alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
Rhiannon Bury, "From a Room to a Cyberspace of One's Own: Technology and the Women-Only Heterotopia." In Feminist (Re)visions of the Subject, ed. Gail Currie and Celia Rothenberg. Lanham: Lexington, 2001. Page 58:
Women, however, have never simply accepted these normative discourses and, in response, enter or are placed in segregated sites in which they cannot only resist being categorized as "minus male," but take pleasure in identifying with the devalued "feminine."
Out of charity to Bury, I'm assuming that she was the victim of an overzealous copyeditor here. If I squint, I can almost make it make sense by having it mean that women must do more than "only resist," but really the only way to make it completely comfortable is to break the "cannot" up into two words.

The more I thought about it, though, the more uncertain I became--my reasoning makes sense, but language doesn't always--and so in the spirit of [ profile] languagelog I turn to Google psycholinguistics, which give me 1,610,000 hits for "can not only * but" and only 80,300 for "cannot only * but" which makes it one-twentieth as common, and which confirms that my instincts seem to reflect the majority usage. Which is a relief.
alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
For the record, I am white, male, heterosexual, middle-class, American, Christian, . . .  frankly? It'd be quicker to name the ways I'm not privileged.

I say this not because it's National Coming Out Day [I notebooked this post in class and on the train yesterday--Ed.] (although I sort of do want to make a long post about how I experience my heterosexuality, and how I feel certain labels apply to me, and what it means when everyone assumes those labels apply to me already anyway, but can't think of a way to do it that wouldn't make me feel like I'm appropriating), but because it means that I have pretty much two choices: I can, in the long tradition of privileged individuals, ignore my privilege, or I can learn to deal with it. I won't claim that I've done the latter; indeed, there is no doubt in my mind there are numerous ways in which I have not. What I have done is think a lot about what is the  best way to try.

Learning to deal with it is not necessarily accepting every claim made by a traditional victim (survivor?) of injustice. It is not to automatically agree that everything which is claimed to be descriminative or unjust or whatever-ist is. That'd be intellectual suicide, and an abrogation of one's moral responsibilities to boot. It may happen that, when all is said and done, when one looks at a situation from the perspective of who one is, there will still be disagreement. That's okay.

I vote for Party X (out of two choices, does any of my flisters really doubt which that is?) because my parents vote for Party X (or Party Q when they are reasonably sure Party Y won't win, as do I) and instilled me with the values that lead me to vote that way. Most likely, if my parents voted for Party Y than I would too. Recognizing this doesn't make me want to stop voting for Party X--I still think I am right to vote for Party X, and will continue to think so until convinced otherwise--but it does make me stop and think about why I am voting for Party X, to re-examine my premises.

Similarly, what is required when a claim of injustice is made is a pause, a hesitation, an honest assessment of oneself and one motives, and above all listening with an open mind.

. . .

the part about Sapir-Whorf, which is very relevant to the above if you look at it sideways )

Oh, Really?

Sep. 2nd, 2007 09:24 am
alixtii: Mary Magdalene washing the face of Jesus of Nazareth, from the film production of Jesus Christ Superstar. (religion)
The church down the street from me:


Not all that interesting--[ profile] languagelog is full of examples of intensifiers and negation screwing each other up in just this way--but it made me laugh in the "That doesn't mean what you think it means" sense. Although, returning to one of my old chestnuts, note that we do immediately know exactly what "you" "thinks it means" even though it seems to be at odds with what the text "really" says--that is, we manage to construct the author-function in a certain way, as having made a mistake, due to what we know about the socio-historical context in which the linguistic act took place.

(The Baptist church on the other side frequently provokes WTF? reactions from me--I'm still puzzling over "No one is poor who has a godly mother"--but the church up the street usually manages to have more reasonable expressions on their bulletin board thing.)

Okay, I better go take a shower now so I can go prove myself to be too good to stay away from my church.
alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
The book I ordered, Alice's Adventures: Lewis Carroll in Popular Culture by Will "I'm Not Allowed to Say I Think Hayden Panettiere Is Hot" Brooker, has arrived. I'll tell you what I think of it when I've finished. That means, so far, I've gotten books by this guy, [ profile] henryjenkins, and [ profile] rozk, but I'm still waiting for [ profile] kbusse_blog's book to show up. Woes.


