Saturday, June 04, 2011

Splitting infinitives and fugo

Over at the Independent, in the "Errors and Omissions" column, Guy Keleny weighs in on splitting the infinitive:
Safe splits: A news story yesterday reported on a club that will offer London diners the celebrated Japanese poisonous fish: "The torafugu is one of the most toxic marine creatures. It is extremely difficult to safely prepare, and consequently among the priciest dishes on Japanese restaurant menus."

Let's not be too hysterical about never splitting infinitives. Indeed, this is one of the three great shibboleths of pointless pedantry. The other two are never to end a sentence with a preposition and never to begin a sentence with "And".

The wise advice of Fowler's Modern English Usage is to try to avoid splitting an infinitive, but if the alternative is an awkward sentence, split away. However, there is no such dilemma about "to safely prepare". Just make it "to prepare safely".
I have to say that this is actually reasonable (though there's no more reason to try to avoid doing it than to try to do it). But, and very amusingly, his headline writer undermines him by crafting this gem:
It's better safely to prepare a Japanese fugo fish than split an infinitive
This could, I realize, have been on purpose... Here's a screenshot, in case it wasn't:

screenshot of text quoted in post

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