SIR: You said it's incorrect to say, "Let he who is without sin cast the first stone." Well, isn't "he" the subject of the verb "cast"? And doesn't that mean the subjective case is correct? -Objector
ANSWER: No, it doesn't. You give me a chance to point out a little-known rule of grammar noted here more than two years ago:In the sentence, "Let him . . . cast the first stone," "him" is the subject of the elliptical infinitive phrase, "(to) cast the first stone." And subjects of infinitives or infinitive phrases must be in the objective case. See her (to) jump over the moon. Make him (to) stop hitting me. Watch them (to) eat the apple. Surely you wouldn't say, "See she jump over the moon," even if the sight excited you.
SIR: On every hand I hear and read from people in public life the word "unique" with a qualifier, as in "more unique" or "rather unique." I have always thought this word was just "unique" with no qualifier. Could the majority, who don't follow that rule, be wrong? -C.M.
ANSWER: Could and are. "Unique" means the only one of its kind. It comes from the Latin word "unicusm," meaning the one or sole. Being "rather unique" is, to use an old comparision, like being a little bit pregnant. Why must so many people work so hard to destroy the meaning of all our absolutes?
SIR: My newspaper told me that "something turned up missing." Would this be an oxymoron? - Betty L.
ANSWER: No, I don't think so. People do love to quibble about this one, but one definition of "turn up" is "to turn out to be." To say that something turned up missing is more economical than to say that it turned out to be missing, or that it was discovered to be missing.
The phrase may tantalize you, but at least it's not like the misuse of "unique," which deprives us of a useful meaning. I say let anything or anybody who wishes turn up missing, and more power to 'em.
SHARP COMMENT of the week, from I.A.K Jr:
"A story in my newspaper said that `the money still has to be dispersed though the appropriations bill.' I always thought that money is disbursed. But in view of our current Congress, perhaps the verb as used is more fitting."
Send questions, comments and good and bad examples to Lydel Sims, Watch Your Language, P.O. Box 161280, Memphis, TN 38186. If you quote a book, please give author, title and page number. Sorry, but questions can be answered only through this column.