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  1. suprunp's Avatar
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    #1

    than mere people did.

    The major differences from just ordinary air-conditioning were that it was thrillingly more expensive, and involved a huge amount of sophisticated measuring and regulating equipment which was far better at knowing, moment by moment, what kind of air people wanted to breathe than mere people did.
    (The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Douglas Adams)

    What does 'did' stand for here?

    Thanks.

  2. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #2

    Re: than mere people did.

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    The major differences from just ordinary air-conditioning were that it was thrillingly more expensive, and involved a huge amount of sophisticated measuring and regulating equipment which was far better at knowing, moment by moment, what kind of air people wanted to breathe than mere people did.
    (The Ultimate Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy; Douglas Adams)

    What does 'did' stand for here?

    Thanks.
    The thrillingly expensive equipment knew what people wanted better than they did themselves.

  3. suprunp's Avatar
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    #3

    Re: than mere people did.

    Is it possible to substitute 'were' for 'did' without changing the meaning?

    "[...] equipment which was far better at knowing, moment by moment, what kind of air people wanted to breathe than mere people were."

    Thanks.

  4. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #4

    Re: than mere people did.

    Quote Originally Posted by suprunp View Post
    Is it possible to substitute 'were' for 'did' without changing the meaning?

    "[...] equipment which was far better at knowing, moment by moment, what kind of air people wanted to breathe than mere people were."

    Thanks.
    Yes.

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    #5

    Re: than mere people did.

    I think it's much better this way.

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    #6

    Re: than mere people did.

    [QUOTE=suprunp;819573]

    "[...] equipment which was far better at knowing, moment by moment, what kind of air people wanted to breathe than mere people were."




    NOT A TEACHER


    (1) Wow! May I just express my admiration and envy at your grasp of English grammar?

    (2) Your post reminded me of something that I had read in the famous Fowler brothers'

    1906 classic entitled The King's English (page 340 in the third edition):

    "Do cannot represent be."

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    #7

    Re: than mere people did.

    TheParser is right to note the Fowlers’ aversion to ‘do for be’ (continued in HW’s Modern English Usage, 1926 sub ‘do’ at 3b), but I think we all agree that this is a worthy rule-proving exception.

    The only point I would make – and here I am not sure if I am agreeing or disagreeing with birdeen’s call – is that I think ‘did’ is, in this context, better than ‘were’. Both because of the sharpness of the repeated ‘d’ and because ‘did’ has a more active affect than the languid ‘were’ (which thanks to its half-rhyme with ‘mere’ would be even more lulling), I find that ‘did’ produces a nicely crisp ending to the deliberately convoluted sentence. (You could, I suppose, argue for ‘were’ on the ground that the sentence trickling away into near silence would leave a deliberate blankness in the reader’s mind, in which s/he could goggle at the inanity of it all, but I am not convinced.)

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    #8

    Re: than mere people did.

    Quote Originally Posted by old gobbo View Post
    The only point I would make – and here I am not sure if I am agreeing or disagreeing with birdeen’s call – is that I think ‘did’ is, in this context, better than ‘were’. Both because of the sharpness of the repeated ‘d’ and because ‘did’ has a more active affect than the languid ‘were’ (which thanks to its half-rhyme with ‘mere’ would be even more lulling), I find that ‘did’ produces a nicely crisp ending to the deliberately convoluted sentence. (You could, I suppose, argue for ‘were’ on the ground that the sentence trickling away into near silence would leave a deliberate blankness in the reader’s mind, in which s/he could goggle at the inanity of it all, but I am not convinced.)
    You're disagreeing with me.

    I reject "did" in this sentence not on aesthetic grounds, but syntactic. After analysing the sentence, I decided that "did" was out of place syntactically. I may be wrong of course. The sentence is complicated.

  5. bhaisahab's Avatar
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    #9

    Re: than mere people did.

    Quote Originally Posted by birdeen's call View Post
    You're disagreeing with me.

    I reject "did" in this sentence not on aesthetic grounds, but syntactic. After analysing the sentence, I decided that "did" was out of place syntactically. I may be wrong of course. The sentence is complicated.
    I agree that syntactically it would be better with "were". It is a complicated sentence and "did" doesn't shock me, anyway I would be willing to forgive Douglas Adams anything.

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