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Re: python vs c#

 
 
Jan Dries
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      10-01-2004
Bengt Richter wrote:
[... ]
> I almost posted a similar comment OTOH ...
> How many relevant points do you need to start a debate?
> How would you answer that question?
>
> A few is enough?
> A few are enough?
> A few relevant points suffices, or a few relevant points suffice?
> A small number suffices, or a small number suffice?
> A dozen is sufficient?
> A dozen are sufficient?
>
> I suspect that there are some semantic subtleties at work.
> I.e., when you focus mentally on the few points as a single
> collection, the singular forms feel right, but when you focus on
> the few points as separate entities, plural forms feel right.
> Thus you want the verb (e.g.,is/are) to agree numerically with
> _some entities_, or with _a collection_, according to your focus.
> I think some sentences can be read either way, depending on which
> way your attention is directed (e.g. by word order and discourse
> context etc.) "A few" can work as noun or adjective, it seems.


IIRC from back when I was in school (long time ago), both forms are correct.
At least in Dutch. Strictly spoken it should be "a few is enough" or "a
number of people has died". But the plural form is also accepted, and it is
called (with an expensive Latin term) "constructio ad sensum", i.e. you
conjugate the verb in accordance with what the word represents, rather than
with what it grammatically is.

Regards,
Jan






 
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Steve Holden
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      10-01-2004
Jan Dries wrote:

> Bengt Richter wrote:
> [... ]
>
>>I almost posted a similar comment OTOH ...
>>How many relevant points do you need to start a debate?


Well, terrific. Now I get to talk about one of my pet peeves. A friend
just gave me a bumper sticker which, as a true (but hopefully liberal)
pedant I had real trouble with. It reads "Some village in Texas is
missing their idiot", and the reason for my perplexity was, while I feel
the sentiment it expresses is admirable (though perhaps mistaken: I only
wish George W Bush *were* as stupid as he manages to appear), I have to
take issue with the grammar used to express it.

This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.


>>How would you answer that question?
>>
>>A few is enough?


Correct.

>>A few are enough?


Wrong. "Some few are enough" might be acceptable. If there's only one
few then the number of the verb has to agree with he number of the noun,
so they should both be singular.

>>A few relevant points suffices, or a few relevant points suffice?


The latter, again to ensure agreement of number.

>>A small number suffices, or a small number suffice?


The former, again for the same reason.

>>A dozen is sufficient?


Indeed it is.

>>A dozen are sufficient?


This is a difficult call, because their is an implied subject of
discourse. Technically I'd still insist that "A dozen eggs is
sufficient" is the more correct, but I might let you get away with "a
dozen eggs *are* sufficient" on the grounds that there the eggs (plural)
are the subject rather than the dozen (singular).
>>
>>I suspect that there are some semantic subtleties at work.


There certainly are. And one of the frustrations of living in America id
watching those semantic subtleties dying if neglect at the hands of
people who simply don;t realize that teaching people to *speak*
correctly is teaching them to *think* correctly. I'm actually quite a
visual thinker, but ultimately I believe that most of our intellectual
product is the result of an internal, verbal, dialogue.

>>I.e., when you focus mentally on the few points as a single
>>collection, the singular forms feel right, but when you focus on
>>the few points as separate entities, plural forms feel right.
>>Thus you want the verb (e.g.,is/are) to agree numerically with
>>_some entities_, or with _a collection_, according to your focus.
>>I think some sentences can be read either way, depending on which
>>way your attention is directed (e.g. by word order and discourse
>>context etc.) "A few" can work as noun or adjective, it seems.

>

A lot depends on how pedantic I'm feeling. As I said in an earlier post
this week, I'm much more prepared to let people break the rules when I
think that they realize they *are* breaking the rules. I have less
patience with those who either don't know (sad) or don't care
(inexcusable) about the rules.
>
> IIRC from back when I was in school (long time ago), both forms are correct.
> At least in Dutch. Strictly spoken it should be "a few is enough" or "a
> number of people has died".


Well that's Dutch for you. In English (as opposed to American, where
pretty much anything goes) "A number of people *have* died" is correct,
because the people died, not the number.

