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  #51  
Old 12-04-2009, 09:44 PM
magellan01 magellan01 is offline
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
I just came across the following sentence in a book I'm reading:

"The snow fell nor did it cease to fall."

Beyond simply sounding awkward, I think it's also in error grammatically. By that I mean mustn't some form of a 'negative' precede the 'nor'? In other words, shouldn't there be a 'neither' or a 'never' or some other negation before the 'nor'? Or am I simply demonstrating my simple-minded, naive approach to such things?

Indeed, the author is no slouch and I'd be more than a little surprised if he made a grammatical error (although it could be a publisher's typo, I suppose).

What do you think?

Thanks!
I agree with the posters who think it is wrong. "Nor" is used to show that neither of two things occurred. Since the author relates only one negative event, "nor" seems wrong. For some reason I can't exactly put my finger on, the addition of some type of stop after "fell" saves it. But as is, I vote not only awkward, but wrong.
  #52  
Old 12-04-2009, 09:50 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
Are you sure? Unless I'm overlooking it on the page, it doesn't seem to be there.
I see it just fine but as a public service I'll provide it here:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Cormac McCarthy
The snow by now was half a foot on the ground. He floundered out through the trees pulling up the fallen branches where they stuck out of the snow and by the time he had an armload and made his way back to the fire it has burned down to a nest of quaking embers. He threw the branches on the fire and set out again. Hard to stay ahead. The woods were getting dark and the firelight did not reach far. If he hurried he only grew faint. When he looked behind him the boy was trudging through snow half way to his knees gathering limbs and piling them in his arms.

The snow fell nor did it cease to fall. He woke all night and got up and coaxed the fire to life again. He'd unfolded the tarp and propped one end up it up beneath the tree to try and reflect back the heat from the fire. He looked at the boy's face sleeping in the orange light. The sunken cheeks streaked with black. He fought the rage. Useless. He didn't think the boy could travel much more. Even if it stopped snowing the road would be all but impassable. The snow whispered down in the stillness and the sparks rose and dimmed and died in the eternal blackness.
And while we're at it, what does "woke all night" mean?

Just for fun, I ran this through MS Word grammar check (which is not an authority, like I said, just for fun) and it didn't like the "nor" without a "not." But it recommended the following change, which is even more ridiculous than the original and a logical contradiction to boot:

The snow did not fall nor did it cease to fall.
  #53  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:48 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Passage edited for grammar and annotated:
Quote:
The snow by now was half a foot on the ground. He floundered out through the trees, pulling up the fallen branches where they stuck out of the snow, and by the time he had an armload and made his way back to the fire, it had burned down to a nest of quaking embers1 . He threw the branches on the fire and set out again. Hard to stay ahead.2 The woods were getting dark, and the firelight did not reach far. If he hurried, he only grew faint. When he looked behind him, the boy was trudging through snow half way to his knees, gathering limbs and piling them in his arms.

The snow fell, nor did it cease to fall.3 He woke all night4 and got up and coaxed the fire to life again. He'd unfolded the tarp and propped one end of it up beneath the tree to try and reflect back the heat from the fire. He looked at the boy's face sleeping in the orange light. The sunken cheeks streaked with black.5 He fought the rage.6 Useless.7 He didn't think the boy could travel much more. Even if it stopped snowing, the road would be all but impassable. The snow whispered down in the stillness, and the sparks rose and dimmed and died in the eternal blackness.
1 How do embers quake? Quaking means shaking or shivering. Now I sort of see him trying to suggest even the embers are shivering from the cold, but that is just stupid.

2 Sentence fragment.

3 Ignoring the use of nor, it still needs punctuation.

4 Would be better as "woke repeatedly all night" or "woke frequently all night" or "woke often all night" or "woke continually all night". Basically, woke needs a modifier or that statement is ungrammatical. He could be awake all night, or he could wake multiple times through the night.

5 Another sentence fragment.

6 The rage? What rage? Which rage? Why is there an article in that sentence? It doesn't belong there.

7 Technically a sentence fragment, though permissible in this instance as a sort of interjection. Grammatically acceptable.

So, is he innovative and elegant? He's innovative, in the sense of writing things in ways that are not grammatically correct. I certainly wouldn't call it elegant.

