Monday 7 October 2013

To Infinitively Split

The good old split infinitive is at a point of endemic insertion. Many writers are not even aware anymore when they include one. The most famous example can be heard in both series of Star Trek and STNG where the phrase "to boldly go" is heard in the Captain's opening speech. Of course, that first line of the speech isn't even a sentence, so I don't know why I'm even going into this. "Space: The final frontier" does not have a verb. So I guess it might be considered an interjection. By way of illumination, I could introduce the view of my washing machine by putting on some ambient music and talking into a microphone and saying, "Water: The laundry habitat. These are the adventures of my vest and pants."

After declaring it's going to be either a five year or continuing mission, the next three lines all begin with infinitives, "to explore, to seek and to go." Aren't they all kind of the same? Exploring and seeking are pretty similar. I know there is a difference between discovering North America and looking for car keys, but in the Star Trek speech their search refers to "new worlds, new life and new civilizations." Wouldn't they all be found in the same place? You find one and the rest are just foregone conclusions.

The trick is the Captains don't say "to painstakingly explore" or "to vigorously seek." No. The infinitives remain intact there. They are not modified or corrupted. They remain simple, direct and effective, but then again, they aren't really sentences either. They sound like they were written by Yoda. "To explore strange new worlds, we will." is the way he would say it if he was captain of the Enterprise. At least he doesn't split his infinitives.

Kirk and Picard could also have said "to explore enthusiastically or assiduously or diligently." They could have said "to seek eagerly, ardently or energetically," but no, they don't abuse those particular bare infinitives. They save that until the end. My suggestion would be to fix, to modify and to improve the last line by having them say, "To go courageously beyond grammatical boundaries and explore, our quest is."

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