The both of you

Penguin edition (1994)

Prescriptivism in literature or films: I’ve already noted a few examples in this blog. Here is another one. It is from Marilyn French‘s novel Our Father (1994). Alex, the first speaker, is one of the three (or four if you include illegitimate Ronnie) sisters who get together when their father suffered a stroke.

“You too! That’s what she does! The both of you so tough and hard but underneath you’re a couple of pussycats.”

“The two of you,”  Mary said sourly.

” Excuse me?”

Either ‘the two of you’  or ‘both of you.’  but never ‘the both of you'”.

Ignoring this Alex gushed to Ronnie … (p. 125).

Again, the purpose of the correction could have been to shut the speaker up (see Bertie vs. Mr Brown), but it didn’t.

I don’t know if this is a usage feature that is discussed in (American?) usage guides at all, and if it is, please let me know, but I’m collecting examples like these for the book I’m writing on prescriptivism. There must be a lot more, and I don’t know how to search for them systematically as I can only read one book or watch one film at a time. So if anyone could help here, I would be very grateful indeed.

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One Response to The both of you

  1. Cornelis van Eykelen says:

    I wrote “the both” in the address/search field of my Safari/Google browser and found some rather interesting results.

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