Forever
Posted: 11 January 2012 07:00 AM   [ Ignore ]
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I swear I could hear my old Engliish master rattling his dry bones in fury as I wrote that. Down would come the heavy ruler over unsuspecting knuckles if he glided by and spotted the offending term. (God, that used to hurt!) “Two words, boy, not one!” Oh that I could have thrust the OED entry under his nose (as if I would ever have dared!) although even there I seem to detect a faint air of disapproval in that ‘chiefly US’ (imagined I’m sure).

1. The phrase for ever (see ever adv. 5b), written as one word. Chiefly U.S. exc. in sense ‘incessantly’.

1670 J. Eachard Grounds Contempt of Clergy Pref. sig. A5v, An honest‥wisher, that the best of our Clergy might forever continue as they are.

You know, I still hesitate over forever and nine times out of ten I’ll go for the separate words. At my back I seem to hear that heavy ruler hurrying near.

I’ll leave the last word to the matchless CS Calverley.

“FOREVER”

Forever! ‘Tis a single word!
Our rude forefathers deemed it two;
Can you imagine so absurd
A view?

Forever! What abysms of woe
The word reveals, what frenzy, what
Despair! For ever (printed so)
Did not.

It looks, ah me! How trite and tame!
It fails to sadden or appal
Or solace - it is not the same
At all.

O thou to whom it first occurr’d
To solder the disjoin’d, and dower
Thy native language with a word
Of power:

We bless thee! Whether far or near
Thy dwelling, whether dark or fair
Thy kingly brow, is neither here
Nor there.

But in men’s hearts shall be thy throne,
While the great pulse of England beats:
Thou coiner of a word unknown
To Keats!

And nevermore must printer do
As men did longago; but run
“For” into “ever”, bidding two
Be one.

Forever! passion-fraught, it throws
O’er the dim page a gloom, a glamour:
It’s sweet, it’s strange;and I suppose
It’s grammar.

Forever! ‘Tis a single word!
And yet our fathers deem’d it two:
Nor am I confident they err’d;
Are you?

[ Edited: 11 January 2012 07:13 AM by aldiboronti ]
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Posted: 11 January 2012 12:16 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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[quote author="aldiboronti" date="1326315626" “Two words, boy, not one!”

Perhaps just from having seen it as one word all my life it doesn’t look right as two words.  It turns it into a prepositional phrase the meaning of which I cannot fathom.  Base ball I can handle; for ever, no.

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Posted: 11 January 2012 11:28 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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Both one and two words are acceptable to me. But always two in the extended phrase “for ever and ever”.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 12:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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I can’t remember seeing “for ever” in print, and “forever” seems perfectly natural to me.  As a modern, American, English speaker (some would call that a triple oxymoron), “for ever” looks very strange to me, if not downright bizarre.  It feels incomplete, somehow, to beg a question that hasn’t been answered.  For ever… what?  Forever, on the other hand, is so well settled as a word with a clear meaning in and of itself that I don’t think of it as an “informal” way of stating “for ever”.

I think part of the reason that “for ever” looks so strange to me (and, I suspect, to most Americans) is that “ever” is rarely used today to mean “always”.  Rather, it is most often used to mean, “at any time”.  It is hard for me to imagine an American saying something like, “I will ever be your friend”, unless he or she was deliberately affecting an unnaturally formal speaking style, probably for comical effect.  But an American boss would say, “Don’t you ever let me see you do that!” The listener would understand this to mean, don’t let me see you do this even one time, not, I don’t want to see you doing this on an eternal basis.” I don’t know if “ever” is still commonly used by British English speakers in the “I will ever be your friend” sense (outside of the phrase “for ever”, that is) but I can say with some confidence that very few Americans ever use ever to mean always.

I would presume that in the two word phrase, “For ever”, “ever” is being used in the “I will ever be your friend” sense of the word.  If “ever” is being used in that way, then “for ever” makes perfect sense as meaning “for all time” or “eternally”, and it means precisely the same thing as forever.

This leads me to another point: while I can’t necessarily say that its definition is WRONG, the OED’s definition of “forever” as “incessantly” is not a happy one.  Incessantly can mean a number of things, from “without ending” (which does have the same meaning as “forever”, more or less) to “constantly” (i.e., an action being repeated frequently and endlessly).  But I think that incessantly is most often used to indicate that an action is being repeated frequently and endlessly, and it carries with it at least the suggestion that the repetition has become quite bothersome to the speaker.  We generally refer to irritating things that are constantly being repeated as things that are happening incessantly.  An eternal thing that is pleasant, or otherwise positive in some way, is rarely described as being “incessant” or described as happening incessantly.  If I wanted to express gratitude at the fact that I know my mother will love me forever, I would not say, “My mother will love me incessantly.” In fact, My mother will love me incessantly is a downright creepy sentence, and I hope not to repeat it. 

“Forever”, I think, is used to mean that something will happen until the end of time, something that is eternal, or something that will always exist.  It can be either positive or negative, depending on the positive or negative nature of the thing itself that is being described as happening or lasting forever.  It doesn’t reference the endless repetition of an action, let alone imply that the repetition of that action has become bothersome. 

Forever is sometimes used hyperbolically, and it sometimes caries with it a suggestion of irritation, but even then, the irritation is generally not at how often an action or an event is being repeated, but at the seemingly never-ending period of time that it takes for an event or phase or other thing to come to an end.  (I.e., a bored student IMs a classmate and asks, “Is it just me, or is this class taking FOREVER?")

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Posted: 12 January 2012 04:36 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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But I think that incessantly is most often used to indicate that an action is being repeated frequently and endlessly, and it carries with it at least the suggestion that the repetition has become quite bothersome to the speaker.  We generally refer to irritating things that are constantly being repeated as things that are happening incessantly.

