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Port Jeff Ferry FAQ Subject of Famous Language Blog

Linguistics experts poke fun at ferry for one entry about booking tickets in advance.

The is in a little bit of trouble, linguistically speaking. The company has come under the scrutiny of an unforgiving agency and they have set their sights on the ferry’s site.

Language Log – a blog started by two college professors with expertise in linguistics – is calling out the ferry in a post titled "Booking in Advance" for the way they stated the question of how far in advance a customer can make a reservation.

From the blog:

If you go to the FAQ page for the Bridgeport and Port Jefferson Steamboat Company ferry service between Connecticut and Long Island and click on "How far in advance can I make a reservation?" you will see the following:

How far in advance can I make a reservation?

Reservations can be made up to 2 hours in advance of the departure (depending on availability).

What a disaster. They've managed to answer the wrong question!

Geoffrey K. Pullum who wrote the article about the ferry’s faux pa said that he finds these little errors in a couple of ways.

“Sometimes I just notice them while reading, and sometimes people kindly email me to point things out,” he said in an email to Patch.

In this instance the website was brought to Pullum's attention by a reader.

He wrote that he found that the answer the ferry company gives to its question doesn't even pertain to what they were asking.

“The actual question, How far in advance can I make a reservation?, is surely asking something completely different,” he wrote.

Pullum thinks that the actually question is asking the earliest that a person can make a reservation before the actual sailing time.

We asked him how to fix the ferry’s linguistic problems and Pullum supplied us with two options:

  Q: How far in advance can I make a reservation?

  A: You can make a reservation up to three months in advance.

  Q: How late can I leave it to make a reservation?

  A: You can make a reservation right up until two hours before departure.

“I'm puzzled about what the ferry company intended, but either of these pairs would be fine,” he said.

According to its Wikipedia entry (which Pullum directed us to when we asked about the site), Language Log is a blog that updates daily "on language use in the media and popular culture."

A compilation of posts by contributors Mark Liberman and Geoffrey Pullum was published in book called "Far from the Madding Gerund and Other Dispatches from Language Log" was published in 2006. The blog is responsible for coining a couple of linguistic terms, including snowclone and eggcorns.

At the time of the writing of this article, there was no comment from the Bridgeport Port Jefferson Ferry as to what they plan to do in response to Pullum’s critique.

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Dolores Koeneke August 03, 2012 at 11:21 AM
Interesting that the "Patch" editors would commit a "faux pa" when writing about a linguistic faux pas. Check it out.


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