This is embarrassing

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Copied verbatim from an email flyer (with a bit of anonymization):

Xxxxxxx Toyota
has to sell
300 cars by the end of JULY
Our GM is pulling his hair out
because he has never seen prices sooo LOW
We are excepting any reasonable offer.
Plus don't forget about the incentives and lease specials

This makes me feel igry — that is, I feel what is called vergüenza ajena in Spanish, or plaatsvervangende schaamte in Dutch, because it's a typo (or thinko) that I can easily imagine myself committing and then failing to catch due to sloppy proofreading. There are plenty of similar examples out there: "We are excepting applications" alone has more than a thousand hits.

This also gives me an opportunity to follow up on an old LL post, "Igry: serendipity or glemphy?", 1/29/2004. Six and a half years later, the verdict is clear: glemphy.


  1. Brett said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 9:48 am

    I didn't even notice that problem. I was too distracted by the use of "GM" in a Toyota dealership ad. When I first saw it, it was really jarring; when I encounter "GM" in an automotive context, it's very hard for me to read it as meaning anything except "General Motors." I figured out in short order what was meant, but it was such a distraction that I couldn't pay very close attention to what came after. (The weird picture probably didn't help my concentration either.)

  2. Lee Morgan said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 9:53 am

    Alternative interpretation: prices are so low that only unreasonably low offers are accepted; thus, reasonable offers are excepted.

  3. Nightstallion said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:07 am

    BTW, in German we've got "fremdschämen" for the same concept you expressed.

  4. George said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:19 am

    But surely if enough people use 'except' to mean what constipated old pedants insist on writing as 'accept', then nobody should take the slightest exception (or should that be 'acception'?) to it..? That's the official line, isn't it?

    [(myl) You never give up, do you? The "official line" was well expressed by Horace two millennia ago:

    multa renascentur quae iam cecidere cadentque
    quae nunc sunt in honore vocabula si volet usus
    quem penes arbitrium est et ius et norma loquendi

    He wasn't talking about spelling, but I suppose that the same principles apply. Anyhow, this particular aspect of English spelling is quite firmly standardized, and is not likely to change any time soon.]

  5. Dane said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:20 am

    So… Spain, Netherlands, and now Germany… World Cup, anyone?

  6. David L said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:28 am

    In somewhat the same vein, I came across an odd phrase in the WaPo this morning, in a piece blathering about the grand golfing traditions of St Andrews (where the British Open is about to start):

    The Old Course, we are told, is "still closed to play on all but tournament Sundays," which seems very restrictive for so renowned a golf venue.

    What I assume the writer wanted to say is that the only Sunday on which golf is played on the Old Course is the Sunday of the Open.

  7. F said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:35 am

    In Russian, there's no noun specifically for this emotion, but it's common to say "мне за него стыдно" — literally "I am ashamed for him." When I was little, I always felt so, I guess, igry for characters in books that I couldn't continue reading books that had too much comedy of errors in them.

  8. rpsms said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:38 am

    Seeing as it is a car dealership, I am inclined to take them at their word rather than presume it is a typo.

  9. George said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:51 am

    OK, I was rather over-egging the pudding for effect but can you accept that it is in a spirit of good will that I wonder where the line ('official' or not) ought to be drawn? I'm wary of a descriptivism that becomes an inverted snobs' charter.

  10. Faldone said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 11:15 am

    Note also that igry (Игры) is Russian for 'games'.

  11. dw said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 11:22 am

    Another casualty of the weak vowel merger.

  12. Faldone said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 12:16 pm

    I once lost points on a test for spelling my name wrong. The professor suffered from the weak vowel merger and I did not. It was an anthropological linguistics class and I spelled my name with a schwi when the professor thought I should spell it with a schwa.

  13. NW said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 12:44 pm

    I actually have an answer (a vague answer) to where the line should be drawn. Somewhere above 1 in 100 and below 1 in 10. That's what I use at work when I have to decide whether to pass some dubious expression.

    "we are accepting applications": some 4 million hits
    "we are excepting applications": some 18 000 hits

    That's under 1 in 200, so my rule of thumb is to say 'wrong', 'incorrect', etc., and it gets fixed. At about 1 in 30 I allow grammar as variant usage, but spelling needs higher numbers. I still don't let 'supercede' through, though that's up to about 1 in 10 last time I looked.

