Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 2 13:30:39 UTC 2009

I learned a totally-straightforward, easily-remembered rule

_The_ number _is_

_A_ number _are_

easily extrapolated to similar cases.

Of course, given that several such easily-remembered prescriptive
rules have been lost over the past half-century, including at least
one rule so "crystal-clear" and "obvious" that there was never any
reason to make mention of a rule governing it:

_never to VP / not to VP_

which has shifted to

_to never VP /to not VP_

possibly a quarter-century or even more ago, you never know. Like,
I've just heard a guy say on local news that "February is going out
like a lion" instead of that "March is coming in like a lion."

Me myself, I have never felt any connection between these types of
strings and the prescriptive rule never to split an infinitive, since,
in my childhood and youth, though, of course, people said things like

decided to really try hard

all of the time, no one that I ever heard speak said

decided to not (really) try hard
decided to (really) not try hard.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

On Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 10:48 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: Snow
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 10:25 PM -0500 3/1/09, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>The object of a preposition cannot be the subject of a sentence. So
>>"inches," not "snow," is (not "are") the subject, and "are" (not "is") is
> So "A lot of people was in the room"? Â "A number of objections was raised"?
> Some historical prep. objects are now heads, e.g. [A lot of][people].
> "A number of X" works that way for most (all?) speakers too. Â I could
> go either way with "13 inches of snow": "snow" as head noun with "13
> inches of" as quantifier (as with "a lot of") or "inches" as head
> with "of snow" as prepositional phrase; I'd get "is" and "are"
> respectively.
> LH
>>On Sun, Mar 1, 2009 at 7:51 PM, Bill Palmer <w_a_palmer at>wrote:
>>> Â ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>> Â -----------------------
>>> Â Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>> Â Poster: Â  Â  Â  Bill Palmer <w_a_palmer at BELLSOUTH.NET>
>>> Â Subject: Â  Â  Â Snow
>>> Â Bianca Solorzano of CBS News reported this evening that "13 inches of snow
>>> Â are expected in New York."
>>> Â The expectations are for what: inches or snow?
>>> Â "Is" or "are"?
>>> Â What does the academy say?
>>> Â Bill Palmer
>>> Â ------------------------------------------------------------
>>> Â The American Dialect Society -
>>The American Dialect Society -
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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