Linguistic humor, Split infinitives
Source: James Thurber. 1931. The owl in the attic and other
perplexities. New York: Harper & Row. 8788.
My contemporary, Mr. Fowler, in a painstaking analysis of the split
infinitive, divides the English-speaking world into five classes as
regards this construction: those who don't know and don't care, those who
don't know and do care, those who know and approve, those who know and
condemn, and those who know and discriminate.
Mr. Fowler's point
is, of course, that there are good split infinitives and bad ones. For
instance, he contends that it is better to say "Our object is to further
cement trade relations," thus splitting "to cement," than to say "Our
object is further to cement trade relations," because the use of "further"
before "to cement" might lead the reader to think it had the weight of
"moreover" rather than of "increasingly." My own way out of all this
confusion would be simply to say "Our object is to let trade relations
ride," that is, give them up, let them go. Some people would regard the
abandonment of trade relations, merely for the purpose of avoiding
grammatical confusion, as a weak-kneed and unpatriotic action. That, it
seems to me, is a matter for each person to decide for himself. A man who,
like myself, has no knowledge at all of trade relations cannot be expected
to take the same interest in cementing them as, say, the statesman or the
politician. This is no reflection on trade relations.