Monday, June 11, 2007

To blithely split infinitives: a group collaboration in Draft form...

from Karen M.

Does anyone else want to compile a list of examples of famously split infinitives?

Of course, there is "to boldly go."

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and from Frankly, my dear...

Since I don't seem to be able to make additions to your post, I've started a parallel one from which you can copy and paste.

Points to make: First, in principle an infinitive can't be split in English since it is the simplest form of the verb (walk, stand, run, etc.). Technically speaking, the form 'to' + infinitive in English is known as the supine. On the other hand, about 1 person in 100,000 knows this and if you talk about split supines no one will have a clue what you are talking about. In common usage, 'infinitive' usually encompasses both the simple verb (nomen actionis) and the form with 'to' (the supine).

Then, like 'she turned him on' there should probably be a nod to "Obligatorily Split Infinitives."

George Bernard Shaw, the brilliant Irish playwright, once sent this letter to the Times of London: “There is a busybody on your staff who devotes a lot of time to chasing split infinitives: I call for the immediate dismissal of this pedant. It is of no consequence whether he decides to go quickly or to quickly go or quickly to go. The important thing is that he should go at once.”

The twentieth-century writer and cartoonist James Thurber had this to say to the editor who rearranged his infinitive: “When I split an infinitive, it is going to damn well stay split!”

Both of the above quotations can be found at this site.

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from Karen M.

I loved those examples, Frankly... !

Any of the current contributors are free to blithely make edits directly on this post. [Permissions were updated to make this possible.]

Anyone else is free to make suggestions in the comments and we will, if we like them, add them to the post for you.

1 comment:

John Cowan said...

Split infinitives are normal ordinary parts of English, and there are sentences which have different meaning if the infinitives are unsplit.