[PLUG-TALK] the predicate nominative (was Re: [PLUG] OT - grammar checkers.)

glen e. p. ropella gepr at tempusdictum.com
Mon Oct 25 10:09:54 PDT 2004

=><=><= "g" == GLL  <guy1656 at ados.com> writes:

g> : Yes, I understand.  However the word "that" implies something other
g> : than the subject.

g> 'That' and 'which' also imply that the object is inanimate or sub-human.
g> Examples: 'a desk that I bought,' and ''the horse that I rode,' but not 'the 
g> waiter that served me' (unless it's a robot, or if you are a stuffed-up bigot 
g> implying that the waiter is, for some other reason, far below your standing 
g> and possibly an evolutionary degenerate - or worse, a nasty racial slur.)

So, you're point here is that because one English rule is nonsensical,
then it's OK for another rule to be nonsensical?  [grin]

g> : When one says "That is green", for example,
g> : they're not normally referring to themselves. 

g> OUCH! One NEVER uses a plural 'they' to indicate a SINGULAR. (that's from my 
g> Strunk & White.) If you want to escape the fact that in Standard English the 
g> masculine gender subsumes the feminine, but you cower in fear that this FACT 
g> may make some people upset, then use plural throughout, or use the second 
g> person, and finally, for those rare sentences where you've painted yourself 
g> into a corner, muster your courage and say 'his,' and 'himself,' and stand 
g> your ground. You have centuries of English grammar to back you up on this.

Hmmm.  The gender issue is a secondary reason I use "they" and
"themselves" in conjunction with "one".  There's another, more
important reason.  (Note that I'm not suggesting that _my_ reasons are
transpersonal.... this reasoning might not work for anyone
else... especially if they are conformist in their behavior and moral
justification. ;-)

"One", as in "When one says..." or "One [should] never ..." is
actually a plural concept.  It seems singular; but, it's not.  "One"
defines an entire _set_ of subjects.  When I say "When one says...",
I'm referring to anyone who might actually be capable of saying "...".
So, what "one" refers to in that context is any given element in an
inductively defined set.

In this sense, "one" is refering to the same real world set of objects
that "they" and "themselves" is refering to.  So, the context is
preserved.  Now, I realize that "he", "him", "himself", etc can also
indicate the same inductively defined set as "one".  But, since I'm
guilty of trying to make English more like a calculus, I prefer to
settle in on the less ambiguous words.  And it seems to me that "he",
"him", and "himself" are too personal to indicate these inductively
defined sets.... simply because they indicate gender.  ("He" is more
particular than "they" because it doesn't include the females.)  I
would switch entirely to using "people" in place of "one"... But, that
brings its own problems.  "People" is more particular than "one" in
the same way that "he" is more particular than "they".  Both "people"
and "one" are inductively defined; but, "people" has a denotation of
homo-sapiens, the biological animal.  "One" could mean an abstract 
personality like a computer program or God or somesuch.

So, when I say "When one says ...", it is completely appropriate to 
use an equally non-particular word like "them" or "themselves" in the
predicate to indicate the same inductively defined set of referents.

g> : say "That is me", you've stepped outside yourself... you're referring
g> : to yourself in the third person, not the first.

g> The simple "X is Y[period]" sentence is one of the rare instances where both X 
g> and Y are conjugated as subjects, so "That is I" is correct but "That is me" 
g> by itself is incorrect. It becomes usable if another clause follows, such as 
g> "That is me, in the lower left corner of the photo."

Hmmm.  OK.  I can buy that it's a peculiar property of the to be verb,
I guess.  But, I don't have to _like_ it! [grin] But, this whole
rationalization about predicate nominatives doesn't wash.  It smacks
of post-hoc intellectualist grafting of a reasonable structure over
the top of an historically accidental linguistic accretion.

glen e. p. ropella              =><=                           Hail Eris!
H: 503.630.4505                              http://www.ropella.net/~gepr
M: 971.219.3846                               http://www.tempusdictum.com

More information about the PLUG-talk mailing list