[ExI] Whimsy or error?

Lee Corbin lcorbin at rawbw.com
Mon Aug 25 06:00:01 UTC 2008

Damien was kind enough to correct one of my spelling
errors off-list, and we ended up talking about grammatical

I wrote

>> An old friend of mine from South Africa once told me
>> that he was appalled that I had said something like
>>     "There's far too many grammatical errors in everyday
>>     American speech as would be detected by any
>>     objective sample."
>> I cursed my mid-western roots, for I could see that it 
>> was going to be very hard to ever extirpate that particular
>> error from my spoken discourse. [Well, I thought it was
>> a definite error: should be "There're" instead of "There's"
>> but Damien says not to get overly worried about that.]

And Damien replied

> I find "none of these politicians are worthy to run a 7-11 store" far 
> more horrid, yet almost everyone does it. I *think* that if one were 
> to change that to "not one of these politicians are worthy to run a 
> 7-11 store", people might look askance, but maybe not.

Yes, surely a larger percentage of people would pick up
the error in the latter. Embarrasing to relate, I make the
former error a lot.

But consider:  fill in the following sentence, i.e., what is
the correct form for sentence # 4 here?

#1  There <is|are> six people in the boat.
#2  There <is|are> four people in the boat.
#3  There <is|are> two people in the boat.
#4  There <is|are> zero people in the boat.

"There are zero people in the boat" sounds a lot more natural
to me!

> (You'll notice that I put the comma after the close-quotes,
> as a good UK/Aussie ought; since "..." tells us that what's
> enclosed is a quotation, or  stressed as exemplary. I hate it
> when people drag in commas and  semicolons---

Oh, me too. It was hard to believe that in Amercan grammar
books one reads that sentences such as

   Central to topology is the concept of "limit point."

Choke!  Actually, in fact, I found that particular sentence in
a math book written as

   Central to topology is the concept of "limit point".

and I believe that the author's mathematical good taste simply would
not permit him to place the ending quote *after* the period.

> even while I agree that a sentence must finish with the period or
> exclamation mark or question mark inside closing quotes.

Traitor!  Where is your fine UK/Aussie brainwashing when
you need it most?  Well, so be it. I shan't ever change!
We will fight in the poetry, in the history, and on mathematics!
We shall never surrender!  It *so* goes against logic.

> But I can fit in with the locals if I must.

I guess.
Now what is logical in the following?

   "That guy," he said, gesturing yonder, "must have
    had a *bad* day."

I say that our usage, here, which <sigh>, now looks 
rather normal to me, is in fact not logical, because no
one would say  "That guy, must have really had
a bad day" unless one were out of wind or something.


More information about the extropy-chat mailing list