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03 December 2008


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Better grammar makes good sense!

21 November 2008

Ending sentences with prepositions

From a Sentenceparts reader:


What is correct English? "Of what animal is this a part?"
"What animal is this a part of?"
or...something else altogether?

Thank you for rescuing me one more time, and Happy Thanksgiving.


Each, IMO, are correct. It's a question of usage which involves a value system. The value in this case is that the normal prescription discourages ending a sentence with a preposition. However, avoiding this may lead to very awkward alternative constructions such as the one you gave.
The often over-quoted complaint by Winston Churchill goes: "Ending a sentence with a preposition is something up with which I will not put" points out the pitfalls of sometimes not ending a sentence with a preposition.

Happy Thanksgiving,
Jack Sands

18 November 2008

Joe Lieberman asks: What is the chair worth?

In an article relating to the status of Independent/Democrat Joe Lieberman of Connecticut, the headline for Andrew Taylor's piece on Yahoo! News read:

McCain backer Lieberman may keep committee chair

Does Taylor mean chairmanship, Lieberman acting as chairman, or chairperson?

No, the journalist meant to say "chair," a term that has been applied over the past few decades to mean "position of authority." The word is a metaphor, a form of metonymy, a kind of figure of speech, "in which a thing or concept is not called by its own name, but by the name of something intimately associated with that thing or concept" (Wikipedia).

Chairmanship is archaic, as is, I suppose chairman, chairwoman, or chairperson. Chair is gender neutral, particularly if you are thinking of a conventional place upon which to place your own seat.

Still, to say that Senator Lieberman may keep (in fact, he has kept it) the committee chair makes one think, at least fleetingly, of a stool or a pew, a seat upon which to sit. It might even suggest an image of the senator's own stately behind, which has been in "hot water" lately because of Lieberman's support of Republican Senator John McCain in the recent National Election for the highest office.

Chair may also be used as a verb. Senator Lieberman chairs each meeting of his committee. That is, Lieberman presides over each meeting, he directs each meeting--even if he has only two legs himself.