THE AUSTEN KERFUFFLE.

I’ve been rolling my eyes over the nonsense that’s been making the rounds lately about Jane Austen and her alleged editor (example: “How Jane Austen failed at spelling: Study shows author wrote in a ‘regional accent’ and used poor punctuation”) but have been too lazy to write about it; fortunately, Language Log and Fresh Air stalwart Geoff Nunberg has saved me the trouble. Executive summary: “I concluded that the whole business was meretricious nonsense”; there’s much more detail at that LLog post (which quotes his Fresh Air segment in extenso).

Comments

  1. Hi! I read your blog regularly and thought the youtube clips in my last two post might be of interest to you. Keep up the good work!

  2. Interesting discussion over there (not that I will join it). We did deal with some excesses of sentence complexity in Austen here, some of which risked subverting precision and bamboozling the attentive reader. Like this:

    What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.

  3. Excesses?
    Bamboozling?

  4. Sir Walter Scott thought her wonderful. I concur. She’s no Shakespeare, but then no-one is. Except de Vere, Marlowe, Bacon …….

  5. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, I can’t believe that you of all people are “bamboozled” by this sentence. It is complex, but precise, and quite understandable to the “attentive” reader.

  6. Well now, let’s be attentive readers, shall we? :]
    My exact words:

    … some excesses of sentence complexity in Austen here, some of which risked subverting precision and bamboozling the attentive reader.

    Marie-Lucie:
    Noetica, I can’t believe that you of all people are “bamboozled” by this sentence.
    Then don’t. My appended comment on this passage at the other thread, where we were talking about uncertainties in interpreting expressions with the word either:

    ["Had neither fortune nor high rank", or "had not fortune or had not high rank"?]

    Other passages from Austen were discussed also.
    Mare-Lucie and Picky:
    Care to answer the question I posed in square brackets?

  7. here.

  8. here
    Thanks MMcM. I wrote in haste. And for Mare-Lucie, which is not a hypercunning noeticism, read Marie-Lucie. (LH might amend the link in my first comment.)

  9. Done!

  10. This reader still cannot bring himself to interpret the phrase as meaning “had not fortune or had not high rank”.

  11. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica:
    Negating “either” is indeed tricky, because “nor” is not the negation of “or”. “Either … or …” = the one OR the other, but “neither … nor …” = not the one AND not the other.
    The equivalent of the original sentence cannot be “had neither a great fortune nor high rank” which would mean “had no fortune and no rank”. I would choose “did not have either a great fortune or high rank”, the modern or at least North American equivalent of JA’s “had not either … or …”: the meaning is “either did not have a great fortune, or did not have high rank”, implying that fortune and rank are socially equivalent.

  12. m-l: Are you sure that you haven’t bamboozled yourself now?
    I agree that JA’s perhaps ambiguous “had not either a great fortune or high rank” could be rendered in current NA English as “did not have either a great fortune or high rank”.
    I am strongly inclined to think that by this she meant “had neither a great fortune nor high rank” [or Noetica's briefer "had neither fortune nor high rank"], or in other words “had no [great] fortune and no [high] rank”.
    But your “either did not have a great fortune, or did not have high rank” is the other thing she might have meant (which I do not believe she did mean) — the one that Noetica expressed as “had not fortune or had not high rank”.
    The statement that (from some character’s viewpoint) fortune and rank are socially equivalent does not help me, because it does not distinguish between “the one is as necessary as the other” and “the one is as sufficient as the other”.

  13. JA: Blimey, I didn’t expect the Spanish Inquisition.
    I’m quite certain she meant “had not fortune or had not high rank”, and that’s how I first understood it. Noetica has rearranged the words to distinguish the two senses, but I think that in normal conversation speaking like that would emphasise the distinction unnecessarily. The reason I’m certain is because the other meaning isn’t as relevant. Marriage would be easier for Edward if the woman held high rank, marriage would be easier if she had a fortune; the fact that they might go together isn’t material.
    The sentence as a whole is a perfect rendition of how people, (particularly in my mother’s family), lay out an argument in a family discussion.

  14. Eithering: there is an English (or, at least, southern English) usage that I loathe, which uses “either” to mean “both”. Thus, there are Englishmen who say “there were houses on either side of the street” to mean “on both sides of the street”. Hanging’s too good for them.

  15. Hanging’s too good for them.
    Dearieme, that usage came up at the other thread. Trees on either side of a quadrangle, I believe. Funny you should mention violence. We heard that in one commenter’s neighborhood you would be taking your life in your hands if you talked that way in a bar.

  16. That was another country, and besides the wench was posturing.

  17. I agree with Mrs Crown-Colony.

  18. LH and Mrs C-C: I don’t see how the other meaning is any less relevant. Edward’s mum might insist that his wife should have both pounds and pedigree; or she might merely draw the line at a penniless nobody. Maybe JA intended the sentence to be ambiguous. Some of us think she obviously meant the one thing; others think she obviously meant the other thing; but both things are relevant. (Sorry about all the semicolons; I’m trying to cut down, but it’s not easy.)

  19. You are, of course, welcome to your interpretation, but Mrs C-C and I shall cut you dead if we meet in Bath.

  20. Oh, you shall, will you?

  21. It evidently is ambiguous, then, and Noetica is right!
    For myself it seems clear enough: Elinor is speaking of herself, and she had neither high rank nor ready cash.

  22. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica, Ø:
    The interpretation of (n)either … (n)or… is a grammatical question and should first of all be considered from the point of view of language structure. I see that the previous thread mentioned occurred at a time when I had almost no access to the internet, and right now I am too busy to read it, so I will try my own explanation.
    Consider this simple example, unencumbered by a discussion of the perceived suitability of potential marriage partners in the early 19th century: “NEITHER fish NOR fowl”. It means “NOT fish, AND NOT fowl EITHER”: both potential alternatives are negated together. Its opposite is not “EITHER fish OR fowl” (where the two alternatives are positive, but only one can be chosen) but “BOTH fish AND fowl” (the two alternatives are chosen together).
    With “NOT EITHER fish OR fowl”, the potential problem is the scope of the negation: does it apply to one of the potential alternatives individually (leaving the other one available) or to both together?
    “You can have either fish or fowl. – Either one will be fine. – Tell me which one!” (two positive alternatives, one to be chosen).
    “I’ll have neither. I am a vegan. I eat neither fish nor fowl.” (both are unacceptable)
    It is true that here “I don’t eat either fish or fowl” is possible with the same meaning of denying both alternatives, but that is because it is unlikely that the speaker would not know which of the two to choose or exclude (the alternatives are not potential but actual), and the listener processes the sentence as equivalent to a “neither … nor…” construction.
    But there is no ambiguity in context:
    “She is allergic to something. She doesn’t eat … either fish or fowl, I forget which” (the negation applies to only one of those two potential alternatives, the other one is acceptable).
    The last example is the one that parallels JA’s “not either … or …”. If JA had meant “neither … nor …”, she would have used that unambiguous construction.
    The best way to check JA’s usage would be to do a search (as Mark Liberman does) of “neither … nor …” and “not either … or …” throughout JA’s works as well as through other works of the same period, and to consider the differences in meaning of those two constructions in all those contexts, some of which are bound to be unambiguous. (It is quite possible that at the time, “I don’t eat either fish or fowl” was not acceptable as an equivalent of “I eat neither fish nor fowl”, so JA’s sentence carried no ambiguity).
    Considering JA’s sentence in the general context of her picture of the social mores of her time and milieu (not a primary argument trumping the linguistic one): she deals not with the highest or lowest levels of society but with people who are in between and aiming to get a little higher. I don’t know the particular work in which “Edward” is a character, but were Edward’s family at the very highest level, his mother would expect him to choose a woman who had both fortune and rank. A man at a low level would have little choice but to choose one who had neither fortune nor rank. I guess that the family is at a fairly high level, although somewhere below the highest one, so Edward should not consider marrying a woman who doesn’t have either fortune or rank – but either one of these two attributes would be acceptable (which is why I used “socially equivalent” earlier).

  23. In context, though, m-l, Elinor is saying Edward would be in trouble with his mum if he proposed to her, a woman with neither rank nor fortune. So the theoretical ambiguity doesn’t actually arise.

  24. Ah, well now we are looking at a kind of ambiguity that never occurred to me up to now: the distinction between
    A: His mum would object to X if it were the case that {{X lacked fortune} or {X lacked rank}}
    and
    B: {his mum would object to X if X lacked fortune} or {his mum would object to X if X lacked rank}.
    Up to now I had never thought of B and was only comparing A with
    C: His mum would object to X if it were the case that {{X lacked fortune} and {X lacked rank}}
    Note that C becomes A if you change “and” to “or”, while B become logically equivalent to A if you change “or” to “and”.

  25. I understand neither m-l’s three arguments or Ø’s arguments (which are different), but I feel sure that Language does and that we’re right.
    she deals not with the highest or lowest levels of society but with people who are in between and aiming to get a little higher. I don’t know the particular work in which “Edward” is a character
    It’s Mansfield Park, m-l. A Jane Austen heroine isn’t a social climber, she’s without ulterior motives — marrying for money is the goal of the young villains, just as fortune-seeking for her children is sometimes the preoccupation of the heroine’s mother — but for all her heroines the course of true love is undermined by issues of social rank (and even by the pecking order within her own family).
    she deals not with the highest or lowest levels of society but with people who are in between
    I’d say she deals with the aristocracy, not really the middle class. I don’t think that’s as clear as it might be in a European novel; not every character has a title, but look at Mr Darcy, for example: he’s from Derbyshire, and he’s the heir to somewhere like Chatsworth, in real-life the biggest estate of the Dukes of Devonshire. There’s no hint that he’s from an 18th or 19th century industrial fortune; he comes from old money and that meant the aristocracy, title or no title. However, Jane Austen herself was lower-upper-middle-class, to quote George Orwell, and the stories are written in a way that makes it easy for the moviegoing middle class of today to identify with, hence the millions of remade Austen books & films of the past twenty years.

  26. It’s S and S, not M P, I fear.

  27. Another Fanny & Edward. She saved some money there.

  28. Yes, in addition to buying her spelling and punctuation at some second-hand shop she also recycled names.
    But the Edward in M P was in fact an Edmund. If you want to be picky.

  29. It’s too late to be picky.

  30. marie-lucie says:

    In context, though, m-l, Elinor is saying Edward would be in trouble with his mum if he proposed to her, a woman with neither rank nor fortune. So the theoretical ambiguity doesn’t actually arise.
    It is true that in practice it does not matter, but there are two possibilities from Edward’s mother’s point or view:
    “Edward needs to marry a woman who has BOTH a fortune AND high rank, and Elinor has NEITHER a fortune NOR high rank.”
    “Edward needs to marry a woman who has EITHER fortune OR high rank, and Elinor has NOT EITHER a fortune OR high rank.”
    The original sentence has: “… who has NOT EITHER a fortune OR high rank.” I think that the OR in this sentence implies that the positive counterpart would also have OR, not AND, therefore EITHER a fortune OR high rank would be acceptable to the mother.
    social level: by “highest level” I mean people who hobnob with royalty and the highest levels of government. This high aristocracy is not the world that JA depicts, although it is a cut above the bourgeois world.
    Elinor: I remember Elinor from Sense and Sensibility, which I read as a student, but I have forgotten the details, that’s why “Edward” did not mean anything to me.

  31. QED.
    Two more analysanda that I raised at the other thread, both from P&P:

    The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.

    It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.

  32. Is the second one something to do with dearie’s hated either to mean both?
    In the first one, the “was” at the end refers to “a curious dialogue”, not to the perpetual commendations. Is that what you mean?

  33. m-l: no, I don’t mean the ambiguity doesn’t matter, but that it doesn’t arise; it doesn’t exist, because the context, once known, makes only one meaning possible … and makes it obvious.

  34. marie-lucie says:

    Picky, of course Elinor, having neither money nor rank, is undesirable from the mother’s point of view, but that does not mean that she would not be accptable if she had just one of the desired attributes.

  35. Couronne:

    The perpetual commendations of the lady, either on his hand-writing, or on the evenness of his lines, or on the length of his letter, with the perfect unconcern with which her praises were received, formed a curious dialogue, and was exactly in unison with her opinion of each.

