Date: Thu, 4 Dec 1997 07:32:50 -1000
From: Norman Roberts nroberts[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]HAWAII.EDU
Subject: Re: Responsibility of (Was: No Heading)
At 09:31 AM 12/4/97 -0500, you wrote:
I just finished 15 papers on Paradise Lost. Three of them described Adams'
responsibility OF Eve's actions. Coincidence, collusion or something else?
Maybe they (con)fuse responsibility (for) with control or charge (of). Or
(this is a joke!) they are taking advantage of the fact that English was
still loose about some issues in the mid 17C -- I was just discussing on
another list the mid-17C poet Marvell's use of uncessant rather than modern
Maybe not a joke, though -- OED2 has a separately numbered submeaning 1b for
"responsibility" as constructed with "of," citing Dickens in Old Cur. Shop
and Wilkie Collins in Black Robe. (Submeaning 1c, constructed with "for,"
gives a first cite from Shaw in Man & Superman....)
"Responsibility of": Survival or solecism? The lady or the tiger....
Now if they write "responsability" (aargh, and not given as an orthographoic
variant in OED), that's a hearse of a different color....
Greg Downing/NYU, at greg.downing[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]nyu.edu or downingg[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]is2.nyu.edu
Confusion of "of", "for," and ""from" is a very common error among insecure
writers. I think a behavioral explanation works in this case. It's very
easy to transpose letters in writing or typing (I do it all the time). If
a person means to write "for," but inadvertantly transposes the "o" and the
"f," spelling habits will likely cause the writer to stop and go on to the
next word. I admit I have no reliable evidence for this conjecture, but 27
years of teaching freshman composition [They made me do it or they wouldn't
let me teach linguistics] gives certain insights into the mechanical nature
of handwriting and typing habits. A spelling checker would not catch the
error, a grammar checker takes too long, and it's very easy to read what
you thought you wrote instead of what you actually wrote when you hastily
check your writing. While ignorance is pretty much in evidence in college
writing, scribal error is frequently the simplest explanation.