"First and Only"

Bill Palmer w_a_palmer at BELLSOUTH.NET
Sat Aug 29 15:56:50 UTC 2009

There well may be many more black presidents, and female VP candidates, so
I'd say "first and only" are OK for these folks.  However, Freud's trip to
the US is almost certain to be his "only" one, since his unfortunate demise
has really limited his opportunity for travel.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Laurence Horn" <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
Sent: Saturday, August 29, 2009 11:35 AM
Subject: Re: "First and Only"

> ---------------------- Information from the mail
> header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "First and Only"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 11:12 AM -0400 8/29/09, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>>There are over 12 million raw ghits for "first and only"--over 26000 for
>>"first and only president" alone, e.g.,
>>"photo of Jefferson Davis, first and only President of the Confederate
>>States of America"
>>The sample content demonstrates how this description can be useful and
>>accurate. This does not mean that it is _always_ useful or accurate. But
>>I can see how someone may describe "first and only visit" in the context
>>of a second planned visit that never occurred.
> Or because it's a context in which you might expect there to be more
> than one, like being president of a nation (as in Jeff Davis's case)
> or trip to the U.S. for someone famous like Freud or Dickens, given
> that other internationally renowned writers and scientists more than
> one such trip.   So it's more likely to describe a given Hollywood
> actor's "first and only wife/husband" than to describe his or her
> "first and only death".
> We might, for example, talk about Barack Obama as being the first and
> only African-American president or Geraldine Ferraro as being the
> first and to date only female vice-presidential candidate on a major
> ticket; saying "first" alone would certainly imply that there have
> been others, while saying "only" wouldn't focus on the primacy and
> trail-blazing effect of the referent.
> LH
>>And, after that, it's not
>>much of stretch to extend the use of such language to all exceptional
>>    VS-)
>>Bill Palmer wrote:
>>>In today's NY Times, Leon Hoffman writes "Sigmund Freud arrived in =
>>>Hoboken, N.J., 100 years ago today on his *first and only* visit to the =
>>>United States"
>>>If there is no second time, can there be a first?  Is an ordinal number =
>>>ordinal, if there is no order?  Why not omit the "first and"?
>>>Bill Palmer
>>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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