"First past the post"

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Grand Pooh-bah
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"First past the post"

Post by occasional thoughts »

One has to wonder whether people really think sometimes about what they're saying. It seems that if something's catchy, it becomes popular and gets repeated ad nauseum until it becomes automatic if not unassailable.

Take the expression "first past the post" which is often used to describe our current system of voting in B.C. and Canada. It came up again today in a story from the Liberal convention (in Montreal I think it was) when delegates voted in favour of preferential balloting for Canadians. My post here is not about preferential balloting per se, but about the expression itself, "first past the post".

First past the post indicates speed, according to my reading of the self-evident meaning of the language, and usually, the post in question is fixed. Horse, greyhound and human racing in many sports comes to mind. In our voting, speed is not a factor, nor is the post fixed. The winner is the one with the most votes (plurality). And it is not always "first past the post" anyway, because recounts and other (more rare) disqualifications can deny the ultimate victory to the person with the most votes on election night.

Let's call our system "the one with the most marbles wins" or something similar that doesn't misdescribe the situation.
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Urbane
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by Urbane »

You make a very good point OT. "FPTP" has never made a lot of sense to me and it certainly doesn't accurately describe our voting system. I like your "the one with the most marbles wins" but of course to even consider running for public office a person must have lost all of his or her marbles to begin with!
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Grand Pooh-bah
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by occasional thoughts »

Urbane, you've found the weakness right off the bat in my suggestion (the one with the most marbles wins) which, I must admit, I said being aware of the potential ironies, but also not able to come up with anything more descriptive yet accurate at the moment I was writing it.

I'm a funny one to have become a stickler for good use of language in my older age; I was not an overly good student in school or my B.A., and I detested English in high school, et al. Journalism and editing forced me to think about a lot of things.

One of my "favourite" hates, as a good friend who is a weather forecaster could attest, is the use by meteorologists in forecast discussions of the term "retrograding" (as in the Pacific high will retrograde to 140 deg West) instead of retrogress. Retrograde is the opposite of upgrade, while retrogress is the opposite of progress. Drives me crazy.

And why do people say "real good" instead of "really good". And so forth and so on. I better not get me started!

I suppose the real social/political issue here, to get back to my original point, is not language and grammar, but is the introduction of preferential balloting, which I have mixed feelings about. It is a backdoor two-party system. But it does ensure that majorities elect our representatives. Maybe one of us will start a thread on that?
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Urbane
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by Urbane »

There are so many annoying mistakes creeping into the English language. It's commonplace now to hear "between" the three when it should be "among" the three. "It's" is another popular term for those wanting to use the possessive. It should, of course, just be "its" since "it's" means "it is." "Less" and "fewer" are two more culprits. If it's something you can count use "fewer" and if it's a general amount use "less." By way of example I always told students to think of there being fewer grains of sand on one beach than another but less sand on one beach than another.

Of course things change. I was always taught to type space space after a period but I just found out a couple of months ago that there has been something of a seismic shift and now we're told to leave only one space after a period when typing. I'm trying to adapt and I think I'm doing well. So I am open to change but some things still seem either right or wrong to me. Yes, I make mistakes too but I at least try to get things right. One final thought . . . a bit off topic . . . but why are so many people dropping their "ing" endings now? The dropping of "ing" endings is commonplace south of the border (even President Obama does it) but Canadians (I've always thought) weren't into doing that. Now I keep hearing that "we're tryin' and we're doin' our best and . . ." Oh well . . .
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Glacier
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by Glacier »

There were several several alternative voting system threads spun from the STV referendum. Here is an example.

As for FPTP, the Americans also use it, although, I believe they use the term "preferential voting" instead.
Last edited by Glacier on Jan 18th, 2012, 1:43 pm, edited 3 times in total.
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Grand Pooh-bah
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by occasional thoughts »

Well, no one can say (with much validity) that English is a dead language! But I think we can argue back if we think that specific changes are inferior rather than the opposite thereof.
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Urbane
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by Urbane »

As we consider the use of "first past the post" here are some other language questions to ponder:

Why is it when you transport something by car it is called a shipment, but when you transports something by ship it's called cargo?

Why do you drive on a parkway and park on a driveway?

Why are they called apartments when they are all stuck together?

If firefighters fight fires and crime fighters fight crime, what do freedom fighters fight?

How come you never hear about gruntled employees?

What is a "free" gift? Aren't all gifts free?

What's another word for synonym?

How can there be self-help GROUPS?

Why are there interstate highways in Hawaii?

Why isn't phonetic spelled the way it sounds?

Why does your nose run, and your feet smell?

Why do they call it a "building" It looks like they're finished. Why isn't it called a "built'?

What's another word for "thesaurus"?

http://www.y-knot.com/ponder.htm
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TyrianQuill
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by TyrianQuill »

 
There is a term neuroplasticity (1).

Now, research (2) shows brain activity differences between speaking Greek and speaking English suggesting that the use of different languages, even culture (3), produce differently physically structured brains.

So what and how we live, what and how we speak, the language and maybe even the words we choose are determining factors as to how our brains not only function but also how they physically change.

Here is something to ponder- how why and what we choose is rooted in our brain, but, those choices, which are made, impact what is determining the next choice. How and what we communicate is one of the uniqunesses of being human and it is really given very little consideration not only globally but individually.

There is a book “The Brain That Changes It’s Self” written by Dr. Norman Doidge from Toronto, the book is a fascinating read, or you can hear him speak at (4)

So, to the original thread topic, the words we choose “first to the post” or "the one with the most marbles wins", which ever we use, shapes not only our perceptions, but, also affects and effects the physical and functionality of our brain.
 
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place (George Bernard Shaw)
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Grand Pooh-bah
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by occasional thoughts »

Tyrian: Almost over my head, but to the extent that I think I understand you, wow, fascinating. As my life ground on, I developed an interest in learning about what I called "English linguistics". Hell, if people can earn a PhD in linguistics, why can't I study English linguistics. Alas, there is no such discipline, and so I've been left to wonder about things about the English language. Esp. in such areas as the creation of words through prefixes, suffixes (and why they don't count in Scrabble!!).
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TyrianQuill
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Re: "First past the post"

Post by TyrianQuill »

 
occasional thoughts wrote:Tyrian: Almost over my head, but to the extent that I think I understand you, wow, fascinating. As my life ground on, I developed an interest in learning about what I called "English linguistics". Hell, if people can earn a PhD in linguistics, why can't I study English linguistics. Alas, there is no such discipline, and so I've been left to wonder about things about the English language. Esp. in such areas as the creation of words through prefixes, suffixes (and why they don't count in Scrabble!!).

 
Oh, English linguistics would be very interesting to study.
I did find this two links:

I used to play "solitaire scrabble" it was a good exercize in mental disipine of staying focused on what was in front of me.
 
The single biggest problem in communication is the illusion that it has taken place (George Bernard Shaw)

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