agenbite of "inwhich"
laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 25 15:49:57 UTC 2005
>Had Kunst been writing in a formal, and perhaps somewhat
>old-fashioned, way, he would have written,
>1. ...an asset, by which means we'll be able...
>But in informal speech, "by which we'll be able" is perfectly fine.
>What makes "in which" impossible here is that the context, involving
>"means" or method or whatever one construes an "asset" to be ("in
>which" isn't the only problem here! ), requires the preposition
>"by." See OED, _by_, 30a.
>And what makes "in which" an even greater horror is the fact that
>for many unpracticed writers (who often write it as "inwhich") tends
>to replace all other "prep. + which" relative constructions, e.g. :
>2. Here's the article inwhich I was telling you.
>rather than idiomatic formal
>3. Here's the article about which I was telling you.
>or the equally idiomatic
>4. Here's the article I was telling you about.
>The most egregious examples are of the sort
>5. Here's the article inwhich I was telling you about,
>in which (n.b.) the idiomatic adverb is preserved at the end of the
>clause, but "which" or "that"
>is erroneously replaced by "inwhich."
>So far as we know, "inwhich/ in which" most typifies "freshman"
>writing that suffers from numerous other syntactical and other
>errors. It is not a feature of any definable spoken dialect (except
>as defined by "inwhich") and, I believe, was first identified in
>writing rather than in speech. That strongly indicates that
>"inwhich" began as hypercorrection (a mistaken "more formal usage")
>or through a difficulty in constructing a relative clause
>idiomatically. The "inwhich" construction, at least twenty years
>ago, seemed to be far more common in the writing of anglophone
>students educated in U.S. high schools than in that of such students
How much responsibility for this development should be laid at the
door of the default last clause of The Essay, viz.
"...and make this world a better place in which to live"
>But since, as David's query innocently implies, "inwhich" represents
>The English Of Tomorrow, who am I, really, to stand in the way of
>Nevertheless, I am right now on my way to space, where no one can
>hear me scream.
>David Bowie <db.list at PMPKN.NET> wrote:
>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: David Bowie
>Subject: Re: agenbite of "inwhich"
>From: Jonathan Lighter
>> The "inwhich" phenomenon has been commented on frequently, but in my
>> experience it's mainly confined to unpracticed writing of the
>> freshman comp sort and is rarely heard in adult speech.
>> But few weeks back Mr. Bob Kunst, who looks to be about 50 and is
>> President of a group called "Hillary Now," responded as follows to a
>> question from Fox News about whether "controversy" might weaken a
>> presidential campaign by Mrs. Clinton :
>> "We see any controversy as an asset in which we'll be able to get
>> more people out to vote."
>> He meant "by which."
>Re: the first paragraph, i've missed all the previous discussion on "in
>which", and as an overeducated nearly-35-year-old, i would simply like
>to say, with utter shock and dread in my voice: You mean there's
>supposed to be a difference between "in which" and "by which"?!?
>I mean, yeah, there's a difference in some contexts, sure, but i see the
>two as pretty much absolutely synonymous in Mr. Kunst's line quoted
>above. (That's probably why i never noticed the discussion on it before,
>i suppose--i didn't see anything of interest in it.)
>Seriously, i don't see the difference--what's it "supposed" to be? I
>mean, if i were *forced* to draw a distinction, i'd probably have
>guessed that "in which" sounds more formal and therefore i'd expect that
>one to be the usage manual form. This is apparently not the case.
> Yep, the scare-quotes were put in on purpose.
>David Bowie http://pmpkn.net/lx
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