Textkit Logo

Numbers of rock bands

Textkit is a learning community- introduce yourself here. Use the Open Board to introduce yourself, chat about off-topic issues and get to know each other.

Moderators: thesaurus, Jeff Tirey

Numbers of rock bands

Postby timeodanaos » Thu May 15, 2008 7:34 pm

I've noticed the tendency that there is divergence as to the grammatical number of rock bands with names in the singular, thus I have seen both 'Metallica play' and Metallica plays'. This is of course due to the fact that Metallica (or any other rock band, it's just an example) consists of a number of musicians. Normally, I would consider this practise bad grammar, but since I see it very often, doubts have been raised and help is sought.


The question is, is the proper name Metallica, or Iron Maiden, or Radiohead to be combined with a verb in the singular or in the plural?
timeodanaos
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Hafnia, Denmark

Re: Numbers of rock bands

Postby edonnelly » Thu May 15, 2008 8:40 pm

timeodanaos wrote:Normally, I would consider this practise bad grammar, but since I see it very often, doubts have been raised and help is sought.


I see poor grammar quite often, especially on the internet (it seems "there," "their" and "they're" are used incorrectly more often than not, and don't even try to count how often you'll see "it's" used for "its") so I wouldn't let the frequency of an error raise any doubts about the grammatical rule.

As for your specific question, I'll go on record as saying I think rock bands are no different than any other group and, when treated as a single collection, should be treated as a singular noun. We say "Congress is in session," even though "Congress" refers to a group of people, and "my class is going to the zoo," even though "my class" is composed of a bunch of kids.

Now, I'm sure they're will be some dissenting opinions, so let's hear 'em!
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
User avatar
edonnelly
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 959
Joined: Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:47 am
Location: Music City, USA

Re: Numbers of rock bands

Postby timeodanaos » Thu May 15, 2008 8:48 pm

edonnelly wrote:Now, I'm sure they're will be some dissenting opinions, so let's hear 'em!
duh, its calld THEIR will be some dissenting!!1!11!


I'm glad old-fashioned grammatical rules don't die with the advent of the internet, that means I'm safe for now.


What about possessives corresponding to collective nouns? I remember having a discussion with my English teacher on whether it's called 'The population has its doubts' or 'the population has their doubts', or something of the like. But I don't remember the outcome. I know, however, that I would still keep to the solution that singular nouns have everything attached to them in the singular.
timeodanaos
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Hafnia, Denmark

Postby benissimus » Thu May 15, 2008 9:00 pm

Indeed, rock bands are merely one example of singular collective nouns taking plural verbs. I've heard there is more tendency to use plural verbs with collective nouns (e.g. "the government/committee/military are...") on the east side of the Atlantic, but I'm not absolutely sure about that. "Bad grammar" is a prescriptivist term, but even within the confines of acceptable written English, one cannot change the plural verb to singular in a sentence such as "a number of people are listening to the speaker" or "the Senate have taken their seats" without making things worse or creating some other conflict. In many cases it seems, at least to me, equally sensible to use a singular or plural verb, e.g. "a series of murders has/have terrified the villagers".

I really have no grammatical gripe with this practice, since it is probably very old and can be found in other languages (Latin, for example). It is the quirks of language, and not they're strict rules, that make them most interesting to me. While English teachers may persist in upholding old rules (which may or may not have been true even when they were created!), most modern linguists consider a use of language to be valid so long as it represents the natural speech of at least one population of people. Though I hate to see "whom" go, this is just the way that "who" came to be acceptable as an object case in English. Of course, the language we use in writing is much different from what we use in casual speech, and for the sake of being taken seriously we often have to follow prescriptivist rules. However, even in the most formal paper or speech, I think we can get away with using a plural verb with a collective noun.

What I mean to say is that "unacceptable in writing" and "bad grammar" are not the same thing. In fact, I propose that the latter does not exist at all, provided the speakers of so-called "bad grammar" are fluent speakers of the language. The idea behind a collective noun is plural, so the verb is plural. People often criticize the use of split infinitives ("to boldly go"), but how can you ban that when English adverbs instinctively go directly before the verb most of the time? Also inane is the rule that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition, for how else can you phrase this sentence without totally butchering it: "this is more than I can put up with!".