    Try parsing and then normalising this sentence. What do you think Austen means? Can you show us a paraphrase in current non-Austenian?

    It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.

    This could be the use of either that Dearieme contemns (though it is perfectly standard and time-honoured, as discussed in the earlier thread), or it could be the other use of either. Does Austen intend “with both sides free of actual blame”, or “with [at least] one side free of actual blame”? And again, a paraphrase?
     

  36. This could be fun too. From Jane Eyre (Charlotte Bronte):

    “Can you tell me what the writing on that stone over the door means? What is Lowood Institution?”
    “This house where you are come to live.”
    “And why do they call it Institution? Is it in any way different from other schools?”
    “It is partly a charity-school: you and I, and all the rest of us, are charity-children. I suppose you are an orphan: are not either your father or your mother dead?
    “Both died before I can remember.”
    “Well, all the girls here have lost either one or both parents, and this is called an institution for educating orphans.”

    The question marked in bold was certainly answered; but what was the question, exactly? The choice of are is interesting.
     

  37. But there, m-l, you’re not talking about what JA wrote, or what Elinor said, but what Mrs Ferris thinks. What JA alleges Elinor said bears no ambiguity in context. Mrs Ferris turns out to be ambiguity itself; but that’s a different matter.

  38. marie-lucie says:

    Austen: It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.
    I don’t think this means “on both sides”. I first thought of “on either one of the two sides”: not knowing the circumstances, it is impossible to assign blame to just one side; one of the two sides may deserve the blame, but we don’t know which one. With further consideration, I think that it must be that “neither side might be deserving of actual blame”: both may have acted properly but been deceived by circumstances.
    Brontë: are not either your father or your mother dead?”
    I think that the question must mean “Are not either your father, or your mother, or both, dead?” since “all the girls have lost either one or both parents”.

  39. To count as an orphan someone who has lost just one parent may be regarded as unfortunate; to leave the definition of the word “orphan” ambiguous looks like carelessness.

  40. marie-lucie says:

    But there, m-l, you’re not talking about what JA wrote,
    What JA wrote is what Elinor thinks or said: she is someone “who has NOT EITHER fortune OR rank” and is therefore unacceptable as a potential daughter-in-law to Mrs. Frris. Elinor is restating what she thinks or has been told is Mrs. Ferris’s opinion. I offered two sentences which could have been uttered by that lady, depending on her reasons for finding Elinor unacceptable. It seems to me that only one of those possible sentences, the one with “or”, corresponds to the letter of Elinor’s restatement.
    I am not about to do a search and analysis of such phrases in the complete works of Jane Austen, but it would be useful to know whether in her time, or even just for herself, “not either … or…” meant the same as “neither … nor …”, or not. My impression, based on this example, is that it did not.
    One example is not necessarily convincing, that’s why more examples (showing either the identity or the contrast between the same two alternative statement types) would be more enlightening.

  41. “Are not either…or… dead?” means “are they both alive?”, both being the min. requirement for orphanhood as Ø says, whereas “Is neither… nor…dead?” would imply that the question means “Is (at least) one alive?”
    Lovely quiz, Noe Etikker. I’ll look at the others tomorrow morning.

  42. marie-lucie says:

    orphan: in French, orphelin(e) can be ambiguous, so if only one of the parents is dead, one can specify orphelin(e) de père or orphelin(e) de mère. Jane Eyre is placed in an institution which admits girls who have lost at least one parent and does not discriminate between those having lost a father, a mother or both: all are considered “orphans”.
    In practical terms, a child losing a father is often also deprived of a mother if the mother has to replace the father as breadwinner and is therefore no longer able to care for her young children. A child losing a mother may also be deprived of a father if his work responsibilities mean that he is not available to care for the children. In the past (even the recent past), orphanages did not take care only of children permanently deprived of both parents: many of those children had at least one parent, who was temporarily or permanently unable to take care of them properly and whose only recourse was to place one or more of them in a charitable institution.

  43. It is, in short, impossible for us to conjecture the causes or circumstances which may have alienated them, without actual blame on either side.
    Does Austen intend “with both sides free of actual blame”, or “with [at least] one side free of actual blame”?
    The words are uttered by Jane Bennett, who seems to be more or less incapable of thinking ill of anyone. It is clear from her sister Elizabeth’s reply (E. is teasing J. about exactly this tendency of her’s) that E. understands J. to mean “with both sides free of actual blame”.
    My paraphrase would be:
    “I am sure that what we know can be explained with blaming Darcy, and without blaming Wickham either, but we do not know enough to be able to say what the explanation might be.”
    Without the advantage of context, I might have (incorrectly) guessed something like:
    “Any explanation we might come up with would necessarily involve blaming one or the other of them.”

  44. Ø and others:
    I agree with Mare-Lucie that we’d want a larger sample. I have assembled a few, in fact. I might get them in order for presentation here.
    The role of context is interesting. We might reasonably expect that a straightforward statement or question has a straightforward meaning, with only the referents and a few other details left indeterminate. Suppose the question in bold, above, were given in isolation:

    Are not either your father or your mother dead?

    Exactly what would the following answers tell us, if anything?
    A1: Yes.
    A2: No.
    A3: Alas, yes.
    A4: Alas, no.
    A5: Both, indeed.
    A6: Neither.
    A7: That’s right.
    A well-formed question can surely be answered informatively by at least some of these, even without context.
    Here’s one you might like, from Hard Times (Charles Dickens):

    He knew it to be his due, but his due was acceptable. He had reached the neutral ground upon the outskirts of the town, which was neither town nor country, and yet was either spoiled, when his ears were invaded by the sound of music.

  45. without blaming Darcy, dammit.

  46. A well-formed question
    Even if we simplify matters and work with the question “Isn’t your father dead?” we might find ourselves on shaky ground logically. A “yes” answer will ordinarily mean that he is dead, in spite of the “n’t”.

    In the Dickens quote, the only way I can understand “and yet was either spoiled” is “and yet was both a spoiled sort of town and a spoiled sort of country”.

    It’s odd and enjoyable that German has entweder/weder where English has either/neither. Negation where you least expect it. I don’t even know what a pop Sapir-Whorfian would do with this observation.

  47. Sorry about all the semicolons; I’m trying to cut down, but it’s not easy
    empty, in the past your comments haven’t shown any signs of addiction to semicolonic irrigation. It’s possible you’ve merely been reading too much Austen recently.

  48. I think I will repeat my warning at that other thread. Negation introduces all kinds of intricacies in grammar, and trying to prove things one way or the other does not always work.
    “All that glitters is not gold” is a fine, upstanding sentence in English, although a little archaic. If you want to be pedantic, in modern English it must be interpreted as meaning “Nothing that glitters is gold”. And yet, despite a certain awkwardness, it’s perfectly understandable. The use and scope of negation does seem to have changed over time, but that sentence of Jane Austen’s, despite sounding old-fashioned, is neither particularly peculiar nor particularly susceptible of misinterpretation.
    Since negation is a curly issue, “proving” that something should mean something else when it doesn’t is fine if you’re trying to split logical hairs, but doesn’t necessarily work with real language. In present-day English that usage might look ambiguous, but let’s face it, when we read Austen we don’t read it as ‘present-day English’ and adjust our expectations accordingly.

  49. To put my point a different way: Negation very easily plays tricks with the mind.

  50. The role of context is interesting. We might reasonably expect that a straightforward statement or question has a straightforward meaning, with only the referents and a few other details left indeterminate.

    Ah, good Doctor, now there’s a bone of contention with very little meat on’t. A tautology, meseems. If “straightforward statement or question” does not mean exactly and analytically “has a straightforward meaning”, I’ll eat a broom (Ger.loc.)
    Perhaps I can take what you wrote as meaning “we might reasonably expect that a syntactically straightforward statement or question has a straightforward meaning”. But would even this make the expectation more reasonable than tautologous ?
    I wonder if anyone has noticed that in the above discussions about possible ambiguity in passages from Austen et al., the contributions themselves have been ambiguous, in the sense that participant B occasionally seems not to have understood the comments of participant A – as suggested by the fact that participant A replies as if to dispel B’s misunderstanding. But is that in fact a fact ? Could it be, in one or the other case, that A and B have understood each other perfectly well, but have divergent views on what they’re discussing ? How can we (participants C, D … !!) distinguish these two ways of understanding A’s and B’s (mis)understandings, without falling into circularity ?
    Answer: we can’t, but there’s nothing wrong with circularity. Discussions are not encounters in which information circulates between two speakers. Each speaker goes round and round in the circle of his own thoughts. These are perturbed, not informed, by the circulation of his interlocutor’s thoughts – like eddies in proximity. Discussion ends not in agreement or disagreement, but when it is suspended for any reason – say when each goes home to his fried kidney dinner. Thank you, Mr. Luhmann.

  51. Sorry, I meant tail recursion optimization.

  52. The use and scope of negation does seem to have changed over time … Since negation is a curly issue, “proving” that something should mean something else when it doesn’t is fine if you’re trying to split logical hairs, but doesn’t necessarily work with real language.
    Bademantel, I agree Hundert-pro, as they say here – and not just as regards negation. Sometime in the ’60s I encountered a fabulous book by William and Martha Kneale, The Development of Logic. As a Swedish reviewer wrote at amazon in 2005:

    A colossus of a book with an enourmous treasury of information! Sure, as some of the other reviewers have complained, it’s not equally strong on every logician or epoch, but who could reasonably expect that? A definite must read for any student of logic, not only because it is packed with interesting information and illuminating exposition but also because many sections are quite engagingly written. In addition to being surprisinlgy suitable for “cover to cover”-reading the massive index enables one to use it as a historic encyclopedia of logic.

    I didn’t finish the book, partly because the copy didn’t belong to me, and partly because being only 16-17 I was concerned with other, more pressing matters. I remember being struck dumb by finding that “logic” had been created over many centuries – the Kneales might have said “discovered”, but that made no difference to me, being as I am a born realist with a strong constructivist tendency.

  53. in the past your comments haven’t shown any signs of addiction to semicolonic irrigation
    I just haven’t been the same since those cranes invaded my ileum.

  54. I agree with Bathrobe and Stu, if “agree” is the right word for what goes on between eddies.
    If “straightforward statement or question” does not mean exactly and analytically “has a straightforward meaning”, I’ll eat a broom (Ger.loc.)
    I don’t see how anyone could prove you wrong, Stu. Certainly nobody on our level of discourse. I have an inkling that “straightforward statement or question” means something to Noetica that I, rotating in my own eddy, have not quite grasped.
    The business about “levels of discourse” was introduced by you, as far as I can tell, and only in order to demolish it. So you may risk eating a straw man rather than a broom.

  55. All that glisters is not gold;
    Often have you heard that told:
    Many a man his life hath sold
    But my outside to behold:
    Gilded tombs do worms enfold.
    Had you been as wise as bold,
    Young in limbs, in judgment old
    Your answer had not been inscroll’d
    Fare you well, your soup is cold.
    The Merchant Of Venice

  56. If anybody wanted to prove me wrong, I could simply not react, or pretend that I didn’t understand them – even without holding the views I have set out. Sigh … there’s not much living space for wide-ranging cowboys in this modern world. I’m pretty sure that many people here, if they read that one long comment of mine, will already have disdainfully waved it aside with a bejewelled and beautifully manicured hand.
    I referred to the “levels of discourse” idea merely because it is often used by people in an attempt to wriggle out of self-referentiality. It’s the idea behind adding “meta-” to words. Russell’s theory of types was something similar in mathematical logic.

  57. All is not gold that glisters is another “illogical” but perfectly understandable variant. At least, this is the one mentioned in the article on “not” in Fowler’s Modern English Usage.

  58. Fare you well, your soup is cold
    I guess soup just doesn’t suit as a stage prop during long speeches.

  59. Oh, very well. If nobody’s going to notice, it’s really
    “Fare you well, your suit is cold.”
    My version makes more sense, though. I’m surprised Noetica didn’t spot it.