I posted fic Tuesday night, Emma and Kitty acting out one of the femslashier (and cross-gen-y) scenes from "The Snow Queen," in a way which actually fits into AXM canon. I thought my flist would eat it up. (Apparently not?)


Courtesy of [ profile] slammerkinbabe: The Roberts Court continues to prove itself activist. (N.B.: My intent is to make fun of the "activist" meme, not to endorse it. There are times when when the Court should be activist [I have a very expansive view of Constitutional rights] and times when it shouldn't. The best government isn't the government which governs least, but the one which governs best. In other words, I'm unashamedly partisan.) Actually, looking at the front page of the New York Times, "activist" doesn't really begin to cover it. God they were busy. (And conservative. Oh, so very conservative. Much more than I actually expected, really. I guess stare decisis is a thing of the past.)


Earlier today, I was confused whether it should be "Do you want Mom and me to go to the store?" or "Do you want Mom and I to go to the store?" On reflection, taking out "Mom and" makes it pretty clear that the "correct" pronoun is "me" (as one would never say "Do you want I to go to the store?") but I'm still not sure why that is the case, or what all of the pieces in that sentence are doing. Sentences that I can't diagram vex me.


The rector at my parish, who will be retiring shortly (woes!), gave me two books by Pierre Teilhard de Chardin in order to clear out his own collection. I've only browsed through them, but in general I have to say I find theological works from that era absolutely fascinating, since besides a few pages of Tillich that I read and fell in love with in high school (yes, my Catholic high school had Tillich in its library) I've pretty much only read theology that was written since 1970 (mostly feminist, postmodernist, and/or liberationist theology) or else stuff like Aquinas and Augustine. The specific set of problems that a 1960's theology needed to address is similar in many ways to those of today, but alongside Beyond God the Father, Ecology & Liberation, and The Prayers and Tears of Jacques Derrida it sort of ends up looking rather quaint, if you know what I mean. (OTOH, some parts I read and I totally go "OMG, I can't believe he just said that.")
alixtii: Player from <i>Where on Earth Is Carmen Sandiego?</i> playing the game. (Default)
  • Sign at my work:

    A real "I don't think that means what you think it means" moment.

  • I have the maturity of a junior high student today, and I think it is really funny that Frances Hodgson Burnett is so fond of the word "queer."

  • What do these two things have in common?

    I will tell you. They both make very good introductions to a post about the author-function. I've been talking about author-functions a lot recently, but to some of you it may have seemed like I just began talking about a strange new concept out of the blue. I explain it in my thesis, but that is unfortunately a) flocked and b) long. And some of you are fluent enough in theory to catch my references, but having read Foucault really shouldn't be a requirement for being able to follow my line of thought in this journal.

    So hopefully, the two relatively real-world examples of the author-function at work given above will help me explain it. In the first case, I can say "I don't think that means what you think it means" because I can reconstruct what (I think or imagine that) the author meant--that people who are not authorized to enter alone can becomes authorized-of-with-an-escort--even though I find it at odds with the "literal meaning" of the words. What is at stake is the difference between two ways of constructing an author-function.

    In the second case, I know what "queer" means today, and I can use it to even further tease out some (in retrospect, rather blatant) subtext to be found in FHB's stories. At the same time, I know that that use of "queer" wasn't as common or as widespread as it is today when FHB was writing. So I can read FHB's texts in two different ways: the gay version, and the "normal" version.

    Neither of these two reading practices, despite the fact that they both rely on a conception of an author, are illegitimate. Indeed, any theory of signification that would render such common practices of reading would be by that a fact a reductio ad absurdim argument against itself. These are common, everyday moves which we have to be allowed to make.

