January 21st, 2009
Ayn Rand's concepts / express purpose / plural of process
by Barbara Wallraff
Paul Gruchala, of Westland, Mich., writes: “I would like to know why Ayn Rand’s definition of a ‘concept’ is not being taught in schools. Communication depends on the identity of concepts to even think properly.”
Dear Paul: The reason Ayn Rand’s ideas aren’t taught in school is that many thinking people consider Rand a crank. To be honest, I’m one of them. I’d have the same opinion of any other person who, like Rand, had a 6-foot-high floral arrangement in the shape of a dollar sign prominently displayed at her (or his) funeral.
Rick Doyle, Newburgh, Ontario, writes: “In a recent column you referred to ‘Merriam-Webster’s express purpose,’ and I wondered what that meant. Is it ‘the fast lane for descriptions of how we use language’? Is it 10 items or less? I always understood the expression to be ‘expressed purpose.’ That is, the purpose that was expressed or advertised. Who’s right?”
Dear Rick: I knew I was going to net somebody with that one! Thank you for, um, expressing yourself both clearly and humorously. In fact, in my first draft I wrote “expressed purpose,” because I did mean that the Merriam-Webster’s people expressed or stated a purpose. But then I said to myself, The set phrase is “express purpose,” and I want to use that instead of timidly using the self-explanatory word. I checked a dictionary or two to make sure I wasn’t wrong -- and here we are.
Clifford Williams, of Chicago, writes: “What would be the plural of ‘process’? I was under the impression that there is no proper plural form. I hear ‘processes’ pronounced with both a short and a long ‘e’ -- as ‘prah-ses-iz’ and ‘prah-ses-eez.’ Presuming that one is correct, which would it be?”
Dear Clifford: Why don’t you think the word has a plural? I wonder if your dictionary doesn’t give one. But many dictionaries don’t give plurals when they’re regular -- that is, when they’re just what you’d expect. It’s regular for the plural of “process” to be “processes.” So that’s why your dictionary left it out, if it did.
© Copyright 2003 by Barbara Wallraff. Reprints require prior permission. All rights reserved.