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Re: Elegant flexibility

Posted by Smokey Stover on January 07, 2004

In Reply to: Re: Elegant flexibility posted by Bob on January 06, 2004

: : : : The following was posted on my school message board - we were having a discussion about 'English as she is spoke'! I thought I should share the offering.

: : : : THE NINE ARTICLES OF SPEECH

: : : : A POEM FOR CHILDREN: WRITTEN BY JOHN NEALE IN 1886

: : : : Three little words we often see,
: : : : An ARTICLE a, an and the.

: : : : NOUN's the name of anything,
: : : : As school or garden, hoop or string.

: : : : ADJECTIVES tell the kind of noun,
: : : : As great, small, pretty, white or brown.

: : : : Instead of nouns the PRONOUNS stand,
: : : : John's head, his face, my arm, your hand.

: : : : VERBS tell of something being done,
: : : : To read, write, count, sing, jump or run.

: : : : How things are done, the ADVERBS tell,
: : : : As slowly, quickly, ill or well.

: : : : A PREPOSITION stands before
: : : : A noun, as in or through a door.

: : : : CONJUNCTIONS join the nouns together,
: : : : As men and children, wind and weather.

: : : : The INTERJECTION shows surprise,
: : : : As Oh, how pretty! Ah how wise!

: : : : The whole are called 'nine parts of speech',
: : : : Which reading, writing, speaking, teach.

: : : ::::: We have inherited a wonderfully elegant tool in this language. In a recent communication to a member of the PF, we compared the 'open system' that is English to the other European languages which have different structures. This language invites new concepts, new uses for words and is a language that supports and promotes invention and progres.
: : : As those who guard other languages attempt to keep their language 'pure' they fall behind in technology and the ability to progress intellectually and give names to the thoughts it takes to expand imagination and consciousness.
: : : English is difficult because of this very openness and the wide ranging nature of its scope. Phrases are shorthand for all of us, and how very effective --- if maddening to non native speakers.

: "Garage" is obviously a noun. In "garage door," however, it seems eerily adjective-like. Out of curiosity, scholars, what do you call that?

I used to garage my car about three blocks from my home, since I have neither a garage nor a garage door. In English, almost any noun can be used as a very or as an adjective. I have heard the latter called a noun-modifier, and not being a grammarian I would probably call it a noun used as an adjective. It happens all the time, and only context and familiarity will tell us how to sort it out. Personally, I don't regard the kind of phrases being searched out by Phrase Finders as "shorthand" so much as they are examples of colorful speech introduced to make talking and writing more interesting. Many of what we call cliches are, of course, examples of what was once colorful speech or figurative expression become stale with overuse. They are overused, in many cases, because they are so apt. So rail at cliches, if you like, but you'd be more helpful if you invented new ones--or new colorful expressions so apt that they may become cliches. (SS)