Archive for the ‘Split infinitives’ Category

Acronym of the week

May 1, 2013

From the NYT Science Times yesterday, in ” ‘Cured of AIDS’? Not Yet” by Donald G. McNeil Jr.:

“We should seek out, test and get people into treatment as soon as we possibly can,” Dr. [Anthony] Fauci said. “That way, you can get people into the position the Visconti cohort is in.”

(“Visconti cohort,” for Viro-Immunologic Sustained Control After Treatment Interruption, is a shorthand way of referring to the patients studied by the Pasteur Institute, in France.)

Someone labored hard to concoct that acronym.

A bonus from the same article, this “split infinitive” that caught my eye:

In this country, it is unusual for an infected pregnant woman to not see a doctor even once before delivery.

I probably would have moved the not up in the structure, to give not to see, but I’m not sure why; I certainly have no aversion to so-called split infinitives. Perhaps the writer systematically prefers to keep VP adverbs (like not) with the VP they modify (so that the infinitive marker to then combines with a full, modified BSE-form VP); there are certainly writers who do.

 

Avoiding a split infinitive

October 13, 2012

From the 12/3/11 Economist, p. 43, in “Marijuana in California and Colorado: Highs and laws”:

In October, California’s four federal prosecutors threw the state (and drug-lovers everywhere in the country) into confusion when they announced their intention aggressively to go after landlords who rent their buildings to dispensaries of medical marijuana, and even after newspapers, radio and television stations who accept advertising from sellers of the weed.

The placement of the adverb aggressively (which modifies the VP in go after… that follows) before the infinitive marker to struck me as awkward, suggesting (momentarily) that the intention was aggressive, that is, that the prosecutors intended something aggressively. This brief potential ambiguity in the scope of aggressively isn’t problematic in itself, but if the writer had alternatives that are better stylistically, they’d have done better to go with one of them.

And there is a clearly better placement for aggressively: snuggled right up to the head V, go, of the VP it modifies (go after landlords …): the intention to aggressively go after landlords … Why not go for it?

Presumably because that involves the configuration misleadingly known as a “split infinitive”, against which some people bear an irrational prejudice. More on this in a moment. First, a note on why I’m resurrecting a quote from last year.

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More puns

July 15, 2012

Via Wilson Gray on Facebook, this New Yorker cartoon by David Sipress:

So: the idiom play dead, plus the band the Grateful Dead.

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Split those infinitives!

July 12, 2012

In a posting by Stan Carey yesterday (“How awkwardly to avoid split infinitives”), this Ozy and Millie cartoon:

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An insurmountable obstacle in the way of a speeding train

June 17, 2009

Ordinarily I wouldn’t comment on yet another raging against split infinitives, but the NYT Book Review chose to use a signficant amount of space to print an intemperate letter on the topic on 14 June (p. 6).

The letter by Richard Palumbo of New York (there are a number of Richard Palumbos out there, and I don’t know which one this is, so I have no idea how he comes to be pronouncing on matters of grammar and usage and founding a Society Against Split Infinitives), reacts to Roy Blount Jr.’s review of Patricia O’Conner and Stewart Kellerman’s Origins of the Specious: Myths and Misconceptions of the English Language.

Palumbo begins by noting that Blount summarizes O&K’s discussions of hopefully and disinterested/uninterested and goes on to inquire:

As one of the old “fuddy-duddies out there” mentioned by the same authors, I ask: What about split infinitives, which have become even more commonplace in both the written and spoken language?

and to cite a couple of examples from the Times and then to offer what I think is a novel critique of split infinitives (well, it’s based on the popular, though mistaken, idea that infinitival to + V is a unit, but it clothes this idea in a striking metaphor).

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Postings on split infinitives

June 13, 2009

Another list of postings, this time on split infinitives. I looked for postings that had something substantial to say about them, rather than just mentioning them in passing.

For a compact discussion of the topic, see Geoff Pullum’s treatment on his website.

AZ, 5/14/04: Obligatorily split infinitives:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000901.html

GN, 5/23/04: Split decision:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/000948.html

GP, 9/20/04: Two bites of authors’ remorse:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/001466.html

GP, 4/11/05: The pointless game of Grammar Gotcha:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002054.html

AZ, 5/7/05: Not to or to not:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002139.html

GP, 5/19/05: Obligatorily split infinitive in real life:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002180.html

AZ, 7/14/05: No splitting in court:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002326.html

EB, 11/5/05: Better to X than to not Y:

http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/002627.html

GP, 3/29/07: Joe, this is for you:
http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/~myl/languagelog/archives/004348.html

GP, 4/29/08: Irrational terror over adjunct placement at Harvard:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=100

GP, 4/30/08: Books more loved than looked in:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=104

AZ, 5/2/08: Nonintervention:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=114

AZ, 5/10/08: Contamination:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=130

AZ, 5/13/08: Crazies win:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=123

ML, 8/21/08: Heaping of catmummies considered harmful:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=514

GP, 8/21/08: Minor writers, revolt!:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=515

 
GP, 9/26/08: Inconsistent Latinophilia:

http://languagelog.ldc.upenn.edu/nll/?p=639


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