Creativity: counselling for split infinitives

The Starship Enterprise: on course to boldly split infinitives
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The Independent Online
Split infinitives, Frank Card informs us, "can be used to vividly, albeit with great potential for offending the strict grammarians who deplore the very idea of splitting an infinitive despite the fact that many authorities such as Chambers' Guide to Grammar and Usage condone the practice 'if the most logical, most natural and most unambiguous position for an adverb... is between to and a following infinitive', demonstrate just how far an infinitive can be split if one puts one's mind to it."

Ciarn Ryan reported his split infinitive to the Severn Trent Water Leakline, but he says they told him that "some woman said on Radio 4 that English is a living language and that I should not worry about matters that do not concern me".

Simon Alterman points out that what Chambers meant to say was: "...to most logically, naturally and unambiguously position an adverb." Rose Waters offers a split-infinitive Haiku:

"To baldly go where

No merkin has gone before

Yours sincerely, Rose."

Elaine Bisco wonders if Split infinitive is anywhere near Split in Yugoslavia. Geoffrey Langley uses his partially split infinitive as a device to carry solecisms in. Mollie Caird refuses to foully foul-up Fowler. Sandy Martin proposes a job-creation scheme for arc-welders to sparklingly join split infinitives together again.

Dunan Bull points out that Government ministers in the 1950s proclaimed that nuclear reactors would produce an infinite amount of power. Had they split the infinitive, he claims, we could have had twice as much. John Dyke, hoping to truly be of help, suggests using a split infinitive "to specifically annoy a traditionalist grammarian, who will try to completely stop situations where you have to unavoidably split infinitives". "Present them to literary perfectionists," recommends Patsy Abraham, "to give them something to smugly grin about."

Pete Scales adopts a tone of harsh realism: "Recent Government statistics suggest that as many as one in three infinitives eventually split. Some are from poor backgrounds (eg: 'to slyly gob') and their pairing was inadvisable in the first place." He suggests that all infinitives considering separation should be offered counselling.

Maurice Hulks is moved to verse:

"In our menage-a-trois," said the adverb,

"The infinite best's always been

With the bits of the other on't outside,

And the one (that is me) in between."

Gilbert Wood has the handy tip of using the two halves of the infinitive separately, with different verbs. "Indeed, if it can be done cleanly, the larger infinitives can often be divided into three or even four usable parts. The savings may not be large, but they mount up."

"Split them crosswise, not lengthwise," say John and Fiona Earle, "and mix them with a nice lot of woodchippings to make a mulch."

Prizes to Ciarn Ryan, Pete Scales and Gilbert Wood. Next week, things to do with 29th February. Meanwhile, we seek uses for redundant chess grandmasters when they are replaced by machines. Ideas, please, to: Creativity, the Independent, 1 Canada Square, Canary Wharf, London E14 5DL. Three more Chambers' Guide to Grammar and Usage prizes for the best suggestions.

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