Archive for July, 2017

She is an adjective

Geoff, you’ve closed comments (in spite of inviting them) so I can’t reply on your post, so I’ll reply here. You claim to be stymied by this assertion:

Jane Jacobs has become more than a person. She is an adjective.

You made barely any effort to find examples or an interpretation for this. A web search for “a Jane Jacobs” (designed to elicit adjectival uses) turns up plenty of examples of “Jane Jacobs” used as an adjective, so the evidence that you linguists are so fond of is out there. Probably the above refers to “a Jane Jacobs walk” which evidently is a kind of walk or stroll. For example, I find: “Anyone can host a Jane Jacobs Walk.”

Yes, “Jane Jacobs” is not written with quote marks in “Jane Jacobs … is an adjective”, and I am fully on board with the idea that a person cannot be an adjective. But it is common in situations like the above to play around with the referential transparency a bit, for the sake of levity.

I haven’t written a grammar of English like you have. Perhaps “Jane Jacobs” in “a Jane Jacobs walk” does not qualify as an adjective? This would surprise me, but regardless, it seems to me that telling the original writer that “Jane Jacobs” is not an adjective in “a Jane Jacobs walk” would be petty.

UPDATE 10 July: HST informs me that the construction “Jane Jacobs walk” is a noun-noun formation and not an adjective-noun formation. But this is not the issue. I am talking about Geoff’s statement

I have absolutely no idea what the blurb-writer could have meant

Really? Is Geoff so unresourceful that he could not have come up with the blurb-writer’s intended meaning (which I found to be pretty easy to hunt down, and quite clear)? Or is he just pretending not to know, so that he can punish the blurb-writer and all the rest of us for stretching the word “adjective” beyond its correct technical meaning to include other kinds of noun modifications? I applaud Geoff for giving Strunk and White such a hard time over their use of words, but this case is hardly similar: first, his examples from Strunk and White may not admit a coherent non-technical interpretation (although I have not tried to discern one for their many uses of “passive voice”), and second, Strunk and White have (or had) an obligation to use technical terms properly, because they are writing technically about the technicalities of grammar and usage. The blurb-writer is under no such obligation and has a right to employ whatever colorful rhetorical devicesĀ  he/she likes, as long as the result is comprehensible and true.

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