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Fowler, The King's English

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Fowler, The King's English

Postby Lavrentivs » Sun Apr 08, 2012 6:08 pm

Sorry to ask a quæstion about English, but I can't think of any better place to do so.

According to Fowler, p. 74, '"No one but schoolmasters and schoolboys knows" is exceedingly poor English'.

I can't see why. Apparently, he wants "know", but that's patently wrong!?
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Sun Apr 08, 2012 8:36 pm

I assume it's because there is a mismatch: "no-one" is asking for (and getting) a singular verb, but "schoolmasters and schoolboys" are asking for (but can't have) a plural verb. The result is clumsy, and certainly not idiomatic (for in actual speech only a schoolmaster would plump for the singular verb). "No-one but a schoolmaster or a schoolboy knows" is OK and pedantically correct, "only schoolmasters and schoolboys know" is OK and pedantically correct. Either is better than the suspect phrase, and even "nobody but schoolmasters and schoolboys know" will seem smoother, even if it is grammatically suspect.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Mon Apr 09, 2012 2:49 am

Fowler, The King's English, 'Malaprops' §5, p.17, wrote:This jest would be pedantic in any case, since no one but schoolmasters and schoolboys knows what the paulo-post future tense is.

I don't see that Fowler says what you think he says, Laurentius.
Is non dicit, Laurenti, quod tu dicis, nisi fallor.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Lavrentivs » Mon Apr 09, 2012 1:44 pm

Have you looked in the book, Adrian? Here is the whole §:

Mistakes in the number of verbs are extremely common when a singular noun intervenes between a plural subject (or a plural noun between a singular subject) and its verb. It is worth while to illustrate the point abundantly; for it appears that real doubt can exist on the subject:--'"No one but schoolmasters and schoolboys knows" is exceedingly poor English, if it is not absolutely bad grammar' (from a review of this book, 1st ed.).

What else could he be saying? (What you quote is probably not Fowler, but his reviewer.)

Ulpiane, I think you are wrong: there is no reason why the phrase after but = except should have the same number as the subject. Compare: "I have nothing but apples." Would "I have nothing but an apple" be more correct?
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:20 pm

Lavrentivs wrote:Ulpiane, I think you are wrong: there is no reason why the phrase after but = except should have the same number as the subject. Compare: "I have nothing but apples." Would "I have nothing but an apple" be more correct?


I have nothing but apples is fine: there's only one verb and it needs to be "I have" whether the object is singular or plural. The trouble comes because when "nothing" is the subject, not the object. "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" / "Nothing but apples taste so sweet" -- something seems odd about both, whereas "Nothing tastes as sweet as ..." will work fine whether it ends "apple" or "apples". Its the intervention of the plural pseudo-subject which causes the trouble, or at least so it seems to me.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Mon Apr 09, 2012 4:50 pm

Lavrentivs wrote:According to Fowler, p. 74, '"No one but schoolmasters and schoolboys knows" is exceedingly poor English'...

Have you looked in the book, Adrian?

I did look in the book and Fowler did not say that that was exceedingly poor English. I quoted what Fowler said earlier in the book. In your passage, Fowler quotes a reviewer there who criticizes what Fowler said. In fact, he is saying that it IS good English.
Librum inspexi et non dicit Fowler id malum anglicum esse. Quod Fowler iam priùs dixerat citavi. Fowler infrà tuo in loco eum qui recognoscit citat qui id quod Fowler dixit mordet. Verè, id benè anglicè dictum esse dicit Fowler.

"Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" is good and sounds good to me // bonum est et bonum mihi sonitur.
"Nothing but apples taste so sweet" is not good and doesn't sound right to me // malum est et malum mihi sonitur.
Nisi "Nothing, but apples taste so sweet." ut responsum ad "Can I get something for you? For instance, get you a nice salty-tasting apple?" // "Praebeamne tibi aliquid? Forsit malum bonum quod salem sap it?"
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Mon Apr 09, 2012 7:37 pm

Well, Fowler is saying it is correct English. That doesn't make it good. To my ear -- a matter of taste no doubt -- neither version works well and it's much smoother if one eliminates the temptation to error by keeping the number consistent throughout.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Mon Apr 09, 2012 9:57 pm

Nothing but apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing except apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing apart from apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing barring apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing with the exception of apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing outside of apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing save apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing leaving out apples tastes so sweet.
Nothing other than apples tastes so sweet.


