Coach Paterno and the syntactic blind alley

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 10 22:53:53 UTC 2011

On Thu, Nov 10, 2011 at 10:03 AM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> one of my friend's father(s)

Is there any reason even to try to get out of this one? You hear it or
read it - IME, usually in the form, "one of my friends' fathers" -
everywhere, thousands of times a day. Being concerned with this is
like being concerned that the number of speakers who still say
"EK-skwizzit" and not "ek-SKWIZZit" is vanishingly small.

> either she or I am/is/are going

In high school, ca. 1950, I was taught a scrip for this one: in this
kind of construction, whatever NP follows _or_ controls the number of
the verb. Hence,

either she or _I _ AM going

Needles to say, after having (semi-)automatically applied this rule
for more than sixty years, I now feel that it's perfectly "natural."


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

The American Dialect Society -

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