CookingWithGas said:
Quote:
Just for fun, I ran this through MS Word grammar check (which is not an authority, like I said, just for fun) and it didn't like the "nor" without a "not."
Right. Nor is a negative conjunction. "This or that, not this nor that." It needs a preceding negative - "neither" or "not".
  #54  
Old 12-05-2009, 12:57 AM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Missed one:

Quote:
If he hurried, he only grew faint. When he looked behind him, the boy was trudging through snow half way to his knees, gathering limbs and piling them in his8 arms.
8 Whose arms? The boy's or the man's? The antecedent is unclear. I suppose the preceding "his" relating to knees technically has same problem, though the closeness to the subject "boy" makes it more clear. But that sentence begins with "he" and "him" referring to the man, then jumps to using them for the boy. In fact, it took several readings to figure out that was supposed to mean the boy was also gathering sticks in his own arms. I couldn't make sense of how the man looked behind him to see the boy trudging through the snow and then gathering sticks for the man to carry.
  #55  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:43 AM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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The Seventh Deadly Finn, for years the movement has been away from commas that are unnecessary for clarity's safe. The section linked to by Contrapuntal is not missing necessary commas, although there are a couple of places where I would not have counted the use of a comma as a mistake.

Quote:
CookingWithGas: Here's a critique of that author with a broader view of his work (look for the section heading "'Muscular' Prose"), thanks to Sid Smith in a discussion from a link provided earlier in this thread by Frylock.
Oh yes. The same Sid Smith who doesn't care for Hemingway. He longs for the return of longer and more complex sentences. (That's fine by me. I liked Thomas Wolfe after Max Perkins had worked his magic.)
  #56  
Old 12-05-2009, 09:47 AM
Frylock Frylock is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post
Passage edited for grammar and annotated:


1 How do embers quake? Quaking means shaking or shivering. Now I sort of see him trying to suggest even the embers are shivering from the cold, but that is just stupid.

2 Sentence fragment.

3 Ignoring the use of nor, it still needs punctuation.

4 Would be better as "woke repeatedly all night" or "woke frequently all night" or "woke often all night" or "woke continually all night". Basically, woke needs a modifier or that statement is ungrammatical. He could be awake all night, or he could wake multiple times through the night.

5 Another sentence fragment.

6 The rage? What rage? Which rage? Why is there an article in that sentence? It doesn't belong there.

7 Technically a sentence fragment, though permissible in this instance as a sort of interjection. Grammatically acceptable.

So, is he innovative and elegant? He's innovative, in the sense of writing things in ways that are not grammatically correct. I certainly wouldn't call it elegant.

CookingWithGas said:


Right. Nor is a negative conjunction. "This or that, not this nor that." It needs a preceding negative - "neither" or "not".
Are you serious about the sentence fragments, or am I missing a joke?

Do you really think writers--fiction writers no less--should never use sentence fragments?
  #57  
Old 12-05-2009, 03:45 PM
Zoe Zoe is offline
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Frylock, I'm with you about license to use sentence fragments. But in at least one spot this author does use a fragment awkwardly.

This is a passage followed with my suggestions for change:

Quote:
McCarthy: He'd unfolded the tarp and propped one end of it up beneath the tree to try and reflect back the heat from the fire. He looked at the boy's face sleeping in the orange light. The sunken cheeks streaked with black.
He unfolded the tarp and propped one end on the tree to reflect the heat from the fire. He looked at the face of the boy sleeping in the light, the sunken cheeks streaked with black.

I agree with Irishman about the excessiveness of "quaking" embers even though at first I was ready to defend their metaphorical use. It's just not really an intelligent metaphor, is it?

I had absolutely no problems with woke or nor. Nor did I have any difficulties with knowing who was behind whom in the snow and who was holding the pile of sticks or small limbs.

I suspect that "the rage" requires more context. It's possible they may be lost in a storm due to someone's negligence.
  #58  
Old 12-05-2009, 04:34 PM
KarlGauss KarlGauss is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Irishman View Post

4 Would be better as "woke repeatedly all night" or "woke frequently all night" or "woke often all night" or "woke continually all night". Basically, woke needs a modifier or that statement is ungrammatical. He could be awake all night, or he could wake multiple times through the night.
I think McCarthy's using a definition of woke with which you're not familiar. Woke, as McCarthy employs it, is the past tense of wake, with wake meaning "to be or continue to be awake" (definition from dictionary.com) or "to be or remain awake" (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).
  #59  
Old 12-05-2009, 05:41 PM
Superhal Superhal is offline
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Quick comment about grammar:

"Grammar rules" are an illusion. They are a (flimsy) structure placed around real phenomena (language) that we don't fully understand yet. As language changes all the time, grammar struggles to keep up, and we end up with contradictions, such as Strunk and White's infamous apostrophe-possession argument.

