famous quote syntactically mangled, nobody notices

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Sat Jun 30 17:39:22 UTC 2012

On 6/30/2012 1:16 PM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Jonathan Lighter <wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      famous quote syntactically mangled, nobody notices
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> A famous remark attributed to Gen. Robert E. Lee is
> the epigrammatic feature of the "Introduction" to Frank McAdams's _The
> American War Film_ (Westport, Conn.: Praeger, 2002).
> Lee is said by an early biographer to have commented at the battle of
> Fredericksburg that "It is well that this is so terrible! we should grow
> too fond of it!"  Modern renditions usually phrase it as "...war is so
> terrible, else..."  or something similar.
> The problem I have with McAdams's version is not its accuracy but its
> impossible syntax, missed by author, editor, and copy editor of an academic
> publication:
> "It is well that war is so terrible, that we should grow too fond of it."
> I find this construction incredible, particularly since, if anything, it
> seems to say that we *should* grow too fond of it.  Or is it just me?

I agree.

These days are there really any editors? (Of course even with good and
multiple editors silly errors slide by.)

The last version above (the 'incredible' one) appears on the Web several
times (sometimes with "good" for "well" etc.), one instance dated 1997.

-- Doug Wilson

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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