Nothing but apples taste so sweet.
Nothing except apples taste so sweet.
Nothing apart from apples taste so sweet.
Nothing barring apples taste so sweet.
Nothing with the exception of apples taste so sweet.
Nothing outside of apples taste so sweet.
Nothing save apples taste so sweet.
Nothing leaving out apples taste so sweet.
Nothing other than apples taste so sweet.

Definitely, the sound and sense of the last nine sentences can mislead. Ironically, it's not a matter of taste in English.
Certum est sonum et sensum ultimarum novem decipere possunt. Res anglicè gustum non spectat, —ironicé.

Bonum autem ut oratio obliqua vel citatio, utputa:
Q. What did you like about the song? // Qui versus tibi placebant?
A. Nothing but "Apples taste so sweet". // Nulli nisi "Tam dulcia mala sapiunt."

"Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" et sequentes.
Semper subjectum omnium est "Nothing" seu "Nil"; nunquam est "mala". Sic auris audit.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Lavrentivs » Tue Apr 10, 2012 10:50 am

Adrian is right, Ulpiane. But is a præpostition with the meaning "outside", so the phrase is æquivalent to "Nothing outside [the realm of] apples tastes so sweet." If it had been some kind of conjunction, like as or than, you might have been right.

Adrian: I now see how I misread Fowler. That's a relief.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Tue Apr 10, 2012 1:38 pm

Just so that Ulpianus doesn't think that he is mad, I'll say that I agree with him. While Adrianus is correct so far as the facts go, I think that I would naturally avoid such constructions in the first place.
mihi iussa capessere fas est
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Tue Apr 10, 2012 3:31 pm

Thanks! I didn't actually think anyone was mad -- or even wrong; indeed, I wasn't conscious of much real disagreement (except Adrianus finds comfortable and natural something that I think many people would find pedantic and awkward, though it's certainly correct). We could, I suppose, argue about how far grammar rules should track actual usage, and how far they can prescribe a usage which a large proportion of educated users of the language don't follow ... but that's a different point and probably a pointless discussion, since we are dealing with an avowedly prescriptive grammarian (I mean Fowler ... not Adrianus) and we don't have any really reliable data on actual use, just our hunches.

(I don't understand Laurentius's point about "but" though -- that makes no difference, and with all due respect "but" doesn't mean "outside": it means "except", "save for", "other than". Of course adding "the realm of" solves the (grammar) problem, because the comparison is no longer to "apples" (plural) but to "the realm of apples", which is singular, so the awkwardness goes away: same trick as "nothing but an apple tastes so sweet". If you have a singular subject, you need a singular verb, and try to keep everything else singular too if you can to avoid awkwardness: or make it all plural "Only apples taste so sweet." Either version is both correct AND easy to follow.)
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Wed Apr 11, 2012 4:58 pm

Eandem epistulam perperàm bis misi.
Accidental double post.
Last edited by adrianus on Wed Apr 11, 2012 6:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Wed Apr 11, 2012 5:52 pm

Ulpianus wrote:...and with all due respect "but" doesn't mean "outside": it means "except", "save for", "other than".

Regarding "outside", consult a good English dictionary to see otherwise.
De anglicè "outside" praepositione, ut aliter scias, in dictionarium bonum anglicum inquiras.

"OED, Second edition, 1989; online version March 2012, <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/25316> wrote:but, prep., adv., conj., n.2, adj., and pron.
 A. prep.
†1. Outside of, without...
 2. Without, apart from, unprovided with, void of... 
 3. Leaving out, barring, with the exception of, except, save...
 B. adv.
 1. Without, outside...


Ulpianus wrote:If you have a singular subject, you need a singular verb, and try to keep everything else singular too if you can to avoid awkwardness: or make it all plural "Only apples taste so sweet." Either version is both correct AND easy to follow.

The rule is easy to follow. In the sentence, "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" what is the subject? The sensible subject is the word "Nothing" in "Nothing but apples". By no stretch of the imagination is the subject "apples"! The verb can only be "tastes". ["Nothing tastes so sweet apart from apples."]
Facilè regulam sequaris. Quid est subjectum per "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" sententiam? "Nothing" anglicè est subjectum. Id nunquam erit nec esse potest hoc: "apples". Verba tunc anglicè "tastes".

Similarly, in "all but he are here" (= "All are here but he" formerly prescriptively and pedantically[!]; or "All are here but him" modernly and descriptively) the subject could not possibly be "he". It could never be "All but he is here" because he is the very one who is NOT here. Imagine the problems the sentence "All but he is liable" would cause in law.
Hoc in sermones latinos non converto quod de anglico tractamus.

