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A misattribution no longer to be put up with
December 12, 2004 3:43 PM   Subscribe

A Misattribution no longer to be put up with -- If you think that it was Winston Churchill who dissed a copy editor's correction as "nonsense up with which I will not put", think again. And if you think that the line is a good argument for stranding prepositions at the end of relative clauses, regardless of who wrote it, re-think that one too.
posted by myl (29 comments total)

 
I love Winston Churchill, but it's hard to escape his Victorian bigotry.
posted by Captaintripps at 4:22 PM on December 12, 2004


Huh - funny: I'd always heard this attributed to Dorothy Parker. And it does seems like a bon mot worthy of La Parker, doesn't it? I can just hear her throwing back a gin fizz and directing this barb at Robert Benchley...

And I think prepositions are perfectly acceptable things to end sentences with.
posted by Dr. Wu at 4:48 PM on December 12, 2004


It always bugs me to find out that some witty saying wasn't said by some famous wit. On the other hand, I support ending sentences with prepositions, on the basis that they then become perfectly serviceable adverbs.

[Is it okay that the last link is to a group blog to which myl also contributes?]
posted by rustcellar at 4:56 PM on December 12, 2004


And if you think that the line is a good argument for stranding prepositions at the end of relative clauses, regardless of who wrote it, re-think that one too.

Don't you mean,

"You'll have to re-think that argument for stranding prepositions at the end of relative clauses, regardless of who it was written by?"
posted by Civil_Disobedient at 5:46 PM on December 12, 2004


My canonical argument for the occasional use of a preposition at the end of a sentence is a sign I saw while cycling in far southwest Virginia:

"TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT."

I just can't think of any other way of saying it that would mean quite the same thing.
posted by Wolfdog at 7:29 PM on December 12, 2004


I've never understood the damn rule, anyway. No one's ever been able to demonstrate to me that it generically poses any problem of understanding, so what's the damn beef?

Anyway, w.r.t. to Winston's attribution and to quote [sic] The Yogi, "If it ain't the truth, it oughta be."
posted by lodurr at 8:18 PM on December 12, 2004


There are a couple of people to whom I speak with grammatical correctness. For everyone else, ending a sentence with a preposition is just fine. It really depends on who you're talking to.
posted by interrobang at 9:02 PM on December 12, 2004


"TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT."

I just can't think of any other way of saying it that would mean quite the same thing.


BEWARE. I SHOOT AT TRESPASSERS.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:50 PM on December 12, 2004


TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT.

BEWARE. I SHOOT AT TRESPASSERS.


Not at all the same!
posted by freebird at 10:04 PM on December 12, 2004


TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT.

...No preposition necessary. And more powerful this way, too.
posted by thecaddy at 10:16 PM on December 12, 2004


The truly sad thing is that many English teachers are sadly mistaken about this issue, and believe that there should be no exception to the rule (a rule quite illogical in the first place). As a long-time editor of materials for Texas schools, I was always forced to revise sentences with anything remotely like a preposition at the end. Of course, this simply leads to the same kind of ostrich-like behavior brought on by philistines in general.
posted by divrsional at 10:22 PM on December 12, 2004



TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT.

...No preposition necessary. And more powerful this way, too.


It's more powerful that way, but does it really express the same meaning? A sign saying "TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT" seems to imply that while they won't be actually trying to kill you, they WILL be shooting in your general direction.
posted by interrobang at 10:25 PM on December 12, 2004


"Will be shot at" includes warning shots, whereas "Will Be Shot" does not. And so forth: not the same. Even leaving aside the cultural points.

"Firearms will be discharged in the general direction of trespassers?" Come on.

damn you interrobang
posted by freebird at 10:26 PM on December 12, 2004


Bullets will be fired in the general direction of trespassers?
posted by drezdn at 10:34 PM on December 12, 2004


Yes, drezdn, you silly English Kanigit.
posted by interrobang at 10:38 PM on December 12, 2004


Not as rustic sounding, but "trespassers will be fired upon" has more or less precisely the same meaning.
posted by George_Spiggott at 10:48 PM on December 12, 2004


And also ends in a preposition.
posted by teg at 11:31 PM on December 12, 2004


It's Usually Not Wrong to End a Sentence with a Preposition

posted by Deepspace at 1:07 AM on December 13, 2004


Trespassers will be subject to gunfire.
posted by vacapinta at 1:18 AM on December 13, 2004


Shooting will happen with in the general area of trespassers. Enter at your own risk.
posted by drezdn at 1:25 AM on December 13, 2004


I think "Someone or something will shoot at trespassers" conveys the same literal meaning, though it doesn't have quite the same feeling behind it.
posted by zixyer at 1:36 AM on December 13, 2004


With respect to the "trespassers" sign, there's an old joke:

A: So, where y'all from?
B: From a place where they know better than to use a preposition at the end of a sentence.
A: [after a pause for reflection] So, where y'all from, bitch?

Or you can substitute some other epithet.
posted by myl at 5:31 AM on December 13, 2004


The restaurant got a complaint from the people at which the woman was staring in.

The restaurant got a complaint from the people in at which the woman was staring.


that last link seems to claim that the first of these two is preferable, right? Not from a grammatologist's perspective or anything (although I did teach high school grammar for one year) but the latter sounds better to me, despite both of them being ridiculously clumsy.
posted by mdn at 6:06 AM on December 13, 2004


There are a couple of people to whom I speak with grammatical correctness. For everyone else, ending a sentence with a preposition is just fine.

Ending a sentence with a preposition is speaking with grammatical correctness. Pay attention.
posted by languagehat at 6:37 AM on December 13, 2004


TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT

I read this as translating to "I'm not a great shot." I.e., that it's a joke. (As much as any sign about bullets flying in your general direction can be a joke...)
posted by lodurr at 6:54 AM on December 13, 2004


Similarly, E.B. White probably did not come up with "What did you bring that book that I don't like to be read to out of up for?"

TRESPASSERS WILL BE SHOT AT

Unassailable. The shooting-at is guaranteed. Only a professional sniper would be able to say "shot" with authority. But you don't want even a terrible shot shooting at you, now do you?
posted by soyjoy at 12:13 PM on December 13, 2004


Trespassers, in whose general direction I shall from my rifle dispense bullets, are hereby forewarned.
posted by pmbuko at 12:23 PM on December 13, 2004


The restaurant got a complaint from the people at which the woman was staring in.

The restaurant got a complaint from the people in at which the woman was staring.


The restaurant received a complaint from the people at whom the woman outside was staring.
posted by dame at 1:36 PM on December 13, 2004


Where is the pen of my aunt? The people she was staring in at complained to the restaurant. We shoot at trespassers. It's an ill wind that blows no good. What's the difference between a duck?
posted by flabdablet at 5:16 AM on December 14, 2004


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