But forever certainly is often used in just such a sense.  Of course you would not say ‘My mother will love me incessantly’, but you might well say ‘My mother’s forever complaining that we don’t visit her more often’.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 04:52 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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I think Svinyard’s point (and I agree with it) is that while forever can be used in that sense, the negativity is carried by other elements in the sentence.  Incessantly seems to be able to carry the negativity on its own shoulders.

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Posted: 12 January 2012 07:26 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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Let us remember that the “ever” entry was published in 1891 and reflects work done over the preceding couple of decades; let us also remember that “Murray always said that E was the worst letter, because his assistant, Henry Bradley, started E, and Murray always said that he did that rather badly” (source).

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Posted: 13 January 2012 05:37 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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In book 5, on page 442 of the 1583 edition of The Book of Martyrs, by John Foxe [Wikipedia offers this: “more accurately Actes and Monuments of these Latter and Perillous Days, Touching Matters of the Church”], there appears to be an instance of “forever” as one word:

...And like as Niniuye was subuerted ouerturned, and not in members but in maners: so the same wordes of my theame, Iuxta est iustitia mea vt reueletur, may be verified in vs, not of the primitiue iustice, but of our sanctification by grace, so that: As to morow is celebrated the natiuity of our Sauiour, our righteousnesse may rise together with him, and his blessing may be vpon vs, which God hath promised, saying: My sauing health is neare at hand to come. &c. Whereof speaketh Esay the Prophet, chapte. 51. My sauing health shall endure foreuer. &c. This health graunt vnto vs the Father, Sonne and holy Ghost. Amen.

--(link to the edition and page cited above)

Source:

--John Foxe, The Unabridged Acts and Monuments Online (1583 edition) (HRI Online Publications, Sheffield, 2011). Available from: http//www.johnfoxe.org [Accessed: 01.03.11].

http://www.johnfoxe.org/

I feel that this is most likely an error from the actual 1583 work.

I have not found an online facsimile to check.

[ Edited: 14 January 2012 07:02 PM by sobiest ]
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Posted: 14 January 2012 12:06 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 8 ]
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Thank you for the reference to Calverley, aldi - I’d never heard of him. I found Fly Leaves at Project Gutenberg, and spent a happy half hour with it. If Calverley were living today, he’d be winning “New Statesman” competitions (if they still exist......the last time I saw a “New Statesman” was several decades ago).

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Posted: 14 January 2012 04:47 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 9 ]
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I feel that this is most likely an error from the actual 1583 work.

Nope. It’s one word.

The facsimile is available on Early English Books Online. I tried to find the passage in the original 1563 edition, but the pagination is completely different and the older edition doesn’t divide the text into books or sections and has no headers or other keys to finding your place in the text. Most frustrating. (EEBO is great for the number of works it contains, but it’s capacity for finding the particular page you want in any given work is nonexistent.)

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Posted: 14 January 2012 09:18 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 10 ]
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Dave Wilton - 14 January 2012 04:47 AM

I feel that this is most likely an error from the actual 1583 work.

Nope. It’s one word.

...I tried to find the passage in the original 1563 edition, but the pagination is completely different and the older edition doesn’t divide the text into books or sections and has no headers or other keys to finding your place in the text. Most frustrating....

I said, “I feel that this is most likely an error from the actual 1583 work” because I felt that since of all the instances in that edition of “for ever” or “forever” this is the only one that appears as one word, the error was likely to be extant in the original work. That is, of course, if it is indeed an error.

How was it determined to have been one word if it wasn’t located in the facsimile? Is there another source? Maybe a critical or scholarly treatment of the original work?

According to the source I cited, the passage is from “A Sermon of N. Orem before the Pope.” It appears in “book 5”. Given 12 ‘books’ in all, if all ‘books’ are of the same general length, that would cause the quoted passage to appear about 5/12ths of the way through the work.

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Posted: 14 January 2012 09:53 AM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 11 ]
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I found the passage in the 1583 edition where it is one word. I couldn’t find it in the original 1563 one. The 1563 edition is just continuous text, so finding your place in the volume in nigh to impossible. And EEBO shows you images of the pages; it doesn’t have searchable text.

Of course, the ultimate test would be to find Foxe’s manuscript. The printer may have been the one to eliminate the space (which makes a difference if you’re interested in Foxe’s usage, but doesn’t change anything about general usage), although this appears unlikely as there is a lot of white space in the line; the printer was not trying to cram letters in .

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Posted: 15 January 2012 02:33 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 12 ]
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I found the passage in the 1583 edition where it is one word. I couldn’t find it in the original 1563 one.

I checked the 1563, 1570, 1576, and 1583 editions at http://www.johnfoxe.org/index.php for instances of “forever” as one word. The 1583 edition was the only edition with it as one word, and there was only one instance of it in the actual text. (A search at johnfoxe.org indicated that there were several instances, but checking the actual text revealed only one.)

These editions appear to be substantially different. I could not find the very same passage in the other editions but this is not to imply that I looked thoroughly.

I understand that the 1583 edition was the last edition that Foxe worked directly upon.

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Posted: 15 January 2012 05:42 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 13 ]
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Usually one has to be very skeptical about what’s on the web, but the TAMO site looks to be a really fine one.

One of the keys is to look at what copies they’re basing their transcript on. Not only do early printed books vary from edition to edition, but individual copies will be different as printers were continually tweaking the type. When you get to details like whether there is a space in any particular word, you may find differences in copies produced by the same print shop at roughly the same time.

The 1583 edition was published in Foxe’s lifetime, but I don’t know how much influence he would have had over the printers and what they did with his text.

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