Technically, the way "grammar" is defined now is through native speaker intuition. If we show a sentence to a bunch of native speakers of that language, will the majority agree that it is correct or an error?

One of the most infamous examples is the "a/an" distinction. The old rule was "with consonants, a; with vowels, an." However, this is completely false. It's not the letter that decides the article, it's the sound:
a house vs an hour
a universe vs an unusual occurrence.

There's also a completely undocumented group of these types of rules based on sound, not on syntax. For example, everybody knows that if you have a singular subject, you need an "s" on any simple present verbs paired with that subject:

The doctor agrees... vs. The doctors agree...

In studies, native speakers are consistently "wrong" (according to canonical "grammar") when shown sentences like this:

The group of doctors _____... vs Two cacti _____.

In the former case, the verb takes an S. In the latter case, it doesn't, but native speakers want to reverse it because they want to put an "s" sound somewhere inside the subject and the verb.

So, to answer your question: from the responses in this thread, most of the native speakers say it sounds odd, but is acceptable, and thus it would be correct. I also agree that if we look at the "canonical" grammar rule about "nor" usage, it would be wrong.

Last edited by Superhal; 12-05-2009 at 05:43 PM.
  #60  
Old 12-05-2009, 07:50 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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The rule for "a" and "an" has always been that "a" goes with a consonant sound and "an" goes with a vowel sound. There's no such old rule as you claim.

Last edited by Wendell Wagner; 12-05-2009 at 07:51 PM.
  #61  
Old 12-05-2009, 07:55 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Zoe View Post
Oh yes. The same Sid Smith who doesn't care for Hemingway. He longs for the return of longer and more complex sentences. (That's fine by me. I liked Thomas Wolfe after Max Perkins had worked his magic.)
Well, the fact that Sid Smith posted it is irrelevant; the critique he linked was an article in Atlantic Monthly, not his own.
  #62  
Old 12-05-2009, 08:02 PM
CookingWithGas CookingWithGas is offline
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Originally Posted by KarlGauss View Post
I think McCarthy's using a definition of woke with which you're not familiar. Woke, as McCarthy employs it, is the past tense of wake, with wake meaning "to be or continue to be awake" (definition from dictionary.com) or "to be or remain awake" (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).
It may be a definition buried away someplace but it buoys the argument that McCarthy is writing for himself, or possibly a very narrow audience who is in on the esoteric style. The only way I have ever heard the verb "wake" used in my life is "transition from a sleeping state to a conscious state."
  #63  
Old 12-06-2009, 01:44 AM
Sofis Sofis is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Superhal View Post
In studies, native speakers are consistently "wrong" (according to canonical "grammar") when shown sentences like this:

The group of doctors _____... vs Two cacti _____.
The fact that Latin plurals do not work with English speakers' language intuitions* does not mean that there is no such thing as grammar, just that people should stop trying to use Latin grammar while speaking English.

Grammar is as real as any other aspect of language. Sure, it changes with time and varies between dialects... just like any other aspect of language.

*) I see that a lot, actually, though mainly with words being pluralized where they shouldn't. About half of all usages of "fungi" I see should really be "fungus".
  #64  
Old 12-11-2009, 02:50 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Zoe said:
Quote:
The Seventh Deadly Finn, for years the movement has been away from commas that are unnecessary for clarity's safe. The section linked to by Contrapuntal is not missing necessary commas, although there are a couple of places where I would not have counted the use of a comma as a mistake.
Every comma I inserted was based upon rules (admittedly learned ~20 years ago). None of them were randomly inserted or superfluous.

Frylock said:
Quote:
Are you serious about the sentence fragments, or am I missing a joke?
Yes, I am serious. While I admit that fiction is more casual writing and some sentence fragments are acceptable, it should generally be avoided. I found both of those awkward, though the first is better than the second.

Zoe said:
Quote:
Nor did I have any difficulties with knowing who was behind whom in the snow and who was holding the pile of sticks or small limbs.
Your use of "nor" there is standard. You listed something you did not have a problem, and now you are adding to that list of things that are not a problem.

I think part of the problem was the lack of proper punctuation. I told you I missed it when listing issues, probably because after figuring out the sentence and adding commas, it slipped my mind it had been a problem.

Quote:
I suspect that "the rage" requires more context. It's possible they may be lost in a storm due to someone's negligence.
I concede that there may be references to rage prior to this passage that establish the context for that use.