Thanks, I do love a good discussion about grammar!
Last edited by benissimus on Thu May 15, 2008 9:25 pm, edited 1 time in total.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby timeodanaos » Thu May 15, 2008 9:24 pm

benissimus wrote:Though I hate to see "whom" go, this is just the way that "who" came to be acceptable as an object case in English.
Though I hate to go off-topic, even in 'my own' threads, this is peculiar when I compare to my native Danish language - the level of reduction of forms is about equal to that of English (though we do preserve some rather nice things such as a passive voice), but the Danish cognate to 'who, whom, whose', 'hvo, hvem, hvis' had its meltdown about 150 years ago - only to make the oblique 'hvem' the general form in the nominative! But anyway, this has nothing to do with collective nouns.


Thank you for your answers, I know of descriptive vs. prescriptive grammar, and I was interested in English-speaking people's reaction to the tendency, as I have only the grounds of the Internet to observe current colloquial English.
timeodanaos
Textkit Fan
 
Posts: 280
Joined: Fri Jul 13, 2007 10:36 pm
Location: Hafnia, Denmark

Postby thesaurus » Thu May 15, 2008 9:42 pm

benissimus wrote:What I mean to say is that "unacceptable in writing" and "bad grammar" are not the same thing. In fact, I propose that the latter does not exist at all, provided the speakers of so-called "bad grammar" are fluent speakers of the language. The idea behind a collective noun is plural, so the verb is plural. People often criticize the use of split infinitives ("to boldly go"), but how can you ban that when English adverbs instinctively go directly before the verb most of the time? Also inane is the rule that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition, for how else can you phrase this sentence without totally butchering it: "this is more than I can put up with!".


As George Orwell wrote in "Politics in the English Language"

(i) Never use a metaphor, simile, or other figure of speech which you are used to seeing in print.

(ii) Never us a long word where a short one will do.

(iii) If it is possible to cut a word out, always cut it out.

(iv) Never use the passive where you can use the active.

(v) Never use a foreign phrase, a scientific word, or a jargon word if you can think of an everyday English equivalent.

(vi) Break any of these rules sooner than say anything outright barbarous.
thesaurus
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 991
Joined: Mon Oct 02, 2006 9:44 pm

Postby edonnelly » Thu May 15, 2008 10:24 pm

benissimus wrote:Though I hate to see "whom" go


Strangely, though, it seems like I've been seeing much more of whom (and whomever) lately; it's just that the word appears incorrectly, as a sort of hyper-correction. Something like: "Give it to whomever wants it." I find these instances even more distracting than the substitution of who for whom (a substitution which, as you point out, is becoming so commonplace that to many -- most? -- native speakers it sounds more natural).
The lists:
G'Oogle and the Internet Pharrchive - 1100 or so free Latin and Greek books.
DownLOEBables - Free books from the Loeb Classical Library
User avatar
edonnelly
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 959
Joined: Sun Jan 16, 2005 2:47 am
Location: Music City, USA

Postby Bert » Fri May 16, 2008 1:07 am

benissimus wrote:

What I mean to say is that "unacceptable in writing" and "bad grammar" are not the same thing. In fact, I propose that the latter does not exist at all, provided the speakers of so-called "bad grammar" are fluent speakers of the language.
I think bad grammar exists and doesn't change from bad grammar to acceptable unless a lot of people are speaking (or writing) incorrectly. :) Languages do change; Not that many years ago, keyboard was a noun. Now it can be a verb as well.
benissimus wrote: People often criticize the use of split infinitives ("to boldly go"), but how can you ban that when English adverbs instinctively go directly before the verb most of the time?
This does indeed get criticized but I can't recall ever hearing that it is against a grammatical rule. Maybe it is a matter of style, so a matter of preference.
benissimus wrote: Also inane is the rule that you cannot end a sentence with a preposition, for how else can you phrase this sentence without totally butchering it: "this is more than I can put up with!".
I read once that this "rule" is a result of snobbish people, who have learned Latin or Greek, insisting that a PREposition has to be positioned before the verb. I am with Churchil on this one; [this rule] is something up with I can not put.
edonnelly wrote:
Strangely, though, it seems like I've been seeing much more of whom (and whomever) lately; it's just that the word appears incorrectly, as a sort of hyper-correction. Something like: "Give it to whomever wants it."
That sentence seems perfectly fine to me. (That doesn't make it correct though.) Isn't whomever the object of the preposition so should be in the objective case?
Bert
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1890
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 2:28 am
Location: Arthur Ontario Canada

Postby benissimus » Fri May 16, 2008 4:08 am

Bert wrote:
edonnelly wrote:"Give it to whomever wants it."
That sentence seems perfectly fine to me. (That doesn't make it correct though.) Isn't whomever the object of the preposition so should be in the objective case?