> But the plural form is also accepted, and it is
> called (with an expensive Latin term) "constructio ad sensum", i.e. you
> conjugate the verb in accordance with what the word represents, rather than
> with what it grammatically is.
>

Ultimately, language is intended to serve the purpose of communication,
and we shouldn't be too upset to see it mangled as long as it serves
that purpose. But when I hear politicians speak in sentences that don;t
even make sense (and hear rooms full of people applauding them, making
it obvious that no critical thought intervenes), *then I start to get my
dander up. There'll be a special room in hell for people who don;t
understand that language is *the* critical component of thought.

> Regards,
> Jan
>

good-heaven-is-it-really-that-time-ly y'rs - steve

PS: The real joke is the mess that my recalcitrant fingers make of the
pristine thoughts that they must so clumsily express. The security
community describes my typing style as "excessive use of backsapce".
Anyone reading what I type might be forgiven for thinking me illiterate,
so on the grounds that "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw
stones" I try to avoid taking issue with the common-or-garden mistakes,
since generally the world is kind enough to keep quiet about *my*
inadequacies.
 
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Steve Holden
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      10-01-2004
Jan Dries wrote:

> Bengt Richter wrote:
> [... ]
>
>>I almost posted a similar comment OTOH ...
>>How many relevant points do you need to start a debate?


Well, terrific. Now I get to talk about one of my pet peeves. A friend
just gave me a bumper sticker which, as a true (but hopefully liberal)
pedant I had real trouble with. It reads "Some village in Texas is
missing their idiot", and the reason for my perplexity was, while I feel
the sentiment it expresses is admirable (though perhaps mistaken: I only
wish George W Bush *were* as stupid as he manages to appear), I have to
take issue with the grammar used to express it.

This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.


>>How would you answer that question?
>>
>>A few is enough?


Correct.

>>A few are enough?


Wrong. "Some few are enough" might be acceptable. If there's only one
few then the number of the verb has to agree with he number of the noun,
so they should both be singular.

>>A few relevant points suffices, or a few relevant points suffice?


The latter, again to ensure agreement of number.

>>A small number suffices, or a small number suffice?


The former, again for the same reason.

>>A dozen is sufficient?


Indeed it is.

>>A dozen are sufficient?


This is a difficult call, because their is an implied subject of
discourse. Technically I'd still insist that "A dozen eggs is
sufficient" is the more correct, but I might let you get away with "a
dozen eggs *are* sufficient" on the grounds that there the eggs (plural)
are the subject rather than the dozen (singular).
>>
>>I suspect that there are some semantic subtleties at work.


There certainly are. And one of the frustrations of living in America id
watching those semantic subtleties dying if neglect at the hands of
people who simply don;t realize that teaching people to *speak*
correctly is teaching them to *think* correctly. I'm actually quite a
visual thinker, but ultimately I believe that most of our intellectual
product is the result of an internal, verbal, dialogue.

>>I.e., when you focus mentally on the few points as a single
>>collection, the singular forms feel right, but when you focus on
>>the few points as separate entities, plural forms feel right.
>>Thus you want the verb (e.g.,is/are) to agree numerically with
>>_some entities_, or with _a collection_, according to your focus.
>>I think some sentences can be read either way, depending on which
>>way your attention is directed (e.g. by word order and discourse
>>context etc.) "A few" can work as noun or adjective, it seems.

>

A lot depends on how pedantic I'm feeling. As I said in an earlier post
this week, I'm much more prepared to let people break the rules when I
think that they realize they *are* breaking the rules. I have less
patience with those who either don't know (sad) or don't care
(inexcusable) about the rules.
>
> IIRC from back when I was in school (long time ago), both forms are correct.
> At least in Dutch. Strictly spoken it should be "a few is enough" or "a
> number of people has died".


Well that's Dutch for you. In English (as opposed to American, where
pretty much anything goes) "A number of people *have* died" is correct,
because the people died, not the number.

> But the plural form is also accepted, and it is
> called (with an expensive Latin term) "constructio ad sensum", i.e. you
> conjugate the verb in accordance with what the word represents, rather than
> with what it grammatically is.
>

Ultimately, language is intended to serve the purpose of communication,
and we shouldn't be too upset to see it mangled as long as it serves
that purpose. But when I hear politicians speak in sentences that don;t
even make sense (and hear rooms full of people applauding them, making
it obvious that no critical thought intervenes), *then I start to get my
dander up. There'll be a special room in hell for people who don;t
understand that language is *the* critical component of thought.

