Wednesday, June 03, 2009

No Less/Lower

This example is from Han Fook Kwang, editor of the Straits Times:

No higher authority in the Christian community than Anglican Archbishop John Chew of the [NCCS] issued a statement .... (31 May 2009).
What he meant was the statement came from someone very high up — but what he wrote actually conveyed the exact opposite.
The expression he needed was no less/lower an authority than ....
We can see this a lot more clearly if we move the parts of the sentence about: The Anglican Archbishop John Chew, no less, issued a statement ....
What this means is that the person who issued a statement was very high up: he was the Archbishop, nothing less/lower than that.


Shamus said...


It's been a long time since I last dropped you a message.

Do you suppose the possessive form NCSS' in " reinforce NCSS' message." is incorrect? Shouldn't it be "NCSS's message"?

I see this form very often in AmE -- they seem to have the tendency to place the apostrophe after an a word the ends with an s, regardless whether the s indicates the plural form or is a part of the word. And our dear ST seems to have picked up this bad habit. I'm quite sure they would write "Shamus' complaint", rather than "Shamus's complaint".

Am I wrong?

The Grammar Terrorist said...

Hi, Shamus

Great to hear from you again! I've long meant to drop you a message, but never got round to it, I'm afraid.

You're absolutely right; "NCSS's message" is better, and I'd add the definite article "the" before "NCSS" too.

The rule is sensitive to pronunciation: generally, if you pronounce the suffix as an additional syllable, then you add 's. So "Shamus's complaint" is better.

There are lots of exceptions to the rule: Biblical and Classical names generally take just the apostrophe, as do a lot of other place/business names.

The trouble is that the rules are too complex for most people, so many people would write "NCSS' message" and "Shamus' complaint", and they wouldn't be wrong -- provided that they are consistent in practice.

Shamus said...

I see. Somehow I don't recall ever being taught to writing something like "NCCS' message" in school. I have always perceived that to be incorrect because the last s in NCCS doesn't make the noun plural. I looked up Fowler's. It says that we don't add 's to classical names and personal names ending with /Iz/. So, I guess you're right -- it's really confusing. Haha. Thanks, Prof. Enjoy your weekend!