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Hello guys

This is rather an off-topic question.

A whale is no more a fish than a horse is.
A whale is no less a mammal than a horse is.

When I was a high school student, we were told by teachers that this kind of structure was so important in English and we were forced to memorize the two sentences shown above. But actually I have never come across this kind of sentence in English writings. Today I googled the two sentences, and indeed I got some 900 hits, but all of them were English learning sites written by Japanese, Koreans, and Chinese. So I feel these sentences might be created by some native teacher who came to East Asia to teach English at the end of 19 century.

[Questions]
1) Have you learned this kind of construct like these in school?
2) Do you use this kind of construct quite often?

paco
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Comments  
Hello, Paco!
These sentences are of course quite understandable, but I can't remember ever being taught them, and i for sure don't use them; I would never dream of teaching them to any student who aims at mastering modern, everyday English...
Wait til a native speaker sees them.
It is partly because these sentences do not require the emphasis (which we were discussing on the other thread) that they seem useless.

Paco: Do you enjoy participatory sports, Mr. M?
MM: I am no more an athlete than George Bush is an intellectual!

Paco: Who in heck is Konrad Lorenz? What does he know about animal behavior?
MM: He is no less a personage than the founder of Ethology, Paco!

This is where I see/hear this structure.
Teachers: We supply a list of EFL job vacancies
Hello Pieanne and Mr Micawber

Thank you for your kind replies. I too feel this construct is too antiquated and too low in usage frequency to teach English beginners. But it seems like some English teachers in Japanese high schools are still now stuck to teaching it to their students. It's a kind of surprise to me.

By the way, I suppose 'X is no more A than Y is B' means '[X=A] is as untrue as [Y=B]' and 'X is no less A than Y is B' means '[X=A] is as true as [Y=B]'. Am I right? Then what I still cannot get is why 'no more than' and 'no less than' could come to mean 'as untrue as' and 'as true as' each.

paco
Paco, would that that was the worst of the problems in the world of English education in Japan.
JTT
that was the worst of the problems in the world of English education in Japan


Honto da Accord! Emotion: wink

paco
Students: Are you brave enough to let our tutors analyse your pronunciation?
Perhaps 'not common', rather than 'antiquated'.

Course books seem to assume that English conversation is a sparkling mélange of gay repartees, pithy sayings, and fine distinctions. But it's usually just a succession of grunts and bits of gibberish.

Heigh ho. I suppose we get by.

MrP
Hello,
And, that depends upon what one calls 'English writing'. Yours.
Maybe the point of having students memorize these phrases is to stress the final "is," without which the sentence is ambiguous. If you say "A whale is no more a fish than a horse" it could means either "A horse is not a fish, and neither is a whale" OR "A whale is not a fish, and also a whale is not a horse." (Or "A whale is neither a fish nor a horse")

Somehow this reminds me of a sentence I heard long ago: "Botulism kills more mallard ducks than weasels." It is ambiguous: it can mean either "more mallard ducks than weasels are killed by botulism," or "botulism kills more mallard ducks than weasels do."

Of course, I don't think there is an enormous danger of Japanese students speaking ambiguously in English about whales, fish and horses. The time could probably be better spent on other issues.

Mr. P. -- I like your style! (Grunt, grunt, gibber gibber!)
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