Monday, November 03, 2008

Ah, Nuance

The New York Times has a column by Stanley Fish about a plumber who might actually deserve more fame than that Joe guy.

It does contain a wee error:
There is one story I shall never forget; nor shall the others who heard it one evening in Chapel Hill, N.C., when my wife and I, my parents and her parents (cultivated, literate people) were having dinner in a restaurant. Because the restaurant was housed in a former railway car, the passage was narrow and the tables close together.

Although "shall" has largely fallen off the tongues of the masses, people who want to use it to elevate their style should do so correctly.

The old-school rule was that "shall" was the first-person form expressing something that would be done in the future. I shall and we shall are correct. For second and third person, though, "will" is the form to use.

So, I shall but others will. I shall floss my teeth. Others will floss their teeth.

Interestingly, this reverses with a determination, promise or command.

I will eat my grapes! They shall eat their grapes!

Interesting, no? Here's the entire column, if you're curious.

No comments: