Use/Mention

On a local television academic contest for two competing high school teams:

In the following sentence, how is the word ‘ball’ used?

“In this sentence how is the word ‘ball’ used?”

Answer: Direct object.

WTF? Wouldn’t it be great to hear one of the teams say: “It’s not used at all; it’s only mentioned!”


Comments

Use/Mention — 11 Comments

  1. Diego, I’ve had a similar problem with Claudio in Brazil: he can email me fine, but most of mine don’t get through. Let’s try this one: kvanvig at yahoo dot com.

  2. very funny jamie; I hereby require you to buy me a drink next time we meet at a conference. Otherwise, I will voodoo curse that half-and-half into arterial blockage…

  3. OK, Juan and John, I hereby return you to the regularly scheduled program on my using, rather than mentioning ‘WTF’. This time I didn’t use it, but failure to pay attention to use/mention distinctions just sends me over the line… 🙂

  4. My favorite example of a use/mention blunder occurs when people say something like, “They’re trying to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance!” Of course, it’d be hard enough to get ‘God’ out, but God … that’s a different ballgame altogether.

  5. Though I suppose if one wanted to take God out of the Pledge of Allegiance, ‘God’ would not be an unreasonable place to start…

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