Ulpianus wrote:and we don't have any really reliable data on actual use, just our hunches.

We have more than that. With exclusive "but" and a pronoun, people today informally (and often generally, depending on sentence structure) tend to use the accusative, not the nominative: "None but he" --> "None but him" or "All but he" --> "All but him",—to make things blindingly obvious that the "none" or "all" governs the verb.

Vide Huddleston & Pullum, Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002), Ch.15, §2.5: 59 (p.1312).
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 12:24 am

adrianus wrote:
Ulpianus wrote:...and with all due respect "but" doesn't mean "outside": it means "except", "save for", "other than".

Regarding "outside", consult a good English dictionary to see otherwise.
De anglicè "outside" praepositione, ut aliter scias, in dictionarium bonum anglicum inquiras.

"OED, Second edition, 1989; online version March 2012, <http://www.oed.com/view/Entry/25316> wrote:but, prep., adv., conj., n.2, adj., and pron.
A. prep.
†1. Outside of, without...
2. Without, apart from, unprovided with, void of...
3. Leaving out, barring, with the exception of, except, save...
B. adv.
1. Without, outside...



Sorry, I didn't make myself clear. I can see how a non-native speaker consulting a dictionary might think that "but" was a preposition meaning outside, because the dictionaries say it can be so. The examples given are obscure -- and as a native speaker I'd be very surprised to encounter such a usage which seems obsolete or regional (my old shorter OED says it is Old English and Modern Scottish). But I cannot but believe that in the sentence "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" the word "but" is not a preposition meaning "outside", but "conj. 1. In a simple sentence; introducing a word of phrase (rarely a clause): without, with the exception of, save, except" (with the example given from Newman "I am one in a thousand; all of them wrong but I"). "Nothing outside apples tastes so sweet" is not right.

Adrianus wrote:
Ulpianus wrote:If you have a singular subject, you need a singular verb, and try to keep everything else singular too if you can to avoid awkwardness: or make it all plural "Only apples taste so sweet." Either version is both correct AND easy to follow.

The rule is easy to follow. In the sentence, "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" what is the subject? The sensible subject is the word "Nothing" in "Nothing but apples". By no stretch of the imagination is the subject "apples"! The verb can only be "tastes". ["Nothing tastes so sweet apart from apples."]
Facilè regulam sequaris. Quid est subjectum per "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" sententiam? "Nothing" anglicè est subjectum. Id nunquam erit nec esse potest hoc: "apples". Verba tunc anglicè "tastes".

Similarly, in "all but he are here" (= "All are here but he" formerly prescriptively and pedantically[!]; or "All are here but him" modernly and descriptively) the subject could not possibly be "he". It could never be "All but he is here" because he is the very one who is NOT here. Imagine the problems the sentence "All but he is liable" would cause in law.
Hoc in sermones latinos non converto quod de anglico tractamus.


Yes, I understand, of course: the grammatical logic of what you say is perfectly obvious even to me. But actual usage is not always logical or consistent. The practical difficulty is that simple as the rule you propose is -- and everyone can easily apply it where the subject and verb are close together ("Nothing tastes so sweet as apples": nobody would get that wrong) -- the (logically irrelevant) interposition of a plural noun in "Nothing but apples tastes ..." and similar constructions seems to cause hesitation even among fluent writers, and many "feel" a plural verb is called for. All I am saying is that -- whether this be acceptable or unacceptable -- it is wise to avoid the issue, which is easily done in a way that keeps everyone happy. It is to that extent that I do think that a sentence that "rubs our noses" in the difficulty smells wrong.

Adrianus wrote:
Ulpianus wrote:and we don't have any really reliable data on actual use, just our hunches.

We have more than that. With exclusive "but" and a pronoun, people today informally (and often generally, depending on sentence structure) tend to use the accusative, not the nominative: "None but he" --> "None but him" or "All but he" --> "All but him",—to make things blindingly obvious that the "none" or "all" governs the verb.

Vide Huddleston & Pullum, Cambridge Grammar of the English Language (2002), Ch.15, §2.5: 59 (p.1312).


