word order (was Re: Random DWJ discovery of the day)

Belben, Philip (Energy Wholesale) Philip.Belben at eon-uk.com
Thu Mar 31 04:16:22 EST 2005


Minnow pointed out:

> I don't know how subtle Colin/Dorian was meaning, but "I just want a
> verdict" and "I want a just verdict" and "I want just a verdict" mean
> quite different things.  And "I only care for money" and "I care only
> for money" and "I care for only money" are three quite distinct sorts
> of interest in dosh, but I'd hate to try to explain *why*, or wherein
> precisely the difference lies.

I think there is a lot of room for interpretation, particularly of the
second set of examples, but here is my take:

As regards the verdict, it is simply that "Just" qualifies the word
immediately after it.

"I just want a verdict" - all you are interested in is that a verdict is
reached.  You don't care in whose favour, or what is done as a result of
this.

"I want a just verdict" - here "just" is a pure adjective, qualifying
"verdict".  You want the verdict to be equitable and fair.

"I want just a verdict" - you want the verdict to be reached, but you
don't want all the stuff that follows from this.

As regards the money, "only" can qualify the word after it _or_ the word
before it.  Some pedants prefer to have "only" qualify the word before
it, but I have never understood why.  Anyway,

"I only care for money" could be construed that you are the only person
who bothers to keep within budget, but is more likely to mean that
everything you do stems from your interest in money.

"I care only for money" means that you do all sorts of things, whether
for money or not, but it's the money that motivates you.

"I care for only money" means that money motivates you for its own sake,
not for the advantages it brings.

Anyway, that's my take.

Philip.



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