These sentences are always tricky. Strictly speaking, there is an omitted antecedent which acts as the object of the preposition, but it is rare in English to say "give it to the person, whoever wants it." At least, I think that is right :?:
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby Bert » Sun May 18, 2008 12:09 am

benissimus wrote:These sentences are always tricky. Strictly speaking, there is an omitted antecedent which acts as the object of the preposition, but it is rare in English to say "give it to the person, whoever wants it." At least, I think that is right :?:

It is possible to replace 'whomever wants it' with a noun or pronoun but it is not relevant whether 'whoever' is referring to an antecedent or not. In your sentence; ("give it to the person, whoever wants it") 'whoever' is not the object the preposition anymore but is a relative pronoun and subject of the verb in the relative clause. If you want to replace 'whoever wants it' with a noun to make the sentence simpler, you should pick a noun that has an objective case. "give it to him."
(Until proven wrong, I am going to consider this correct. :) )
Bert
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 1890
Joined: Sat May 31, 2003 2:28 am
Location: Arthur Ontario Canada

Postby Lucus Eques » Sun May 18, 2008 2:02 am

The collective plural that Britons often insist upon (e.g. "My troupe are...," "My team are..." "My family are...") is absolutely incorrect. There is no precedent linguistically, and it makes no sense in the first place.

Retort: But a family, a team is composed of individual members; does that not make them inherently plural?

In effect, one could say that all objects, being composed of parts, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles, are inherently collectively plural as well, meaning that we should just do away with the singular construction altogether.

Then we would practically be speaking Japanese.

The British practice is hypercorrective, and obtuse. If a noun is singular, then its construction is singular.



As for band names, I go with the name of the band; some are plural, some singular. "Tenacious D is," while "The Beatles are." The important thing to remember is that "the band is" and NOT "the band are" — one may only say "the bands are."
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Postby Lucus Eques » Sun May 18, 2008 2:13 am

benissimus wrote: "a number of people are listening to the speaker"


"a number of people is listening to the speaker"

The "number ... are" error is extremely frequent, even in American English.

"a series of murders has/have terrified the villagers"


I'm actually suprised you would consider "a series ... have" to be even mildly acceptable, bone Benissime. It is as incorrect as saying, "we is going to the store." Of course you are right about split infinitives being perfectly acceptable (I still avoid them out of practice) and that English, being Germanic, will and must regularly end sentences with prepositions. I also feel as you do, that "bad grammar" is very subjective, and more a term of abuse brought on by ego.

But plural/singular construction is of true importance. As I said above, if "a series of murders have terrified the villages" is correct, then so are these: "we is going to the store," "they is in a conundrum," and "I is happy."
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Postby Lucus Eques » Sun May 18, 2008 2:20 am

Bert wrote:
benissimus wrote:These sentences are always tricky. Strictly speaking, there is an omitted antecedent which acts as the object of the preposition, but it is rare in English to say "give it to the person, whoever wants it." At least, I think that is right :?:

It is possible to replace 'whomever wants it' with a noun or pronoun but it is not relevant whether 'whoever' is referring to an antecedent or not. In your sentence; ("give it to the person, whoever wants it") 'whoever' is not the object the preposition anymore but is a relative pronoun and subject of the verb in the relative clause. If you want to replace 'whoever wants it' with a noun to make the sentence simpler, you should pick a noun that has an objective case. "give it to him."
(Until proven wrong, I am going to consider this correct. :) )


Then allow me to be your wet blanket. ;)

These matters seem tricky on the surface, but are in fact rather easy to decipher. "whomever wants it" is dreadfully wrong. Just look to the verb. Is the "who/whom" going to be doing what the verb is doing, or is it being acted on by the verb?

"Give it to whoever wants it." — This is correct.

The antecedent missing is "him;" we might rewrite it like this:

"Give it to him who wants it."

Latine: Da id ei, qui id velit.
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Postby benissimus » Sun May 18, 2008 7:13 am

Lucus Eques wrote:The collective plural that Britons often insist upon (e.g. "My troupe are...," "My team are..." "My family are...") is absolutely incorrect. There is no precedent linguistically, and it makes no sense in the first place.

