“Many people who either live or do not live in the Bronx believe…”

Do we even care what they believe, this particular population?

I don’t remember, anyway. I wrote down only this much, because this was how far I got into the sentence before I fell apart.

Think of the number of people who live in the Bronx. Now, consider “many” of them.

Similarly, think of the number of people who do not live in the Bronx. Now consider “many” of them.

These two bunches believe something. How many people believe this? A billion, maybe?

I urge students to be specific, not merely to say “some people” or “many people,” or “some say,” or whatever vague entity masks the writer, who actually intends to tell us what he or she thinks, but maybe doesn’t want to seem to be relying on too small a sample. I recommend at least getting as specific as “Many paramedics,” or “many poets,” or “many Pennsylvanians.” Let’s get a sample relevant to the idea, anyway.

I wonder if my student is trying to be specific in that way here. She was writing an essay to introduce the group of writings she had chosen to present as an anthology with the theme of New York City. Maybe she wrote “Many people who live in the Bronx believe…” and then thought to herself, “Hey, this is something people who live in Queens probably also think, along with possibly a few people in Brooklyn!” Rather than leave them out, she tacked them on as people who do not live in the Bronx.

But if she intended only residents of New York’s boroughs, she should have changed that “people” at the beginning of the sentence into “New Yorkers.” She might have gotten away with the sentence, although it would still have been pretty noncommittal.

No, she left it at “people.” She forgot that almost everyone on earth is a person who does not live in the Bronx.

Lose points for saying something ridiculous. Gain points for making the teacher laugh.

The Bronx is yellow. All the other places have people who do not live in the Bronx.Image: http://www.assembleme.com/ Julius Schorzman, via Wikimedia Commons

The Bronx is yellow. All the other places have people who do not live in the Bronx.
Image: http://www.assembleme.com/ Julius Schorzman, via Wikimedia Commons

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About RAB

Teacher of English writing and literature (college-level); academic-freedom activist; editor and copy editor; theater director, costumer, actress, playwright. View all posts by RAB

6 responses to ““Many people who either live or do not live in the Bronx believe…”

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