Tuesday, June 22, 2010

Coming and going

Math Man is a faithful second reader and critic of my writing (just don't ask him to check the spelling). Before I sent off the piece on urban legends of chemistry, he read through it and marked a line, "Alas, pride goes before a fall."

"Isn't that pride comes before a fall?" "No, goes." "Are you sure?" "Certain." Well, not that certain. I googled it. Math Man has Canadian roots. His pride comes before his fall. Where I come from, pride goes first.

So, we wondered, what would happen when my proverb met a British copy editor? Today my proofs came back and "alas, I must confess, pride comes before a fall"! Math Man feels quite smug about it all.

The whole thing reminded me of this Gershwin song I first learned from my mother: you say tah-MAY-toe and I say tah-MAH-toe..... (That would be /təˈmeɪtəʊ/ or /təˈmɑtəʊ/ for the linguists amongst us.)


  1. and then, some of us say "maters" (not to be confused with Latin).

    Nothing better than a "mater sammich"

    I know the quote as "pride goes before a fall", but I can see the aspect of "pride comes"

  2. I think you should use the original (not sure exactly what that would be...Hebrew? Aramaic?) and let everyone else figure it out :-)

    Also--it depends on how you interpret "before". If you use the literal meaning of before (preceding), then 'comes' makes sense, but if you use before to mean "in front of" then 'goes' seems more logical.

  3. @Cathy - If a mater says mater, what's that all about? We could write a Gershwin parody.

    @Emily - the thought did occur to me! Does this mean I'm an utter geek??

  4. Mom liked the to-ma-toe // to-mah-toe song (and all things Gershwin and all things Cole Porter), but when I think of pedantic pronunciation, I remember her trying to get our Midwestern ears to discern the differences between:


  5. I can still hear her drilling me on the distinctions (which I can hear, though not reliably make, a real achievement linguistically for Mom, peers have the largest effect on this not, not parents)

  6. ok, I can differentiate "merry" from "Mary and marry", but not differentiate "marry and Mary".

    Well... I don't know anyone around here who worries too much about it.