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Culture Forum

  1. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    05 Jan '09 12:55
    Two and two are four. But two plus two is four.

    In matters such as these, what exactly is the difference between right and wrong? And on whose say so?
  2. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    05 Jan '09 14:08
    Originally posted by FMF
    In matters such as these, what exactly is the difference between right and wrong?
    It's the same as between a full and an empty bottle of rum.
  3. Standard member sonhouse
    Fast and Curious
    05 Jan '09 16:39
    Originally posted by Palynka
    It's the same as between a full and an empty bottle of rum.
    Or Half empty and half full of rum.
  4. Standard member c99ux
    'Sir' to you
    06 Jan '09 13:11
    Originally posted by sonhouse
    Or Half empty and half full of rum.
    But that depends on whether it was an empty bottle of rum before it became a half full bottle of rum, or whether it was a full bottle of rum before it became a half empty bottle of rum.

    Or was it a full half bottle of rum? Or an empty half bottle of rum?

    Or even a half full half bottle? Or a half empty half bottle?
  5. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    06 Jan '09 13:56
    Originally posted by c99ux
    But that depends on whether it was an empty bottle of rum before it became a half full bottle of rum, or whether it was a full bottle of rum before it became a half empty bottle of rum.

    Or was it a full half bottle of rum? Or an empty half bottle of rum?

    Or even a half full half bottle? Or a half empty half bottle?
    Shaddup up 'nd half another one. *hicks*
  6. Standard member bill718
    Enigma
    07 Jan '09 01:23
    Originally posted by FMF
    Two and two are four. But two plus two [b]is four.

    In matters such as these, what exactly is the difference between right and wrong? And on whose say so?[/b]
    Wow... This is deep! (Though rather meaningless)
  7. 07 Jan '09 02:44
    22
  8. 07 Jan '09 03:23
    Originally posted by FMF
    Two and two are four. But two plus two [b]is four.

    In matters such as these, what exactly is the difference between right and wrong? And on whose say so?[/b]
    Very interesting, and it applies to any number. Three and three are six. Three plus three is six. I think that the former refers to amounts, and the latter refers to a number. Does that make sense?
  9. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    07 Jan '09 04:17 / 1 edit
    Originally posted by ale1552
    Very interesting, and it applies to any number. Three and three are six. Three plus three is six.
    According to Bill Bryson's "Troublesome Words", 'plus' is a preposition, not a conjunction, and therefore does not influence the number of the verb. So Two plus two is four. The version of this statement with 'and' in it is different because the conjunction creates two things, two and two, so the verb must take the plural form: Two and two are four or Two and two equal four.

    William Safire, in his book "The Right Word in the Right Place at the Right Time" (a compilation of nuggets from his "On Language" newspaper column in the NY Times), wrote the following: "Should you say 'Two plus is four' or 'Two plus two are four'? I'm a preppy, and say is."

    In a letter to Safire, one of his readers said: "As a person who has been a teacher of mathematics for a long time it is clear that 'Two plus two is four' is shorter for 'The sum of two plus two is four'.

    Another correspondent wrote: "Two plus two equal four. So there."

    Now, of course, this "plus v and" thing is not exactly a crucial issue. Knickers ought not to be allowed to become twisted in the face of this grammatical point. Nevertheless, I feel there is a bigger, more significant question lying behind disputes such as this.

    I personally believe that splitting infinitives ("...to boldly go where no one has gone before..." ) is perfectly good and acceptable English, and legitimized by the daily usage of millions upon millions of native English speakers. We are told, however, by those in some quarters, that it is 'sub-standard' English, because splitting an infinitive is wrong to do. This 'rule' was apparently plucked out of the air by a Reverend Something-Or-Other in the 18thC who argued that seeing as it was impossible to split an infinitive in Latin, the infinitive should not be split in English. By the same reckoning, he insisted, we cannot - yea! Must not! - finish a sentence with a preposition ("...which part of town do you live in?" ) because it isn't possible to do so in Latin.

    Latin? Uh? I reject all this. In fact I deliberately flout the rule, despite constant snooty corrections from self-professed traditionalists like my brother law. But what authority can my brother in law cite? The French Language is technically 'governed' by its Academie, although - in reality - it may, in practical terms, be a place of twisted knickers and fingers in dams.

    How dare my brother in law correct me! I am an educated native speaker like him and I am fully in control of the way I express myself in my mother tongue. On what authority can he scold me for splitting infinitives and ending my sentences with prepositions? Is he really entitled to cite the Reverend Something-Or-Other from the 18thC who wrote (indeed, pontificated) about grammar as a hobby? If it's "commonly accepted usage" that my brother in law thinks bolsters his case, then he loses. Surely?

    Perhaps my brother in law, like the arch-snooty William Safire, is a "preppy", whatever that means. But does my sister's pedantic husband really derive any authority from this preppiness?

    If the English language is not governed and there is no central authority, then what exactly is the difference between right and wrong? And on whose say so?
  10. Standard member Palynka
    Upward Spiral
    07 Jan '09 10:27 / 1 edit
    In my (Romance) language, we always use the plural, unless the result of the addition is 1. To me, this seems more consistent with a set theory view of addition but I may be biased by my native language.

    Regarding the Académie, they may believe they are the authority, but in practice their function is one of coordination of language standards and not imposition. Whenever they try to "correct" an established usage, they almost always fail in their goal.
  11. 08 Jan '09 20:42
    The main thing that makes sense to me on this debate is what William Safire said about the proper sentence being: "The SUM of two plus two IS four. Obviously, FMF, you have an obnoxious brother-in-law who is getting your goat. I am blessed with four wonderful brothers-in-law, but there was one stinker who disengaged himself from the family to pursue other women.
  12. Subscriber FMF
    a.k.a. John W Booth
    09 Jan '09 02:05
    Originally posted by ale1552
    Obviously, FMF, you have an obnoxious brother-in-law who is getting your goat.
    Yes. His prescriptive attitude towards grammar. If one takes a descriptive point of view, as I do, the world instantly turns from being an annoyingly non-conformist place (to him) into a vibrant, ever changing, wonderfully diverse place in terms of English language. His loss. And he's conservative about jazz too, which I personally think is paradoxical. We bicker endlessly about John Scofield. But apart from these egregious gettings of my goat, he is a high quality brother-in-law and whenever I get back to Europe we very much enjoy each others company as we fail to solve the world's problems whilst quaffing real beer together.