"absolutely incorrect" on what grounds? Usage defines correctness, and if a usage is extremely prevalent in, say, England, convention dictates that the usage is correct. I know no reason for a precedent to be required for a new form of speech to be developed, but if you want one you can find it in other languages (Latin and Greek being prime examples for us). Surely you would not go so far as to say that Caesar, a fluent speaker of Latin, was abusing the language when he said "Nam cum tanta multitudo lapides ac tela coicerent, in muro consistendi potestas erat nulli"? Nor would you say that the whole Greek process of using singular verbs with neuter plural subjects is a corruption of proper grammar, I hope?

In effect, one could say that all objects, being composed of parts, molecules, atoms, and subatomic particles, are inherently collectively plural as well, meaning that we should just do away with the singular construction altogether.

What is important is not whether something is actually composed of multiple parts, but that we consider certain objects to be composed of multiple parts. For all intents and purposes, a book, for example, is thought of as a single object. A committee, on the other hand, has the flexibility of being thought of as either a whole or a collection of individuals.

"a number of people is listening to the speaker" sounds absolutely dreadful to me. Like many Classicists, I find I have a lot of prescriptivist tendencies, but I can never encourage cacophonous phrases merely to make the language conform to an arbitrary idea of correctness!
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California

Postby Lucus Eques » Mon May 19, 2008 1:14 am

"absolutely incorrect" on what grounds?


On the grounds that 1 ≠ 2.

Surely you would not go so far as to say that Caesar, a fluent speaker of Latin, was abusing the language when he said "Nam cum tanta multitudo lapides ac tela coicerent, in muro consistendi potestas erat nulli"?


I see no problem at all: "For while such a multitude, [while] they were casting stones and darts, no one was able to maintain his position on the wall."

Remember that Latin is implicit with regard to pronouns. English is explicit.

Nor would you say that the whole Greek process of using singular verbs with neuter plural subjects is a corruption of proper grammar, I hope?


I am greatly fond of this aspect of Greek. But the analogy is specious, I'm afraid, since that's regarding plural as singular — regarding singular as if it were plural is quite a different thing. And is core to a completely different language. Analogies are helpful for perspective, but define no rules.
User avatar
Lucus Eques
Textkit Zealot
 
Posts: 2001
Joined: Wed Jan 07, 2004 12:52 pm
Location: Tōkyō, IAPONIA

Postby benissimus » Mon May 19, 2008 2:32 am

Lucus Eques wrote:
"absolutely incorrect" on what grounds?


On the grounds that 1 ≠ 2.

I'm afraid I don't see the argument. Forms (such as verb endings) are tightly bound to concepts (such as singular or plural), but the concepts to which they are bound are free to change as a language evolves. Language is a convention whereas mathematics is not. I understand your desire to impose consistency on language, but rules that are too strict leave no room to account for exceptions. To label a feature of a language as "incorrect" when it is obviously very much ingrained in that language seems to me nothing more than a convenient way to shut one's eyes to the actual conventions of the language.

Surely you would not go so far as to say that Caesar, a fluent speaker of Latin, was abusing the language when he said "Nam cum tanta multitudo lapides ac tela coicerent, in muro consistendi potestas erat nulli"?


I see no problem at all: "For while such a multitude, [while] they were casting stones and darts, no one was able to maintain his position on the wall."

Remember that Latin is implicit with regard to pronouns. English is explicit.

Your English translation is confusing me since it seems to have an incomplete clause in it. Are you trying to say that multitudo is in apposition with the unexpressed subject of the sentence? Something like "...they, a multitudo, were casting stones and darts..."?

Nor would you say that the whole Greek process of using singular verbs with neuter plural subjects is a corruption of proper grammar, I hope?


I am greatly fond of this aspect of Greek. But the analogy is specious, I'm afraid, since that's regarding plural as singular — regarding singular as if it were plural is quite a different thing. And is core to a completely different language. Analogies are helpful for perspective, but define no rules.

Indeed, it is a different thing. But it seemed to me that you were arguing that any violation of concord is either a violation of grammar or, as above, can be explained away by alternate interpretation, however unorthodox.
flebile nescio quid queritur lyra, flebile lingua murmurat exanimis, respondent flebile ripae
User avatar
benissimus
Global Moderator
Global Moderator
 
Posts: 2733
Joined: Mon May 12, 2003 4:32 am
Location: Berkeley, California


Return to Open Board

Who is online

Users browsing this forum: Google [Bot] and 14 guests