Re: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng)

Subject: Re: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng)
From: Janet Swisher <jmswisher -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Handy, David" <dhandy -at- informatica -dot- com>
Date: Fri, 10 Jul 2009 12:20:48 -0500

On 7/10/09, Handy, David <dhandy -at- informatica -dot- com> wrote:
> Sorry but I really feel the need to stomp on this -
> In what universe is "twenty years has taught me" correct?

I don't know about you, but I live in a universe where it is
acceptable to most native English speakers for a subject and verb to
agree based on meaning, rather than on overt grammatical markers. Only
those who overthink about grammatical consistency see any problems
with this. "Twenty years" is taken as a unit in this case, and
therefore can have a singular verb. This is called "notional
agreement". I recommend "Merriam Webster's Concise Dictionary of
English Usage" (2002) for its discussion of this topic and many

Some other examples, quoted in MWCDEU from Quirk et al., "A
Comprehensive Grammar of the English Language", 1985:

* Ten dollars is all I have left
* Two miles is as far as they can walk.
* Two thirds of the area is under water.

To my ear, the first two would sound stilted with plural verbs, and
the third would sound absurd.

> In that
> universe, the following are also correct:
> "Mine eyes has seen the glory... "
> "Many hands makes light work."

No, in these cases, the plurally-marked subjects are not considered
unitary in meaning.

> If one said "twenty years' experience has taught me" then ok, one would
> have a plausible case. But that wasn't what was said.
> Feel free to stomp back if I've missed something -

I stopped reading the thread a good while ago, but then it showed up
again under a new subject heading with your invitation.

> -----Original Message-----
> From: techwr-l-bounces+dhandy=informatica -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> [mailto:techwr-l-bounces+dhandy=informatica -dot- com -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com] On
> Behalf Of Janet Littell
> Sent: 09 July 2009 17:23
> To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
> Subject: Re: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng)
> I wonder if Michael's original remark was based on both meanings below.
> If so, either "has" or "have" could do the job.
> Janet
> > From: "Gene Kim-Eng" <techwr -at- genek -dot- com>
> > Subject: Re: job-hunt weirdness
> >
> > My impression of this "tedious argument" is that Michael is not the
> > one who started it.
> >
> > Collective nouns are one of the major hair-pullers of the English
> > language.
> > They may be either singular or plural, depending on what message the
> > user intends to deliver. My interpretation of Michael's "years have"
> > was that he had learned a lesson from repeated observations of other
> > peoples' poor use of grammar over a period of years, while your
> > preferred "years has"
> > would have
> > suggested to me that he had spent those years continuously studying
> > the subject before coming to his conclusion. Perhaps Michael can tell
> > us which he intended.
> >
> > For my part, I would rather spend an evening listening to Norm Crosby
> > recordings than try to correct someone else's usage of a collective
> > noun without a stack of academic references in my hand.

That's why I love MWCDEU. It covers all the issues raised by two and a
half centuries of English usage books, and provides guidance based on
evidence of contemporary usage. The editors' descriptivist stance
prevents them from being snarky about usage, so instead they are
snarky about past usage writers.

Visit my blog at:

Free Software Documentation Project Web Cast: Covers developing Table of
Contents, Context IDs, and Index, as well as Doc-To-Help
2009 tips, tricks, and best practices.

Help & Manual 5: The complete help authoring tool for individual
authors and teams. Professional power, intuitive interface. Write
once, publish to 8 formats. Multi-user authoring and version control!

You are currently subscribed to TECHWR-L as archive -at- web -dot- techwr-l -dot- com -dot-

To unsubscribe send a blank email to
techwr-l-unsubscribe -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
or visit

To subscribe, send a blank email to techwr-l-join -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com

Send administrative questions to admin -at- techwr-l -dot- com -dot- Visit for more resources and info.

Please move off-topic discussions to the Chat list, at:


Re: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng): From: Janet Littell
RE: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng): From: Handy, David

Previous by Author: Re: Recruiters--Can't beat them, so join them?
Next by Author: Re: Suggestions for free/cheap/Open Source documentation for Web Site & PDF?
Previous by Thread: Re: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng)
Next by Thread: RE: job-hunt weirdness (Gene Kim-Eng)

What this post helpful? Share it with friends and colleagues:

Sponsored Ads