Archive | October 16, 2007

I’d Like To Have An Argument, Please

I’m used to seeing this mangled phrasing from my students, but I would have hoped not to see it in a serious newspaper (I say “serious” to rule out, e.g., the Opelika-Auburn News, from which no fantastic garbling of English could any longer surprise me), and particularly not in the London Times: “Few would argue that the Dublin-born playwright, who spent much of his life in England, was the master of the clever quip.”

I’m not sure when people started using the phrase “few would argue that p” as though it meant “few would deny that p” or “few would argue against the proposition that p,” but in fact those who do have been saying the opposite of what they mean – since what “few would argue that pactually means is “few would maintain that p” or “few would argue on behalf of the proposition that p.”

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