  60. Grumbly, you’re a hell of a guy. Full marks.

  61. marie-lucie says:

    All is not gold that glisters is another “illogical” but perfectly understandable variant
    It sounds archaic, rather than “illogical”, like “the Queen’s son of England”.

  62. empty, what’s wrong with the views I set out ? For instance, do they imply that we don’t understand each other ? No, they don’t – but they do imply that each of us understands only in his own terms what other people say. No news there.
    Are those views incompatible in any way with how we get on with our lives – talking, planning, doubting, acting ? No, they are perfectly compatible. But they are incompatible with certain ways of understanding the things we do, when we try to give a theoretical account of them. Since we don’t often do that, I would say: no sweat. But for the occasions when we do do that, I would say: Achtung !

  63. Stu, all are not brooms who bristle. Now that I have had the dubious satisfaction of provoking you a little, let me hasten to say that the truest thing I wrote at 3:41 was “I agree with Bathrobe and Stu”.

  64. That sounds like an evangelical preacher on TV: “I want to explain now about brooms, so let’s all take our bibles and turn to Empty 3:41″.

  65. Negation…
    All that is gold does not glitter,
    Not all those who wander are lost;
    The old that is strong does not wither,
    Deep roots are not reached by the frost.

    I am reminded of Bilbo’s speech at his 50th birthday party, just before he disappears, and I’m quoting from memory here: “I know less than half of you less than half as well as I would like, and I like less than half of you less than half as well as you deserve.” The partygoers are not happy, and start murmuring, as this is not a typical party toast, while they try to figure out whether or not the statement works out to a be a compliment (it doesn’t).
    How many negatives are here?

    What his mother really is we cannot know; but, from Fanny’s occasional mention of her conduct and opinions, we have never been disposed to think her amiable; and I am very much mistaken if Edward is not himself aware that there would be many difficulties in his way, if he were to wish to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank.

    Like Bilbo’s partygoers, I had to parse it more than once before I figured it out (and I agree with m-l there is only one way to interpret it, although I would be willing to consider the opinion of someone from a different side of the pond who thought otherwise). It looks an awful lot like a circumlocution, probably to avoid the appearance of criticizing the “conduct and opinions” of Edward’s mother, or at least from providing a memorable sound bite that could get back to her.

  66. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks, Nijma, I am glad we agree.
    Language Log has had several threads about the complications associated with negation. A sentence which has both negation and quantification (as in “All that glitters is not gold” and its avatars) is especially difficult to process.

  67. Also, whether “either” is “perfectly standard and time-honoured, as discussed in the earlier thread” is open to question, if you consider the question from various sides of various ponds. I believe there was an example of a “quadrangle with a tree on either side”, meaning two sides and two trees, but this is hardly a current standard American usage, even if you can understand the usage from the context.

  68. Almost, Nijma:

    “I don’t know half of you half as well as I should like; and I like
    less than half of you half as well as you deserve.”
    This was unexpected and rather difficult. There was some scattered clapping, but most of them were trying to work it out and see if it came to a compliment.

  69. Ah, thank you jamesal. My…are they called bibliodromes now?…My bibliodromes are in disarray at the moment.

  70. Oh, Nijma, it’s a fine expression. I’m sure my grandmother used it. Look here. It’s not for everyday use, maybe, but it mustn’t be allowed go out of style.

  71. It’s a perfectly normal expression, in American English as well.

  72. Nijma, are you sure it’s not a compliment? I read it as “I know some of you less than I want to, and I like some of you less than you deserve.” If Bilbo dislikes some of his audience, he’s telling them that’s not their fault, it’s his fault.
    Or I may have dropped a stitch somewhere.

  73. Nijma:
    As others have pointed out, on either side of is Standard Four-Square Middle American, yessirbob.
    Mr & Mrs Crohn-Semicolon:
    I’m surprised Noetica didn’t spot it.
    Not only am I not cozened of her sense by Miss Austen’s superabundant periods (notwithstanding that Marie-Lucie, by her earlier implicature, had – may I say? – seemed insufficiently apprised of my long-settled habitude of industry in descrying the true import of such sesquipedalia, if it were truly to be had therein, which is not always so, alas), also have I not failed to remark an instance of Shakespeare’s not having been correctly rendered forth, after my night carriage from the Metropolis at length set me down at my country seat, and I later had found leisure to unseal recent intelligences from my hatter, wherein the last billet I myself had myself dispatched preceded your own soupy offering by almost an entire nychthemeron, as any attentive* perusal of the Record will show; wherefore though I should never wish ill upon either of you, my seconds will call on you as, as you are surely aware, as sensible of the finer elements of polite intercourse, the impositions of honour upon the honourable cannot but demand.
    * Emphasis in original.

  74. Ø, I consider “standard American” to be the kind of speech pattern you need to get hired by a national network. This does not include Bwahston, New Yawk or The Sauth, although some of my best friends talk like that (just kidding). And museum copy? That’s standard American speech? Who wrote that copy and where are they from?
    Noetica, I don’t know what was in your link, but it sets off the nannyware of the neighbors’ internet connection that I “borrow”. Not just a warning screen but accompanied by a shrieking siren. From the standpoint of the Silent Majority, what could be more unAmerican? Oh, and on this side of the pond it’s “yesireebob”. Or in this case, “close but no cigar”.
    JC: If Bilbo dislikes some of his audience, he’s telling them that’s not their fault, it’s his fault.
    First, I read that he doesn’t know all of them very well. True enough, I believe he invited everyone he could think of, distant relatives and all, and the children especially he didn’t know. But in the second part, if Bilbo dislikes some of his audience, and less than half of them don’t deserve it, then more than half of them DO deserve to be disliked even more than Bilbo dislikes them already. As I recall, some relatives he disapproved of would soon be inheriting his place and possessions, and he may have been getting a bit of anticipatory revenge.

  75. It was Bilbo’s eleventy-first birthday, of course.

  76. Oh, and on this side of the pond it’s “yesireebob”. Or in this case, “close but no cigar”.
    Wha …? Well I’ll be damned. So it is! Looks like I was plain wrong, and let me say – I want to put that on record right here, right now. Yep. What would be the point of going on as if yessirbob had any sort of currency? Heh. What would be the point of persisting in my error when all the Google evidence is so plainly against me?
    Thank you! I’ll try never to repeat that error; and I owe it to you to make that acknowledgement loud and clear, yes sir Ma’am. You’ll never have to deal with me on that one again. Thank you! ;)

  77. There used to be a deceptively bland-sounding BBC radio programme called Round-Britain Quiz, in which a Fellow of All Souls would ask erudite well-known people to decypher deceptively bland-sounding questions that wrapped up quotations (from Pope and Shakespeare and others) — it was in the days before googling made such conundrums less dependent on education and memory and consequently was jolly difficult, if not impossible, for most people (i.e. me) — anyway, Noetica knocks off similar cans of worms (I can find “nychthemeron”, but nothing for attentive perusal of the Record) for us several times a day and, what’s more, he does it “for free”; though I’m sure Stu could explain why there’s no such…

  78. I see that Round-Britain Quiz is still going but in a dumbed-down form, so don’t bother checking it out.

  79. The German literary form of nychthemeron is die Tagnacht. But ordinary folks get by with shorter change in Norway:

    In einigen germanischen Sprachen gibt es für den Begriff [nychthemeron] auch einen Ausdruck in der Alltagssprache. So wird ein 24-Stunden-Zeitintervall in Deutschland auch Voller Tag genannt, in Dänemark und Norwegen heißt er døgn, in Schweden dygn und in den Niederlanden etmaal.

  80. Trond Engen says:

    The difference of døgn and dygn is merely orthographic. In speech there’s generally variation between short y and short ø/ö. It used to be systematic between dialects, I think, but (as always) this has been garbled by arbitrary choices in the written languages. There’s a similar relationship between short i and short open e.
    ON døgr usually meant a 12 hour period (night OR day), but it could also mean 24 hours. There’s been some dispute over interpretation in a few cases where it has impact on distances estimated from travel descriptions. A promonent example is the Vinland journeys.

  81. He likes less than half of them less than he should; but does he like all the rest as much as they deserve, or more than they deserve, or not at all? We’ll never know.
    On another subject: Nijma, I believe you are falling into much the same error as Grumbly. Your “nobody says it that la-di-da way around here” is a lot like his “nobody makes potato salad that disgusting way around here”.
    For what it’s worth, I could imagine Garrison Keillor, and possibly Walter Cronkite, saying “on either side” in that sense.

  82. He likes less than half of them less than he should; but does he like all the rest as much as they deserve, or more than they deserve, or not at all? We’ll never know.
    On another subject: Nijma, I believe you are falling into much the same error as Grumbly. Your “nobody says it that la-di-da way around here” is a little like his “nobody makes potato salad that disgusting way around here”.
    Walter Cronkite used the expression (end of second full paragraph on page 235). Do you think he could get hired by a national network nowadays?

  83. his “nobody makes potato salad that disgusting way around here”
    Never said such a thing. I said it’s disgusting, which is equivalent to saying that I find it disgusting . Just little ol’ me. Or do you think it la-di-da for little ol’ me to dislike it, given that millions of Germans in the south like it ?

  84. empty, surely you don’t regard me as an authority on culinary matters, or on any subject whatever ? If so, I fear you will have been confusing sarcasm with authoritativeness.

  85. Stu, I was paraphrasing and exaggerating, but you did write “No German housewife, from one end of the country to the other, would ever put celery in potato salad, and then pour hot bacon grease over the lot.”
    I’m just messing with you, and with Nijma, too. My impulse now is to pour oil on troubled waters, but I don’t want to use the wrong kind of oil.

  86. Hmph. No German housewife would ever put celery in potato salad, simply because traditional ways of making potato salad do not include stick celery. A sufficient explanation for this is that celery was virtually unknown until recently. Now that it is known, it may make its way into potato salads, creating new traditions.
    I myself like stick celery in American potato salads. But little ol’ me draws the line at hot bacon grease. Now, leaving the fields of potato salad, cold bacon grease is a different matter. It is about as close to good Schmalz as you could get in the States, decades ago. I have been known to spread it on bread and eat it for breakfast – to the horror of my American friends.
    If you’re going to pour oil on troubled waters, I would recommend using a cheap brand, because it would otherwise be a waste of good oil.

  87. It’s a perfectly normal expression, in American English as well.
    Exactly. Nijma continues to cite her own usages and preferences as if they were universal truths, and I wish she’d quit it, or at least keep it out of this venue. It gets tiring constantly correcting her, and her incorrect statements could be mistaken by casual readers for facts.

  88. marie-lucie says:

    Marie-Lucie, by her earlier implicature, had – may I say? – seemed insufficiently apprised of my long-settled habitude of industry in descrying the true import of such sesquipedalia, if it were truly to be had therein, which is not always so, alas
    Noetica, last night I thought I would use some free time to read the “earlier thread”, to which you contributed prominently while I was away and unable to read it. It took me over three hours, even though I mostly skipped the math (or was it formal logic? about “sheaves”). I saw that the sentence under consideration here had already been discussed there, along with several others, so I might have responded differently above if I had already had the benefit of that earlier discussion. On the other hand, I saw that there were a few other examples where you thought that “either … or …” seems to mean “either … and/or …” (not your own words, I am taking a shortcut) and I am still puzzled by that opinion. But I don’t wish to restart the topic!

  89. his “nobody makes potato salad that disgusting way around here”
    empty, it is the southern German kind of potato salad that I find disgusting. This has nothing to do with the use or not of celery in potato salad in general. But this-all belongs in the other thread.

  90. Noetica,
    Well I’ll be damned.
    No you will not be damned at all. We still love you. There will be not be either seconds calling on you or any talk of talqa, talqa, talqa. If “yesirbob” is an attempt to speak my ideolect, and not an Oz variation, then I appreciate the attempt, although I find your own down under talk quite charming. However I will NOT be clicking your links, as I can see from mousing over them that they contain the dread http://www.google.com/search?num=100&hl=en&safe=off sequence that triggers my computer’s police sirens. Safe search off indeed! So stand down, good sir, sheath your sword, and Bob’s your uncle. :)
    In a more serious vein, I understand that linguists consider people to be perfectly capable of determining correct usage in their own dialects. (Knowing your own dialect is not the same as trying to dictate someone else’s correct usage.) I have found it true with my students, that they do automatically know the correct word choice for a given situation, and there is general agreement among all the students from the same area, no matter their gender or educational level.

