Saturday, May 22, 2004

Lessons from Bremner

This is the fourth lesson. Click here for the first, second and third.

(Bremner is going through a sentence on his editing test.)
3. Only one of the people who work in the lab is a veterinarian.

BREMNER: Only one of the people. [I would assume Bremner once considered people an error but has had to relent.] AP now says we use people for anything -- two, three, four, whatever. We don't say two persons, three persons. ...

Now, is it work or works? Works? How many people say work? Three of you are right. Ah, what a group. Work is correct. [From the audience: Why?] All right there, steady now.

What's the subject of the verb work? Who, good. What does who refer to? people. What number is people? Plural. People is plural, therefore who is plural, therefore the verb is plural. You say, oh, well, this is simple stuff. Why is it only three of you got it? I'm not mocking you. You're brilliant, every one of you. You wouldn't be here unless you were brilliant. But, you see, there are certain fundamental things that we have to either learn or relearn. Work is correct.

It's vet-ER-inarian. I just put it in there because you so often hear it "vet-rinarian, vet-rinarian, vet-rinarian," and you see it misspelled. Vet-ER-inarian. It comes from the Latin word vetus, veterinous, meaning old. And veterinarians originally were the people who took care of sick farm animals, old animals, usually. And that's how they got to be called veterinarians.
More tomorrow: Sequence of tenses!


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