1. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

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    ...a cousin of my father's...

    Discussion in 'Word Mechanics' started by Bill Chester, Dec 31, 2016.

    Howdy,

    Here is a sentence from Lolita: My mother's elder sister, Sybil, whom a cousin of my father's had married and then neglected, served in my immediate family as a kind of unpaid governess and housekeeper.

    It's the father's that confuses me. This construction has always confused me. Why isn't it just plain old father? Or is this a mistake?

    Bill
     
  2. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    That's a mistake in my opinion. You already have of setting up the possessive. Using the 's along with it is just wrong, though when I say it to myself, as written, I can certainly hear that sounding like a thing people would say idiomatically.

    ETA: It's in 1st person POV, so whether that's narrative or dialogue, it could be argued that it exists in the text as part of imparting voice to the character.
     
  3. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

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    Yes, it even sounds wrong when you say father.
     
  4. Villion_

    Villion_ New Member

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    Not very fortunate choice of the text. Lolita of Nabokov's is a piece of bad literature.
     
  5. Ghost in the Shell

    Ghost in the Shell Member

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    Well, you'd say ''Is he a friend of yours [genitive]?'' but not ''Is he a friend of you [accusative]?'', right?
    So why would you reject ''of my father's [genitive]'', which is also what most people would say?
     
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  6. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

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    I'm only starting to read it now. I said to my wife that it is boring. It's boring like Love in the Time of Cholera was. Both seem to be required reading. I've been perusing this forum for a couple of weeks and have seen numerous references to Humbert Humbert and Lolita. Good to know I won't be a pudding head for not finishing it.
     
  7. Bill Chester

    Bill Chester Active Member

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    My objection was the same as Wreybies, but this makes a lot of sense.

    ETA: On the other hand, maybe your example of Is he a friend of you? falls into the same sort of idiom as Aren't I supposed to do this? for Am not I supposed to do this?
     
    Last edited: Dec 31, 2016
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  8. Wreybies

    Wreybies Thrice Retired Supporter Contributor

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    Because marking anything other than pronouns for genitive case in English when of is present is long gone. One could argue, though, that such idiomatic (nonstandard) structures as of your father's reflect a remnant acknowledgment of genitive case inflection. Perhaps the fact that father is an animate person, thus logically tied to what pronouns typically replace, is what is setting off this remnant acknowledgment. If we replace father with something inanimate, there is no such drive to mark it with the genitive case marker.

    The roof of your house
    The buttons of your shirt
    The pockets of your pants
     
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