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AWADmail Issue 332Nov 9, 2008
A Weekly Compendium of Feedback on the Words in A.Word.A.Day and Other Interesting Tidbits about Words and Languages
From: Lynda Hester (lyndareb alltel.net)
My sixth grade teacher made us all memorize 'the 53' prepositions. It was a mark of distinction to repeat the list more quickly than any other student. Forty-six years later, I can still repeat the full list (as can numerous students to whom I ended up teaching English). Needless to say, 'pace' wasn't included on that list.
From: Robert Kerber (robert.kerber stonybrook.edu)
Local real estate agents, who once contented themselves with describing old houses by their approximate date of construction as "circa 1740", for example, have now shortened and nominalized the usage, so that an old house is now a "circa". How's that for "a ridiculous"?
From: Carolyn Jones Silver (carsilver juno.com)
In Charlottesville, Virginia, there is a used-furniture and antiques store called Circa. How apt!
From: Jock Elliott (lightkpr nycap.rr.com)
Reminds me of my favorite bad pun.
For years I've been threatening to open a French Revolutionary restaurant, called, of course, "Chez Guevara".
From: Dave Siktberg (dsiktberg post.harvard.edu)
I believe Calvin Trillin once quipped that a favorite restaurant of his was La Casa de la Maison House.
From: Causse Jean-Pierre (causse.jean-pierre wanadoo.fr)
We sometimes use "chez" in France to translate @ on email addresses.
For example, my address in France can be pronounced
From: John Turnbull (john theglobalgame.com)
An enduring memory from junior high is the song we were required to sing for classmates, with my seventh-grade English teacher at the piano. It is sung to the tune of "Yankee Doodle": "About above across after against among around / Before beside between during except for from into near of / Off on over to through toward / Under up on by / Within without at in below / Are prepositions we all know."
From: Grant Agnew (gtwa homemail.com.au)
Re: your comment about split infinitives and prepositions: right on! As one of my English teachers used to say, a preposition is a dreadful thing to end a sentence with.
There's a well-known joke about a chatty young Southern blonde on a plane who turns to the woman next to her and asks, "So where y'all fra-ahm?" The other woman answers coldly, "I am from a place in which one does not end a sentence with a preposition." To which the blonde says, "Raaaaht. So where y'all fra-a-a-a-ahm, bee-yutch?"
I think this joke is a neat equal to Winston Churchill's comment that not ending sentences with prepositions was nonsense up with which he would not put.
From: Carolyn Silver (carsilver juno.com)
Of course you know the sentence that ends with five prepositions. Little kid to dad who has promised to read him a story if he'd get into bed and wait: "What did you bring that book I didn't want to be read to out of up for?"
From: Duncan Hawthorne (duncanhawthorne yahoo.co.uk)
So the next time people fault you for ending a sentence with a preposition, ask them: "What are you talking about?"
No, much better to ask "On about what are you going?" I don't know if this would mean much outside of the UK, but here we would be more likely to ask, "What are you going on about?" Very elegantly finishing with two consecutive prepositions.
From: Roxane Stewart (priuspride verizon.net)
This week's theme brings to mind a sentence I once read in the Guinness Book of World Records. It's supposed to be the sentence that ends in the most prepositions, and is the complaint of a child whose mother has come upstairs to read him a bedtime story about Australia. He asks, "Mom, what did you bring that book which I don't want to be read to out of from about Down Under up for?"
See this page about the world record for most prepositions.
From: Katie Largent (katiekt verizon.net)
In 1955, my parents moved to India to work with the Indian government on improving factory conditions, and my brother and I went along. Soon after we arrived in Delhi, my mom bought me a paperback book called something like International Self-Taught Hindi, and I began studying Hindi. In Hindi they have "post-positions", rather than prepositions; thus they say "me with" and "Judy for" and "them to", which took just a little bit of time for a teenager from Ohio who had never even heard a foreign language to get the knack of.
Thus began my life-long love affair with languages, including English, and I have studied French, Spanish, German, Italian, Russian, and bits and pieces of other languages over the years.
From: H. Gordon Havens (gordonhavens hotmail.com)
Concerning your shrewd comments about ending sentences with a preposition: Right on!
From: Gil Rognstad (gil.rognstad tema.toyota.com)
Pace to you, Anu, but I have to politely disagree, at least in part, with your note about prepositions ending sentences. I can agree that it's okay in some situations, but I have to draw the line and correct the person is when the preposition clearly repeats the function of another word in the sentence. An example of this would be "Where is he at?", which would be perfectly fine without the 'at'. It also strikes me as wrong when the preposition is being lazily thrown onto a poorly-formed pile of words, and a more sensible set of words would be obviously more appropriate. "What's he going there for?" would be better expressed as "Why is he going there?", for example.
I'll never get some people to agree with me ... "Ah, but a man's reach must
exceed his grasp, or what's a heaven for?"
From: Anthony Gilbert (anthonygilbrt yahoo.com.au)
Some time ago a friend of mine was lamenting the state of the English language and how common it was to end sentences with prepositions and how deplorable the practice was. Her summary was "The rot has set in."
From: Peter Basquin (pbasquin earthlink.net)
There's a poem that begins "I lately lost a preposition" and concludes "What should I come up out from under for?"
From: Nancy Cross (ncross madonna.edu)
I have to tell you my favorite story about English prepositions.
Hamtramck is an "enclave" in Detroit. It is an independent city with its own mayor, city council, police force, and so on, right in the middle of Detroit. Many years ago it was heavily populated with immigrants from Poland, who created a good place for immigrants to move to, so today we have many, many "new faces" from Bangladesh, Yemen, Bosnia, and Serbia, among others.
Some years ago the Hamtramck newspaper published a story from one of our Bosnian immigrants about how he got here. He was living in a refugee camp in Sarajevo when an American immigration officer told him "It's all set -- your family can be settled in Hamtramck in Michigan." He must have known something about Michigan because he asked "Is Hamtramck near or far from Detroit?"
When the immigration officer responded, "Hamtramck is IN Detroit" the man thought there was something he had misunderstood in his study of English prepositions.
From: Timothy Green (green.timothy gmail.com)
I remember being in college studying chemistry and trying to work out an abbreviated English for taking notes. Many verbs could be dropped. Adjectives, of course, can be simplified or done away with. And some nouns and pronouns were found to be unnecessary. But messing with the prepositions merely rendered the output unintelligible. Those little things are absolutely essential!
If you know only one language, you're a prisoner, stuck in the tyranny of that one language. -Andrew Cohen, professor of linguistics (b. 1944)