  91. I understand that linguists consider people to be perfectly capable of determining correct usage in their own dialects.
    No, they consider them capable of speaking grammatically, not judging usage (i.e., BEING linguists without any training).

  92. Sorry, didn’t read your next sentence: Knowing your own dialect…. “Knowing” is a tricky word there. You can be fluent IN it without being able to say anything true ABOUT it.

  93. Sorry, didn’t read your next sentence: Knowing your own dialect…. “Knowing” is a tricky word there. You can be fluent IN it without being able to say anything true ABOUT it.

  94. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: I understand that linguists consider people to be perfectly capable of determining correct usage in their own dialects. – Jamessal: No, they consider them capable of speaking grammatically, not judging usage (i.e., BEING linguists without any training).
    Nijma is right. Not only do all people speak (according to the subconscious, internalized rules which govern the usage in their own variety of a language), but they recognize others’ utterances as conforming to those rules or not. That’s how we can often immediately recognize if a person is a speaker (or writer) from another region or country or age or social class, etc. Even if we understand their meaning perfectly, we recognize whether or not what they just said is something we ourselves would or would not say to mean the same thing. That’s what “judging” means in this context. But people are not necessarily able to recognize why this other way of speaking does not conform to their own. For instance, Americans in Australia (or vice-versa) would be recognized not only through obvious differences in their pronunciation and some of their words and turns of phrase which are natural in one country but odd or unknown in the other, but also through some more subtle features of grammar, which are more difficult to pinpoint because most speakers use those types of features automatically.

  95. I happily defer.

  96. to read the “earlier thread” [...] But I don’t wish to restart the topic!
    Some of my feelings about that earlier thread are summed up by an Austen quotation (P&P, Chapter 10):
    “Nay,” cried Bingley, “this is too much, to remember at night all the foolish things that were said in the morning. “

  97. It’s even more too much to remember in the morning all the foolish things that were said at night.

  98. Only if you lead a more exciting life than I do.

  99. It’s even more too much to remember in the morning all the foolish things that were said at night.
    It is most too much not to remember foolish things that had been said at night, as many here no doubt metaremember from our more profligate respective youths.
    Nijma:
    No you will not be damned at all.
    But … but … my point was … [*Kif sigh*].
    Marie-Lucie:
    On the other hand, I saw that there were a few other examples where you thought that “either … or …” seems to mean “either … and/or …” (not your own words, I am taking a shortcut) and I am still puzzled by that opinion. But I don’t wish to restart the topic!
    But [... but ...] it is hardly fair lightly to impugn as “puzzling” opinions that I expressed there (in the discussion that I made sure to link at the outset, above), if you then say you don’t want to talk about it! Just briefly, of course it is very often reasonable to interpret either … or as meaning either … and/or. Restricting ourselves to Austen:

    Their house was undoubtedly the best in Camden Place; their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages over all the others which they had either seen or heard of, and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up, or the taste of the furniture.

    If there is anything in my story which you know to be either false or improbable, stop me.

    You will be so infinitely dearer to me, my Catherine, than either Anne or Maria …

    She wished, by a gentle remonstrance, to remind Isabella of her situation, and make her aware of this double unkindness; but for remonstrance, either opportunity or comprehension was always against her.

    Edmund, who had taken down the mare and presided at the whole, returned with it in excellent time, before either Fanny or the steady old coachman, who always attended her when she rode without her cousins, were ready to set forward.

     … and Maria evidently considered her engagement as only raising her so much more above restraint, and leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult either father or mother.

    Mr. Woodhouse would have been miserable had his daughter attempted it, and she was therefore safe from either exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable ideas.

    Of course in some of these there is a kind of quasi-negation that complicates the picture, and that might call for use of ne if the sentence were in French. And in some there are difficulties of interpretation (scope; distributivity versus jointness; metalinguisticity) similar to those that exercised us above. Not in all, though.
     

  100. Telling Nijma that her understanding of “on either side” is wrong is no different from telling Hat that his understanding of “most” is wrong. There are obviously lects of English where these usages occur, and everyone piling in to argue that someone’s usage is wrong is a waste of time.
    What I would find problematic, however, is if Nijma told her English-language students that the “both sides” interpretation was incorrect based on her own usage. It would be rather disturbing to come across Arabs or Hispanics who insisted that the “both sides” interpretation was wrong because “our teacher told us so”.

  101. Telling Nijma that her understanding of “on either side” is wrong is no different from telling Hat that his understanding of “most” is wrong.
    I agree, and that’s a useful comparison. I would not presume to do such a thing to either of them, if it is simply a matter of how they manage most or on either side in their own usage. Nearly everyone has such idiolectal preferences. I rarely use thus, for example. It makes me queasy.

  102. Compared with Noetica I am afraid I have a very pedestrian intellect. So it’s with great trepidation that I venture the following.
    With regard to Austen’s negation example, a simple parallelism should exemplify that there is nothing wrong with what she wrote. In negation in English, there are usually two alternatives: one where negation is expressed as a separate particle, one where it is merged with a quantifier:
    1. not any = none
    2. not ever = never
    2. not either… or = neither … nor
    Based on this, if “not” is alternately separated from and linked with the quantifying element:
    1. I didn’t have any = I had none
    2. I didn’t ever see him = I never saw him
    3. I didn’t have either the red pill or the blue pill = I had neither the red pill nor the blue pill
    Austen’s example is of the “not either… or” variety. Yes, one might argue that it’s better to say “not either … nor”, but this doesn’t invalidate “not either … or” as a structure. Austen puts “not” with the verb “had”, leaving the “either … or” structure negated as a whole — just as in the “any” and “ever” examples. Normally, “not any” and “not ever” negate all possibilities; they do not negate them partially. Similarly with “not either … or”, which in the normal course of things, means “neither … nor” — precisely Austen’s usage.
    Of course the issue is more complicated than that, because the scope of negation can be delimited and it’s possible to indulge in partial negation (as in “Not all that glitters is gold”). But you have to start with some kind of regularity (such as 1., 2., 3. above) before you start trying to find subtle counterexamples. Otherwise you will end up tying yourself in knots, which is what many people who venture into the field of negation do very successfully.

  103. Miss Austen’s superabundant periods
    Shouldn’t it be “Miss Jane Austen’s superabundant periods”? She did have an older unmarried sister.

  104. She did have an older unmarried sister.
    I had sought to preserve a delicate uncertainty on the um, issue of the Misses Austens’ superabundant periods. I had not made bold to suppose either girl entirely free of them. Evidence is wanting. We can inspect the proofs for one sister only – excepting perhaps those letters between the two that survived the hearth-fire after the younger Miss Austen’s untimely death, though in those forever lost to inquisitive posterity lay heaven knows what sisterly comparisons and intimations – but we know that the younger sister pored at length over her own sheets. If you find, Ø, that my caution waxes into a surfeit of refinement, please think it acceptable to correct me. I do not wish ever obdurately to set myself against either correction or improvement; still, I pray you might not attempt the one along with the other, for my frame could not bear correction and improvement all at once.
    Compared with Noetica I am afraid I have a very pedestrian intellect.
    But no! Unless you mean that you have your feet on the ground, while I am for ever off on some quixotic flight of noetic fancy or other (or both).

  105. marie-lucie says:

    Noetica: perhaps I am not sensitive enough to detect the subtlest nuances in English, but I fail to see how your new examples show that the “or” in “either … or” actually means “and/or”. The first example might barely qualify, since in retrospect it seems that “they” must have seen the house in question (not just heard of it) in order to form a judgment, but they still might have formed an opinion just from hearsay. It seems to me that in the other sentences “or” just means “or”.
    Bathrobe: Austen’s example is of the “not either… or” variety. Yes, one might argue that it’s better to say “not either … nor”, but this doesn’t invalidate “not either … or” as a structure.
    Did anyone argue in favour of “not either … NOR”? it seems very strange to me. Do you have actual examples? I don’t think you can have both the separate negative and the incorporated negative in the same complex phrase. And “neither … nor” is NOT the negative of “either … or” but of “both … and”, for the reasons I mentioned above.

  106. “to marry a woman who had not either a great fortune or high rank” is “to marry a woman who hadn’t either great fortune or high rank”. I see the “not” as attached to the preceding verb “had”, not to the following “either”.
    While the meaning of NEITHER …. NOR is semantically the negative of BOTH … AND, I don’t think that it’s actually the negative of that construction. This is where Noetica’s way of interpreting things is the correct one. Negating ‘both … and’ doesn’t yield the same meaning as ‘neither … nor’:
    You can’t be both beautiful and intelligent — you have to take one or the other.
    You can be neither beautiful nor intelligent — you are destined to be ugly and stupid all your life.
    I’m now a bit flummoxed over “either … nor”. For me it sounds quite ok to say “to marry a woman who hadn’t either a great fortune nor high rank”, but M-L has made me wonder…

  107. Marie-Lucie:
    Once more I chose my words carefully, speaking of how it is “very often reasonable to interpret” the form in question. Take the first excerpt I presented above:

    Their house was undoubtedly the best in Camden Place; their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages over all the others which they had either seen or heard of, and the superiority was not less in the style of the fitting-up, or the taste of the furniture.

    If they had both heard of and seen a certain other drawing-room (perhaps hearing of it first, and seeing it only later; or perhaps seeing it and never realising that it was exactly the same one they had heard of or would later hear of), would that drawing-room be excluded from those she intended to encompass? No. The or is very plausibly inclusive, and Miss Jane Austen might have omitted the word either with no loss of sense, though with some detriment to her refined drawing-room consistency of style:

    … their drawing-rooms had many decided advantages over all the others which they had seen or heard of …

  108. It seems to me that in the other sentences “or” just means “or”.
    But or can itself be either inclusive or exclusive; and you do not say what role you take either to play in those other sentences. In this one, for example:

    … and Maria evidently considered her engagement as only raising her so much more above restraint, and leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult either father or mother.

    What is surrendered by removing that either, and writing instead leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult her father or her mother? Why would the author want to exclude cases in which both father and mother are consulted? I suspect she did not! It’s often just her habit, to use either … or when or on its own would convey her meaning. But if there is some subtlety that she wants to preserve, I doubt that it is one that excludes both parents being consulted.
     

  109. Bathrobe: What I would find problematic, however, is if Nijma told her English-language students that the “both sides” interpretation was incorrect based on her own usage.
    This was covered somewhat in the other thread. The two authors I rely on for explanations of American grammar usage, Azar and Murphy, do not talk about the usage at all. So as far as I’m concerned, no one has been able to document that it is an American usage, therefore I can not expected to know or teach it. In theory we teach to the book; in practice we choose the books. Books that do not have practical, useful phrases, as opposed to theoretically interesting phrases that nobody uses, will not be chosen by the teachers. Don’t forget that I am not just one person with a unique vocabulary. My midwest American accent is very ordinary, very standard. There are thousands and thousands of miles of people (and endless committees of teachers and administrators), stretching in all directions, who talk just like I do, who talk just like they do on TV.
    Also on the other thread was a Bostonian who said it was indeed used in Boston, a usage I do not doubt, which I regard with a degree of amiable tolerance.
    Noetica: *Kif sigh*
    ZUGRIFF NICHT ERLAUBT
    Die angeforderte Seite darf nicht angezeigt werden.
    [Google translate: Access not allowed, the requested page can not be displayed.] Now Noetica’s gone and gotten me in trouble with some German nannyware. Sigh, indeed.
    And what about the “correctness” of “on either side of the quadrangle”? (quadrangle!?!)
    The Associated Press Stylebook says no.

    either Use it to mean one or the other, not both.
    Right: She said to use either door.
    Wrong: There were lions on either side of the door.
    Right: There were lions on each side of the door. There were lions on both sides of the door.

    The OED regards the usage as archaic. Interesting, apparently Noetica’s version is the oldest one and the original one: “In OE and in early ME the word appears only in its original sense… ‘both’; beginning of 14th c assumed the disjunctive sense ‘one or the other of two’,… somewhat arch, must often be avoided on account of their ambiguity….” There’s more, but damn, the writing is small.

  110. delicate uncertainty [...] superabundant periods [...] surfeit of refinement [...] my frame
    Noetica, were not either the delicacy of your mind or the exactness of your diction what every attentive hatter must ever hold in the highest esteem, I would yet scruple to correct you. I blush with the consciousness of having blundered into the sororal matters to which you so cautiously allude. That your frame is so formed as to make the prospect of either correction or improvement a cause of any concern to your friends is what I cannot believe; but the question is as unlikely to arise as I am confident of the happy event if it did.

  111. marie-lucie says:

    Bathrobe: incorporated or merging
    You said it yourself: In negation in English, there are usually two alternatives: one where negation is expressed as a separate particle, one where it is merged with a quantifier, as in not one/none, not either/neither, etc.
    The difference between “had not either” and “hadn’t either” is one of pronunciation, which results in cliticizing the negative particle to the verb; it is not an instance of “merging a particle with a quantifier.”
    Incidentally, this confirms that “had not either” is not the same as “had neither”: in the first case the negation belongs with the verb, leaving the following “either … or” phrase intact; in the second case the negation belongs to the phrase which follows the verb, and since that phrase is a complex one, each of its elements takes the “merged” or “incorporated” negative.
    (n)either beautiful {n}or intelligent:
    Your two examples are not the opposite of each other, because they are both negative: in the first one you negate the verb, and in the second one the adjectives. The examples I gave above do not have a negation in the “both… and” sentence.
    The scope of negatives and quantifiers is a very tricky question, and even though those n-initial words are based on the n-less base words, their meaning has evolved so that they are not exact opposites of the base words: for instance, “none” is not the same as “not one” or “no one” (there was a long discussion of this on Language Log, a year ago I think).

  112. I was just guessing about Garrison Keillor and Walter Cronkite, but in the age of google it’s easy to confirm your guesses sometimes. Cronkite, see above. Keillor, I just quickly found two examples. Here.
    The AP Stylebook is just the AP Stylebook.

  113. The property of ‘either … or’ is to present a choice, i.e., you can take this one, or you can take that one. In negative or similar constructions, ‘either … or’ means ‘you can choose this one, or that one, but whichever you choose, whatever I say applies to it’.
    all the others which they had either seen or heard of
    Here, you can choose ‘houses that you’ve seen’ or ‘houses you’ve heard of’, but whatever I say applies to all of them. It’s this action of picking singly and then negating each and every one that is implicit in the ‘either … or’ construction. That’s where you get your ‘either … or/and’ interpretation from.
    anything in my story which you know to be either false or improbable
    Here the problem is ‘anything’, not ‘either… or’. Because of the ‘anything’, the sentence covers all situations.
    than either Anne or Maria
    It means that you mean more to me than whichever of these two women you might care to pick singly.
    either opportunity or comprehension was always against her
    One of the other — she either didn’t get a chance to remonstrate, or when she did the damned woman didn’t understand her. At least, that’s how I comprehend it.
    before either Fanny or the steady old coachman were ready to set forward
    The sentence takes the two people singly and indicates that he was back before (1) Fanny or (2) the steady old coachman was ready. The implication is quite different from ‘both’. If the sentence used ‘both’ (before both Fanny and the steady old coachman were ready to set forward), it would imply that either Fanny or the steady old coachman were ready when he got back, but not both of them together. Different thing.
    leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult either father or mother
    This rules out both people singly (i.e., neither father nor mother). Again, you need ‘both’ to indicate ‘and’ (leaving her less occasion than Julia to consult both father and mother).
    safe from either exciting or receiving unpleasant and most unsuitable ideas
    Again it’s one or the other. Linguistically it takes them singly and negates them one by one.
    The property of negation (or similar cases as shown above) is to indicate to the reader that each item should be taken singly, and then whatever is being asserted applies to whichever one you take (i.e., all of them). You can’t have any of the pills negates ‘any’. ‘Any’ means you have free choice to choose from all of them; ‘not any’ means all of them are forbidden.
    This is unlike You can’t have some of the pills, which likely indicates that some are not available while others are. (It could also be used to refuse a request to have ‘some of the pills’).

  114. M-L, I was disagreeing with this statement:
    And “neither … nor” is NOT the negative of “either … or” but of “both … and”, for the reasons I mentioned above.
    I don’t think that “neither … nor” is the negative of “both … and” at all. That’s why I provided a negated version of a “both … and” sentence. It doesn’t mean the same as “neither… nor”.
    in the first one you negate the verb, and in the second one the adjectives.
    I can produce a third sentence: “You can’t have either beauty or intelligence”. The meaning is the same as “You can have neither beauty nor intelligence”, even though the it is the verb and not the adjectives that are negated.

  115. Nijma, here are the first few of the 1832 occurrences of on either side of that are reported at COCA (Corpus of Contemporary American English):
    – I mean, if they asked — you said they asked the people on either side of him, though I don’t know if they did that in front
    COCA:2010:SPOK
    president now, as we see, it’s what happens to anyone, on either side of the aisle, that serves in the office of president of the United
    COCA:2010:FIC
    the road are in sight of each other and both sides are spreading out on either side of the road for a fight. ” Several minutes later three of Benton
    COCA:2010:FIC
    at the wheel; instead I studied players putting chips on numbers and colors on either side of it. In some of Luis’s pictures he’d shown me one
    COCA:2010:FIC
    , blossom into a beauty again) who took infinitesimal steps with physical therapists on either side of her and laughed every time she looked back to see how far she
    COCA:2010:FIC
    coursing a few meters below his face. The digger’s immense legs churned on either side of him. He was pretty far from the ground, fearful that the
    COCA:2010:FIC
    week, of how often I sat alone even when there were people sitting on either side of me. II. THE END OF THE TOUR AFTER I LEFT Santa
    COCA:2010:FIC
    Michael are waiting for me. Mom has her hair in two lopsided ponytails on either side of her head, and her face is red and splotchy. Michael’s
    COCA:2010:FIC
    ” but I swear it was in self-defense. ” I put my hands on either side of his face and force him to meet my eyes. ” Okay now
    COCA:2010:FIC
    rising sun illuminated the mountains, turned their snowcapped peaks lavender and pink. On either side of her, thousands of bare, spindly apple trees showed through the snow
    COCA:2010:FIC
    looks like she has blue eyes, and shes blond. ” No one on either side of their families was fair, except his own grandmother, which seemed like
    COCA:2010:FIC
    . As soon as we got off the highway a low-lying fog had settled on either side of the narrow two-lane country road snaking up into the mountains. I could
    COCA:2010:FIC
    for he nodded again to Master Ah Chung, who in turn lit tapers on either side of the altar, clapped twice ceremonially, and unlocked the cabinet. Then
    COCA:2010:FIC
    the front. Towering columns circled with vines of green and violet wisteria stood on either side of the broad front steps, and the air was thick with the fragrance
    COCA:2010:FIC
    . The telephone was on the table between them, and they sat composed on either side of it like a formal double portrait. Titans of industry, awaiting a
    COCA:2010:FIC
    jeans and a shirt from Agns B., strolling to school with the girls on either side of me, holding their hands, the stroll of a mother who has
    COCA:2010:FIC


    So much for description. Turning to prescriptive works, we find that Bryan Garner (the most respected and reflective prescriptivist you will find, and far less black-and-white and windmill-tilting than his most fulminating critic Geoff Pullum):

    Either in this sense [houses on either side of the street] is less common than each (or both). But it is perfectly idiomatic

    Respected? For better or worse, yes – if five stars from 37 out of 39 Amazon reviewers counts in the slightest. Reflective? Sure! Have you read his 13-page prefatory essay “Making peace in the language wars”? (I wish those who rail unthinkingly against anyone offering advice on usage would do so.)
    Your slightly less acclaimed Associated Press Stylebook says no? Well, good luck to them! Do you follow them when they demand the witness’s answer but the witness’ story? No, I thought not. They set determine style for a restricted clientèle of consenting adult ignoramuses; they are not sane arbiters of usage beyond that role.
    Now, earlier I provided a link to a search (see “Standard Four-Square Middle American”) that yielded occurrences of on either side of from works published in Chicago. Eventually we are entitled to ask: “Does any evidence that contradicts your opinion count at all?” If it does not, then we might be excused from treating you as one who is interested in seeking out the facts.

  116. = “They determine style …”

  117. So as far as I’m concerned, no one has been able to document that it is an American usage
    Except for all the Americans who keep telling you it is. But just ignore them; you know better.
    Don’t forget that I am not just one person with a unique vocabulary. My midwest American accent is very ordinary, very standard.
    Ah yes, once again we see that Nijma is the determinant of all usage everywhere. What she says, goes.

  118. There is great consolation in being very ordinary, very standard. Or rather, in thinking that one is. It entitles one to regard everything out of the ordinary as incomprehensible or reprehensible. Travelling wives was a classic example. Social accounting made easy !

  119. Perhaps needless to say: I chose Garrison Keillor because I figured that he knows as well as anyone how they talk in Wobegon.

  120. I chose Garrison Keillor because I figured that he knows as well as anyone how they talk in Wobegon
    A more cautious assessment would be that he knows how to create a patchwork of locutions in which everyone feels he recognizes something familiar from that part of the country. If everyone in Woebegon spoke exactly like Keillor, he would be nothing special, and so would not have become famous for speaking like everybody.

  121. I was ignoring the distinction between how Keillor talks (or writes) and how his fictional creations talk, and also the distinction between the literal Wobegon (a fictitious place created by Keillor) and the figurative one (Nijma’s community of origin).

  122. OK then: If everyone in Wobegon spoke exactly like Keillor’s characters, they would be nothing special, and so he would not have become famous for creating characters who speak like everybody.

  123. Is this levels of discourse again?

  124. No, just eddying around.

  125. marie-lucie says:

    English negation: I think I have got too far out on a limb with negation. I have to pause, at least to regain my breath.
    On the other hand, I think that I now understand what Noetica meant by Jane Austen’s “either … or” including “and”: but to my mind “either a fortune or high rank”, or “either her father or her mother” and similar examples seem to imply “OR BOTH”, while modern usage would require this to be spelled out.
    On either side: I have lived on both coasts of Canada and it seems to me that this phrase is quite frequent in ordinary speech.
    It does perform a useful function, because it does not mean exactly the same (or at least, does not have the same connotations) as “on both sides”: in all of Noetica’s examples above, “on either side” applies to entities that have bilateral symmetry, so “whichever of the two sides” one considers, the statements apply to each side, usually as a matter of course. “On both sides” would insist on the duality or symmetry of whatever is stated about the entity, where there is normally no need for such insistence.
    Here for instance is the last one of Noetica’s examples: … strolling to school with the girls on either side of me, holding their hands: the mother has one girl on each side of her, a natural configuration. But … with the girls on both sides of me/on both my sides seem strange, because it seems to indicate that there is something special about the position of the girls vis-a-vis the mother.
    Similarly, my relatives on either side of the family… usually announces some unremarkable feature shared by the two sets of relatives, while my relatives on both sides … seems to announce something unexpected (unusual origin, outlandish tastes or behaviour, for instance), that one would not expect to be symmetrically distributed.
    Nijma’s quotations (previous evaluations removed):
    There were lions on either side of the door. (this is where ornamental lions could be expected to be placed, symmetrically vis-a-vis the door)
    There were lions on each side of the door. (a neutral, generic description, which does not indicate duality, and would also be appropriate to an object with more than two sides)
    There were lions on both sides of the door. (this seems to imply that a lion or lions on one side only would have been enough decoration)
    In other words, “either side of” occupies a middle ground between the underspecified “each side of” and the overspecified “both sides of”.