    But they are not moves which involve authors. At least not real authors, not living flesh-and-blood authors who smoke cigars and read the Guardian and have opinions of their own--God no. What both moves ultimately rely on is an idea of an author, constructed by the reader primarily from the text with help from some extratextual sources (my knowledge of the English language in both cases, my knowledge of common business practices and the conventions of door sign messages in the first case, my knowledge of the history of the word "queer" and the linguistic landscape of the Edwardian age in the second case). The actual author is nowhere in sight, and so the intentional fallacy has not been committed.

    Here are some examples from Richard Lederer's linguistically-suspect (suspect because it relies sometimes on "rules" that aren't, most commonly rules about modifier placement) Anguished English. In each case, we manage to extract the "meaning" of a hypothetical author "in opposition to the literal meaning of the words" even though we know absolutely nothing about the actual author. We are utilizing only the texts in front of us, because we have nothing else at hand, but we are doing so in a way which involves speaking and thinking about authors. We aren't engage in strict exegesis as such, but a form of imaginative play:

    The ladies of the church have cast off clothing of every kind, and they can be seen in the church basement Friday afternoon. [We "recognize" that the "author" meant "cast-off" (an adjective) instead of "cast off" (a verb and preposition), but we can also understand and snicker at the femslashy version. The two ways of reading the sentence do different things, but neither way is right or wrong.]

    For Sale. Three canaries of undermined sex. [We "know" the "author" "really meant" "undetermined." But how do we know?]

    Once I came across the idea of the author-function, in Foucault's "What is an Author?" I struggled with the idea. How was Foucault arguing we should engage the texts? Should we privelege authorial intent, or not? Was historical/biographical/cultural knowledge relevant, or not? Of course, the frustrating thing about Foucault is that he rarely argues anything. The few normative statements he makes are usually ones his method clearly cannot support, and leave the reader scratching their head and wondering how he could possibly write something so bone headed.

    But a few months later, as I was working on my honors thesis, and trying to figure out how exactly one extracted the meaning of Nineteen Eighty-Four (a meaning that was precisely the opposite of its ostensible meaning), it suddenly clicked. Of course the author isn't a person, but a discursive function! How could it be anything else? I asked myself.

    This allows the critic, as [ profile] hermionesviolin has pointed out to me, to have their cake and eat it too. And as I am a fan of cake--especially chocolate cake--this is a good thing.
    alixtii: The feet of John Henry and Savannah, viewed under the table, Savannah's not reaching the ground.  (Dark Champions)
    [ profile] deliriumdriver was discussing V for Vendetta (the movie version, not the comic) in a flocked post on her journal, and it had me thinking about my own reaction to the movie. No one (and by "no one" I mean "neither [ profile] deliriumdriver nor I") denies that it's a powerful emotional experience while one is in the theatre, but there is a sense in which it sort of falls apart when one thinks about it afterwards. (As opposed to, say, Donnie Darko, which had me screaming at the screen all through the ostensibly science-fictional parts because they made NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.)

    Politically I suspect I am sympathetic to the views of the filmmakers, and I don't have any problem in principle with a movie being intended to be used to promote a political agenda; the intentional fallacy almost ensures the result will be richer and broader than the filmmakers intended. Some of my favorite literary works, from Shaw's plays to Rand's novels, were intended to serve as polemics (but succeed as literature for me insofar as they are read as failing at those intended goals; Shaw was a horrible polemicist because he always gave the devil the best lines). After all, texts don't speak with moral voices, or rather with a unified moral voice, speaking differently to different people in different situations in different places and times (who speak, so to speak, different languages).

    Although from an aesthetic viewpoint I suppose I prefer a little more ambiguity à la Shaw (although the movie did impose ambiguity at points, and I suppose asking for the ambiguity to be "resolved" would mean asking for the movie to no longer be ambiguous), but I don't know what political message the movie was trying to make--or, to avoid the intentional fallacy, I'm clueless how I should be constructing the author-function. I mean, texts don't speak with a moral voice in themselves, but the message to me in this socio-historical moment was . . . I'm not sure. I guess I walked away with a feeling that dystopian governments are bad. Which is all fine and good, but did I really need to be convinced of that? Does anyone?

