage slang. She didn’t expect her joke to get such a laugh.

  63. @AoS for the sake of peace, I’m okay with UPOTW, but UPW reminds me of the old IWW, the Industrial Workers of the World, affectionately known as Wobblies. I thought that was kind of fun. Love the idea of issuing potwas – Pedantics of the World Assign Shame?

  64. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ DH & AoS – Yes, I like the idea of issuing potwas.

  65. mary2 says:

    Oow oow, can I join the pedants too? I’m only an amateur compared to you folks but I see a genuine need for the issuing of potwas. We have put up with the abuse of the English language (and its many bastard offspring) for too long.

    I too have heard the word ‘pacific’ used for ‘specific’. It entertains me to imagine the speaker is looking for a ‘peaceful’ fork/recipe/shirt etc.

  66. HaggisForBrains says:

    @ Mary2 – yes, that one seems quite common. I knew a partner in a major accountancy firm I worked for who used it regularly, and I found it quite embarrassing in front of clients. Someone recently posted using “irregardless” over at Pharyngula, and the corrections that followed were countered by people claiming it is now in dictionaries, so therefore correct! Just because a stupid mistake becomes common, it doesn’t make it right. But that’s a whole nother argument 😉

  67. @HaggisForBrains “Just because a stupid mistake becomes common, it doesn’t make it right.”
    Actually, it does. I’m feeling conflicted now about issuing potwas. They are fine against ignorant people who don’t know that “niggardly” means “stingy” and has nothing to do with racism. But we stray perilously close to the realm of the prescriptive grammarian, and I detest that lot. They generally make up rules that nobody follows, such as the rule that one mustn’t split an infinitive (“To boldly go” is bad grammar?), and then give a student a reduced marks for using “who” when “correct” grammar calls for “whom”. Meanwhile no rational person gives a flying frog.
    Ah, I see there’s a new Jesus and Mo. Another thread we can highjack? 🙂

  68. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    OK, the solution to the ‘5 ands’ puzzler.
    A chap bought a pub called Dog And Hare and decided to get a new sign to hang over the door. When the signwriter showed him the proof for approval, the landlord wasn’t happy with the spacing of the words.
    “I’m sorry’ he said, “You’ve left too much of a gap between Dog and And, and And and Hare”.
    @DH. The Potwa would indeed be issued for the ignorant ‘niggardly is racist’ types. A good general education should sort the rest just fine.

  69. FreeFox says:

    @AoS, re 5 ands: impressive 🙂

  70. FreeFox says:

    @AoS: No idea you meant this as an intentional reference, but POTWA seems to be already in use. (A weak use, though, and pronounced differently.)

  71. Jerry w says:

    Something about all four images seemed familiar. Wait a minute, now I get it, if I only had a dollar for every time my wife said “Jesus Christ, are you on that computer again?”

  72. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @FF; Having looked at the link you provided, I have just invoked a POTWA on for allowing such mangling of the language, grammar, punctuation, and capitalisation in its definitions. Surely a dictionary ought to know better?

  73. harry the don says:

    oh is this where the pedants congregate? excellent! darwin harmless, ‘to boldly go’ is bad grammar, and anyone who can’t appreciate when it is appropriate to use ‘whom’ rather than ‘who’ doesn’t deserve to pass any level of english exam. neither of these is half as irritating as the widespread inability to use reflexive pronouns properly – anyone who says ‘you’ll need to call jesus or myself’ for instance deserves crucifying. nb the lack of upper case letters in my comments is a deliberate affectation, so you needn’t point it out.

  74. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @harry the don; You are missing the point regarding UPOTWA, which is partly our fault as we haven’t yet issued a ‘mission statement’ laying out our aims. Our intention is not to jump on minor mistakes or typos, but to combat glaring errors, particularly those made by people who really should know better; by ‘pseudo’ intellectuals who write and speak as though their mind is one enormous thesaurus, yet cannot in fact string two words together without a slip (think Sarah Palin, and her recent invention of the word ‘squirmish’ for ‘minor confrontation); and especially those who jump in to correct others whilst ignorant of the fact that their own tirade is full of errors.
    Which brings me to your post above. Claiming the use of lower case letters as an affectation does not make it right. Were I to finish every personal message with “So long, Fuckface”, then claiming the suffix as an affectation would not make it correct or acceptable. The first word of your post should be followed by a comma, and there’s no need for an exclaimation mark after ‘excellent’; is it really so shocking or surprising that pedants are to be found here? Also, your quote regarding calling Jesus should be wrapped in quote-marks (“) rather than single apostrophes, being a replication of speech, and ‘nb’ should be followed by a full stop (US – period).
    UPOTWA members would not, in the normal course of events, point out such minor errors but because your post was a criticism of the grammar of others then you inadvertantly put yourself in the ‘line of fire’, so to speak.

  75. chigau says:

    Acolyte of Sagan

  76. Acolyte of Sagan says:

    @chigau; glad I gave you a giggle, but he did ask for it. It’s never wise to enter a war of words armed only with sub-standard weaponry.

  77. prophet of atheism says:

    Given the weird fruit eating myth in genesis i do wonder if jesus would actually use an apple mac -given it has a picture of an apple with a bite taken – or is that the idea ?

  78. anonnynonnymous says:

    today’s retrospective prize must go to Darwin Harmless with his (her) unremarked but brilliant
    “Your puzzle using and and and and and and is beyond me.”

  79. Dr John the Wipper says:

    Another one in the repeating words category.
    The teacher said that that “that” that that boy had written was wrong.

    And somewhat related, not in writing but in speech:

    Imagine a meeting in the act of making a very tight planning. In slightly of-standard English the supervisor (say, a Dutch native), worrying about those specific 20 minutes, asks the engeneers:
    “Takes from 22 to 2 to 2 to two too long?”


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