Question for grammarians - whence or from whence?

I had a pleonasm once. I had to have it surgically removed.

Thanks, AW, or should I say SC*. It’s nice to see the ol’ psychosis isn’t affecting everything. (I started to put “effecting” just to annoy the grammarians, but I just couldn’t do it; that one bothers me too much, too.)


*Smiley Curmudgeon

Yup, Colibri – it can be said that, as far as linguists are concerned, there is only ONE unassailable grammar rule:

If the recipient understands the message, then the message is grammatically perfect. No other requirements apply.

All the “rules” we learn in English class, and which are laid out in in Strunk and White? Those aren’t rules of good “grammar”, per se, but merely of “good style”.

Say someone speaking accented English watches Sylvester and Tweety cartoons with you. He cracks up and says “Ha ha! ‘I think I see puddy-tat!!’ Oh, is so funny, no?”

Now, do you understand what he is trying to communicate to you? Likely, yes – with the contextual cues, you’d have no problem wading through his stylistic eccentricities. Therefore, that speaker’s use of English is “gramatically” perfect.

While whence does literally mean “from where,” the construction “from whence” has a long history, and to consider it a solecism would be the most unkindest cut of all.

Ooooh! A triple!


I’m not sure I’ve fully made up my mind, but I don’t think influence should a major factor in the strength of a quotation. A quotation should show very clearly an appropriate, nearly perfect use.
Now, if people largely used a word becauseit appeares in a popular work, that’s different. The word “legion” in the phrase “my name is legion”. Absolutely connected to the Bible, it would be silly not to quote it.
But quoting any translation from Greek? Quoting those forced to adapt it into an English word at point when ancient Greek was not nearly as well understood as it is today? Certainly far from how the Greeks themselves understood it? That’s adding too much confusion. Dictionaries are supposed to reflect native speech.

A good dictionary will show how a word or phrase is used over time, including how it has changed (or not) over time. This helps us learn how our language has evolved.

Although it is not a secular work, The King James Bible is a popular work. In its time, and for a long time thereafter, it was hugely popular, and could be said to be the best-seller of all time. It was high on the list of what people read, if they could read, and of course was regularly read to them. As such it was both reflective of usage, and influential as to usage.

The King James Bible is in the vernacular. In fact, one of the reasons it was created was to provide a powerful, thoughtful and beautiful bible in the vernacular.

As an example of usage of the period, it is superlative. Does this mean that it is authoritative as to what took place in biblical times, or that it provides a fair translation of earlier biblical texts? Of course not. But that sort of authority (or lack thereof) is entirely different from its premier place as a cultural and linguistic landmark.

Muffin, missin’ the point. The JKV is very important, it just isn’t an important translation now. It’s history. People who lived 200 years ago may have found it formative, but not people today. We have better translations.

If a word was defined (or misdefined) based on the understanding of a poorly translated work 300 years ago, fine. Let the citation say so.

A dictionary like the Oxford English is expected to do this. But other dictionaries, claiming to represent contemporary usage (or at least that of PBS watchers) should not be citing a work which almost none of their readers know, or understand. And which none are ever likely to understand–mistranslated Greek from 350 years ago. Seems obvious.

Hey! Watch that stuff!!

Reports of my death have been extremely overstated (though one poster, in a thread that happened to mention the Martyrdom of Polycarp) was sufficiently concerned to inquire about me!) :wink: