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View Full Version : The gang-of-four was together again.



Elwyn
03-26-2006, 01:18 AM
The gang-of-four was together again, or were together again?

If it was just gang, then I'd say was. But since the gang-of-four indicates plural, I'm thinking were. Were sounds right, but I'm not 100% sure about this.

Thanks.

reph
03-26-2006, 01:59 AM
The gang of four had reunited.

Okay, okay, that's not what you asked. I'd go with "was." No hyphens.

rich
03-26-2006, 02:06 AM
In the UK, I believe it would be "were." UK: Army were, US: Army was.

Tish Davidson
03-26-2006, 03:09 AM
But in U.S. English you would say the gang of four was because gang is a singular collective noun. Just as you would say The class was studying anatomy or The class of nursing students was studying anatomy.

reph
03-26-2006, 03:13 AM
Elwyn locates himself in Appalachia, with no announced plan to become an expatriate any time soon, so the U.S. custom would prevail.

Jamesaritchie
03-26-2006, 08:18 AM
The gang was, the four were, so it's was.

Jamesaritchie
03-26-2006, 08:20 AM
Elwyn locates himself in Appalachia, with no announced plan to become an expatriate any time soon, so the U.S. custom would prevail.

Having lived a respectable percentage of my life in Appalachia, I always thought that was the definition of expatriate.

maestrowork
03-26-2006, 08:23 AM
It's the gang of four.

A group of militants says they're watching the government.

Sandi LeFaucheur
03-26-2006, 04:57 PM
I would say The gang of four was together again. It's been a long, long time since I sat in a classroom and diagrammed sentences, but I see round brackets around of four, indicating that the words are an adjective phrase modifying gang. The gang with four people in it was together again. Yup, no matter which way you slice it, gang is singular.

The sentence in the post above, The group of militants says they're watching the government, indicates that each member of the group is individually watching the goverment. The group of militants says it's watching the government indicates that the group as a whole is doing the peeking.

rich
03-26-2006, 05:01 PM
Elwyn locates himself in Appalachia, with no announced plan to become an expatriate any time soon, so the U.S. custom would prevail.

Ah, Appalachia--then it's "wuz."

reph
03-26-2006, 10:57 PM
Ah, Appalachia--then it's "wuz."
Only if a character time-travels to the 19th century.

lauram
03-27-2006, 08:46 PM
A little off topic, but that "wuz" comment reminds me of it:

It's pronounced "wash" not "warsh". You wash your hands; you don't "warsh" them. Argh!

I grew up in southern Ohio, and that mispronunciation always drove me nuts.

And ornery- it has an "r" in it people. Not a silent kind either. :)

Sorry for the digression...

maya
03-29-2006, 01:23 AM
In the UK, I believe it would be "were." UK: Army were, US: Army was.

I hate to be a stickler, but I have to (partly) disagree. If they knew their grammar, they would say "was". Regional slang sometimes results in the use of "were", but primarily when speaking, and only for some people.



Even then, people that make use of this slang don't necessarily write like that. E.g. Many of my friends from Sheffield would say to me : "She were gorgeous" or "It were magic." but they would never write that in a letter to their boss or in any official, formal communications.



Could be wrong of course, it's just my experience. Based on this, I think it's obvious that I vote for "was".



The army was weak.

The army were weak.



The large group was there.

The large group were there.



The gang of ten red-haired men was late.

The gang of ten red-haired men were late.



The four-man gang was unhappy.

The four-man gang were unhappy.



In each case, "were" does not work. As Tish pointed out:



"But in U.S. English you would say the gang of four was because gang is a singular collective noun. Just as you would say The class was studying anatomy or The class of nursing students was studying anatomy."



This is, from what I can gather, completely correct: U.S. English is really not grammatically different from it's original source (barring a few minor details here and there), or from Australian or S.A. English - they are still the same language, though in slang they may seem very different.
Shoot me if I am talking cr@p, I do it a lot.

Cheers
M

rich
03-29-2006, 01:29 AM
Don't see where any slang enters into this. Gang: American/was. Gang:UK/were. That's what I thought. I don't mind being wrong, but I'd prefer seeing a straight answer why.

maya
03-29-2006, 02:55 AM
Don't see where any slang enters into this. Gang: American/was. Gang:UK/were. That's what I thought. I don't mind being wrong, but I'd prefer seeing a straight answer why.

My aplogies, I didn't mean to be indirect: I assumed that you were referring to slang. Obviously I made a mistake. I've just never heard anyone in the UK say "The army were large" or "The gang were late" unless they had very strong Northern accents and were chatting informally.

There is no difference, in my experience, between the UK English use of the word "gang" and the American English use of it, outside of slang / regional dialects. I've also always assumed that in both cases, the grammar is consistent. If there's anyone out there that knows, I'd love to hear more though.

I looked it up on the OED; here is a highlight of the relevant listings for "gang, noun 1" (definition n1. 11)

II. A set of things or persons.
8. a. A set of articles such as are usually taken together.
So Ger. gang; applied, e.g. to a set of cart-wheels, of horseshoes, etc.
9. a. A company of workmen.
This and the following senses appear to be peculiar to Eng.; the ON. drauga-gangr, etc., have often been compared, but -gang-r in these compounds means not ‘gang’, but the act of going about. It would appear that in nautical use the word meaning ‘set of things’ (sense 8) was extended to the sense ‘set of persons’, ‘crew’, which had earlier been expressed by the cognate and like-sounding GING (http://dictionary.oed.com/cgi/crossref?query_type=word&queryword=gang&first=1&max_to_show=10&sort_type=alpha&search_id=NECS-wQYV7l-12365&result_place=1&xrefword=ging).
10. a. Any band or company of persons who go about together or act in concert (chiefly in a bad or depreciatory sense, or associated with criminal societies). transf. a social set. colloq.
Etc....

I could be wrong, but to me "a set" implies a singular group, i.e. "The set was incorrect." (rather than "The set were incorrect").

Again, sorry if I jumped to the wrong conclusion about what you were saying: I'd be interested in your thoughts on these definitions. I can send you a personalised link to the whole OED listing (is subscription only, so I don't want to paste it all here for obvious reasons). PM me with an email if you want.

Cheers, and sorry once more
M

And because I am a word nerd: See the following (another of the OED definitions):

c. Gang of Four [tr. Chinese sìrénbhttp://dictionary.oed.com/graphics/parser/gifs/mbi/amac.gifng, f. sì four + rén human being, person + bhttp://dictionary.oed.com/graphics/parser/gifs/mbi/amac.gifng gang, clique], a nickname for four leading members of the Cultural Revolutionary Left accused after the death of Mao Tse-tung of counter-revolutionary conspiracy and Marxist revisionism, and discredited in October 1976 by the Communist Party Central Committee of the People's Republic of China.

1976 Peking Rev. 29 Oct. 7/2 The Party Central Committee headed by Chairman Hua Kuo-feng smashed the scheme of the ‘gang of four’ to usurp Party and state power. 1977 ‘S. LEYS’ Chinese Shadows (1978) ii. 88 The downfall of the ‘Gang of Four’..in late 1976 marked the end of Shanghai as a citadel of radical Maoism. 1978 Times 29 Sept. (China Suppl.) p. iii/1 The country's agricultural performance since the fall of the Gang of Four has been disappointing. 1978 Chinese Lit. XII. 117 This so-called evidence was fabricated by Chu Lan, a group of ‘gang of four’ writers. 1983 Atlantic Monthly July 28/2 The postmortem on China's intermittent troubles..has moved its target from Mao's widow and her three Shanghai associates (Gang of Four) to the role of Mao in the Gang's ultra-leftism.

rich
03-29-2006, 03:01 AM
Reph, where the hell are you? I'm a simple man who thought what he thought. I got somebody here who's about to describe the history of civilization based on "was" and "were"--again, I'm a simple and humble man.

Old, too.

maya
03-29-2006, 03:29 AM
Again, I'll say that I'm sorry - I clearly offended you, which wasn't my intent.

You asked for a straight answer to why I thought that Brits wouldn't use "were" with "a gang". I thought an official (and British) definition of the word would suffice. Clearly, this wasn't what you wanted.

Here's the brief answer (and you're right, looking back, I see I should have said this right away): It is perfectly feasible that British English does consider the word "gang" to be plural: It just is not my experience, and my (admittedly imperfect) understanding of UK English grammar suggests the same.

I'm also willing to concede that I may be wrong, which is why I'd love to hear what everyone else thinks...including you. This is why I offered to send you OED links that define the word from UK sources; I assumed you'd be interested in seeing them and analysing them with me.

That was really all that I intended. Once more, sorry if I upset you. If you aren't interesting in looking into this in more detail, let's just leave it. It's hardly the end of the world.

Cheers and best wishes
M



Reph, where the hell are you? I'm a simple man who thought what he thought. I got somebody here who's about to describe the history of civilization based on "was" and "were"--again, I'm a simple and humble man.

Old, too.

rich
03-29-2006, 03:43 AM
Glad you said that, really. After your post I was doubting my ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Thanks.

maya
03-29-2006, 03:49 AM
Glad you said that, really. After your post I was doubting my ability to communicate with the rest of the world. Thanks.

*She wishes she could bring herself to insert those strange smiley face action thingies - it would be an aghast one*

That's ridiculous: I've read many of your posts and that is definitely NOT the case at all. I must learn to be less abrasive. I know this.

Friends?
Maya

*inserts apologetic hugging smiley face loving thingy, if she could*

rich
03-29-2006, 04:18 AM
I'm not understanding your first paragraph. I don't ever remember saying that. Although I too, never understood how a writing board would have these graphics. Nevertheless, as LBJ once said, I'd rather have somebody inside my tent pissing out than somebody outside pissing in. You being female...well...take it metaphorically. Hey, be abrasive, just hug once and a while.

reph
03-29-2006, 06:57 AM
Reph, where the hell are you?
Good grief, rich, I spent most of the afternoon making a little more progress on our taxes. The table and the floor are littered with papers and booklets. "Littered" isn't quite right, because many of the papers and booklets have their edges parallel to the walls. I guess what's littered is my mind, with rules and numbers. Bleah.

So you had a problem here? All I know is, in the U.S. words like "gang" are singular when you want a verb, but they tend to turn plural when you want a pronoun. "The Fourth Street gang marches into Jake's shop to get their tattoos touched up." In England, "family," "company," and so on are often treated as plurals.

veinglory
03-29-2006, 07:02 AM
'Was' is correct but dammit I use 'were' anyway because it sounds better to me--and then my editor corrects it.

rich
03-29-2006, 05:09 PM
Yep, we're image-oriented. If we think "gang" we see a bunch of folks.