  126. English negation: I think I have got too far out on a limb with negation. I have to pause, at least to regain my breath.
    Negation makes my head spin, too. That’s why I was initially content to leave warnings that you have to be careful with negation, before I plunged in anyway and confused myself and everyone else.
    Personally, however, I don’t think negation has changed that much since Austen’s day. The whole problem with negation is that negating a positive statement doesn’t necessarily yield the (negative) mirror image of the positive statement. And the linguistic interactions that cause that are not necessarily captured by the straight application of logic.
    ‘Either .. or’ means ‘this one’ OR ‘this one’, giving a choice. (In terms of my explanation above, it means ‘take your pick, whichever you pick is fine’).
    ‘Neither.. nor’ means ‘not this one’ AND ‘not this one’. (In terms of my explanation above, it means ‘take your pick, whichever you pick is NOT fine’).
    The inevitable result of the linguistic logic is what Noetica noticed: when it goes negative, ‘either this or that’ turns into ‘not this and also not that’.
    As far as I can see, this has not changed since Austen’s time.

  127. LH: Ah yes, once again we see that Nijma is the determinant of all usage everywhere.
    Ha, ha, along with Betty Azar, Raymond Murphy, the Associated Press, and the OED, all of which I cited above. I realize it’s customary for commenters here to make sweeping generalizations and unsupported assertions about dialects and even languages they don’t speak, but I have limited myself to my own, with citations…for now.
    Except for all the Americans who keep telling you it is.
    I make that American singular, and one who lives in Boston, or should I say Bwahston. I have discussed this more than once on the thread above and also on the other thread. A review of the above thread will show that I wrote:

    Also on the other thread was a Bostonian who said it was indeed used in Boston, a usage I do not doubt, which I regard with a degree of amiable tolerance.

    How does that merit “But just ignore them; you know better.” It seems I have acknowledged them with much better grace than has been accorded me on this thread.

  128. As for “had not either a fortune or high rank”: since negation doesn’t give a mirror image of the positive sentence, it doesn’t really tell you whether his mother demanded ‘fortune OR high rank’ or ‘fortune AND high rank’. All it does is negate both of them. In other words, whether the mother wanted one or both is irrelevant. The only implication is that of getting neither.

  129. Nij, you are at pains to demonstrate that ‘either’ meaning ‘both’ is incorrect.
    So do you regard the following as incorrect?
    Either way, you win.
    Either one of the solutions is acceptable.
    In either case…

  130. Bathrobe, I’m not sure that Nijma is disallowing ‘either’ for ‘both’ as generally as that.
    All three of your examples are concerned with situations where one thing OR another will happen.

  131. Nijma, Is it your theory that the COCA citations supplied by Noetica all come from Boston, New York, and other places where they don’t really speak and write American? And, seriously, what about Walter Cronkite?

  132. Noetica: Now, earlier I provided a link to a search (see “Standard Four-Square Middle American”) that yielded occurrences of on either side of from works published in Chicago. Eventually we are entitled to ask: “Does any evidence that contradicts your opinion count at all?” If it does not, then we might be excused from treating you as one who is interested in seeking out the facts.
    I have made it clear more than once that I am unable to view many of your links, including that one. I am however able to see your link to the Corpus of Contemporary American English. It looks to me like the search only looks for the phrase “either side of” without trying to determine whether it’s used in the sense of “each” (as a pronoun or adjective), “either of two”, or “either of more than two”.
    The first one, an interview with Texan Barbara Bush, might be a good illustration of the OED’s admonition about avoiding misunderstandings:

    term. A lot of freshmen in college, don’t even want to admit they have parents much less their parent is a president. So that was difficult for them. And also, mainly it was the criticism. BLITZER: The criticism of — BUSH: Of their father. We knew that. We had been the children of a president. And we knew when George decided to run that that’s what happens. It’s not just what happens to a Republican president now, as we see, it’s what happens to anyone, on either side of the aisle, that serves in the office of president of the United States. There’s always a loud chorus of complaint from the other side-or even from your own friends. BLITZER: How did Barbara and Jenna happened that will criticism? BUSH: Well, I think they just lived with it. They knew about it because they were born the year their grandfather was elected vice president. So it was something they were aware of. And of course, as they wrote to the Obama

    Ignoring for the moment that Bush is from Texas, and might not express things like the rest of y’all, it’s pretty obvious to anyone who follows American politics that above usage mans “either of two”. I’m not sure someone unfamiliar with the layout of congressional aisles would get it.
    Bryan Garner. Another Texan, a language I don’t speak, whose specialty is lawyerese. Meh. I’m sure he’s a very fine person. I’m not sure his opinion cancels out two grammarians, a major style guide, and the OED.
    They [AP] set determine style for a restricted clientèle of consenting adult ignoramuses; they are not sane arbiters of usage beyond that role.
    A bit dramatic, no? Consenting adult!?!! I’ve never heard the AP was into porn. In fact, their style guide is the bible of newspaper reporting. It’s hugely influential. Many services use the AP guide rather than write one of their own.
    A little simple poking around in the literature will quickly show “one who is interested in seeking out the facts” that using “on either side” to mean “both sides” is far from being a normal, uncontroversial expression.

  133. Bathrobe, I think all three of your examples are in the “either of two” genre.

  134. m-l:There were lions on each side of the door. (a neutral, generic description, which does not indicate duality, and would also be appropriate to an object with more than two sides)
    For me this conjures up visions of a closed door, with the sound of growling and shredding coming from the other side. Then you turn around and see teeth….
    There were lions on both sides of the door. (this seems to imply that a lion or lions on one side only would have been enough decoration)
    This conjures up a totally different vision, of a bas-relief of a lion nailed to the door, and another on the inside when you open the door.
    The whole thing reminds me of early efforts to find gender neutral occupational descriptions by taking off “man” and adding “person”. So policeman became the unwieldy “police person”, not the more logical “police officer”. Following the AP guide would probably just lead to the writing of phrases that were even more trite and confusing, when a complete rewrite is needed.
    I got to wondering about a local building with two such lions on the outside. How were such lions actually being described in real life, apart from all the theorizing? It turns out “flank” and “guard” are the popular descriptions.

  135. Nij, I hate to say this, but I think it is a normal, uncontroversial expression. It’s just that it happens to have dropped out of your own particular variety of English.
    Using ‘either’ to mean ‘both’, or ‘any’ to mean ‘all’, isn’t particularly strange or exceptional in English. For example:
    ANY time of day or night, you can see dogs defecating in the street means You can see dogs defecating in the street ALL times of the day or night.
    ‘Any’ offers the choice out of all (see my interpretation above of ‘either’ and ‘any’ as offering choices); ‘either’ offers a choice out of two. The use of ‘any’ and ‘either’ in English is far from straightforward, and depending on the particular linguistic context, can mean ‘one of many/one of two’, ‘none of many/none of two’, ‘all of many/both of two’. These kinds of word are a difficult aspect of language.
    Empty, you are right that Either way, you win etc. is concerned with a situation where one thing OR another will happen. But the implication is still that of a choice between two eventualities in which BOTH are valid. Similarly, ‘either side of the street’ is a choice between two places in which BOTH are valid.
    In Nijma’s variety of English, the ‘either side of the [place]‘ locution has dropped out of use, but as far as English is concerned, it’s not really strange or exceptional. And the ‘on either side of the aisle’ example, while it sounds like it’s giving you a choice (one side of the aisle or the other) is actually affirming that whichever side of the aisle the president should happen to come from, the kids of presidents have to deal with public criticism of their parents. It truly does mean ‘both’.
    So I wish people would lay off criticising Nijma for not speaking quite the same English that they do, and equally, I wish Nijma would back off from maintaining that her particular variety is somehow ‘standard’ or ‘more correct’ than that of her detractors. Neither attitude really helps.

  136. Bathrobe,
    It occurs to me that maybe your question about the three statements being “incorrect” means something like are they idiomatic or do they “sound funny”. They sound perfectly fine. One of your other examples didn’t sound right though:
    You can be neither beautiful nor intelligent — you are destined to be ugly and stupid all your life.
    Sounds stilted and “foreign”, or maybe archaic.

  137. You can be neither beautiful nor intelligent — you are destined to be ugly and stupid all your life.
    Sounds stilted and “foreign”, or maybe archaic.
    I would say it sounds a little stilted because it’s not colloquial spoken English. Perhaps it’s a little literary or even slightly old-fashioned, but it’s certainly not foreign or archaic.

  138. Either there’s a pattern of recurrent behavior here, or I’m a monkey’s uncle.
    1. Child is allowed to stay up too late when guests are visiting, becomes fretful, stubborn and exasperating.
    2. Child is confined to its room the next few times that guests are visiting.
    3. Child puts on its best behavior.
    4. Child by degrees is allowed to stay up for longer and longer when guests are visiting.
    5. One of the regular guests takes note of this.
    6. Goto 1
    I’m thinking of Eric Berne’s Games People Play. Perhaps a version of “Why Does This Always Happen To Me” is being played out here. I found this paraphrase on the net:

    ‘Kick Me’. “This is played by men whose social manner is equivalent to wearing a sign that reads ‘Please Don’t Kick Me’.” People who meet him just can’t resist the temptation to give him a metaphorical kick at which point he moans that the sign says ‘don’t kick me’. He can then play the game ‘Why Does This Always Happen To Me’ which is a game of one-upmanship where the man with the best set of misfortunes wins… ‘There I Go Again’ is another game in the ‘Kick Me’ family that is popular with depressives.

    “Co-dependency” is another useful expression that gained currency in the ’60s. The idea is older, though: it takes two (or more) contributors to tangle, even when a pretending-to-be-objective contributor is there to taunt. “Wenn zwei sich streiten, freut sich der Dritte” [when two people bicker with each other, the third person looks on with glee] is itself a Game. Certain contemporary German philosophers refer to it dismissively as Ideologiekritik – the same word that was used earlier in a positive sense by Marxists to describe what they practice.

  139. Dear Monkey’s Uncle:
    Many outcomes are products of our behaviour.
    (Am I contradicting myself here?)

  140. That’s what I meant. Nobody gets full marks, not even the sarcastic Uncle.

  141. Bathrobe,
    I appreciate your peacemaking efforts, but I am not sure that any one has “critici[zed] Nijma for not speaking quite the same English that they do”.
    Nijma,
    Out of the 16 COCA citations in Noetica’s post, there are a few — two, I think — that have no relevance to the point he is making. You indicated one of them. The rest are definitely relevant: clearly of the “on both sides” kind, like the trees in the courtyard or the lions by the door. Look at the quotes. (But on the other hand they may all have originated in Massachusetts or New York or California or Texas or Missouri or Montana or Georgia or somewhere weird like that. Who can say for sure?)
    The OED says that this sort of phrase is “felt to be somewhat arch.“. Pretty mild stuff. “felt to be”. “somewhat”.
    Webster’s New World Dictionary has 2. each (of two); the one and the other [he had a tool in either hand].
    You may be right that the AP Stylebook is “hugely influential”. That would not contradict Noetica’s assertion that its authors are “not sane arbiters of usage [...]“.

  142. I wish Nijma would back off from maintaining that her particular variety is somehow ‘standard’ or ‘more correct’ than that of her detractors.
    I’m just the messenger, I don’t make this stuff up. America does have dialects, and some of them can be very hard to understand for someone who is not from the region. By “standard” I mean the sort of English that is spoken on national television. Not-NewEngland, not-South, not-NewYork. You don’t get to choose your accent, you’re born with it, and I was lucky to be born in a region where the most standard type of English is spoken. People who want jobs in national television sometimes spend a lot of money for coaches to lose their accents, but I don’t know whether it works or not. ESL students sometimes ask me about the different accents, especially AAVE, but it’s not something I can teach.
    I would say it sounds a little stilted
    Ah, I had thought those sentences were produced spontaneously because they were ordinary sentences in Oz. So it’s a different register from ordinary speech.
    In Nijma’s variety of English, the ‘either side of the [place]‘ locution has dropped out of use
    Not exactly, because the meaning is still recognizable. It’s just not the sort of thing that would be produced spontaneously. But rather than get angry because someone speaks differently from the way I do, or decide that they have an attitude because they have a different word choice and dare to say so, I find it piques my curiosity, so I want to know exactly where the older usage is still current, and why. That’s part of the fascination of language.
    So far it looks like the Oz and Boston are the prime candidates. Both were settled by English speakers, both were colonies. I am reminded of Iceland where the histories of the Norwegian kings and the stories of the ancient gods were preserved by those who had immigrated. Always the New Country preserves the old ways longer. I suspect speech patterns too. But my ancestors spoke Danish, Norwegian, Swedish, French, German. Is there some leveling process at work here that strips out usages that are unwieldy, confusing, duplicative, complex, so that people who are not homogeneous populations can understand each other better?

