Sunday, 13 March 2005

Up with which

I was taken to task the other day for ending a sentence with a preposition. I long ago acquired the mellowness that comes with extreme age, and nowadays I extend an almost saintly suffering-gladly tolerance even to constipated semi-literate fatheads like this task-taker, so I smiled kindly, wished him a plague of boils and moved on. But the fool has done me a service by reminding me of an old story which I can repeat here and thus have something to write about on a rather dull Sunday morning which found me devoid of a subject.

The story tells how a sentence ending with seven prepositions came to be spoken:
Mother has gone downstairs to find a book for the bedtime story and comes up with a volume about Australia. The child simply cannot understand how she has made such a preposterous choice: “Mother, what on earth did you bring a book to read out of about Down Under up for?

5 comments:

Michèle said...

That tremor I just felt must be from a half million dead English teachers rolling in their graves . . .

Tony said...

Why, hello, Michèle.
According to your photo you are only four years old but with a middle name like that you must be a very serious writer indeed.
Greetings
Tony

Steve Ranson said...

Thanks for sharing that sentence.
I think that there must be more.
I'm sure I'm going to save it,
but I don't think I know what for.

Tony said...

The Guinness Book of (World) Records used to have a category for "most prepositions at end". The incumbent record was the one I quoted, but someone wrote to Guinness, asking: "What did you say that the sentence with the most prepositions at the end was Mother, what on earth did you bring a book to read out of about Down Under up for? for? The preceding sentence has one more."
Guinness replied, promising to include this improvement in the next British edition, but then, no doubt eventually realising that this could be done recursively, dropped the category.

I think that’s enough of all that, don’t you?

Vance said...

There is another sentence that ends with seven prepositions. It is being attributed to George W. Bush.