Sunday, August 18, 2013

"And nor"?

In a philosophy essay that I wrote recently I quoted another philosopher. In the quote, the other philosopher began a sentence with the phrase, "And nor...", i.e., "Things are not that way. And nor are they the other way." I put a "[sic]" after it because it seemed blatantly obvious to me that it was an error: how could you have two conjunctions in a row? A conjunction connects part A to part B, so under what circumstances would you ever need more than one conjunction? Doesn't "nor" essentially mean "and not" -- in which case "and nor" would mean "and and not"? I don't have a problem with beginning a sentence with a conjunction even though it's technically incorrect, but "And nor" (hey! three conjunctions in a row!) is more than I can stomach.

But in the last few days, I've seen two other authors begin a sentence this way, one in the mainstream media, and the other a well-known theologian. All three of the authors in question are British. So what I'm wondering, and what I'm asking my readers for their input, is this: is "And nor" an acceptable way to begin a sentence? Is it acceptable in British English but not American English? Or is it acceptable in both and I'm just being a grammar-Nazi about it? If you have any insight into this, please let me know.

Update: Just a few minutes later and I found this blogpost which asks the same question, and references N.E. Osselton, "Points of Modern English Syntax LXV," English Studies 64:5 (1983): 467-72, which unfortunately I cannot access. The blogpost makes an interesting point though: what about "and neither"? Here's the sentence: "She was not a native of our town -- and neither was her husband." That doesn't provoke the same kind of reaction in me as "and nor" does, even though some of the same arguments would presumably apply. Although "neither" (along with "either") is not a conjunction. Maybe that explains it? People are taking the (perhaps) valid "and neither" and applying it to "and nor"?

1 comment:

mattghg said...

It seems wrong to me, and I'm British.