  143. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: lions at the door:
    I did not invent those sentences, neither did you but you posted them. I tried to explain them in the way the author meant them (at least the two that he found acceptable), but I too thought of a possible interpretation with lion figures (or even real lions) not flanking the door as seen from the outside (as the author intended), but on the outside and inside of the door. The ambiguity is in the meaning of “side” as applied to a door, considered either by itself (with front and back possibly decorated with lions, or even guarded by them) or as set in the wall of a house, possibly flanked by real or figured lions.

  144. So far it looks like the Oz and Boston are the prime candidates.
    You are really starting to talk nonsense here. Your generalisation is based nothing more than your own perception that posters declaring this to be normal English are from these places. Empty’s (American) dictionary example a tool in either hand is obviously insufficient to convince you that this might actually be standard English, even in the States. Instead you have to concoct fanciful theories to explain why your detracters are wrong and you are right. You really are venturing into some kind of solipsist, surrealist wonderland here. Why can’t you just admit that this usage is perfectly acceptable English, although not used in your own particular variety, instead of adopting the attitude that your own English is naturally superior because you were “lucky to be born in a region where the most standard type of English is spoken”. (And sorry to burst your bubble, but I’m afraid that there are plenty of English speakers who would not regard Mid-West as being “the most standard type of English”).

  145. marie-lucie says:

    Nijma: Is there some leveling process at work here that strips out usages that are unwieldy, confusing, duplicative, complex, so that people who are not homogeneous populations can understand each other better?
    There is indeed a levelling process at work, especially in big cities, but the usages that get “stripped out” are not necessarily the ones you mention, and levelling can go towards complication as well as towards simplification. Things are often quite unpredictable that way.
    If you are interested, you could look up books on sociolinguistics. David Crystal would be a good choice, very well-informed but writing for non-specialists.

  146. I want to know exactly where the older usage is still current, and why. That’s part of the fascination of language.
    So far it looks like the Oz and Boston are the prime candidates.
    All four of my grandparents were from Kansas. My parents were from Montana and California. I spent most of my life in the Midwest (Michigan). I never spent any appreciable time in Boston or New Englsnd.
    As I said earlier, to me this is a perfectly normal expression.
    Anyone else care, for Nijma’s benefit, to add to the list of countries/regions where this type of expression is still in common use?

  147. You really are venturing into some kind of solipsist, surrealist wonderland here.
    Yeah, it’s all conjecture, without sorting out any data, and I sure don’t have the background to do that. But it’s interesting conjecture.
    As far as the marketability of accents, a British accent is probably the most marketable, in Europe at least, and probably worldwide.
    I did not invent those sentences, neither did you but you posted them.
    Yes it’s straight from AP stylebook.
    Interesting the ripple effect from that:
    “Wrong: There were lions on either side of the door.”

  148. All the links can be traced back to the same source — the AP stylebook, which, it seems, has decided to stigmatise ‘either’ in the meaning of ‘both’ with the following prescriptive rule:
    either Use it to mean one or the other, not both.
    Right: She said to use either door.
    Wrong: There were lions on either side of the door.
    Right: There were lions on each side of the door. There were lions on both sides of the door.
    Stylebooks generally stigmatise usages because they’re in widespread use, not because they’re rare or strange. So it seems that the stylebook actually proves the opposite of what Nijma has been saying.
    Whether this usage is really wrong is another question. Someone has taken it into his/her own hands to decide that a prevalent usage is wrong. Perhaps a person who speaks one of them dialects (like Nijma’s) where ‘on either side’ has fallen into disuse and feels that it sounds kind of funny. This person has obviously sat down and, armed with a not-terribly-sophisticated model of English linguistics and relying on a bit of superficial introspection, has alighted on the notion that ‘either’ should mean only ‘one or the other’, not ‘both’. Noetica has come up with plenty of examples that disprove this particularly amateurish insight, but once a rule has found its way into prescripivist bibles it is very difficult to dislodge.
    To be consistent, however, the amateur who made up the rule should have outlawed ALL usages where ‘either’ means ‘both’ or ‘any’ means ‘all’, including ‘anywhere you go’, which obviously has to be rewritten ‘everywhere you go’, etc., etc. Unfortunately, deep insight into the workings of language and an understanding of logic are beyond the grasp of most prescriptivists, who are more often interested in expunging certain bees from their own bonnets than they are in improving clarity of writing.

  149. From this blog
    50 most common writing errors. (Couldn’t hurt – Might help)
    I got this from a friend. It was evidently posted by the guys that edit the Wake up and Live the Life you Love series. I hope it helps. I’ve printed a copy to put next to my desk. :O)
    In 1975, the Writing and Editing Committee of The Associated Press Managing Editors Association created a list of the “50 common errors in newspaper writing.” Most editors believe that the list continues to have great applicability to writing in 2008.
    Of course, essay writing, technical writing and feature writing differ from standard news style. Still, your prose has to be clear in order to be understood. If it is not understood, what’s the point in writing? On the other hand, there’s no need to surrender poetry, metaphor, or creative expression. Even in such cases, however, words have to be properly used if they are to be effective. Following the rules of standard usage does not “limit creativity” any more than accepting the law of gravity prevents dance, flight, or basketball.
    The editors at the New Caledonian Press have made certain additions and clarifications to the “List of 1975.” If you have a nagging question that prevents you from being confident about your writing, this list could prove a useful tool. We hope so.
    This list is often a desk-side reference for new writers and for experienced authors. It’s a quick check to confirm the feeling, “I knew that.” Resorting to a glance at the list is not the act of an amateur; it’s the duty of a real pro.
    So it appears that prescriptivist rules now have equivalent validity to the law of gravity. Among the rules that this page lists are:
    20. Hopefully. One of the most commonly misused words. In spite of what the dictionary may say, hopefully should describe the way the subject feels.
    Wrong: Hopefully, I shall present the plan to the president.
    Right: I will be hopeful when I present the plan to the president.
    Wrong: Hopefully the war will end soon.
    Right: I hope the war will end soon.
    Right: The little dog waited hopefully near the schoolhouse door.
    Nothing to say here. It’s all been said before.
    30. Nouns. There’s a growing trend toward using them as verbs. Resist it. Host,
    headquarters and author, for instance, are nouns, even though the dictionary may acknowledge they can be used as verbs. If you do, you’ll come up with a monstrosity like: “Headquartered at his country home, John Doe hosted a party to celebrate the book he had authored.”

    Monstrosity? Only ‘headquartered’ sounds obtrusive to me.
    47. Up. Do not use it as a verb.
    Wrong: The manager said he would up the price next week.
    Right: The manager said he would raise the price next week.
    Presumably we are not allowed to ‘up the ante’, either. Another standard (if hackneyed) expression bites AP’s prescriptivist dust.

  150. If I sound like my dander is up, it is. I am affronted by the gall of some nameless editor in stigmatising as incorrect a usage — one of my own personal usages — that is perfectly correct. Why do we have to suffer at the hands of these morons?

  151. How are you supposed to wake up and live the life you love when some idiot comes barging into your life with baseless rules like “‘either’ can’t be used to mean ‘both’”? Do these people realise how stultifying their petty actions are? Inspirational words concealing gratuitous snares are not the path to living the life you love.

  152. leaving her less occasion than Julia
    nobody yet ranted here about the less/few confusion. Less seems to be rabidly wiping out the few, with teachers complaining they get blank stares from children when trying to explain the difference, and journalists and officials using it all the time: less hospital staff, less police on the street, less bankers in the City, etc.

  153. “Less occasion” but “fewer occasions”. “Less occasion” doesn’t appear to be “wrong” here….

  154. I would say “on either side of the door” to mean both sides. For me, it’s a context thing: sometimes I’d use “either” and sometimes “both”. As well as being very out-of-date and subjective the AP’s style guide seems to be written with the gullible and insecure in mind; don’t worry about it DG, it’s not for you. When I find I’ve somehow gotten hold of a book like that, I explode it in my garden; that usually does the trick.

  155. Does it help your garden wake up and live the life it loves, though?

  156. If the rule was spawned in 1975, it’s quite possible the ignoramus who visited it upon us is now dead. Unfortunately, his/her baleful influence still lives on and is being peddled (not pedalled — the insecure are referred to the guide) to us as some kind of linguistic proof by none other than our own Nijma.

  157. I cannot quite go along with Nijma’s assertion that the Associated Press Big Book of Language Do’s and Dont’s is the bible of journalism. You could call it the Leviticus of journalism, maybe, but since it does not actually call for death penalties even that would be a stretch.

  158. Either there’s a pattern of recurrent behavior here, or I’m a monkey’s uncle.
    You are not a monkey’s uncle, and I’m pretty fed up with Nijma’s smug ignorance and derailing of interesting threads with her patented brand of nonsense. She could make me a happy man by staying away.

  159. Having observed this for almost two years, I’m convinced that Nijma now does it all deliberately, in order to annoy. She decks herself out with bits of book-larnin’ from here, there and the internet, but has proved to be neither well-read nor reasonable on most of the subjects she decides to clamp down on. She seems to think that educated discussion is just another party to gate-crash.
    I have the impression that not a few people here would agree with me, but wouldn’t want to say so, at least not in the words I’m using. It’s a pity so many people make an effort to be nice to her, because that removes any incentive for her to clean up her act – if that were possible. Harsh words are the only thing that have quelled her in the past. Some people are just like that.

  160. Quite true, and since it’s my blog, I don’t see why I should have to put up with it. She does, after all, have her own blog.

  161. Not that I believe myself to be a model of judicious restraint. But at least I can laugh at myself and admit I’m wrong – simultaneously !

  162. It’s a damn shame to feel I have to justify myself as in my last comment, but that’s the kind of emotional turmoil Nijma creates here – I’m sure it’s not restricted to me. Not her opinions, but her ignernt insistence on them is the problem. Her behavior turns polite people into hypocrites against their will. It gives politeness a bad name.

  163. Stu, thank you for speaking up. Spot-on about codependency, emotional turmoil, and bits of book-larnin’.
    Many of us have our shabby bits of learning to show off; the difference is that most of us are ready to learn, to try to think in new ways, and to defer at times to someone who actually knows something.
    By way of quibbles or demurrers: I wouldn’t speak of gate-crashing, because it’s not an invitation-only party. And I think it is unnecessarily inflammatory to attribute intent to an annoyer. But otherwise spot-on.

  164. marie-lucie says:

    Ø: I think it is unnecessarily inflammatory to attribute intent to an annoyer.
    I think so too.
    Perhaps it is because, as a non-native speaker, I don’t have a lifelong preference for one of the varieties of English, but I am surprised at the degree of animosity that is coming out in the last few comments. Please, all of you, take a few deep breaths and relax.

