Tuesday, October 28, 2008

What did you take the in out of in in for?

You're half-tempted just to repunctuate this one (mmm, a comma after "Charlotte" looks about right), but the problem's worse than that. Somebody forgot to count the parts of speech before driving away, and somewhere in North Carolina, a poor preposition is standing by the highway with a sign that just says "Mother."*

It's the nature of phrasal verbs to draw their meaning from the union of verb and preposition -- not necessarily greater than the sum of the parts, but different. "Turn your paper" and "turn your paper in" are two different suggestions. "Screw up a two-car funeral" isn't a comment about screwing or direction, but about "screwing up."

What we really need is "Man turns himself in in Charlotte slaying": "Turns himself in" for what went on** and "in Charlotte slaying" providing the circumstances. So let's give a big old midtown welcome to the Six Stranded Prepositions: Dear editors, what did you take the in out of in in for?

* Today's trivia question: How cold was it?
** This one seems like it has to be split if the object is a pronoun: "He turned in the suspects" or "he turned them in,"but not "he turned in them."

3 Comments:

Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

I prefer "What did you take the in in in in out for?" myself :-D

7:23 PM, October 28, 2008  
Blogger The Ridger, FCD said...

ps - ** This one seems like it has to be split if the object is a preposition: "He turned in the suspects" or "he turned them in,"but not "he turned in them."

I think you mean "pronoun", and that different treatment of pronoun objects is a hallmark of these verbs. A noun object has optional placement after the particle; a pronoun object MUST be placed before it. Compare "put the book up, put up the book, put it up, *put up it", or "look the word up, look up the word, look it up, *look up it", or "turn the tv on, turn on the tv, turn it on, *turn on it" - or my favorite example, "she turned him on" with "she turned on him".

10:24 AM, October 29, 2008  
Blogger fev said...

Yes. Pronoun. Grr. Tnx.

I like the 'in in in in' sequence. Surely there's a way to work a seventh preposition in there somewhere?

10:26 AM, October 29, 2008  

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