Pet peeve

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Tue Oct 31 21:19:10 UTC 2000

>>... as others will undoubtedly note, split infinitives are
>>perfectly acceptable, another 18th c. prescriptivism surviving too
>>long.  In "would change", by the way, "change" is an infinitive.
>>Modals take unmarked infinitives.  The "to" is not what makes a
>>form an infinitive.  It's just one way of marking that status. ...

>Well, that's really a question of definition. ...

The Merriam-Webster English usage dictionary says (in an extended discussion):

"... _to_ is only an appurtenance of the infinitive, which is the
uninflected form of the verb. In many constructions the infinitive is used
alone ...

"Sometime between [1866 and 1900], the split infinitive seems to have
established itself in that subculture of usage existing in the popular
press and in folk belief. ...

"... the objection to the split infinitive has never had a rational basis. ..."

Apparently the prescriptivism was not 18th-century in this case, but only
late-19th-century! IMHO, the prescription -- or proscription -- in this
case is not one which has become outmoded but rather one which was poorly
conceived in the first place.

-- Doug Wilson

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