The legacy we inherited from every single future generation

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"Mark Levin Gives 'Unvarnished Truth' On Romney Loss", Real Clear Politics 11/7/2012:

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We conservatives, we do not accept bipartisanship in the pursuit of tyranny. Period. We will not negotiate the terms of our economic and political servitude. Period. We will not abandon our children to a dark and bleak future. We will not accept a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited from every single future generation in this country.

Unless Mr. Levin is presupposing radical changes in metaphorical inheritance law, he must have meant the prepositional phrase "from every future generation in this country" to be the complement of "accept (a fate)" rather than of "(the legacy we) inherited". But if so, he used the wrong preposition and the wrong position in the sentence.

Paraphrasing what Pierre Bosquet said about the Charge of the Light Brigade:

C’est magnifique, mais ce n’est pas la grammaire.

[via headsup: the blog]

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14 Comments »

  1. Peter said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 5:40 pm

    Surely the wrong preposition, but not necessarily the wrong position? A minimal plausible correction, with parsing brackets, could be something like:

    We will not accept (a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited) for every single future generation in this country.

    This seems, while awkward, not ungrammatical; and if this is what was intended, it’s easy to see how “inherited for” could have slipped into the much more common “inherited from”.

  2. un malpaso said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

    Would it have been so hard to just say "legacy we're leaving to"?

    [(myl) But I don't think that's what he meant. Rather, he was aiming at something like

    "we will not accept
    _______[for every future generation in this country]
    ______ [a fate]
    _____________[that is alien to the legacy we inherited]"

    He shifted the prepositional phrase to the end of the sentence, so as get the increased parallelism of "… do not accept bipartisanship … will not abandon our children … do not accept a fate …", and then he substituted from for for under the influence of the adjacent inherited, and …. ]

  3. Nancy Friedman said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 6:16 pm

    If you believe in fate, how can you believe you have a choice about accepting it?

  4. Jimbino said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    "leave a legacy" is totally superfluously redundant.

  5. djw said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 6:19 pm

    I have some questions about negotiating the terms of our servitude, too, although that's a bit off the topic, I guess.

  6. Grover Jones said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 6:37 pm

    @Nancy–That's his whole point.

  7. Barbara Phillips Long said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 7:18 pm

    I thought he said "future" when he meant to say "past," since legacies come from the past.

  8. Jerry Friedman said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 7:46 pm

    @Peter: I think you're right. The long pause after "inherited" suggests that too.

  9. Jeff Carney said,

    November 10, 2012 @ 7:54 pm

    "a fate that is alien to the legacy we inherited" is perfectly understandable. No troubles there.

    I think Peter's probably right that the word "inherited" primed the utterance of "from" in place of the more likely "for."

    On Oscar night, you wouldn't bat an eye if one star took the stage in place of another and said, "I accept this award for Elvis Presley, who unfortunately could not be with us this evening." That is to say "I accept NP for NP" is perfectly natural.

    I think the real trouble is the length of the noun phrases, especially the one I quoted above, since it creates a huge gap between the verb "accept" and the preposition "[for]" that completes its meaning. As listeners/readers, we just don't like waiting so long, and that causes us to be confused or, worse, make bad predictions as to the speaker's meaning.

    Which, excepting the faulty preposition, makes this more a matter of style than grammar.

  10. Mal in China said,

    November 11, 2012 @ 5:10 am

    @ Jeff Carney – "As listeners/readers, we just don't like waiting so long,…"

    I'm quite happy to wait if what comes out is worth waiting for. Shorter utterances can be just as confusing as in Dubya's, "Is our children learning."

    Then there's former US State Department's Robert McCluskey:
    " I know you believe that you understood what you think I said, but I am not sure you realize that what you heard is not what I meant."

    On style -

    "People think that I can teach them style. What stuff it all is! Have something to say, and say it as clearly as you can. That is the only secret of style." (Matthew Arnold)

    "Style is the perfection of a point of view." (Richard Eberhart)

    Mark Levin, please note.

  11. Tom O'Brien said,

    November 11, 2012 @ 11:09 am

    "Why we should put ourselves out of our way to do anything for posterity, for what has posterity ever done for us?" … Sir Boyle Roche, Eighteenth Century member of the Irish House of Commons

    http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Boyle_Roche

  12. Jonathon said,

    November 11, 2012 @ 3:22 pm

    @Nancy: I think he's using "fate" in the broad sense of "negative outcome" or simply "outcome" (senses 2 and 3 in Merriam-Webster's Collegiate).

  13. Mark Mandel said,

    November 12, 2012 @ 6:17 pm

    … as in "saved from a fate worse than death" (like being battered to death with clichés).

  14. Oliver said,

    November 13, 2012 @ 2:28 pm

    I guess he meant every generation of the past, which at their time also once was a future generation. Probably in order to highlight the correspondence of future generations and past generations.

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