Such Ado About Something

Two bits in this opinion piece by Shmuel Rosner have an off ring, one solecistic, the other non-colloquial.

But most Israeli voters would support such move. Most of them voted for parties that support such move.

“Such” here is an adjective expressing similarity. To modify a singular noun it wants “a/an”: “such a move.” Otherwise, the noun must be plural: “such moves.”

The citation is interesting in that the structure is repeated, which means it’s likely to be intentional (an influence from Hebrew, perhaps? — the author is Israeli), and not an editorial slip. I can’t speak for Hebrew, but both Spanish and French would admit the equivalent of “such move.”

We learned that to win against a political opponent one has to have a message more profound than “everyone but him.”

“Everyone but him” is not incorrect grammatically; however, most speakers would say, “Anyone but him.” They seem to mean the same thing, though usage favors the latter.

Nevertheless, I’m given pause. So in a thought experiment I stand before a classroom and pose a question to my students. Confronted with silence, which of these do I say encouragingly with interrogative intonation to solicit an answer: “Everyone?” “Anyone?” The first invites all, the second one. I’ll go with “anyone” and take it as evidence that they’re not interchangeable.

“The medium is the message.” I don’t know what McLuhan’s ricocheting aphorism meant to him, but it emboldens me to posit grammar as the “medium” of language, and to assert that much message is encoded there for any who care to look. What you convey is embedded somewhat in how you say it. If your message matters to you, say it well.

(Quotations are from Shmuel Rosner, “The Indefatigable, Unbeatable Benjamin Netanyahu,” NYTimes, 3-3-20)

(c) 2020 JMN

About JMN

I live in Texas and devote much of my time to easel painting on an amateur basis. I stream a lot of music, mostly jazz, throughout the day, and watch Netflix and Prime Video for entertainment. I like to read and memorize poetry.
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1 Response to Such Ado About Something

  1. Eric Wayne says:

    I wonder how many truly have a sound grasp of grammar. We all seem to muddle by with loose grip. How much is what we learn formally, and how much from modelling after others we converse and interact with? I tend to think that how grammar works in general is that something sounds wrong if it conflicts with the usage we are accustomed to, and then we object to that. However, if we learn something wrong, than that will sound just fine to us.

    For example, my mom is from Canada, and somehow in her acquiring fluency in English, a couple mistakes crept in. When I was younger I’d regularly say, “have went” instead of “have gone”. Some people corrected me on this, thinking it’s bizarre I would make that mistake. Then I noticed my brother made the same mistake, and traced it back to my mom.

    It’s the same thing with pronunciation. My art teachers used to make embarrassing mispronunciations that would make me cringe. One teacher pronounced cacophony lick “cacka phonie”. Ouch! And Paul McCarthy — of performance are fame — pronounced “genre” with a hard j sound wen saying the name of the course he taught, “New Genre”. This was on the first day. And he also talked about the poet Arthur Rimbaud. I guess he’d never studied any French or heard anyone pronounce the name. It came our as “Arther Rim-bawd”.

    And as long as I’m on a role here, the mispronunciation of Chinese cities by most anyone talking about the coronavirus drive me nuts.

    That said, I’m sure you’ve noticed the rich pickings of grammatical errors, typos, and other mistakes in my own posts (especially if I haven’t gone back and edited them 2-3 times after already posting them).

    Like

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