Name:
Location: St. Vincent & Grenadines

You were driving home in the dark on one glass-slippered heel, window sliced open and bathing in the snowliquor of the night air. We heard you singing, and couldn't bear to wake you.

19 May 2005

Some syntactical points of order I'd ask Harry Nilsson to address, were he still alive.

Exhibit A: "One is the loneliest number that you'll ever do." Asserted repeatedly. Fairly clear, aside from the logistical nuances involved in "doing" a number. So far, so good.

Exhibit B: "Two can be as bad as one. It's the loneliest number since the number one." We begin to dip into dangerous waters here. Exhibit B seems to indicate that while two has the capacity to be better than one (however slightly), it is notable chiefly for its frequent equivalence to one, in terms of badness. Yet Exhibit A does not state that one is one of the loneliest numbers that you'll ever do, but that it is the loneliest. One might argue that "lonely" and "bad" are different qualities, which perhaps they are, but the distinction between them is never clarified. Indeed, it is further muddied by the syntax of . . .

Exhibit C: "One is the loneliest number, much, much worse than two." Now we've got real problems. Not only do we obliterate the distinction between loneliness and badness, which was the only plausible excuse for the awkwardness of the Exhibit A/Exhibit B juxtaposition, but we contradict Exhibit B altogether. We're not saying that one is sometimes, occasionally, partially, in the right light, under certain circumstances worse than two; there's no maybe about it. One is the loneliest number. And it's not just worse than two -- it's much, much worse. How can this statement possibly be reconciled with the assertion that the badness of two is the same as that of one, or even in the same league?

One might also note how obvious it is to point out, repeatedly, that one is the loneliest number; this would seem to be self-evident, since all other integers are, by definition, plural.

2 Comments:

Blogger Wesley said...

And if, as Randy Newman notes, "it's lonely at the top," does this imply that one is at the top? And the top of what?

Man, everybody's talkin' at me.

8:15 PM  
Blogger Felix Helix said...

Eh? What's that? I can't hear a word you're sayin'.

8:32 PM  

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