    The claim that there is a point at which a government's authority becomes illegitimate and the only solution is violent insurrection is one that I can respect (and which, at its extremes, I suppose I hold--as probably everyone who is not a pacifist does). But the movie doesn't seem to answer the question of at what point a government has usurped its own authority, so I don't quite see what the point of the exercise was. There are not-stupid arguments that we have already reached that point, as Bush (or at least, Bush's lawyers) seems to be of the opinion that under Article Four he has the right to do whatever he deems necessary without oversight which to me is an interpretation of the text which makes Roe v. Wade look downright conservative.

    And on some levels I'm just an idealist: is it better to live in a flawed government (and how flawed is flawed?) or to die for an ideal one. I'm already on the record that I'd rather a person let the Earth be destroyed than compromise their ideals, and this seems to be a related sort of ethical dilemma. I'd rather let terrorists blow up America than let people's civil liberties be infringed upon*, because otherwise what we're left with isn't really America, the land of the free and the home of the brave. And practically speaking, I have to admit that this isn't a realistic perspective (hence the idealism).

    *Anyway to rephrase this sentence so the preposition isn't at the end of the clause? It's one of those passive constructions I'm so interested in, like "who(m) was whispered to."

    As far as I can tell, V for Vendetta just channels (from the viewpoint of the filmmakers [at least as I construct the author-function] righteous and legitmate) anger with Bush and the current administration to a strawman (which I suppose considering the tradition of Guy Fawkes' Day is somehow strangely appropriate) and if anything I think that hurts their (my?) cause, because I walked out of that that theatre complacent with my life (it was better than the fictional England!--even though on reflection I'm not 100% sure how so) rather than, say, formulating plans to blow up the White House (or, as a nice middle ground, ready to fill out a cheque to send to the ACLU). (Which reminds me I really should fill out a cheque to send to the ACLU. Why am I putting it off*?)

    "Off" is acting as an adverb in this question, if I'm not mistaken. Or else "put it off" just counts as idiomatic.)

    I think my initial response to V for Vendetta was that I was too close to the events to really judge, and I think that was a wise stance. I mean, Nineteen Eighty-Four--on which most of you know I did my honors thesis--is a pretty shallow book if one reads it as a diatribe against Communism (or the Catholic Church or the BBC), and my English teacher who said that Animal Farm isn't "really" about animals, but "really" about Russians, plain didn't understand symbolism. (Animal Farm is "really" about animals and figuratively about Russians--but it's also figuratively about a lot of other things since symbolism is never an A for B substitution the way metaphor is.) (And a simile is a type of metaphor, except insofar as it isn't really a type of figurative language since similes are literally true.) (Most of my teachers probably didn't understand symbolism, which signals to me either a) I don't understand symbolism, or b) our educational system--both public and private--is a mess.) Brave New World--well, one of the things I like about Brave New World is that I can't reduce it to a single line of thought; I have no clue against what Huxley thought he was complaining. He's a little like Shaw in that respect I suppose (and I suppose that Brave New World Revisited could be seen as the equivalent of one of Shaw's prologues).

    So the conclusion, insofar as there is one, seems to be that I should stop searching for V for Vendetta's moral voice (because it doesn't have one) and enjoy it (or not enjoy it, whichever the case may be) solely as a work of art, one which asks questions but does not provide answers. This is, of course, the type of hermeneutical process I outlined in my honors thesis, suggested for use on the novel Nineteen Eighty-Four, based on part on this passage from Wittgenstein's Tractatus Logico-Philosophicus:
    6.53 The correct method in philosophy would really be the following: to say nothing except what can be said, i.e. propositions of natural science—i.e. something that has nothing to do with philosophy—and then, whenever someone else wanted to say something metaphysical, to demonstrate to him [sic] that he [sic] had failed to give a meaning to certain signs in his [sic] propositions. Although it would not be satisfying to the other person—he [sic] would not have the feeling that we were teaching him [sic] philosophy—this method would be the only strictly correct one.
    And because it seems an appropriate way to end this post, and because it's just that awesome, and because some of you might not be aware of it: Philosophy Songs, a site full of philosophical song parodies including "Antinomy" (to the tune of "Chim Chim Cheree"), "Solipsism is Painless," "Hume on the Brain," and (my favorite) "Supererogationisticextraobligation"!
    alixtii: Avril Lavigne, wearing glasses, from the liner notes of "Let Go." Text: "Geek." (geek)
    It's a common mistake that I'm sure I've made myself, but dangling parenthetheticals (or improperly nested parentheticals) really disrupt my reading process. I keep on waiting for the close parenthesis, and it never comes, and it's usually only a couple sentences further through the passage that I realize that the writer thinks they are writing non-parenthetically.

