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28 "all ... not" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)




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This article is from the alt.usage.english FAQ, by Mark Israel misrael@scripps.edu with numerous contributions by others.

28 "all ... not" (Usage disputes - alt.usage.english)


"All ... not" cannot be condemned on the grounds of novelty, as
"All that glitters is not gold" and "All is not lost" show. "All
that glitters is not gold" is from "Parabolae", a book of poems
written circa 1175 by Alanus de Insulis, a French monk: "Non teneas
aurum totum quod splendet ut aurum" = "Do not hold as gold all that
shines like gold". It was Englished by Chaucer in the "Canterbury
Tales" (1389) as: "But al thyng which that shyneth as the gold /
Nis nat gold, as that I have herd it told." (Shakespeare used the
wording "All that glisters is not gold" in "The Merchant of Venice";
"glister", an archaic variant of "glisten", is still sometimes heard
in allusion to this.) "All is not lost" occurs in Milton's
"Paradise Lost" (1667).

The Oxford Dictionary of English Proverbs gives the proverbs "All
truths are not to be told" (1350), "All things fit not all persons"
(1532), "All feet tread not in one shoe" (1640), "All are not saints
that go to church" (1659), and "All Stuarts are not sib to the king"
(1857). It gives no proverbs at all beginning "Not all".

"All ... not" can, however, be condemned on the grounds of
potential ambiguity. When I proposed the sentence "All the people
who used the bathtub did not clean it afterwards" as ambiguous,
many people vigorously disputed that it was ambiguous. But they
were about evenly split on what it did mean! (John Lawler writes:
"There's a very large literature on quantifier ambiguities. Guy
Carden did the definitive early studies in the '60s and '70s, and
many others have contributed since then.") "Not all the people who
used the bathtub cleaned it afterwards" (or, if the other meaning is
intended, "None of the people who used the bathtub cleaned it
afterwards") is free of this ambiguity.

("Not all" can also be used rhetorically to mean "not even all",
but only in an exalted style incompatible with bathtubs: "Not all
the water in the rough rude sea / Can wash the balm from an anointed
king" -- Shakespeare, "Richard II", 1595.)

Fowler quoted a correspondent who urged him to prescribe "not
all", and commented: "This gentleman has logic on his side, logic
has time on its side, and probably the only thing needed for his
gratification is that he should live long enough."

 

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