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Quibble. No Such Thing as *a* fish

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1267746.  Thu Dec 21, 2017 2:09 pm Reply with quote

This one has gone on long enough.

"No Such Thing as *a* fish" is quite a famous QI fact, however it has clearly been garbled.
The point is there is no single common ancestor to all the things we call fish, so there is biologically speaking no such thing as the collective of "the fish", unlike say birds whom all have a common ancestor, or the primates. You can say "the birds" or "the primates" and mean something precise, but not "the fish", when discussing the collectives.

However no English speaker would use "a fish" to mean the collective..."the fish" is correct for the collective.

The correct statement would be "there is no such thing as *the* fish".

I can take a few of guesses how this was garbled.
1) a non-Indo-European language speaker who did not understand the implications of definite v indefinite articles.
2) someone who didn't understand the original statements biological significance.
3) 'Fish' was misunderstood as the singular. Whereas fish is also an option for the plural of fish.

Sorry , I should have pointed this out earlier, since there are now nearly 200 podcasts from nstaaf and a few quite entertaining books.

I have been busy tasting cheeses.

Guillaume Lambert

1267766.  Thu Dec 21, 2017 5:34 pm Reply with quote

"Here is a thing. Is it a fish, or is it not a fish?"

That question invites at least three possible answers:
"It is a fish." (If the thing were a haddock, it would be hard to argue too much.)
"It is not a fish." (If the thing were a Wellington boot, it would be even harder to argue. Even though I caught the very Wellington boot myself with rod and line.)
"Your question is meaningless, because there is no such thing as a fish." (An argument would undoubtedly ensue, but the person who responded thus gets a round of applause all the same.)

The whole point is that there is no consistent basis which enables us to categorize all things as being either a) a fish, or b) not a fish.

Incidentally, by no means all Indo-European languages have articles either definite or indefinite (Irish has the definite article but not the indefinite, Polish has neither). Some non-Indo-European languages do have articles (Arabic has both kinds, Hungarian has the definite only), while Chinese and Japanese have neither.

1267811.  Fri Dec 22, 2017 7:19 am Reply with quote

This is interesting. I just signed up and now I'm thinking about the fish


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