avoiding terminal preposition

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Sep 17 22:43:28 UTC 2001

i suppose that scholars of english grammar all have their own
collections of idioms and constructions that cry out for a
clause-final stranded preposition (the usage handbooks list a variety
of these), as well as collections of cites where people tied
themselves in tortured knots so as to avoid the dreaded terminal

here's a nice example i heard on a local show ("Minds Over Matter") on
the san francisco radio station KALW.  talking about a city street,
one of the panelists asked, "Who is it named after?  I mean, for
whom is it named?"

what makes the example nice is that the speaker didn't just shift
from a stranded preposition to its pied-piped equivalent ("After
whom is it named?" - which to my ear is just awful, though perhaps
not so bad as "After which parent does Kim take?" as a substitute for
"Which parent does Kim take after?", or "For what did you eat that
fish?" as a substitute for "What did you eat that fish for?"),
but seems to have unconsciously perceived where that strategy would
lead her and shifted the preposition as well, to one that's more
acceptable in pied piping.

arnold (zwicky at csli.stanford.edu), looking for diversions

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