Thursday, March 18, 2010


It's probably after the fact as far as usage is concerned, but may I protest about the use of 'intent' for 'intention'?  As in:  'He chased his dog with the intent of taking it home' instead of '. . . with the intention of taking it home.'

I am pontificating here, and doing so even without proper research (like looking the word up in the Oxford English Dictionary).  But here goes.  'Intent' is an adjective, as in 'She was intent upon ruining our fun'.  It gets turned into an adverb in the usual way, and the adverb reveals the meaning: 'She studied intently'.  'Intent' is a slightly odd adjective in that it requires a complement.  Usually, you cannot be intent without being intent on something.  Hence it can't be used attributively: you can't say 'She is an intent person' because this would be incomplete.  -- Or perhaps you can, meaning that she is to an unusual degree intent on things that she takes up.  But it is surely odd to say 'She is an intent on ruining our fun person'.  

'Intention' is, of course, a noun, and refers to the purpose of an action.

So how did 'intent' come to be used for 'intention'?  One natural, but false, theory is that since 'She was intent on spoiling our fun' means the same as 'She had the intention of spoiling our fun', 'intent' replaced 'intention' in the second.  As I said, this is wrong: the two sentences are not equivalent.   For when you say 'She was intent on . . . ', you don't merely mean that she had the intention, but that she displayed a certain focus and concentration on it.  That's what is revealed by the adverbial transformation to 'intently'.

I think that the confusion came in with the legalism 'with intent'.  I think this is properly used when a course of action has a point of focus, or when everything somebody did was focused on a single point.  'With intent' naturally takes the complement 'to', which says what that focus was.  Thus, 'She drove with intent to break the speed record' suggests that everything she did while driving was directed to this aim.  But then some people slipped into using it where the weaker "with the intention to" or "with the intention of" would have been more appropriate.  Thus, "She drove to Toronto with the intention of saving money" does not properly suggest that all of her driving-related actions were aimed at being money-saving -- she may have driven uneconomically fast -- just that the choice to drive (rather than to fly) were so aimed.

Coming back to 'He chased the dog with the intent to take it home': it suggests that his manner of chasing was particularly well suited to taking the dog home after he caught it.  But surely this is not right.  So maybe there are circumstances in which it would be right to say '. . . with intent to catch it', but not ' . . . with the intent to take it home'.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Two Places I Once Lived In (in Edmonton)

The one above (10908 126th St.) has been thoroughly renovated, which is good, since it was such a cold house.  But I was glad to see the colours I chose myself.   It's a beautiful house on a beautiful street.

The one above (10317 Villa Ave, I think) is truly a gorgeous old brick place from 1911.  It retains its stately dignity.

Art Gallery of Alberta, Edmonton

So what do we think of the new art gallery in Edmonton?  My own view is that it is a bit too small for its very large ribbons, and doesn't have the grace of Frank Gehry's Chicago Millenium Park bridge.  But it does bring some drama to Winston Churchill Square, which has the City Hall glass pyramid, the Winspear concert hall, and the still charming Citadel Theatre.

Here's a shot of the lobby:

One odd feature is the ribbons are made of stainless steel plates, with exposed (but flush) rivets, much like an aircraft wing.  But there are water stains from the rivets (still much like aircraft wings) and places where the plates are not flush to each other (not like a wing).

Harvest Room, Edmonton

Is there a nicer room to eat in than the Harvest Room in the Macdonald Hotel in Edmonton?

This is my friend, Alex, and though the left picture behind him is a little crooked, you must admit that it is an awfully nice place to have lunch.

The food itself used to be better.  The menu for lunch is restricted -- one fish, saltimbocca, a steak, and a vegetarian dish.  Both Alex and I settled on the saltimbocca, which was nice enough -- crisp outside, nice ham inside, and the sage leaf rather tasty.  But whose idea was it serve this on a salad with croutons?

We did have a lovely wine with lunch though -- a Nk'Mip Qwam Qwmt Merlot from the Okanagan, on this last day of the Winter Olympics in Vancouver.  A complex, chocolate heavy, but still fruity wine from the burgeoning wine industry in British Columbia.  The day before we tasted a Sandhill Sangiovese, which was truly sensational.  Go British Columbia!