> Regards,
> Jan
>

good-heaven-is-it-really-that-time-ly y'rs - steve

PS: The real joke is the mess that my recalcitrant fingers make of the
pristine thoughts that they must so clumsily express. The security
community describes my typing style as "excessive use of backsapce".
Anyone reading what I type might be forgiven for thinking me illiterate,
so on the grounds that "people who live in glass houses shouldn't throw
stones" I try to avoid taking issue with the common-or-garden mistakes,
since generally the world is kind enough to keep quiet about *my*
inadequacies.

 
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Alex Martelli
Guest
Posts: n/a
 
      10-01-2004
Jan Dries <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
...
> IIRC from back when I was in school (long time ago), both forms are correct.
> At least in Dutch. Strictly spoken it should be "a few is enough" or "a
> number of people has died". But the plural form is also accepted, and it is


The Dutch are wondefully pragmatic...

> called (with an expensive Latin term) "constructio ad sensum", i.e. you


....and so were the Latins.

> conjugate the verb in accordance with what the word represents, rather than
> with what it grammatically is.


In Italian, this kind of freedom holds only for a few specific "idioms
of collectivity" -- "un certo numero di persone", "una grande quantita`
di persone", "la maggioranza delle persone". And even then, in many
subcases, it depends on whether the verb expresses a collective action
or a plurality of individual actions (some cases remain ambiguous).

A rea-life example...: "La maggioranza degli italiani vive in un
appartamento" ("A majority of Italians lives in an apartment", with the
verb in the singular form) was once stated on TV by a politician and led
to universal derision and unending jokes (even among his political
allies) about how crowded that one apartment must be; in this case he
should have said "vivono in appartamenti" ("live in apartments"), with
the verb (and apartments in the plural form. I suspect that this
particular example does carry over to some other languages.


Alex
 
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Sam Holden
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-01-2004
On Fri, 01 Oct 2004 02:34:33 -0400, Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> Jan Dries wrote:
>
>> Bengt Richter wrote:
>> [... ]
>>
>>>I almost posted a similar comment OTOH ...
>>>How many relevant points do you need to start a debate?

>
> Well, terrific. Now I get to talk about one of my pet peeves. A friend
> just gave me a bumper sticker which, as a true (but hopefully liberal)
> pedant I had real trouble with. It reads "Some village in Texas is
> missing their idiot", and the reason for my perplexity was, while I feel
> the sentiment it expresses is admirable (though perhaps mistaken: I only
> wish George W Bush *were* as stupid as he manages to appear), I have to
> take issue with the grammar used to express it.
>
> This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
> one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
> you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
> from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.


Their isn't necessarily plural so that isn't a problem. Since arguing
grammar isn't something I can do successfully, I'll instead resort
to an appeal to authority and say that one of the authors of
"The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" agrees with me:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/langu...es/000172.html

--
Sam Holden
 
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Stephen Waterbury
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-01-2004
Ah, the joys of OT ...

Steve Holden wrote:
> Well, terrific. Now I get to talk about one of my pet peeves. A friend
> just gave me a bumper sticker which, as a true (but hopefully liberal)
> pedant I had real trouble with. It reads "Some village in Texas is
> missing their idiot", and the reason for my perplexity was, while I feel
> the sentiment it expresses is admirable (though perhaps mistaken: I only
> wish George W Bush *were* as stupid as he manages to appear), I have to
> take issue with the grammar used to express it.
>
> This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
> one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot".


Although I agree with you, interpreting the noun "village" as a
collective noun (http://www.chompchomp.com/terms/collectivenoun.htm)
is a correct usage; therefore, it can be used with a plural verb.
Of course, that does kind of change the sense -- all those
people thinking wistfully of the idiot they lost ...

(Incidentally, one of the more extreme cases I've seen was in
England, where I saw an "out-of-order" sign at the entrance to
the an Underground station that began "The London Transport
regret ...." I tried to imagine all the individual personnel
of London Transport feeling regret that that particular station
was closed. Gee, what a compassionate people!

Cheers,
Steve
 
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Tim Roberts
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-02-2004
Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>> IIRC from back when I was in school (long time ago), both forms are correct.
>> At least in Dutch. Strictly spoken it should be "a few is enough" or "a
>> number of people has died".

>
>Well that's Dutch for you. In English (as opposed to American, where
>pretty much anything goes) "A number of people *have* died" is correct,
>because the people died, not the number.


I was going to object to this statement. I went to my good friend "Google"
to look up some references but "a number of" is very common and thus
difficult to search for.

