Preposition stranding

Could it be that, like double negation, preposition stranding is an icon of prescriptivism? Both occur in David Crystal’s Grammatical Top Ten (Cambridge Encyclopedia of the English Language, p. 194), and there is also, intrestingly, a reference to preposition stranding in Lauren Weisberger’s The Devil Wears Prada (2003). On p. 330, the main character of the novel "quietly berated myself for ending a sentence with a preposition and took one last look around the magnificent room". I suppose the sentence is meant to have a humorous effect, but perhaps you have to like the book in order to appreciate this particular linguistic joke.

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  1. Nuria Yanez-Bouza

    It could, indeed. I’ve done some research on usage guides written during the 20th century and some from beginning of the 21st century and preposition stranding seems to be still a matter of concern in 2004 too! John Humphrys in his book Lost for words. Manipulating and Mangling (2004) quotes a part of a letter written by a seventeen-year-old A-level student:

    “A preposition should never, ever end a sentence. Ever. On pain of death. OK, maybe not on pain of death, but at least on pain of angry stares and a good deal of sulking ? To me it’s the verbal equivalent of two bits of polystyrene rubbing together: unbearable” (2004:41).

    Just to add that preposition stranding is also classified as “Uses resisted by listeners but permissible in informal circumstances (**)” in Robert Ilson (1985:177-178). [reference: Usage problems in British and American English. In: Sidney Greenbaum (ed.), The English language today. Oxford: Pergamin Press.]

    Thanks for the reference from Lauren Weisberger!

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