Correlative coordinators in parallel

Still more on or … or and its kin (previous postings here and here), from OED3. None of them is current, but or … or and nor … nor seem to have lasted the longest, though in decidedly poetic or archaizing texts.

From OED3 (June 2004) on or, conj.1, as “an introductory correlative”:

a. or..or: either..or. Now poet.

Formerly, sometimes a literalism of translation (cf. Latin aut..aut, French ou..ou), but perh. sometimes an actual phonetic reduction of other..other, other..or: cf. wher..or for whether..or.

The cites here go back to the 14th century and are in translations or poetry; Shakespeare (Comedy of Errors), Pope (in a translation of the Iliad), and Coleridge (Ancient Mariner: “Without or wave or wind”) are in there, but they effectively end in 1867:

1867    J. Ingelow Story of Doom vii. 266   Learn that to love is the one way to know Or God or man.

After that, the only cite is from Dorothy Sayers’s 1957 translation of the Song of Roland.

Another subentry:

b. or..or: whether..or (in alternative questions, direct or indirect). Obs.

Or alone in the sense ‘whether’ (as in quot. ?1518) is rare, and prob. only represents Latin an.

The cites go from the 14th century through 1734 (Pope), with Spenser and Shakespeare (Merchant of Venice: “Tell me where is fancie bred, Or in the hart, or in the head”) in between.

Next, OED3 (Dec. 2003) on nor, conj.1 (and adv.), in nor … nor:

Chiefly poet. = neither adv. 1. Usu. in nornor –. Occas. with omission of correlative nor. Now rare (literary).

Cites from about 1500 through 1969, with Shakespeare (King Lear: “Nor raine, wind, thunder, fire, are my daughters”), Dryden (translating Virgil), Pope (translating Homer), Coleridge (Ancient Mariner: “Nor shapes of men nor beasts we ken”), Byron, and Hardy (“Nor God nor Daemon can undo the done”) in between.

Finally, from OED3 (March 2008), in the entry for and, conj.1, adv., and n.:

4. In correlative constructions, as the introductory correlative. and..and: both..and. Obs.

Cites from Old English through 1483:

1483    Caxton tr. J. de Voragine Golden Legende 242/4   To thende that he wold not leue them and disheryted and orphanes he made his testament.

So and … and seems to be unquestionably obsolete. You might be able to get away with or … or or nor … nor in very poetic and archaizing writing, but and … and is dead.




One Response to “Correlative coordinators in parallel”

  1. the ridger Says:

    Interestingly, Russian maintains this construction with “and … and”, “or … or”, and “nor … nor”. We try to translate it with “Both … and” or “either/neither … or/nor”, but since Russians cheerfully use three and four “ands/ors/nors” it gets tricky.

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