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qspeechc
qspeechc is offline
#34
Aug17-10, 11:35 AM
P: 792
So in the phrase "drink's victims" drink has in some sense been personalized? As though the victims were attacked by Drink and their addiction is not their fault, whereas "the victims of drink" has no such personalization? Or am I completely off the mark?
This reminds me of the way we use "all" in mathematics. Whenever I read "for all" I sometimes, for a moment, think "all" is being used collectively rather than distributively as a synonym for "each". Though "all" in mathematics is never used collectively no one ever points out this ambiguity of the word. I suppose mathematicians don't care much for English, or maybe it's that many writers of textbooks are not native speakers.

By the way, I've found the article in the second edition of Fowler's Modern English Usage; I'll type out part of it for anyone who's interested.
noun-adjectives. 'Too many ofs have dropped out of the language', said Lord Dunsany in 1943, 'and the dark of the floor is littered with this useful word.' Some twenty years earlier this phenomenon had provoked the following comment in the first edition of the present dictionary: 'It will be a surprise, and to some an agreeable one, if at ths late stage in our change from and inflexional to an analytical language we revert to a free use of the case we formerly tended more and more to restrict. It begins to seem lkely that drink's victims will before long be the natural and no longer the affected or rhetorical version of the victims of drink. The devotees of inflexion may do well to rejoice; the change may improve rather than injure the language; and if that is so let due praise be bestowed on the newspaper press, which is bringing it about. But to the present (or perhaps already past) generation, which has been instinctively away of the differences between drink's victims and the victims of drink, and now finds them scornfully disregarded, there will be an unhappy interim. It is the headline that is doing it.'