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Old February 16 2013, 03:10 AM   #1
That split infinitive we all love...

A bit of a rant, and perhaps an observation I haven't seen mentioned anywhere else...

I was reading this book, "Writing the Popular Novel" by Loren Estleman, and in Chapter 4 it talks about common errors in English, including split infinitives. Let's me quote a small section...

Writing the Popular Novel wrote:
Split infinitives are also endemic today. "To be" and "to do" are infinitives, and one separates them at rhythm's peril. I like to think that the original Star Trek wouldn't have been cancelled if the crew of the Starship Enterprise were ordered "to go boldly where on man has gone before" rather than "to boldly go."
First up, what is the problem with split infinitives? Why must the adverb come AFTER the verb?

Secondly, and this is what really bugs me, Estleman says split infinitives ruin rhythm, and yet, the Star Trek monologue only has rhythm if the infinitive is split. Specifically, Iambic Pentameter.


ly GO
where NO
one has GONE

If we avoid splitting the infitive, we get the clunky

to GO
where NO...

Keeping the infinitive unsplit requires us to put the accent on the wrong syllable of "boldly", destroying the rhythm, and yet, according to Estleman, splitting infinitives is the rhythm destroyer?

I think not.

BTW, has anyone else noticed before that the line is in iambic pentameter before?
Tiberius is offline   Reply With Quote