    Now I'm off to finally see Superman Returns.


    Jun. 9th, 2006 10:34 am
    alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
    [ profile] bookishwench asked, I can only assume facetiously, "Just how the heck would one diagram the first sentence in the Star Spangled Banner?"

    This is is my best try:

    I'm not quite sure what the what is doing. It seems to be taking the place of a that which, but I'm not sure how it is doing that, what that would be called, or how to diagram it. It's not ungrammatical--"I want what I deserve" strikes my ear as perfectly fine--but I don't know what it is.

    I either love or hate the fact that I understand my native language so poorly. I'm not sure which.
    alixtii: Dawn Summers, w/ books and candles. Image from when Michelle hosted that ghost show. Text: "Dawn Summers / High Watcher. (Dawn)
    Mark Liberman at [ profile] languagelog has made a post discussing the use of the phrase "harm's way" in which he actually mentions the season 5 Angel episode. Also relating to linguistic issues, I've had a long discussion today [this part of the post was written a couple of days ago--ed.] with an international student who was visiting the appartment over our frustration with any and all attempts to parse sentences of the type
    Who(m) was spoken to?
    Yeah, I'm a geek.

    [ profile] ajhalluk has a post that was metafandommed on how literary characters aren't real people, and thus our moral obligations to respond to them aren't the same as they would be to real rapists, child molesters, etc. This links in to a flocked discussion [ profile] cathexys has been hosting on ethical responsibilities in literature, especially in response to Holocaust depiction. It also connects to my flocked post in which I answer "Whom would I shag" with TMI and overthinkiness, the upshot being (for those I haven't friended) that treating fictional characters as real people (even just to question whether one would sleep with them) results in a lot of unforseen complications.

    What I found most interesting about [ profile] ajhalluk was the way in which her(?) post parallels the whole train of thought I've had recently over the concept of "monsters"--i.e. those characters who do evil in the service of good. "[H]eroes can get away with murder," she notes. "And frequently do." Jossverse canon is full of examples: BtVS Season 5 spoilers ) And I know that Battlestar Galactica isn't lacking in that category either; nor are Firefly and Serenity.

    By writing about monsters--indeed by glorifying in their will to power--am I condoning their actions? Am I condoning that is acceptable to infringe on human freedoms in the name of security, in defiance of the one principle which I hold most dear? The answer to that strikes me as unequivocately no; none of these stories come with disclaimers saying "The behavior in this story is morally acceptable." They are fantasy and wish-fulfillment, not how I really want the world to be but how I sometimes like to pretend it is (or could be). But neither do they (nor should they) come with disclaimers saying "The views expressed by this fic are not necessarily those of the author." We should take responsibility for our creations.

    Ethics and aesthetics interact in complex ways, a fact that was reinforced for me as I was doing my reasearch for my thesis. Our moral commitments determine how we approach a text; this is the entire problem (or pseudo-problem) of imaginative resistance. I literally cannot watch police procedurals, for they invariably contain scenes of police personnel cutting corners or not going to extremes to protect their suspects' civil liberties, and the invitation to imagine our world being like that provokes not only resistance in me but outright paranoia and hysterical fear. Monsters like Giles or Buffy are larger-than-life and thus safe; these creatures are far more urbane and thus in their way much more scary. (How do I know these things--which the texts seem to treat as perfectly fine--aren't being done on a regular basis? What could I possibly do to stop it, beyond renewing my ACLU registration?) Me being political )

    As a critic and a writer, I am two minds of how my ethics should affect how I approach a text. My politics, metaphysics, and theology are all radically contingent upon my feminist ethics. It seems odd that aesthetics should be exempt, but grounding aesthetics in ethics just rubs me the wrong way in a way that grounding theology in ethics just doesn't--in analytic philosopher-speak, it contradicts my intuitions.

    I guess the real problem is that when I am writing I become, in contradiction to everything I consciously believe, a Platonist or perhaps even a Moorean. I can feel aesthetic Good as if it existed outside of me; therefore it is free of all commitments, including moral ones. This is perhaps a necessary antinomy for the sake of artistic production; but once I have taken off my writer's hat and, as critic, approached what I have created, what is my responsibity to it?

    * * *

    I wanted to say more, but I graduate in a couple of days (note to self: return library books) and I have a dozen other things to do. [Thus the update window sitting open on my computer since Sunday morning--ed.] I actually have two ficathon stories due on the day I graduate, which shouldn't have been a problem since I've had this entire week off, but I just can't come up with a suitable plot for one of them. And the story is actually for one of y'all, and you deserve the best, flist.
    alixtii: The groupies from Dr. Horrible. (meta)
    How is it that I never knew that Jenny Grimaldi was in Serenity?
    "You will notice that we now say chora and not, as convention has always required, the chora, or again, as we might have done for the sake of caution, the word, the concept, the significance or the value of 'chora.' This is for several reasons, most of which are no doubt already obvious. The definite article presupposes the existence of a thing, the existent chora to which, via a common name, it would be easy to refer."
    --Jacques Derrida, "Chora" (trans. Ian McCloud)
    The definite article presupposes the existence of a thing: Is there some new rule of French grammar of which I am unaware, or is Derrida just making stuff up? Because I know which option I find more likely. Sheesh. (And is the indefinate article okay? Am I still allowed to speak of "a chora" if I wish?)

    Why is it that whenever theorists try to turn to grammar in order to make a point, they always end up saying something stupid? Mary Daly's "God the Verb" metaphor really should be "God the Gerund." Being an action or a process doesn't make something not a noun--as evidenced by the fact that both "action" and "process" are themselves nouns. Of course, Daly is only perpetuating R. Buckminster Fuller's lunacy. And a google search for "not a noun" shows this sort of idocy is alive and well, with claims (amongst genuine mistakes like Jon Stewart's claim that terror isn't a noun and actual cases where the noun-ness is in despute) that love, marriage, cheese, science, divorce, journalism, leadership, knowledge, nature, mind, and information are all not nouns, and I've only gone through a small fraction of the hits. I'm glad I knowlegde that now; I'll have to information it when I'm leadershipping (Bush/Cheny OTP?) and especially when I am marriaging.

    A noun is a grammatical category. Taking an article is a grammatical characteristic. Neither signals anything important about the essential qualities of the signified on a metaphysical level, just how it is being used in a sentence.
    alixtii: Dawn Summers, w/ books and candles. Image from when Michelle hosted that ghost show. Text: "Dawn Summers / High Watcher. (Dawn)
    This is me thinking "out loud" about my critical theory class, where we did de Saussure's Course in General Linguistics so you may want to skip this. Then again, I'm going to illustrate what I mean using the Jossverse, so you may not.

    Linguistics with Dawn and River )

    ETA: I just realized that on my walk down the hill after classes, I left my Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism in the Persson men's bathroom. Luckily, I just drove back up to the upper campus and there was it where I left it, in the men's bathroom in the Social Sciences building (the PoliSci floor).
    alixtii: Drusilla holding a knife to Angel's throat. Text: "Got Freud?" (Drusilla)
    This post over at Language Log has a few comments which address my relatively recent befuddlement over sentences of the form "Who was whispered to?"

    I find this fascinating, but you may not. )

    Which just proves, I suppose, that I was born to be a snotty, elitist, pretentious, pedantic, bourgeoise intellectual. But we already knew that, right?