    [(myl) Interesting thresholds! But don't you think that it ought to matter what kind of sources you're counting hits in? For determining the norms of standard written English, for example, raw web counts are probably less reliable than counts from a mix of at-least-somewhat-edited sources. But norms for texting among teens depend on, well, texting among teens.

    Anyhow, your implied point is exactly right: there are indeed norms, but they're determined by usage "quem penes arbitrium est et ius et norma loquendi", not by the fiat of a self-appointed authority.

    A small point of curiosity: I only get 1,020 hits (from Google) for "We are excepting applications". Which search engine, invoked where, gave you 18,000?]

  14. Nicholas Waller said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:16 pm

    @myl: I just got "About 18,200 results" from copying and pasting the "we are excepting applications" string from NW's post. (BTW I am not NW, despite appearances to the contrary – I usually initialise myself as NAW).

    I also missed to error on first reading.

  15. Nicholas Waller said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:17 pm

    Missed the error, not to error. Oops. And I invoked in the UK.

  16. Scott said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:25 pm

    I take acception to this.

  17. Josh said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:37 pm

    I saw a similar sign at my neighborhood coffee shop a couple years back. They were looking for new baristas and their hiring sign in the window mentioned that "collage education preferred". The shop owner is not a native English speaker (Arabic), and this particular spelling error is very common anyway, so I generally wouldn't care too much. But given the context, and the relatively public nature of the error, I couldn't help but cringe a little.

  18. Trimegistus said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:45 pm

    As a roleplaying game fan, I read "GM" as "Game Master" which made the whole thing sound like some kind of LARP gone amok.

  19. Willie said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 1:47 pm

    My friend always used to refer to the state of being igry as "second hand embarrassment". Am I the only one who's familiar with this phrase? (I imagine not, as Urban Dictionary has an entry for it dating back to 2007: )

    [(myl) It's new to me, but I like it. However, "second-hand shame" is shorter and more alliterative. ]

  20. Will said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 2:00 pm

    @Scott. Agreed, this is entirely unexceptable.

  21. Mr Fnortner said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 2:06 pm

    Of course, the collage education may well have been necessary primarily because the shop owner did not have one. One hires the skills one lacks, I would think.

  22. tablogloid said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 2:08 pm

    Truly an acceptional flyer. Us in the Used Car Dealers Association think it is a highly affective sales tool.

  23. Will said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 2:13 pm

    Maybe the coffee shop was just lacking an appropriate amount of wall art. The owner had a lot of old magazines and figured if the a new barista could also make collages that would solve two problems at once.

  24. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 2:48 pm

    Ignoring the error for a moment, it's implicit in the statement "We are accepting any reasonable offer" that they don't normally accept reasonable offers. Which is an *interesting* thing to tell your customers.

  25. D. Sky Onosson said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 3:11 pm

    There's an auto repair place near me that has advertised for some time now a "break special". Needless to say, I don't plan on letting them service my vehicle any time soon!

  26. Spectre-7 said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 3:38 pm

    Ignoring the error for a moment, it's implicit in the statement "We are accepting any reasonable offer" that they don't normally accept reasonable offers. Which is an *interesting* thing to tell your customers.

    Is that an acception that proves the rule?

  27. JHH said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 4:00 pm

    @myl: Could you share a translation of your Latin text? Thanks.

  28. Ralph Hickok said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 4:30 pm

    many words that are now unused will be restored,
    many will fade that are now well thought of, if usage has its way,
    on which the laws, rules, and control of language depend.

  29. Carsten said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 4:44 pm

    In that posting on the old Language Log, Trevor said re: plaatsvervangende schaamte:

    Much Dutch emotional vocabulary comes from the German, but I can't think of a German equivalent.

    I've heard Fremdschämen (extrinsic embarrassment) every now and then over the past couple of years.

  30. Garrett Wollman said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 4:46 pm

    @Ginger Yellow: 'Ignoring the error for a moment, it's implicit in the statement "We are accepting any reasonable offer" that they don't normally accept reasonable offers. Which is an *interesting* thing to tell your customers.'

