Monday, February 11, 2019

To be, or to be to be

I am nobody's grammarian.  And the English speaking Egyptian grammarians are annoying. But I realize they need to be specific about parts of speech in order to discuss what they're seeing. After all, it's just strings of symbols with each symbol meaning several often contradictory things.

All I want is to know what the symbols are saying; who is doing what to what or to whom, what is being thought or felt. The universal grammar expressed in English is necessary to pinpoint the perceived intention of each little picture. The translators are acute in their perception in sorting noun and verb, adjective and adverb, prepositions and internal phrases, word order gender, tenses and moods.

And focusing on all of that reflects back to grammar applied to English that seems simple by comparison even in complex run-on sentences. After all that foreign stuff and back in English it's easy to pick out who is doing something to somebody or something.

The most basic verbs in languages are the 'to be' verbs. The most frequently used most often irregular because they're so often used. Although in ASL they are often implied. In that language if you say, "I am" or "I was" or "I will be" it would mark you a beginner transliterating English to Sign. And pluperfect  "I have had" is ridiculous in that language. You wouldn't say, "I am waiting," instead you would sign "me wait" and in that language, the idea physically shown, the phrasing is actually eloquent.

So then, doubled "to be" verbs in a single sentence are strange entanglements. Especially from very good writers. Weird spring traps like Halloween haunted house jokes that make you stop and go, "What? Did I even read that right? What am I missing? "


Ed Driscoll an outstanding writer. "The result is has been a continuing effort by the left to make everyone a conscript."

Gail Heriot an outstanding writer. "Fortunately for Shupe, I don't think he'd had any surgical interventions."

Victor Davis Hanson, an outstanding writer. "You may not like my tweets, but you will really won't like infanticide, ..."

Michelle Obama speaking. Imagine this sentence in hieroglyphs or sign or Spanish or French or German. It does make sense and it is proper grammar but it takes a few readings to sort. It's better when spoken, but you'd have to tune in to the Grammys to hear it:

“From the Motown records I wore out on the South Side to the who run the world songs that fueled me through this last decade, music has always helped me tell my story.”

The copy I read didn't have "who run the world" in parenthesis, while the Vogue article does, and that's useful for comprehension.

While hieroglyphs have similar sentences with no punctuation.


ricpic said...

All those jaunts around the world with her hundred person entourage on our dime must've been hard on Michelle in the last decade.

Mumpsimus said...

Nothing wrong with the Gail Heriot quote. "He'd had" (contraction of "He had had") is correct -- different tense from "He had."

Amartel said...

who travel the world for free?
Girls do!
who plants a celebrity tree?
Girls do!
who won't let school lunch be?
Girls do!

Michelle Obama never stops carrying on like she's had a hard life. Such fiction. Little girl fiction. Someone once looked at her funny or the time she had to speak up for herself. Oh no! Princess had a moment! There was once a pea under her mattress and we will never hear the end of it. Thanks to all the other ridiculous princesses who need her to cover for them and their melodramatic meltdowns. In designer clothes.

Amartel said...

Ooooh, the SOUTH SIDE. That sounds scary. Not.
This asshat has been carried along by others throughout her life. Just like her husband.

Amartel said...

"Stupid Girl" by Garbage. The perfect song for this whiny shiny waste of space.

Chip Ahoy said...

Thank you, Mumpsimus. I was counting on someone checking this.

I recall studying this in Spanish. There's a whole separate conjugation of all verbs for two types of past tense, plus another for perfect past tense and another for pluperfect past tense.

Then back to English you're faced with a possible "had have had."

Then you re-read the sentence as ask yourself, "Come on, what's wrong with simplifying it to 'think he had any surgical interventions.'"

So you have a reason such as making something occur earlier than the thing already spoken of occurring in the past. And then you're faced with, if you're going to phrase it so formally and precisely specific then why the contraction?

And the answer: to sound less formal.

chickenlittle said...

“To be or to be to be” sounds to me like a choice between being or being (hypothetically). Traditionally, that’s what the subjunctive mood is for. The internet is killing the subjunctive.

“To be” by itself is an infinitive, having no limits. The infinitive is supposed to capture the essence of a verb. In this case you’re asking for the essence of essence. Note that “to be” is an intransitive verb while “to have” is transitive. I like to think that intransitive verbs are like vectors while transitive verbs are mere lines.

You’re right that more mutations (frequency of use) lead to more changes. This becomes explicit when you compare closely related languages like Italian vs. Spanish.