Friday, 29 June 2012

Le gérondif d’un fruit sec.

That the writer looking for wriggle-room when attempting to compare the incomparable invariably finds a lexicon-defying escape hatch in the gerund was borne in on me on a further reading of George Saintsbury’s Scrap Books (I now have the set of three). 

As has been cogently observed by grammarians, as soon as we add a definite or indefinite article to what we regard as a gerund – whether singular or plural – we automatically transform its verbal sense into a verbal noun.

So clearly we hear the scream of a gerund when Hannibal Lecter says to Clarice Starling, ‘You still wake up sometimes, don't you? You wake up in the dark and hear the screaming of the lambs.’

The Pernickity.

But do we hear the scream of a gerund when George Saintsbury, in comparing the incomparable, writes: ‘Chocolate-boxity is after all better than Cubism.’ (?)

There’s a hidden definite article here, I suggest, cf. ‘... the pernickity and the fashionable ...’ from the Preface to The Four Gospels in Braid Scots - William A Smith (1901)

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