    Well, no. What's implicit in that statement is that there are normally *some* reasonable offers they would not accept — which is certainly true, as most car dealers will have a price below which they're not willing to sell. The statement reinforces the fact that they are not obliged to accept *unreasonable* offers — and, of course, they get to decide what "reasonable" means.

  31. Daniel von Brighoff said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 6:13 pm

    As a roleplaying game fan, I read "GM" as "Game Master"

    I've often thought one could put together an interesting quiz that would provide a fairly good portrait of a person's interests and background based simply on what full versions first occurred to them when presented with various common abbreviations. For instance, I can't see "FY" without immediately thinking "Frontier Year" due to my embarrassing RPG-playing background.

  32. Leland Paul said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 6:37 pm

    I was recently in Ghana doing some fieldwork (on Akan). Signs of evangelical Christianity are everywhere there, so I saw a good number of signs urging me to "Except God". (I could never figure out what to except him from, though.)

    I've always used the verb "to zoo" (usually passive, as in "I was zoo'd") to express more-or-less this same emotion. I can't watch most mainstream comedy, for instance, because watching characters act stupid way zoos me out.

  33. Steve Morrison said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 8:34 pm

    I initially read "GM" as "grandmaster".

  34. Aaron Toivo said,

    July 14, 2010 @ 10:49 pm

    I too am getting 18,500-ish hits for "we are excepting applications" by using (and I'm accessing it from the USA), but only 1000-ish for the same string on

  35. Ginger Yellow said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 4:40 am

    Well, no. What's implicit in that statement is that there are normally *some* reasonable offers they would not accept — which is certainly true, as most car dealers will have a price below which they're not willing to sell.

    Sure, but that's what they would consider an unreasonable offer, not a subset of reasonable ones. The implicit message would be less odd if cars were generally sold at list price, but in fact everyone knows that car purchases are one of the few B2C transactions (in the West) where haggling is near universal.

  36. Nathan Myers said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 5:33 am

    It has been my impression that evoking igry feelings is the main point of British comedy. However, I had proper vocabulary to express it, never having encountered this word "igry" until today. I described British comedy as "embarrassment porn".

  37. Army1987 said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 11:02 am

    Weird, I didn't even notice that the flyer had "excepting" and not "accepting" until I read the rest of the post…

  38. April K said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

    A former workplace featured the following signs on different doors.

    (Some statement to the effect that this door was for emergency use only) "This Building is Alarmed."

    "Please insure door closes behind you."

    As the local techwriter I wanted to be helpful but had no authority to change the signs or idea who to tell to get them changed. I had to settle for daily snickering.

  39. Dave said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 4:52 pm

    My favorite instance of this error was years ago on the campus at the University of Colorado. It was a road sign: "No entry. Buses Accepted." I think it was there my entire collage career.

  40. Helma said,

    July 15, 2010 @ 5:38 pm

    The problem with 'second-hand shame', I think, is that it suggests that the shame is previously owned (isn't that the term used in car dealerships?), but in many cases, of course, it is only the observer who experiences it. I thought that English used the adj. 'vicarious' (shame/embarrassment/delight) for this?

    @Dave ('no entry. buses accepted') –Nice, that one actually works both ways! Buses are admitted..

  41. Mel Nicholson said,

    July 16, 2010 @ 9:28 am

    I get "about 18,200" hits on "We are excepting applications" from the Google search window in Firefox accessed from the USA. The top hit is this post. Note that these numbers can vary based on hiccups in the responsiveness of servers within the search farms because the query is often split between several servers using a technology called "map-reduce" the returns an overall result even if some of the partial results fail.

  42. Jen said,

    July 16, 2010 @ 10:55 am

    [(myl) It's new to me, but I like it. However, "second-hand shame" is shorter and more alliterative. ]

    This is not alliteration, since /s/ and /s^/ are not the same phoneme.

  43. Andrew (not the same one) said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 4:15 pm

    Dave: The interesting thing about that is that, despite presumably not being what they meant to write, it makes sense. Most vehicles are excluded, but buses are accepted.

  44. svan said,

    July 18, 2010 @ 9:54 pm

    @Mel Nicholson,
    Doing the exact same thing, I only get 924!

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