Charles Blow’s non-parallelism

From his op-ed column “Unaffiliated and Underrepresented” in the NYT on the 18th:

(1) The issue in this country is less that Christians are persecuted as much as peevish.

Two things: the parallelism between persecuted and peevish; and the parallelism between less that X and as much as Y.

persecuted and peevish. The first is in a passive, the second is a predicate adjective. They’re both verb forms, but in different functions. As it turns out, they can be conjoined:

(2) The Christians were both persecuted and peevish.

but it takes some extra processing work to make sense of the coordination. (1) is a bit easier to process if the peevish phrase is not reduced:

(1′) The issue in this country is less that Christians are persecuted as much as (that) they are peevish.

less … as much as. Now we have a much more serious non-parallelism. The less wants a than (comparative) complement, but what we get is is an as much as (equative) construction. Blow seems to have shifted from one formulation to another in mid-sentence, possibly:

(1a) … is less that Christians are persecuted than that they are peevish. [comparative]

(1b) … is not so much that Christians are persecuted as that they are peevish. [equative]

I held off on posting this for almost a week in the hope that someone would have improved it on the NYT‘s site, but no.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: