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A really ordinary example

Posted by R. Berg on March 17, 2003

In Reply to: . . . defending her sincerity posted by TheFallen on March 17, 2003

: : : : : : : : : are the structures of 'Not be (or Do )sth else'
: : : : : : : : : and 'All sth to be (or do) not sth else' still in used side by side ? coz too me they are mean two difference things. And I even don't know if the way to understand 'All that glitters is not gold' as 'Not all that glitters is gold' still conventional in modern english. If it is , then how should we differenciate the meanings of those two structures.

: : : : : : : : : By the way, I have a wild guess that 'Not all that glitters is gold'could be rephrased in full as 'it is not that all that glitters is gold'.

: : : : : : : : : Thank you all

: : : : : : : : Your last statement is correct. Logically, "It is not that all that glitters is gold" says the same thing as "Not all that glitters is gold." We could also say "It is not true that all that glitters is gold."

: : : : : : : : I can't answer the first question because I don't know what you mean by "sth else."

: : : : : : : If you want to avoid confusion, do not use constructions in English such as "all X are not Y", because they are unclear. The expression "all that glitters is not gold" is only permissible because it's traditional - not because it's well-expressed or clear. (In fact, it's quite the opposite, as you yourself found out).

: : : : : : : I reproduce Fred's post (fractionally edited) from the earler thread on this subject, because he explained it far better than I could.

: : : : : : : *** start snip ***

: : : : : : : The sentence 'All that glitters is not gold' is used in logic text books. It often occurs in the
: : : : : : : section on Aristotle's logic. Sentences of the form 'All X are not Y' are eschewed since they are ambiguous, since the word 'not' may apply solely to 'Y' or to the whole sentence 'All X are Y.'

: : : : : : : If the former, we get 'All X are non-Y' or 'No X are Y.'

: : : : : : : If the latter we get 'It is not true that all X are Y' or 'Some X are *not* Y.'

: : : : : : : *** end snip ***
: : : : : : :
: : : : : : : Basically, no native English speaker would ever use any other phrase formed in a "all X are not Y" fashion. To use an example, we'd either say "all politicans are dishonest", if we wanted to damn politicians in their entirety for untruthfulness, or we'd say "not all politicians are honest", if we wanted to admit that a few politicians are liars. We would absolutely NEVER say "all politicians are not honest" - it's just not English.

: : : : : : English speakers do say things like that. Maybe they shouldn't, but they do.

: : : : : : "I'm going to bed."
: : : : : : "Come on, everybody's staying up for one more game of cards."
: : : : : : "Well, everybody doesn't have to get up at six tomorrow morning."

: : : : : Hmmmm - the example isn't that similar. It's in the singular, uses a modal construction of "to get up" rather than just "to be", and is further skewed by the final speaker's tongue-in-cheek implied treatment of "everybody" as a proper noun. Even despite all this, over here in the UK, we'd be far FAR more liable to say:

: : : : : "Well, not everybody has to get up at six tomorrow morning."

: : : : It is, too, similar--similar in its logic even though the details you mentioned do differ. Treatment of "everybody" as a proper noun was not intended. "All that glitters" is singular, and "everybody" is similarly singular in form and plural in meaning.

: : : : Try this one. Americans might say "All the defendants in court today probably aren't guilty, but I'll bet half of them are."

: : : Now, being a marketing man, I definitely admire the cunning and the artifice with which that last example has been created - the use of "probably" to ensure that the first half is not definitive, and the use of a semi-paradoxical "but" clause to post-indicate the meaning of the main clause. However, you lot over the pond would really honestly be prone to saying something like that mouthful? Over here, we'd be much happier with "probably not all..." constructions.

: : Cunning? Artifice? I only tried to create an example that would be plausible. "Probably" and "but" serve to reveal the context in which someone might utter that sentence.

: : All right, here's another attempt.

: : "You're not getting your nose pierced, and that's that!"
: : "Aw, Mom, all the kids at school have nose rings."
: : "All of them aren't MY kids."

: : The "all . . . not" construction is common enough that the style book of a publisher for which I once worked told writers not to use it.

: That's a good example, as it happens. There's still something about it that I can't quite put my finger on, though. It's to do with a riposte in dialogue where the responder deliberately lifts the subject (including word form) of the previous claim and inserts it into a new setting to emphasise his/her point. It probably has a fancy name, but your example stands...

: (... in that specific usage).

: *grin*

Still trying to generate an example that illustrates the common (ambiguous) use and can't be disqualified as some sort of exception involving a speaker's sarcastic intent or wordplay:

"Did all the legislators agree to vote with our faction?"
"No, all of them didn't, but many did, and I think we have the required two-thirds majority now."

If the verb must be "to be," just start with "Are all the legislators on our side?"