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#3622 - 06/27/00 03:43 PM Re: Splitting infinitives
patatty Offline

Registered: 03/20/00
Posts: 19
Loc: Orange County Calif.
Paul -
Let me second, with enthusiasm, your suggestion to eagerly :-) consult Fowler. His treatment of the subject has been on my list of all-time favorites for decades.
I urge my fellow United Statesians to temporarily ;) put aside any reluctance to use a tome on *English* usage: the passages on Split Infinitives alone are worth the price of admission.
As I recall from distant memory, Fowler groups the reasonably literate universe into four types of reactors: those who a) Know what a split infinitive is, and don't care; b)Know and care; c) Don't know and don't care; and d) Don't know and care very much. It's that last group that is the nitpicking bane of competent writers. His treatment is rich with examples.
If the foregoing is an accurate remembrance, I put myself in a category between a) and b). It's not that I don't care, it's that although I can always recognize an infinitive, I will choose for myself whether and when to split it.

#3623 - 06/28/00 12:33 AM Re: Splitting infinitives
Bingley Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/09/00
Posts: 3065
Loc: Jakarta
I think Fowler's categories were something like: 1) those who don't know and don't care, 2) those who don't know but care very much, 3) those who know and don't like them, 4) those who know and like them, and 4) those who know and differentiate. He also said the first category was the largest and the most to be envied, or something along those lines. Patatty, it sounds like you come in group 5; I hope I do as well.


#3624 - 06/28/00 08:01 AM Re: Splitting infinitives
paulb Offline

Registered: 03/17/00
Posts: 460
Loc: Hobart, Tasmania, Australia
For Patatty and Bingley and interested onlookers, Mr Fowler in his own words (or Gowers's?):

The English-speaking world may be divided into (1) those who neither know nor care what a split infinitive is; (2) those who do not know, but care very much; (3) those who know and condemn (contemn? grin); (4) those who know and approve; and (5) those who know and distinguish.

He says that those in group (1) are the vast majority, and are a happy folk, to be envied by most of the minority classes.

He chiefly addresses his comments to those in group (2).

Group (3) he says are bogy-haunted creatures

Group (4) are not distinguishable with certainty.

Group (5) will split infinitives sooner than be ambiguous or artificial.

But, as Patatty says, you really have to read his comments (and examples) in full to get the flavour. As he says, "the author's opinion has perhaps been allowed to appear with indecent plainness".

#3625 - 06/28/00 09:15 AM Re: Splitting infinitives
Jackie Offline

Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 03/15/00
Posts: 11613
Loc: Louisville, Kentucky
I don't think I've seen "United Statesian" before. Odd but
clear. Good to see you posting again.

#3626 - 06/28/00 04:52 PM Re: Splitting infinitives
jmh Offline

Registered: 03/22/00
Posts: 1981
It looks like my "New Fowler's Modern English Usage" - R W Burchfield, Oxford 1999 has decided to sadly omit the discussion shown above.

He says "No other grammatical discussion has so divided the nation since the split infinitive was declared to be a solecism in the course of the 19C."

There is a wonderful section with examples from the 13C to today with writers from Chaucer to Peter Carey, Iris Murdoch and Kingsley Amis.

Not surprisingly, his final quote from "The Spoken Word", Burchfield 1981, wins the day "Avoid splitting infinitives wherever possible, but do not suffer undue remorse if a split infinitive is unavoidable for the natural and unambiguous completion of a sentence already begun".

Sounds like (5) to me!

#3627 - 06/29/00 05:50 AM Re: Splitting infinitives
Bridget Offline

Registered: 06/27/00
Posts: 444
Loc: Sydney Australia
I remember it made the papers (in Canada, where I was at the time) when the authorities in Oxford published their updated tome on English usage and approved of split infinitives.

I think this is a case of language evolving. If the meaning is clear, who cares? (But as I am still evolving too, I split them all the time in speech and try to avoid doing so when writing!)

#3628 - 06/29/00 02:02 PM Re: Splitting infinitives
tsuwm Offline
Carpal Tunnel

Registered: 04/03/00
Posts: 10538
Loc: this too shall pass
from a news story at the time:

The change is included in the new Oxford American Desk Dictionary, which came out [in October '98]. Frank Abate, editor in chief of Oxford's U.S. dictionaries program in Old Saybrook, says the rule is arbitrary. The rule has its basis in Latin, and as Abate points out, we don't speak Latin.

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