    (Unfortunately, Liberman only briedly addresses the phenomenon with which I was truly interested, those passive prepositionals with which pied-pipering is simply impossible, because the object of the preposition is also the subject of the sentence, by noting: "Note that preposition stranding occurs in other constructions as well, such as passives: 'The region was fought over [ ] by Sweden and Russia for centuries"; and 'hollow clauses': 'The customer service department was difficult to deal with [ ]'.")
    alixtii: Drusilla holding a knife to Angel's throat. Text: "Got Freud?" (Drusilla)
    Okay, in the passive voice prepositions lose their objects, because they end up referring back to the subject.

    to yell at someone --> to be yelled at
    to shoot at someone --> to be shot at
    to whisper to someone --> to be whispered to
    to drive by someone --> to be driven by

    The only problem is that prepositions have to be followed by their prepositions in English--that's from where whence the rule that you don't end a clause with a preposition comes. (Caught myself just in time there. ETA: Thanks, [ profile] wisdomeagle.) But how do you rewrite "I was yelled at" without ending the clause with a preposition? "I am the person at whom one yelled"? That's converting the sentence back into the active voice, which is not only cheating but also necessitates the clunky "one."

    So are these uses of prepositions in the passive voice merely idiomatic usages, and thus exempt from the rule? Or is it simply wrong to use prepositions in the passive voice?

    And don't say "the preposition at the end of the clause rule isn't really a rule anymore," because then you'd be precisely the type of people who are murdering the who/whom distinction. Say "to boldly go" all you want, and I won't care, but prepositions are sacred.

    Although I do wonder if the preposition-at-the-end-of-a-clause rule comes from the same place as the now-defunct (says I) split infinitive rule: Latin. Just as infinitives in Latin are all one word (as they are in French), do prepositions in Latin have to be followed by their objects? Without positional grammar (as English has), it might be the only way to know which preposition goes with which object, but that would assume a lot of nouns declined in the ablative or the--well, the other preposition declension (my Latin is rusty)--scattered willy-nilly all over the sentence, and how likely is that?

    Now I end clauses in prepositions all the time, because the American education system sucks. But that doesn't make it right.

    Disclaiming ETA's #1, #2, and #3 )

    ETA4: Strictly speaking, this type of construction isn't responsible for the murder of "whom," as that always involves a confusion between the subject and object pronominal forms, and in the types of constructions I'm interested in the object of the preposition drops out altogether, becoming the subject.

    It's still a good idea to keep the preposition and its object together whenever there is an object, however, and that should be enough to keep "whom" alive. It's much more natural to use "whom" in "To ___ did you whisper" than in "___ did you whisper to?" By this rule, though, it's still perfectly acceptable to keep the preposition at the end, precisely because there's no object to which it needs to be attached.

    The problem case in all this is passive interrogatives: is it "Who was shot at?" or "Whom was shot at?" Is it "Who was whispered to?" or "Whom was whispered to?"

    ETA5: Actually, now that I think about, these structures aren't in the passive voice at all! The passive voice consists of changing a sentence so that the direct object becomes the subject and that the former subject, if it is retained at all, becomes an object of the preposition "by" ("I was shot by my teacher"). But in these constructions, it's not the direct object which is becoming the subject--it's an object of a preposition! Is it even grammatically possible to do this? Or, more sensibly, given the fact that we use these constructions (idiomatically?) all the time: is it appropriate to use these quasi-passive prepositional constructions in formal writing?

    Or perhaps constructions like "shot at" are idiomatic constructions which collectively function as a single verb, in which case the "me" in "shot at me" would be a sort of direct object. In which case of course the "at" would be at the end of the clause in a passive construction: it's part of the verb.

    This seems right to me, but I still don't know whether it should be "Who was yelled at?" or "Whom was yelled at?"

    ETA6: As [ profile] azdak points out, it has to be "Who was whispered to?" One would never say "Him was whispered to (by someone)."

    Which implies (to me) that the passive-preposition construction parallels the passive voice, and "whispered to" functions collectively as a single idiomatic verb, taking a direct object and not an object of a preposition at all. As such, it wouldn't follow the usual rules for objects of prepositions (i.e. they should be kept "next"--with adjectives and whatnot intervening as per usual--to their prepositions, which they should).

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