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#1 2010-11-05 16:28:37

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2036

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#2 2010-11-06 19:10:15

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: boring?

“Confirming Goat’s stories really are as boring as watching paint dry.” What is it with the number agreement thing? Is this sort of thing really standard nowadays? (I sure see it a lot.)
.
Oh, btw, we aren’t boring like that. Quite the contrary—totally fascinating, really.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2010-11-06 19:10:40)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#3 2010-11-06 19:54:24

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2036

Re: boring?

Number agreement? You mean “stories…are?”

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#4 2010-11-06 21:57:08

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: boring?

Yes, that’s what I meant. Parsed it wrong—how embarrassing. Sorry, all!
.
(fwiw I do find the confirming significantly more boring than the stories themselves.)

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2010-11-06 22:08:35)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#5 2010-11-07 05:04:05

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2036

Re: boring?

I think I know what you were getting at. Gerundives that have plural subjects in the gerundive phrase, especially those that also have plural objects, often lead to plural verbs in the main clause, even though gerundives are almost always singular. We should say, for example, “Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy,” but it’s hard not to say “Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drive me crazy.” When we make this mistake, we transform the gerundive phrase into a noun and a present participle (and slightly alter the meaning of the original sentence).

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#6 2010-11-07 05:29:34

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: boring?

Shouldn’t it be: “Grammarians’ insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy”? :-)
.
Here’s/Here’re a couple of examples I’d collected of the same sort of thing—basically, agreeing with the nearest noun even when that is not the appropriate one:

Ma said that “the U.S. claims are gravely in contravention of the facts and confuse black and white and they are totally unacceptable to China,” although he didn’t say what China’s version of the events were. —CNN Internet news 10 Mar 09

I will even admit, I don’t feel quite sane all the time, especially since the rumor of “fairies” have spread through out my quiet little town. —Online story Apr 09

Barack Obama, like all previous politicians, have exploited emotion in order to win an election. —Wall Street Journal blog 20 Sept 08


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#7 2010-11-07 17:05:43

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2036

Re: boring?

“Grammarians’ insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy.”

“Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy.”

Both could be correct. They have slightly different meanings to my ear, however, and the second one is open to multiple grammatical interpretations (e.g., is “insisting” a participle or gerundive?).

The case that has been most studied (and debated) is the use of personal pronouns in the gerundive subject slot, such as:

“His/Him insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy.”

You can read an exhaustive study of the personal pronoun choices in the BNC in this monograph: As the author notes, the non-possessive form (i.e., “him”) is much more common in modern writing. She gives an interesting summary of the debate’s history:

According to Peters (2004:229), the issue goes back as far as to prescriptivists of the 1700s, who claimed that the possessive was the only correct form, and contended that the objective should be banned. However, these prescriptive views were later criticised in the scholarly grammars of the 20th century. For example, Kruisinga (1932: 460) stated that schoolchildren were taught to use the possessive form by teachers who used Latin grammar as a model for the English grammar, and that this was a severe mistake. The Danish grammarian Otto Jespersen also took the liberal standpoint. In the years 1925–1926, Jespersen and the notorious prescriptivist H. W. Fowler argued over the matter in S.P.E. Tracts. Fowler (1925: 44) held that the objective construction was “indefensible”, and Jespersen (1926: 148,150) fought back, calling Fowler an “instinctive grammatical moralizer” and that “each language surely has a right to be judged on its own merits”.

FWIW, if I were your copyeditor and you submitted a manuscript with the first sentence above, I would remove the apostrophe. But if you protested, I would restore it-and send you a note saying “I won’t insist on David using the apostrophe.”

Last edited by kem (2010-11-07 21:28:08)

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#8 2010-11-07 18:54:19

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: boring?

Kem wrote:

We should say, for example, “Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drives me crazy,” but it’s hard not to say “Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drive me crazy.” When we make this mistake, we transform the gerundive phrase into a noun and a present participle (and slightly alter the meaning of the original sentence).

I have no grammatical beef with “Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drive me crazy,” and it doesn’t look like a mistake to me. I would see it as structurally parallel to “Kids waiting for their parents drive librarians crazy.” The verbal phrase becomes a postpositional modifying the subject noun (grammarians/kids).

Style is a different issue altogether. In more formal writing, I’d probably make a stylistic end-run around the whole caboodle and use either “Grammarians’ insistence [...]” with “drives” or “Grammarians who insist” with “drive.” As Kem noted, the emphasis is different.

I’ve often proclaimed my anti-prescriptivist views, but split infinitives drive me kind of crazy. I occasionally force myself to use them out of some no-doubt misdirected and hobgoblinesque need for ideological consistency.

Last edited by patschwieterman (2010-11-07 19:11:35)

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#9 2010-11-07 22:01:10

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: boring?

kem wrote:

Both could be correct. They have slightly different meanings to my ear, however, and the second one is open to multiple grammatical interpretations (e.g., is “insisting” a participle or gerundive?).

I agree.
.
Your insisting on these points have carried the day.

Last edited by DavidTuggy (2010-11-08 13:49:50)


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#10 2010-11-08 02:33:24

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: boring?

David T wrote:

I agree.

I think I do too in the case of the two versions with “drives” (though I can’t imagine actually using the first one). I was objecting to Kem’s characterization of the third version with plural “drive” as a mistake.

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#11 2010-11-08 16:13:31

kem
Eggcornista
From: Victoria, BC
Registered: 2007-08-28
Posts: 2036

Re: boring?

It is a mistake if it fails to convey intended meaning. The sentence

“Grammarians insisting on unsplit infinitives drive me crazy.”

forces the grammatically-aware hearer to make “grammarians” the subject, so that the sentence reads “Grammarians drive me crazy” and the four words following “grammarians” become an adjectival clause headed by a present participle. But if you mean to say that it is the act, not the grammarians themselves, that rattles your cage, then you would have to promote the gerundive to the subject level by using the singular “drives” as the verb.

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#12 2010-11-08 18:31:40

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 790

Re: boring?

Meanwhile, the team member with attention deficit difficulties reflects on the peculiar fact that he recently bought some acrylic retarder because his paint was drying too quickly…

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#13 2010-11-09 05:20:25

patschwieterman
Administrator
From: California
Registered: 2005-10-25
Posts: 1665

Re: boring?

Peter, did you know that the word “acrylic” is a derivative of “acrolein,” which in turn comes from the Latin words acris (“sharp”) + olere (“to smell”), with the addition of a Greek suffix?

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#14 2010-11-09 13:45:21

DavidTuggy
Eggcornista
From: Mexico
Registered: 2007-10-12
Posts: 1686
Website

Re: boring?

Shall I check that? Nah, too boring … Besides, if Pat says it, it’s gotta be right …


*If the human mind were simple enough for us to understand,
we would be too simple-minded to understand it* .

(Possible Corollary: it is, and we are .)

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#15 2010-11-10 11:30:58

Peter Forster
Eggcornista
From: UK
Registered: 2006-09-06
Posts: 790

Re: boring?

Thanks Pat, I didn’t know that and couldn’t have guessed, for acrylic paint is much easier on the nose – or in it I suppose – than the far stinkier and hazardous spirit-based alternatives. Odd, that, but something we who relish such goat’s/goats’ stories might expect.

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