The...the... (and other comparisons)
|From:||Roger Mills <rfmilly@...>|
|Date:||Wednesday, April 26, 2006, 16:57|
> caeruleancentaur wrote at 2006-04-25 17:03:41 (-0000)
> > Sally Caves <scaves@...> wrote:
> > >The higher the lower. Makes no sense--in English.
> > The higher the pole vaulter went, the lower the spirits of the
> > opposition sank.
> > It really does depend on context. :-)
>Tim May wrote:
> I don't think that's what Sally meant. Certainly you can use "the
> higher the X, the lower the Y" in context, but I don't think you _can_
> ever say "the higher the lower" as you can "the more the merrier" or
> "the sooner the better".
In this whole discussion, I wonder if we aren't overlooking something: some
few of these expressions have become so generic, so suitable for any
occasion, that they require no context. Whereas most others can only apply
in very specific circumstances.
I'm reminded of the old story about the prisoners, who'd heard each others'
jokes so often, that simply saying "Number 49" would send everyone into
gales of laughter. Any in-group/clique has similar catchwords. On a
culture-wide scale, these are our catchwords-- not unlike--as I believe
Sally mentioned-- the Dharmoks'(sp?) metaphors.
I have similar feelings about John Quijada's post on comparison of
adjectives: I can't see that it would be necessary, practical or possible,
to encode all the various contexts grammatically. True, saying "X is
healthier" is elliptical, but it's a reduction _in context_ of "X is
healthier than [whatever]", and would depend on the hearer's prior knowledge
of the situation-- the presuppositions and assumptions underlying the
discourse. "X is healthier" simply would not occur, out of the blue, as the
first statement in a new discourse.