Monday, March 31, 2008

certitudo indoctorum

It’s the sort of grammatical rule that’s easy to remember: use between with two conjoined noun phrases, but among with three or more. It also has nothing to do with English grammar or usage, but that does not stop the learnèd ignorant from foisting it upon you. It is an example of the etymological fallacy. Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary of English Usage (link) quotes J A H Murray (the first editor of the OED):

[Between] is still the only word available to express the relation of a thing to many surrounding things severally and individually, among expressing a relation to them collectively and vaguely.

The editors go on to say The OED shows citations for between used of more than two from 971 to 1885. 971 is the date the Bickling Homilies were composed (link). I took a look at the index. The entries for betweonum show that it is used four times as a postposition (probably more of a verbal particle), and a couple of times split with its complement coming between the two parts. For example:

þa cwædon þa apostolas to þæm folce, ‘Heo bið swiþor gestrangod be us tweonum þurh Drihtnes gehát’. p.143.ll.11f.

then said the Apostles to the people, ‘She shall be much more strengthened among us by God’s promise’.

In other words, pretty much since English has been written down, between has been used with more than three items.

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Sunday, March 16, 2008

mercutio florio

Years ago, while book-grazing at the local regional library facility, I came across a curious typescript called William Shakespeare, alias Mercutio Florio. Its title page indicated the author was Friderico Georgi, but in the card catalog this was said to be a pseudonym of Franz Maximilian Saalbach. It was published in Heidelberg in 1954. Googling Franz Saalbach dredges up a Heidelberger Geschichtsverein e.V. HGV history page (link) where 17. September 1952: Gründung der HIAG-Kreisgemeinschaft Heidelberg im Bergbräu, Hauptstraße 27. Zum ersten Sprecher wird Franz Saalbach gewählt.. The German Amazon lists the book, but there the author is Erich Gerwien (link). What triggered all of this was running across a theory that Shakespeare was Italian which a couple of Sicilian professors came up with (link). And, as with anything Shakespearean, can the Oxfordists be far off? This final bit is thanks to Languagehat (link).