Tuesday, October 14, 2008

Amazing Grace

'...We've no less days to sing God's praise
Than when we first begun.'

Just a thought. Shouldn't it be 'fewer?'

9 comments:

jw said...

but if this ever changing world in which we live in...

St said...

Good point. Nobody does it half as good as you...

Mike Peatman said...

If I was a... (Midge Ure). No-one uses the subjunctive in songs anymore.

RuthJ said...

Yes indeed, St, and it should also be 'began'!

Jonathan Potts said...

Deals correctly with the arithmetic of infinite numbers, though...

St said...

If it is 'began' then what shines bright with which it can rhyme.

Welcome Dr Pottsie. Fantastic to have you drop by with truth. Good to recall we need to get our maths right as well as our grammar.

Are there any songs in which the arithmetic needs correction?

Mike Peatman said...

Left school with a first class pass,
Started work but as second class.
School taught one and one is two.
But right now, that answer just ain't true

Ride My See-Saw - The Moody Blues

Sorry couldn't resist

RuthJ said...

The sun shines bright, yeah, man!

Nomad said...

That the use of ‘less’ is acceptable in this case (at the time the hymn was written, c. 1772; published later that decade) appears to be borne out by the good old, delicious Oxford English Dictionary, full fat version; see, for example, ‘Less’ entry A:II:7.
I have seen mentioned (in Merriam Webster’s ‘Dictionary of English Usage’) that it seems that even in 1770 the ‘less for uncountables, fewer for countables’ thing was still just a suggestion by some, rather than a solid rule.

‘...than when we'd first begun’ would save the rhyme.
(confession must follow that that's in fact how I’ve long sung it. No one notices and both the Spirit of Poesy and the Spirit of Pedantry are satisfied.)
(And yes, I know; I am a Sad Person.)

Though I think that still leaves it as wanting 'we'LL HAVE no less...'
sigh.