Only in English

Taking a break from work this weekend today I’ve been reading the latest edition of The Oldie magazine, and doing the crossword therein.

I noticed a reader’s letter about the importance of correct positioning of the word “only” in an English sentence, illustrated with the following example:

“The bishop gave the bun to the baboon”.

The point is that you can put the word “only” anywhere in this sentence (at the beginning, at the end, or between any two consecutive words) and the result each time is grammatically correct, but each choice yields a different meaning..

It’s a funny language, English!

One Response to “Only in English”

  1. Phillip Helbig Says:

    Together with another one, this is by far the most often complaint I have when reading a text. “They only saw 5 people” means that they only saw them, they didn’t smell them, taste them, hear them, feel them, kill them, love them, etc. “They saw only 5 people” means what it says.

    The other “pet peeve” is the lack of hyphenation in two-word adjectives. 🙂

    I’m reading Lake Views by Steven Weinberg. I like it as a book, and it is well edited (or well written) in that there are few typos etc. But Steven is not doing himself a favour by calling himself an elementary physicist, which is what “elementary particle physicist” parses to. Of course, it should be “elementary-particle physicist”. When someone writes that he is a high energy physicist, I ask him what he has been smoking.

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