Monday, August 1, 2016

Peanuts and none

[Peanuts , August 4, 1969.]

Today’s Peanuts first ran almost forty-seven years ago. “Gramma says that none of her other grandchildren has a blanket”: Lucy seems to be heeding The Elements of Style (1959), which declares that none “takes the singular verb,” period. (The declaration is an E. B. White addition to William Strunk Jr.’s 1918 text.) Subsequent editions of The Elements (1972, 1979, 2000) allow more flexibility: “A plural verb is commonly used when none suggests more than one thing or person.”

Bryan Garner’s Garner’s Modern English (2016) points out that none can mean “not one” or “not any.” Garner offers this guidance about choosing a verb:

To decide which to use, substitute the phrases to see which fits the meaning of the sentence: not one is or not any are.
Which phrase fits the meaning of Lucy’s sentence: “Not one of her other grandchildren,” or “not any of her other grandchildren”? I give up! But I know that the singular has sounds strange to my ear here. Garner has a helpful comment:
Generally speaking, none is the more emphatic way of expressing an idea. But it’s also the less common way, particularly in educated speech, and it therefore sounds somewhat stilted. The problem is exacerbated by the unfortunate fact that some stylists and publications insist that none is always singular, even in the most awkward constructions.
What was once plainly correct — the singular verb — now sounds stilted. I’d opt for “None of her other grandchildren have a blanket.” And now I wonder if Lucy gets her crabbiness from her grandmother.

You can find the complete run of Peanuts at GoComics.

Related reading, via Pinboard
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[Linus’s reply to his sister: “Tell Gramma that I’m very happy for her, and that my admiration for those other wonderfully well-adjusted grandchildren knows no bounds!”]

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