However, on the web site for "The American Heritage Book of English Usage,"
I was reading the page on indefinite pronouns, looking for vindication,
when I came across this sentence:

A number of usage problems involving personal pronouns are questions
of which case to use in a given situation.

They don't explicitly give a rule, but it's clear that whoever wrote this
sentence (presumably a stern-faced librarian) agrees with you.
--
- Tim Roberts, http://www.velocityreviews.com/forums/(E-Mail Removed)
Providenza & Boekelheide, Inc.
 
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Tim Roberts
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-02-2004
Sam Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>> This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
>> one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
>> you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
>> from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.

>
>Their isn't necessarily plural so that isn't a problem. Since arguing
>grammar isn't something I can do successfully, I'll instead resort
>to an appeal to authority and say that one of the authors of
>"The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" agrees with me:



Two points. First, that web page just QUOTES from "The Cambridge Grammar
of the English Language." The page itself is just a blog, and everyone
knows that "if you see it on a blog, it must be true." ;/

Second, "their" is allowed as a singular pronoun only in those cases where
a gender-specific pronoun is called for, but the gender is unclear or would
be sexist. Instead of "Everyone brought his Python manual," we are now
allowed to say "Everyone brought their Python manual."

However, in the example that started this, "village" has no gender. Thus,
I don't see that "their" is an acceptable alternative to "its" in this
case.

I love this kind of debate. I wish it didn't irritate people so much...
--
- Tim Roberts, (E-Mail Removed)
Providenza & Boekelheide, Inc.
 
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Dave Brueck
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-02-2004
Tim Roberts wrote:
> Sam Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>
>>Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>>
>>>This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
>>>one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
>>>you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
>>>from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.

>>
>>Their isn't necessarily plural so that isn't a problem. Since arguing
>>grammar isn't something I can do successfully, I'll instead resort
>>to an appeal to authority and say that one of the authors of
>>"The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" agrees with me:

[snip]

> Second, "their" is allowed as a singular pronoun only in those cases where
> a gender-specific pronoun is called for, but the gender is unclear or would
> be sexist. Instead of "Everyone brought his Python manual," we are now
> allowed to say "Everyone brought their Python manual."


It's now correct to use "their" in that way now? Yay! I'm glad the way I've
always used it is finally correct. Take THAT, my English teachers of days long
gone! Now if I could only convince them to happily split infinitives...

-Dave
 
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Sam Holden
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Posts: n/a
 
      10-02-2004
On Sat, 02 Oct 2004 14:38:34 -0700, Tim Roberts <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
> Sam Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>>Steve Holden <(E-Mail Removed)> wrote:
>>
>>> This particular pickle is a disagreement of number: since there is only
>>> one village, the correct slogan should be "... is missing its idiot". If
>>> you thought it was "... it's idiot" then take two demerits and refrain
>>> from posting on c.l.py for 48 hours.

>>
>>Their isn't necessarily plural so that isn't a problem. Since arguing
>>grammar isn't something I can do successfully, I'll instead resort
>>to an appeal to authority and say that one of the authors of
>>"The Cambridge Grammar of the English Language" agrees with me:

>
>
> Two points. First, that web page just QUOTES from "The Cambridge Grammar
> of the English Language." The page itself is just a blog, and everyone
> knows that "if you see it on a blog, it must be true." ;/


Please check the Author of post on the blog and the authors of the book.
You'll see they are the same. Here's the author's web site if you find that
more authoratative:

http://people.ucsc.edu/~pullum/

If "the web" isn't a good enough source then you can call the
University and check that way I guess.

Maybe I should have provided some evidence, but I didn't think it was a
hard author confirm (the book only has two and they aren't nobodies in
their field).


>
> Second, "their" is allowed as a singular pronoun only in those cases where
> a gender-specific pronoun is called for, but the gender is unclear or would
> be sexist. Instead of "Everyone brought his Python manual," we are now
> allowed to say "Everyone brought their Python manual."
>
> However, in the example that started this, "village" has no gender. Thus,
> I don't see that "their" is an acceptable alternative to "its" in this
> case.


From the blog you dismissed so lightly which is written by someone who must
qualify as an "expert in the field":

"Principal helps their employees" - Principal is a company.

"Treasure Island's having their show right now." - Treasure Island is a
hotel.

"picked by Latina Style as one of their list of ..." - Latina Style is
a magazine.

Why is a village fundamentally different from a company, hotel, or magazine?

--
Sam Holden
 
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