Mind your language: Learnt vs learned

I haven’t done one of these posts in a while, so it’s about time. To recap, posts in this series deal with various grammar/spelling rules I decided to look up because I’ve become more pedantic about my spelling and grammar since no one on the internet can write properly anymore.

When I was typing this morning, I wrote “learned” even though my mind was leaning towards “learnt”. I had to know once and for all, so I googled it. According to this, both usages are acceptable, with “learnt” being the preferred variant outside of North America.

As usual, my instinct was right (and my hands were wrong). All the reading I did and spelling bees I won as a child have continued to help me to this day. It’s why I cannot bear to enter News24 anymore.


How is Stellenbosch’s new language policy any different?

When I started my first year at Stellenbosch in 2007, this is how the language issue was handled:

  • The “main” modules (Biology, Physics etc) which basically all first year students in the Science faculty took were separated into classes divided by language. The amount of students made this possible, so I think we ended up with 3 English classes and 2 Afrikaans or something. The practicals were mixed.
  • For smaller subjects such as pure Maths, we were in a single class where the lecturer taught in English. Coincidentally, both lecturers for Maths were English.
  • For even smaller subjects, like Computer Science, officially the policy was that it should be taught in English. So of course, we were taught in Afrikaans. I spent my first year manually translating Afrikaans Computer Science notes to English. I somehow still managed to pass first year Computer Science.
  • All tutorial sessions had English and Afrikaans demis available, but I think that was more luck of the draw than anything else. Students could asks questions in any language, and the lecturer would reply either in English or the language the student had asked the question in. Hahaha.
  • Meetings in res would be in Afrikaans, although officially they were supposed to be in English. So every Monday night at 10pm, I would have to leave my room to waste half an hour listening to girls I didn’t care about discussing the plans for the next social with a guys’ res, all in Afrikaans. There was a R20 fine if you didn’t attend a meeting, which is the only reason I went (this was way before my current assertive phase).

So how is this different now? By my final year, the language issue didn’t even seem to be a thing anymore, which is why I was so surprised to see all this drama this year. From second year, all my modules were in English, regardless of whether the class was majority Afrikaans and even if the lecturer was Afrikaans. The subject where this change was most obvious was Computer Science.

What would annoy me in res, was if someone asked a question in English at a house meeting, and the HK would reply in Afrikaans. Personally, I didn’t have a problem with someone talking to me in Afrikaans, because I would answer them in English and we could talk like that for hours and be fine. It was just the whole underlying “feel” to it, the subconscious exclusion of students who couldn’t talk Afrikaans. That’s why I pretended I couldn’t speak the language and only knew enough to understand it being spoken to me, because honestly, I did not have the energy.

Someday I’m going to write a really long post detailing the nonsense that went on in res. Maybe when I’m older and wiser.


Transparent vs translucent

The reason I even thought of the difference between these two words is because I use the Setting layer transparency @ ArcGIS. I got a request from someone about making some colours appear “translucent”, so I figured I may as well go check which one is right.

According to Grammarist, I am probably referring to translucent (which means ESRI is wrong):

Things that are transparent are so clear you can see through them as if there’s nothing there. Things that are translucent allow light through but with significant diffusion or distortion.

So if you hold something transparent—say, a square of flat, clear glass—in front of these words, you’ll be able to read them. If you hold up something translucent—say, a tinted or decorated glass with water in it—you’ll see the glow of your screen but probably won’t be able to read the words.

According to StackExchange, the opposite is true:

Something that is transparent lets all light through without distorting the image — it is as if the transparent object were not even there, visually speaking. Something that is translucent lets some but not all light through. Something that is opaque lets no light through.

I’m not sure who to believe. Naturally, I turned to Wikipedia:

Transparency is possible in a number of graphics file formats. The term transparency is used in various ways by different people, but at its simplest there is “full transparency” i.e. something that is completely invisible. Of course, only part of a graphic should be fully transparent, or there would be nothing to see. More complex is “partial transparency” or “translucency” where the effect is achieved that a graphic is partially transparent in the same way as colored glass.

I don’t think that helps.

The first time I get to use this meme! Yay!



Mind Your Language: Couponing vs couponning

I know that couponing is not really a word, and only really exists in popular culture because of this show, but it is what it is. I have a category on my blog dedicated to it, so I was a bit perturbed to discover that I wasn’t being consistent with the way I was spelling it.

Yes, that may be a bit pedantic, but that also, is what it is. My gut feeling was to go with the double n; that is the tendency in the Queen’s English, and its South African offshootdialect. However, seeing as I had already used the single n in my category name, and the concept of couponing is American, I am just rolling with the single n.


Mind Your Language: Adaptor vs Adapter

Yet another word that I’ve been using two spellings for 50/50, sometimes even within the same document (to my horror).

From Wikipedia:

An adapter or adaptor is a device that converts attributes of one electrical device or system to those of an otherwise incompatible device or system. Some modify power or signal attributes, while others merely adapt the physical form of one electrical connector to another.


Both spellings are used in both British and American English.

Ha! I’m leaning more towards adapter. It just feels right.


Mind Your Language: Anymore

Here’s another one that I’ve apparently been using wrong about 50% of the time:

The difference in meaning considered useful by the third camp is that “anymore” is an adverb meaning “nowadays” or “any longer”, while “any more” can be either adverb plus adjective, as in “I don’t want any more pie”, or adjective plus noun, as in “I don’t want any more.”

The difference between the two meanings is illustrated in the sentence: “I don’t buy books anymore because I don’t need any more books.”

Fry close up


Mind Your Language: Everytime

(View other posts in my Mind Your Language series.)

I think when I use this word, it’s 50/50 everytime, and 50/50 every time. I realised it was time to end my nonsense once and for all.

Everytime should be written as two separate words: every time.

While some compound words like everywhere and everyone have become commonplace in the English language everytime is not considered an acceptable compound word.

Wrong: You don’t need to remind me to do the dishes everytime.
Right: You don’t need to remind me to do the dishes every time.