One of the triumphs of government schooling is that most educated English-speakers nowadays cannot read this sentence from Lockes Thoughts Concerning Education:
The age is not like to want instances of this kind, which should be made land-marks to him, that by the disgraces, diseases, beggary, and shame of hopeful young men thus brought to ruin, he may be precautiond, and be made see, how those join in the contempt and neglect of them that are undone, who, by pretences of friendship and respect, lead them to it, and help to prey upon them whilst they were undoing: that he may see, before he buys it by a too dear experience, that those who persuade him not to follow the sober advices he has receivd from his governors, and the counsel of his own reason, which they call being governd by others, do it only that they may have the government of him themselves; and make him believe, he goes like a man of himself, by his own conduct, and for his own pleasure, when in truth he is wholly as a child led by them into those vices which best serve their purposes.
Shit, I’ve been grumbling since they came out with a fucking “modern English version” of the Federalist Papers.
I remember a reporter back in the 90s saying of some militia manifesto, “it’s written in medieval English, like the Constitution.”
I kept expecting to find out what the instances were, but was disappointed.
Speaking of the changing language:
Most people who spoke English when that was written could not read it, either.
Yes, that’s why I worded my claim as I did.
So, then how is public education to blame for this non-drop in how many can read the sentence?
You could always go back and read what I actually wrote.
It’s a lot clearer than contemporary academic writing. It’s very direct, but loquacious. Your modern, say, sociologist would tap dance around his point so much that it might be impossible to understand.
Beyond the ability to understand that sentence, my government schooling taught me that this is simply speculation without some actual data supporting this hypothesis is using appropriately paired cohorts to measure quality of education independent of socioeconomic factors.
In all fairness, it’s a stylistically atrocious sentence. We all have reason to rejoice that no respectable editor today would tolerate such abuse of pronouns.
On the other hand, it is indeed a sentence that many self-proclaimed libertarians would do well to take to heart.
Try hearing it in a British accent and it sounds much better.
Which reminds me of an exchange I heard once between Sheldon Richman and Andrew Melnyk:
Sheldon was criticising the rule against ending a sentence with a preposition, and as evidence he pointed out that “Now we have something about which to argue” sounds much weaker than “Now we have something to argue about,” whereas Andrew was maintaining, to the contrary, that “Now we have something about which to argue” actually sounds stronger because you can build to, and then emphasise, the word “argue.”
What struck me was that each side’s case was perfectly convincing, in the accent in which it was delivered. Sheldon is American, Andrew is British. And while “Now we have something about which to argue” does sound weak and awkward when said in an American accent, it sounds just fine in a British accent (especially one toward the posher end of the spectrum).
I have an accent? I would contend that the “about which” intrinsically weakens the sentence.
As an editor, I’d like to get my hands on that sentence.