To the editors:
I enjoyed reading the newsy bits Mr. Henderson gathered for his column, the City File [March 19]. Especially interesting to me was the news that “stop” is now officially a French word in Quebec.
It was in that article, however, that Mr. Henderson (inadvertently?) succumbed to a colloquial usage where only the accepted standard usage would do: ” . . . on December 30 Quebec’s government officially declared that “stop’ is a French word. . . .”
According to Randolph Quirk and Sidney Greenbaum in the definitive Concise Grammar of Contemporary English (page 368), “declare” is one of those verbs often used in a verbless clause with a subject, especially in its formal “performative” use, such as: ” . . . on December 30 Quebec’s government officially declared “stop’ a French word. . . .” Since the event in Quebec undoubtedly was formal and the pronouncement formal as well, this latter usage would be indicated.
Apropos pronouncement, the word “pronounce” is just such a verb that falls into this verbless clause category, and the standard formulation with it in the wedding ceremony is: “I now pronounce you man and wife.” In my capacity as church organist, I have too often heard pastors, perhaps carelessly or trying to be a bit more “with it,” say, “I now pronounce that you are man and wife.”
Enough to make one’s flesh crawl.