That doesn't seem to me to help, because the question isn't really "What is the subject of 'tastes'?", but "is it common usage to use a plural verb with a singular subject in this construction?". I agree that as a general matter the ordinary speaker would treat "nothing" as the subject and make the verb agree in number. No educated speaker would ever say "nothing taste so sweet as apples", or be tempted to, and we don't need the "none but him" example to see that -- though it is an interesting example. That isn't the issue. The particular phenomenon we are dealing with here occurs only, I think, where you have a "gap" between the subject and the verb which is filled by a plural noun, not itself the subject, but felt to be closely related to it. There, quite often I would guess (but it would be nice to have data -- which is why I called it a "hunch"), even fluent speakers seem led (or, if you prefer, misled) into using a plural verb -- and on the evidence of Fowler to have been doing so for a long time.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 10:57 am

Ulpianus wrote:I can see how a non-native speaker consulting a dictionary might think that "but" was a preposition meaning outside, because the dictionaries say it can be so.

Well, I am a native speaker of English. Let me be boastful and say that my English is excellent and that I've composed writing guidelines and policy documents for UK government departments in certain areas. I also enjoy studying English grammar. I can be vain because I know that vanity is empty and boastful pride comes before a fall. Is what I've done even relevant? Is it a fallacious appeal to authority? What I say may be true and it may be untrue. Even if true, it might be a case of the blind leading the blind. Do I make mistakes in English? I do, of course. Do I sometimes talk nonsense? Of course, I sometimes do. But I imagine that I can recognise the mistakes that I make when another proofs something I've written or otherwise criticizes me. And I know that usage varies in time, space and within and between social groups, and that some prefer the spelling "criticise" to "criticize", and that I can mix "recognise" and "criticize" in the same document but readers will enjoy consistency in the use of "-ise" and "-ize".

As a native speaker, I know that I would be more inclined to say "outside of apples" but that "outside apples" is also wholly acceptable. You might be English and unaware that many people in the Repubic of Ireland, Northern Ireland, Scotland (I don't know about the Welsh) and beyond retain the Old English form "outside of". Laurentius may be American and immediately sees "but apples" as "outside [the realm of] apples". It is certainly not wrong to do so. How could it be? "Outside" is synonymous there with "beyond", but I know that, if I were to substitute "beyond", I would never say "beyond of apples" but "beyond apples", and judge "beyond of apples" a clumsy saying that I wouldn't recommend, if someone cared to ask. I, too, can consult a Shorter Oxford Dictionary on my shelf and, when I consult it, I find confirmation for my understanding of the substitution of "outside" for "but": "outside of apples" and "outside apples" as alternates for "but apples". You would like to say that non-native speakers are misreading the dictionary there. I say that they are not and I'm a native speaker of English.

Ulpianus wrote:But I cannot but [sic] believe that in the sentence "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" the word "but" is not a preposition meaning "outside", but "conj. 1. In a simple sentence; introducing a word of phrase (rarely a clause): without, with the exception of, save, except"

Believe it. Subconsciously, you are actually mixing prepositional and conjunctive forms. That is the source of the discomfort you say you experience with the construction. When people hear "but" as a preposition, they tend to substitute the accusative after it and attach the verb to what precedes; when people hear "but" as a conjunction, they wonder about attaching the verb to what follows. I hear both forms, as the Shorter OED implies that I might: "the prep. and the conj. are not distinctly separable." I hear (prepositionally) "Nothing but apples tastes so sweet" and (conjunctively) "Nothing tastes so sweet outside apples tasting so sweet" [I wouldn't there say "outside of apples tasting so sweet"] or, if you like, "Nothing tastes so sweet but apples taste so sweet".

Ulpianus wrote:There, quite often I would guess (but it would be nice to have data -- which is why I called it a "hunch"), even fluent speakers seem led (or, if you prefer, misled) into using a plural verb -- and on the evidence of Fowler to have been doing so for a long time.

This is a very roundabout way of saying that even many fluent speakers can make a mistake about this because they just don't know what to say, so they have a 50% chance of getting it right. If the data showed significantly other than that for people who said they couldn't articulate the standard grammatical rule, then that would be evidence for the application of some rule that lay unarticulated behind their choice. That would be interesting in descriptive grammatical terms. The data would hardly be interesting if it revealed (as it probably would) simply that many fluent and educated people [assuming agreement about measures of fluency and education] were uncertain about what to say. Or you might learn that many fluent speakers default to tying a verb to the number of the noun that's closer when they have never learned to do otherwise.

People are not led or misled by the language. It's not entrapment! We choose our terms of expression and we're responsible for our choices and our mistakes. Nor is this a bad thing,—grammar and literacy can be forces for liberation, even if some might use them, or restrict them, in repressive, conservative ways.

