NGRAMs

Wikipedia defines n-gram like this:

In the fields of computational linguistics and probability, an n-gram is a contiguous sequence of n items from a given sample of text or speech. When the items are words, n-grams may also be called shingles.

An n-gram shows how often a word or phrase appears (e.g., in books, or in newspapers) over time. Google describes their NGRAM program as follows:

When you enter phrases into the Google Books Ngram Viewer, it displays a graph showing how [often] those phrases have occurred in a corpus of books (e.g., “British English”, “English Fiction”, “French”) over the selected years.

That’s where we get our data.

Combine

Unlike combat, the verb-noun ‘combine‘ has come under no pressure to extinguish the stress difference between its noun and verb forms. Mispronunciations are rare (and perhaps nonexistent).

The verb has the stress on the second syllable:

Com-bine’. (v)

Platform 22, Floyd County Public Arts’ first project, combines history, education, and fine art in a series of 11 art installations located in nine public parks and two public buildings. – News and Tribune

Then there is the elegant noun, with stress on the first syllable, describing a common piece of farm equipment:

Com’bine. (n)

Scott Short of Sycamore drives past corn and soybean fields every day, but until Saturday, he had never been inside a tractor or a combine.

It’s true.

On Oct. 21, Short and about 80 others took combine rides coordinated by the DeKalb County Farm Bureau. Three local farmers, Vince Faivre of DeKalb, Steve Bemis of DeKalb and Rob Wessels of Waterman, allowed passengers to ride along in their combine cab to get a firsthand look at corn harvesting. – Daily Chronicle

Then there is another use of the noun, to denote a group ‘acting together for a commercial purpose’, again with the stress on the first syllable:

Obi Melifonwu left no doubts about his athleticism on the final day of the NFL Scouting Combine. The former UConn safety broad jumped 11 feet, 9 inches and recorded a 44-inch vertical jump on Monday, marks that were the best of the combine. – NFL.com

Verb position

I think the entire country assumed that Mugabe was going to get on state television and announce that he was resigning as president. Instead, he gave a meandering speech that led to no resignation at all. So as far as anyone understands, he is still the president. He’s the president with diminishing support by the day. But until he resigns or until he’s forced out of power or until the country finds a legal path to dismissing him, he remains the president of Zimbabwe. – NPR

Let’s take a look at the highlighted sentence, in which ‘diminishing‘ appears to be an adjective.

He’s the president with diminishing support by the day.

Well, it’s not meant to be an adjective. Here are the same words, different order.

He’s the president with support diminishing by the day.

Without a doubt, ‘diminishing‘ is a verb, an action word. The dude’s support is shrinking, a little (or a lot) each day. Soon it will be gone. That makes sense. He has been in power since the beginning of (Zimbabwe) time. The following, however, does not make sense.

He’s the president with diminishing support by the day.

That’s why it is in red.

When a sentence contains two verbs, the second verb should not be a shrinking violet, a wallflower. It should be leaning forward, spring-loaded, ready to pop.

He’s the president with support diminishing by the day.

I mean, in a dependent clause the verb should follow, not lead, its subject whenever possible. Now that you know this, you have to cringe a little (e.g., at the 1:20 mark here) whenever you hear a verb unwittingly adjectivized.

Overlook

The verb ‘overlook‘ has nothing to do with the noun ‘overlook‘.

Over-look’. (v) Fail to notice.

Even though we were the first customers at 6:30 on a Saturday night, we were basically overlooked or forgotten. – Wisconsin State Journal

Anonymity can be sad, so sad. Meanwhile, the accepted definition for the noun may seem grandiose.

Over’look. (n) A commanding position or view.

Tennessee Tourism officials have installed viewfinders at three scenic spots, including one here in the Tri-Cities region, to help colorblind people see the fall foliage for the first time. The viewfinders were debuted on Wednesday, including one at the westbound Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin. – WJHL

Of course the two forms can be artfully combined.

Overlook at Mile High is overlooked no more. For one thing, the 476-unit Overlook at Mile High is the largest apartment community in the area west of downtown Denver. – Colorado Real Estate Journal

Maybe this is what we should expect from a real estate journal.

Myriad

We have myriad possibilities.

The painting’s installation elements — including a plastic vacuum tube filled with “alphabet dice” — hint at myriad possibilities. – Seattle Times

We have a myriad of possibilities.

Thanksgiving is almost here, and with it comes huge platters of delicious food, pies as far as the eye can see, candy dishes full to the brim, and a myriad of choking hazards that no one ever told you about. – Romper

Which one is it?

‘Myriad of’ is older than myriad with the noun,” [Prof.] Curzan explains. “Myriad comes into English in the 16th century when the word originally means 10,000, a specific number.” The word changed from referring to 10,000 of something, to meaning a countless number of something.

While ‘myriad possibilities’ is taut, succinct … ‘a myriad of possibilities’ is the original form. Either one is fine. Listen to this interesting discussion with Professor Anne Curzan at Michigan Public Radio.

Bona fides

Bona fides‘ is almost always used to refer to one’s CREDENTIALS in a grand way. The reference is not just to documents (although it can be, in the legal realm), it is to the training, experience and body of work that together establish authenticity and legitimacy.

Michael Lewis is a serious writer with a list of serious bona fides: Princeton bachelor’s degree, master’s from the London School of Economics, a brief career on Wall Street and author of best-selling, non-fiction books like “Money Ball,” “The Big Short,” and “The Blind Side.” – Globe Gazette

It need not refer to a member of the establishment. Punk journalists can establish their bona fides. The key point is legitimacy.

My Damage was co-written with National Endowment for the Arts fellow and award-winning writer Jim Ruland, who brought with him his own punk bona fides from his work with fanzine Razorcake, and as a staff writer for its predecessor, the now defunct LA punk zine Flipside. – Claremont Courier

Pronunciation is the tricky part. How should an English speaker pronounce this?

bōna fidēs

We shouldn’t get too prissy here, as language is fluid. But some aspects of the original should be preserved. Here is some good advice: remember to pronounce the ‘e’, and you will be fine. The following is the most accepted modern-day Latin pronunciation:

boh-na fee-days

A version with the Americanized short ‘o’ sound comes in a close second:

bah-na fee-days

Sometimes the computer voice on a dictionary website will say it this way (although I have never heard it spoken this way on the radio):

boh-na f-eye-dees

Here is a common mispronunciation, which lacks all nuance:

bah-na f-eye-ds

The latter just seems uninformed. Not willfully ignorant, just uninformed. So here you go: try it one more time.

In January of 2016, presidential candidate Donald Trump took a trip to the late Jerry Falwell’s Liberty University to burnish his evangelical Christian bona fides.Journal Sentinel

Umm …