Anybody else?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 5 01:20:32 UTC 2005

At 1:19 PM -0800 11/4/05, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On Nov 3, 2005, at 7:56 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>On Nov 3, 2005, at 10:27 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>>>>Has anybody else noticed the TV voice-over guy who speaks of
>>>>"rare but
>>>>serious fatalities" that have _     _or may occur as a
>>>>consequence of using
>>>>the patent medicine that he's shilling for?
>>D''oh! I, uh, meant "... that have _occurred_ or may occur ...," of
>>course. It was just a lapsus calami. That Latin make up for it, right?
>you're in good company, wilson: joan didion, NYT editorial writers,
>AP news writers, NPR reporters, and ADS-L's own benjamin barrett
>(10/6/05: "I expect the simplified characters will or are becoming
>standard there"), not to mention thousands of people you can google up.
>yes, i collect examples of "determination by the nearest" (usually
>treated in the handbooks as instances of "failures of parallelism"),
>and have posted about the phenomenon here and on Language Log.  my
>assessment is that for a fair number of people, this has simply
>become the way government of verb form works with conjoined
>auxiliaries -- much as "as Adj or Adj-er than" is "is probably simply
>a long-lived English idiom" (MWDEU on "as good or better than").
another one is the upper-bound-suspending locution "X is one of the
A-est if not THE A-est", for a random synthetic superlative adjective
A, which is then standardly followed by the singular on the
determination-by-the-nearest principle. Thus for example: "He's one
of the nicest if not THE nicest guy/*guys you'd ever want to meet"
and so on.  St. Paul, for example, is googlably described as "one of
the first if not the first convert".  I've always thought the only
sort of example that really works here (for occasional purists like
me) is
"That's one of the nicest if not THE nicest sheep you'd ever want to meet".


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