I'm not going to bother trying to put this into Latin because we're (sadly) not at all bothered about Latin in this discussion.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 1:32 pm

The whole "outside" discussion is a blind alley, is it not. Whether it's "outside of" or "outside" (and I agree that either is fine) neither "nothing outside apples tastes so sweet" nor "nothing outside of apples tastes so sweet" seems (to me) a natural alternative to "nothing but ...": it needs to be "except" or "other than". If you, as a skilful native speaker, think that "nothing outside of apples tastes so sweet" is something you might say as an alternative to "nothing except apples tastes so sweet", I am not in a position to disagree and each of us will have to judge whether we would say such a thing. With stubborn inconsistency I would be quite happy with nothing apart from apples, which is certainly prepositional and very close to "outside", which just goes to show how hard it is to capture one's sense of the correct via a dictionary.

As to whether it's (as you think) a confusion of preposition and conjunction or (as I guess) more to do with word order hardly matters. Your explanation may well be better. At any rate, whatever its reason, we agree that the phenomenon occurs, and when it occurs: a properly singular noun indicating an absence of ("nothing", "nobody", "none"*) is related to a plural noun ("apples", "schoolmasters and schoolboys") using some word such as "but", "save", "except". Logic and Fowler suggest a singular verb. Many fluent speakers seem to prefer a plural verb -- but only if the verb comes after the second noun: "nothing taste so sweet but apples" would never happen.

Which leaves only the vexed question of whether this is one of those times we should say "that's a mistake (though one commonly made)" or "that's an apparently illogical but regular usage". Partly that's a question of taste: some of us are more conservative than others. When I hear someone say "he gave it to Adrianus and I", I wince -- hearing it as a mistake (albeit a very common one) -- though I am conscious that there are quite a few people who would hear me say "he gave it to Adrianus and me" and think I had made a mistake. When I hear someone split an infinitive, or say "it's me", or write "the person who I saw", I don't bat an eyelid, though earlier generations would have done, and I understand why they thought such usages wrong. The point at which communis error facit ius is hardly fixed.

Anyway, I'm afraid I seem to have generated more heat than light, which was not my intention. Sorry.

* "none" is a problem because it is often treated as plural "Are there any apples on the table? There are none!" I was taught that "There is none!" is correct (as I think myself it is): but most people would say "are" and many people would think "is" very strange. I don't think that applies to either "nothing" or "nobody".
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 2:14 pm

Anyway, I'm afraid I seem to have generated more heat than light, which was not my intention.

There can be smoke without fire, Ulpianus. I argue for the sake of it here.
Disputare, Ulpiane, hîc amo disputandi ipsius ergô. Potest esse fumum absque flammis.
OED, 3rd edn., 2003, wrote:Many commentators state that none should take singular concord, but this has generally been less common than plural concord, especially between the 17th and 19th centuries.

Ulpianus wrote:I don't think that applies to either "nothing" or "nobody".

Surely, but "nobody" can always be followed by a third person plural pronoun. [1548 N. Udall et al. tr. Erasmus Paraphr. New Test. I. Luke 94 b, "No bodye will receiue you into their house."—and the dramatist Udall was a master at Westminster School,—et cetera, et cetera.]
Rectum dicis, separatim "nobody" cum "their" pronomen pluralis numeri tertiae personae id sequitur.

Ulpianus wrote:Which leaves only the vexed question of whether this is one of those times we should say "that's a mistake (though one commonly made)" or "that's an apparently illogical but regular usage".

It's just a mistake. I can't imagine any proofreader for any publisher passing it.
Error simplex justum est. Non erit corrector scriptorum ullae domûs editoriae qui id probabit, ut credo.
Last edited by adrianus on Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:13 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:00 pm

Very interesting examples (though in the second one is nobody plural or is "their" as an early example of a gender-neutral singular pronoun -- of which I think Fowler would disapprove?!).

