This scissors

What is acceptable in boxers and (Don) kings is not necessarily so in lesser mortals. Here‘s some English-German translator explaining for the umpteenth time on his blog why he is the best:

My old school used to be a hands-on kind of school, but now, after they adopted new curricula last fall, it’s just downhill from here. It’s sad, but what can you? Such is life. I am just glad I got to graduate when it was still a quality school. But would I go back and do it all over again, now with the new curriculum in place? NO! It would not be worth it.

Oh, before I forget: apparently, they have even done away with the entrance exam, which means that anyone, regardless of language skills, can now study translation at the University of Vienna. This would also explain why one student there insists that “this scissors” [sic] is perfectly correct.

The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language actually tells us that “scissors” can be used with either a singular or plural verb, which makes “this scissors” seem a perfectly reasonable construction, and which enabled the publishers of Leo Lionni’s Let’s Make Rabbits to write the following on the flap without starring in my favourite un-made film, Attack of the Gaga Grammar Geezers:

“Let’s make rabbits,” says the scissors to the pencil, and before the reader’s eyes, two rabbits appear–one drawn by the pencil, the other cut from brightly patterned paper by the scissors. When the rabbits are hungry, the scissors cuts out a paper carrot and the pencil draws a carrot. But one day the rabbits find a real carrot. “Let’s eat it,” the hungry rabbits say. A taste of the real carrot leads to a wonderful surprise ending that is sure to delight very young children.

And me.

The same ambiguity doesn’t exist in Spanish, where, without exception, paper wraps rock, rock blunts scissors, and scissors cut paper, unless it’s a scissor, in which case it takes the singular. The first example of the latter that I know from these parts is completely irrelevant to whatever argument I was trying to make and is to be found in the Fuero de Daroca, a declaration of rights issued by Ramón Berenguer, count of Barcelona, prince of Aragon, to the people of Daroca in November 1142 (source: RAE corpus):

Milites, vel pedites Darocae qui habuerit concilium in fonsado, vel in cavalgada non dent quintam nisi regi, vel domino Darocae, et hoc de captivis tantum, et de ganado, et de pannis sericis, quos nondum tisera tetigit, et si coeperint regem, dent illum regi.

Which I think means something along the lines of the following (there’s a slightly different modern Spanish version here):

The soldiers who the Council of Daroca has on foot or on horseback will only pay 20% tribute to the king, or the lord of Daroca, and this only over captives, livestock and silk fabric untouched by scissor, and if the king is captured, then everything is for the king.

I would like to finish by citing Scibberoo’s legend of the rural sovereign who, in order to stop the crocs a-nibbling at his tootsie-tootsie-toes, had the royal seat installed on the upper floor of his new two-storey hut. During the inauguration ceremony its weight, combined with that of the king, caused it to crash through the ceiling, leading a wag to observe: “People who live in grass houses should not stow thrones.”

PS: This is a very old Manchegan scissors.


Thanks to The Ear for sending me the following excerpt from the New York Post, which demonstrates something:

October 27, 2004 — THE gay dog groomer accused of stabbing his lover with a scissors says the alleged victim actually abused him — biting him on the nose, face and scrotum and sending him to the emergency room three times in as many years. Yesterday, The Post reported how celebrity dog groomer Howie Binder, co-owner of Doggie-Do & Pussycats, Too!, alleges that his lover and business partner, Larry Roth, attacked him with scissors during a violent spat. But Roth’s lawyer, Joel S. Walter, told PAGE SIX that Roth was defending himself. “Howie is a biter,” Walter says. “He bites Larry all over his body. Larry has had Howie arrested before. This time, Howie was literally choking him to death when Larry grabbed the scissors.” Binder responded that he bit Roth only when the bigger man jumped on top of him. “He is a 400-pound man, and I had to get him off me somehow,” said 160-pound Binder, who admitted he was arrested last year after hitting Roth with a cowboy boot. The ex-couple’s pet primping shop, which has groomed the dogs of J.Lo, P. Diddy and Janet Jackson, is still open for business with Binder at the helm, even though Roth is seeking to split the company’s assets. Binder says the scissors incident destroyed their dysfunctional relationship. “In one night, I lost my best friend, my lover, my partner,” he said. “Everything crumbled in one night.”

Is some European going to get away with telling the New York Post its grammar’s wrong? I think not.

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  1. The translator in question has this to say:

    “The “baldie”, which in this case refers not to lack of hair, but lack of brains, apparently, has been desperate in his search to find proof that scissors can also be used as a singular nount. He quotes from an article in the New York Times and suggests that a “European” (meaning: yours truly) should not tell a US publication such as the New York Times how to write.”

    Well, “baldie”, who also goes by the name of Trevor, does not seem to be able to read (a fundamental requirement for anyone who claims to be a translator) and therefore does not know that I am Canadian.”

    On the other hand, it is this this bloke, who does not seem to be capable of reading. Or he is blind. He is silent about your reference to The American Heritage Dictionary of the English Language.

    He also goes on to say:

    “So, Trevor, here’s my advice to you: be less of a smartass and put more time into designing a professional online presence for yourself. And, above all, don’t slander or lie about others you don’t even know.”

    He himself should follow the above advice. What’s more, he has disabled the comments feature in his own blog. Can you see a bigger coward?

  2. The Canadian translator in question proves time and again that he is beyond hope. He ignores the reference to the dictionary but concentrates on the mention about the disabling of comments in his blog.

    “Subj: Comments disabled
    Date: Fri, 12 Nov 2004 14:57:48 -0700
    From: “WGPatels”

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