  165. You’re right, empty. I didn’t think about gate-crashing implying invitation-only. But I counter-demur (remurmur ?) as to this attribution of intent being unnecessarily inflammatory. I may decide later that I had been wrong or unfair about Nijma having such an intent, but that doesn’t make the charge “unnecessary” now, whether or not “inflammatory” – for the simple reason that I have what I regard as plausible reasons for making it.
    One of the things I remember so vividly about Games People Play – possibly this was so for many other people as well – is the astonishing idea set out there that the results of “negative” behavior displayed by person A (“negative” seen from the outside, so to speak, by person B), can be interpreted as somehow experienced by A herself as a “positive payoff”, i.e. in terms of A’s goals and values.
    In one way the idea was not new to me. Small children often seem hell-bent on driving their parents crazy, by intentionally doing what they have been told time and again not to do. The payoff for the children is getting the parents to do something the parents don’t want to do, namely get angry. Children normally have to do a lot of things they don’t want to do, so it’s nice to turn the tables for once. It’s all part of learning to get along with other people. A similar phenomenon seems to crop up again in adolescents, in the form of intentionally annoying and frightening behavior.
    But who woulda thunk that there are so many types of “negative” behavior displayed by adults that meet complex desires/needs/etc. in them, that do not require silly reductionist psychoanalytic assumptions to explain (subconscious, superego etc.), but instead can be empathized with as games ? Using Berne’s metaphors such as “Wooden leg” and “Kick me”, one can now playfully imagine one’s way into another person’s “world”, without having to shrink their heads.
    One-off behavior does not make a game. It’s the repetition of behavior that makes the ears perk up, and the mind look for the payoff, the old cui bonum. I have had ample opportunity to recognize the basic chords that Nijma plays, since I am here at hat so much and read her comments along with everyone else’s. Her first major gig was about nine months ago. Up till then, she just cycled through anger, outrageousness and hurt feelings over and over, like a player piano. Nothing anyone said to her in remonstrance could daunt her. She seemed to have no self-respect, but finally she slunk away.
    Over the past months, I have velly, velly cautiously watched her velly, velly cautious attempts to reinstate herself. Because I didn’t want to (be seen to !) be a recriminatory shithead, on several occasions I almost composed a comment with a friendly nod in her direction. But I stopped myself in time, because I was uncertain how this was going to pan out, and was filled with premonitions. Sure enough, her old symptoms cropped up gradually, and the nice people got pinned by their niceness to the butterfly board. This behavior is very similar to Berne’s “There I Go Again” in a depressive person.
    But Nijma seems to me to be much more in control than she has been in the past. She clearly is conscious of what she’s doing. She cannot fail to have understood that she is annoying hat and others, since they have told her as much – any yet she doesn’t let up. Sure looks like low-key vindictiveness to me. What else could it be called ? Why is it inconceivable that she is doing it intentionally? “Intelligence” can be played all kinds of ways. There is some kind of a payoff here for her, otherwise she would not be doing again what she did in the past, in just the same ways. To regard her as a poor lil’ Nijma would be to belittle her, and would be playing along with one of her games, namely “There I Go Again”. Here be co-dependency. Thus the need to draw a line, instead of persisting in complicity with her.
    Where do I get off, you may ask, thinking up such awful things about Nijma ? Well, I don’t have to think that much, actually. There are more things in common between her and me than I care to consider too closely but that many people have witnessed here in the past – emotional insecurity, intransigence and a tendency to lash out without warning. It’s just that I have been able to doll up my act more superbly than she does – for which I take no credit. Takes one to know one. Jes’ sayin’.

  166. What’s interesting is how certain turns of phrase can elicit such strong preferences. I believe it was dearieme who first brought up the “either side of” type locution on this thread, saying that shooting was too good for those who used it. For myself, I must admit, though I never really thought about it before, that I’m partial to it—not just neutral. Just as those who hate it have every reason to want to downplay its currency, those who like it, like myself, will tend to want to do the opposite.
    I haven’t seen any evidence that the usage is strongly regional. It’s venerable, but certainly not universal, or universally approved (as dearieme, Nijma, and APA show). I don’t really care about that. But the strong preferences are interesting in themselves. Marie-Lucie, are individual preferences something field linguists trying to determine usage have thoughts about, or methods of dealing with?

  167. I don’t actually have a strong preference, either. I would never have thought about it if it hadn’t been brought up in this blog. But I do get riled by people pontificating that it’s incorrect English. Who are they to decide?

  168. Grumbly, I know you are pretty annoyed, and this kerfluffle over one very minor use of ‘either’ is only being kept alive by a certain obduracy on Nij’s part. But still, that was a mightily personal and bruising attack you posted above and it doesn’t make nice reading. Can’t we use our intellectual skills and learning to try and finesse this a bit more gracefully?

  169. marie-lucie says:

    Marie-Lucie, are individual preferences something field linguists trying to determine usage have thoughts about, or methods of dealing with?
    Field linguists are those who study languages where they are spoken (as opposed to through reading existing grammars and other published sources), usually among smaller, little-known populations whose languages have not been described, or not in much depth. In such a context, determining individual preferences is secondary to getting a picture of the features of the language shared unequivocally by the general population.
    For better-known languages (especially the linguist’s own), differences between identifiable groups (regional, social, etc) are the province of sociolinguistics. Differences between individuals usually relate to the group membership of such individuals. With the major, widely distributed, internationally spoken languages, taught at every level of the educational system, individual differences would also blend in with the educational background.
    Beyond that, I think that linguistics blends into stylistics, a well-established literary discipline, which need not in principle be limited to written works. I can’t be very specific on this topic, since I am not very familiar with “micro-descriptions” of individual speaking styles (in so far as those styles might be different from that of the population the individual belongs to) or with the theory behind them, and my own specialty (dealing with history and classification) is quite different in its scope, purposes and methods.

  170. Allow me to say that I regret the descent into personalities which seems to be taking place, and I doubly regret that the person who (in my opinion) should be repressing that descent is apparently taking sides.

  171. LH:
    Some recent comments here are understandable but regrettable. I have thought a good deal about this thread and its dynamics, and as a long-time friend of the forum I now make what I think is an unprecedented suggestion – or rather, an unprecedented request. I would not do so if the matter were of little consequence.
    I recommend that no one post anything precipitate here at all now, nor indirectly on any other thread concerning anything here. I propose that this thread be closed down for one week, during which I’m confident that some of us will have a revised thought or two, and enter into the odd less public communication. If no one objects (in an email to you) to the thread being opened after a week, let it then be re-opened. Let’s see if we can finish the discussion after a break, all on better terms. I know that there is abundant good will here, and also that it has been imperfectly manifested recently.

  172. Nah, I’ve said my piece and made my decision. People can say what they want, or move on to other threads if they like.
    I doubly regret that the person who (in my opinion) should be repressing that descent is apparently taking sides.
    Oh, please. It’s not a matter of “taking sides,” it’s a matter of my getting fed up with someone who’s been taking advantage of my tolerance for too long. Grumbly expresses my feelings very well.

  173. anything precipitate
    Sorry, I can’t resist it:
    ‘If you are not part of the precipitate, you are part of the solution’
    (it’s a favourite t-shirt slogan, but I don’t know if there’s an attribution)

  174. shucks, it’s the other way round: if you are not part of the solution, you are part of the precipitate.

  175. Back to the positive of negatives.
    Does the sentence at the top of this page properly express what the author (Lewis Mumford) meant?

  176. marie-lucie says:

    MMcM, what sentence do you mean? Perhaps the page you saw was not the one that appears when clicking on your link.

  177. marie-lucie, MMcM’s links never work for me either. I suspect he has some kind of subscription with GoogleBooks. When you don’t have a subscription and try to follow his links, you get stopped at an overview page.

  178. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks, Grumbly, that must be the problem.

  179. They don’t work outside the USA, so you have to utilize a substitute server. Dr Kehoe in Ireland once showed us how:
    [everyone's eyes glaze over]

    …What you need to do to read the book, if you’re not in the US, is:
    1. Go to the page with the list of proxy servers. 
2. Pick one of the US proxies, in our case, let’s say, http://www.incognitobrowse.info/ 
3. Enter the URL of my link above where it say “Enter the URL address”
4. Click “Surf Now!”
    That gives a version of the Google page where you can read the book or download it as a PDF. Posted by Aidan Kehoe at October 23, 2009 02:05 PM

  180. Sorry. I wanted to include some context. Here is sentence alone.

    The inhabitants of modern metropolises are not psychologically too remote from Rome to be unable to appreciate this new form.

  181. m-l, what I then did on my mac was put “Proxy Servers” in my bookmarks toolbar at the top of the page, so it’s easy to access

  182. .

  183. marie-lucie says:

    Thanks, AJP. MMcM, I guessed someone goofed, whether Lewis Mumford or his editor.

  184. After my blithe assurance of how easy it is, I can’t get the page to show either.

  185. Crown, thanks for reminding me of AJ Cronin. I read at least two of his novels in my youf, they were (I think, after checking the WiPe) The Citadel and The Judas Tree. I don’t remember anything concrete, just being spellbound by the writing. I actually remember the way the books looked and felt in my hands – how strange.

  186. Crown, thanks for reminding me of AJ Cronin. I read at least two of his novels in my youf, they were (I think, after checking the WiPe) The Citadel and The Judas Tree. I don’t remember anything concrete, just being spellbound by the writing. I actually remember the way the books looked and felt in my hands – how strange.

  187. I didn’t mean to insist so strongly on Cronin.

  188. marie-lucie says:

    I read “Les clefs du royaume”, a translation of The Keys of the Kingdom, as a young teenager and liked it very much. I don’t know the rest of his work.
    Wikipedia notes that one of Cronin’s grandfathers was a hatter, and one of his books is called Hatter’s Castle.

  189. OK, I obviously need to read Cronin.

  190. MMcM, that sentence suffers from a surfeit of negatives which make its interpretation a little laboured. The problem is:
    not too remote to be unable to appreciate…
    My feeling is that the “too xxx to” structure wasn’t meant to carry a negative in the second part, i.e., to be unable to appreciate makes the sentence ungainly and hard to interpret.
    too remote to be able to appreciate – OK.
    not too remote to be able to appreciate – OK.
    too remote to be unable to appreciate – quite hard to interpret.
    not too remote to be unable to appreciate – better but still a bit hard to interpret. (Better than the preceding because the two negatives at least logically add up to a positive.)
    Put into another structure, it becomes clearer:
    The inhabitants of modern metropolises are not psychologically so remote from Rome that they are unable to appreciate this new form.

  191. Actually, I think I got that wrong. If you try adding and omitting negatives from the whole sentence, you get the following. (Note the each sentence has a different meaning. I’m trying to figure out how easy to interpret each sentence is, not retain the same meaning).
    1. The inhabitants of modern metropolises are psychologically too remote from Rome to be able to appreciate this new form. – Fine
    2. The inhabitants of modern metropolises are not psychologically too remote from Rome to be able to appreciate this new form. – It reads ok, but I’m trying to figure out the meaning.
    3. The inhabitants of modern metropolises are psychologically too remote from Rome to be unable to appreciate this new form. – Can’t make head or tail of it.
    4. The inhabitants of modern metropolises are not psychologically too remote from Rome to be unable to appreciate this new form. – Mumford’s actual sentence. Can be interpreted by cancelling the two negatives, but it’s hard to see the difference from 2.
    The problem definitely seems to be the negative in to be unable to appreciate this new form.

  192. I remember Hatter’s Castle from a 1960s BBC radio version. AJ Cronin is (was) best known in Britain for the 1960s BBC television series Dr Finley’s Casebook, Dr Finley being a Scottish country doctor. Cronin was a physician himself; my doctor in London took over his practice when Cronin retired.

  193. (Finlay.)

  194. It’s worth noting that Bilbo’s verse line is the opposite of the old saying. All that is gold does not glitter asserts that some things (Aragorn in particular) are in fact true gold, though they do not appear to be, whereas the traditional form says that some things which appear to be gold are in fact not gold.
    In Chapter 28 of Mark Twain’s Roughing It, Mark has discovered “a bright fragment” which he takes for silver, and “a deposit of shining yellow scales” which he supposes to be gold. Great is his disillusionment when he presents it to his party:
    “Gentlemen,” said I, “I don’t say anything — I haven’t been around, you know, and of course don’t know anything — but all I ask of you is to cast your eye on that, for instance, and tell me what you think of it!” and I tossed my treasure before them.There was an eager scramble for it, and a closing of heads together over it under the candle-light. Then old Ballou [the most experienced prospecter of the lot] said:
    “Think of it? I think it is nothing but a lot of granite rubbish and nasty glittering mica that isn’t worth ten cents an acre!”
    So vanished my dream. So melted my wealth away. So toppled my airy castle to the earth and left me stricken and forlorn.
    Moralizing, I observed, then, that “all that glitters is not gold.”
    Mr. Ballou said I could go further than that, and lay it up among my treasures of knowledge, that nothing that glitters is gold. So I learned then, once for all, that gold in its native state is but dull, unornamental stuff, and that only low-born metals excite the admiration of the ignorant with an ostentatious glitter. However, like the rest of the world, I still go on underrating men of gold and glorifying men of mica. Commonplace human nature cannot rise above that.

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