(I suppose as regards "none" I may have been unduly influenced by the teacher who told me that I should use the singular. In reality, I cheat. I don't like "there are none" -- but I'm not terrible keen on "there is none" if preceded by a question involving many (it seems almost prissy to me), so I tend to rewrite to avoid the problem. Perhaps cowardly.)
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:23 pm

None is not merely no one / no-one. Think either "no one" or "not any" for "none".
Fowler, Modern English Usage, p.381 (1940 printing), wrote:none. 1. It is a mistake to suppose that the pronoun is sing. only & must at all costs be followed by sing. verbs &c
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Ulpianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:27 pm

Well, that frees me from decades of unnecessary guilt!
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:37 pm

adrianus wrote:This is a very roundabout way of saying that even many fluent speakers can make a mistake about this because they just don't know what to say, so they have a 50% chance of getting it right. If the data showed significantly other than that for people who said they couldn't articulate the standard grammatical rule, then that would be evidence for the application of some rule that lay unarticulated behind their choice. That would be interesting in descriptive grammatical terms. The data would hardly be interesting if it revealed (as it probably would) simply that many fluent and educated people [assuming agreement about measures of fluency and education] were uncertain about what to say. Or you might learn that many fluent speakers default to tying a verb to the number of the noun that's closer when they have never learned to do otherwise.

People are not led or misled by the language. It's not entrapment! We choose our terms of expression and we're responsible for our choices and our mistakes. Nor is this a bad thing,—grammar and literacy can be forces for liberation, even if some might use them, or restrict them, in repressive, conservative ways.


One thing I must often remind myself is that language is far more ancient than the grammarian. I do my share of wincing and cringing, but who am I to tell a native speaker that he is wrong? "Sir, this language which was passed down to you by your parents, with which you communicate daily without misunderstanding, is fundamentally flawed because it violates a rule penned by a prominent professor."

To us, language is a science. To the world at large, it is a tool. The masses will propel the evolution of all natural languages, while the grammarians of every generation watch in horror.

After all, all living languages are just horrible degenerations of ancient ones.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:49 pm

Ulpianus wrote:Well, that frees me from decades of unnecessary guilt!

Yes, grammar CAN also make you free.
Ita, grammatica facit liber, vel ea te sic facere potest.

Concerning "they, them, their. 1. One, anyone, everybody, nobody, &c., followed by their &c." (opus citatum, p.648), Fowler is against the use of their and disapproves of the OED's weak stance on the matter (where it says just "not favoured by grammarians"). Reading between the lines, he sort of says that women should soak it up, and "he", "him", "his" is better if referring to bother sexes.

Usum renuit. Sententiarum ad genus pertinentium in tractando, Fowler omnes pronomina masculina communia tenere admonet et is in hâc re remissionem OED dictionarii plorat.

Sceptra Tenens wrote:The masses will propel the evolution of all natural languages, while the grammarians of every generation watch in horror.

You're moving up your revolutionary gears there, Sceptra Tenens.
Mechanismos velocitatis revolutionarios adjicis, Sceptra Tenens.
Last edited by adrianus on Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:56 pm, edited 1 time in total.
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Thu Apr 12, 2012 3:56 pm

adrianus wrote:Concerning "they, them, their. 1. One, anyone, everybody, nobody, &c., followed by their &c." (opus citatum, p.648), Fowler is against the use of their and disapproves of the OED's weak stance on the matter (they just say "not favoured by grammarians"). Reading between the lines, he sort of says that women should soak it up, and "he", "him", "his" is better if referring to bother sexes.


I find myself going back and forth. "They" has a good foothold in the US, but when the fancy takes me I make a conscious effort to use "he".

Is there any modern language, save English (but English/outside of English/except for English/&c), that uses plural pronouns and verbs for the third-person singular? It will certainly be standard within the next century, and I have to admit that I do like languages to develop unusual quirks.

You're moving up your revolutionary gears there, Sceptra Tenens.


Just never let them know what power they have.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby adrianus » Thu Apr 12, 2012 4:27 pm

Sceptra Tenens wrote:Is there any modern language, save English (but English/outside of English/except for English/&c), that uses plural pronouns and verbs for the third-person singular? It will certainly be standard within the next century, and I have to admit that I do like languages to develop unusual quirks.

Habes constructionem ad sensum seu synesin latiné et graecé.
You have synesis or "construction according to sense" in Greek and Latin, as in English.

"Magna pars quae raptae sunt" // "A great part [of the women] who were seized"

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Synesis

Ca existe aussi en Français: http://en.wikipedia.org.fr.mk.gd/wiki/Synesis
I'm writing in Latin hoping for correction, and not because I'm confident in how I express myself. Latinè scribo ut ab omnibus corrigar, non quod confidenter me exprimam.
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Re: Fowler, The King's English

Postby Sceptra Tenens » Thu Apr 12, 2012 7:45 pm

Yes, but that's fundamentally different in that in English "they" can refer to an individual, which is what I was referring to in my poorly-worded way.
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