KarlGauss said:
Quote:
I think McCarthy's using a definition of woke with which you're not familiar. Woke, as McCarthy employs it, is the past tense of wake, with wake meaning "to be or continue to be awake" (definition from dictionary.com) or "to be or remain awake" (from Merriam-Webster Online Dictionary).
I agree that we need a word that means that, but that use is certainly not common parlance. The verb is conventionally used to mean the transition from sleep to wakefulness (being awake).


Wendell Wagner said:
Quote:
The rule for "a" and "an" has always been that "a" goes with a consonant sound and "an" goes with a vowel sound. There's no such old rule as you claim.
Took me a bit to figure out what you meant. You are pointing out that the problem is not with the rule, the problem is the common understanding of what is a consonant and what is a vowel. It's not the letter that defines the category, it's how the letter is pronounced. Gotcha.
  #65  
Old 12-11-2009, 06:09 PM
Wendell Wagner Wendell Wagner is offline
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Most people use the terms "vowel" and "consonant" to refer to the graphic character, not the sound. Most people would say that "a" and "an" depend on what sound a word begins with, not on what graphic character it begins with. Claiming that the rule is the following:

"a" with a consonant
"an" with a vowel

is simply wrong for the usual definition and has always been wrong. The rule is the following:

"a" with a consonant sound
"an" with a vowel sound

Superhal was claiming that someone believed that the first rule above ever applied. That's wrong. It's always been the second rule.
  #66  
Old 03-12-2010, 11:57 AM
Yellowhippy Yellowhippy is offline
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Hi. I'm currently writing a piece of coursework on 'The Road' in comparison with 'Nineteen Eighty-four' if anyone is interested As i believe many others here have said, the missing comma after "fell" is really the only grammar issue; but a lack of punctuation, missing commas and apostrophes as well as incomplete sentences, is something that occurs throughout the book. As I explain in my essay, this appears to be intentional. It occurs consistently throughout so is not just a mistake or typo. I belive that it is used to show the effect that isolation has had on the man. It is clearly written from his point of view, even if it is not in first person. It seems to show that, in a world where he and his son are constantly on the edge of survival, grammar isn't all that important. What is important to him though, is the loss of words: "The sacred idiom shorn of its referents and so of its reality."

Last edited by Yellowhippy; 03-12-2010 at 11:58 AM.
  #67  
Old 03-12-2010, 12:32 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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Welcome to the SDMB. FYI, it is better to start a new thread with your own issue rather than to resurrect someone else's 'zombie' thread.

I'm always leery of attributing intent to the author for choices of grammar and punctuation. But Ii understand that legions of academics make decent livings doing just that.

So, let me take a wild guess about you, based on your user name and my old college days. Are you a student at Antioch in Yellow Springs?
  #68  
Old 03-12-2010, 12:59 PM
BigT BigT is offline
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Wendell Wagner View Post
Most people use the terms "vowel" and "consonant" to refer to the graphic character, not the sound. Most people would say that "a" and "an" depend on what sound a word begins with, not on what graphic character it begins with. Claiming that the rule is the following:

"a" with a consonant
"an" with a vowel

is simply wrong for the usual definition and has always been wrong. The rule is the following:

"a" with a consonant sound
"an" with a vowel sound

Superhal was claiming that someone believed that the first rule above ever applied. That's wrong. It's always been the second rule.
While the thread is resurrected, I might as well respond to this, and see if anyone knows the answer: How does the common phrase "an historical" fit with that? I always assumed it was people who saw "an hour" and thought the rule was all vowels and the letter h.
  #69  
Old 03-12-2010, 01:14 PM
Boyo Jim Boyo Jim is offline
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I've heard or read both choices for just about every word beginning with 'h'. I assume half of them are wrong. My understanding is the same as Wendell Wagner's. If the word is pronounced as if it begins with a vowel, it's preceded by 'an', otherwise it's preceded by 'a'.

If there are exceptions for particular words (and with English it would be no surprise if there was such a list) I've never heard of it.

Last edited by Boyo Jim; 03-12-2010 at 01:17 PM.
  #70  
Old 03-12-2010, 05:05 PM
Irishman Irishman is offline
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Some people are prone to pronouncing h, some are prone to treating it silently.

"An 'istorical" is how they would pronounce that.

Same way the word "Houston" has two pronunciations - the Texan one (Hyooston, Texas) and the New York one (House-ton street). Or is it Yoos-ton?
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