The Vine: February 2, 2011
Hi! I'm an American teaching English in Russia, and I frequently field difficult questions from my students. I can almost always find a good answer for them, but this one is giving me issues:
Why do we say, "That city has a rich nightlife"? Nightlife is uncountable, so why not "That city has rich nightlife"?
Neither of those sentences is incorrect; neither of them would give me pause, in any case, or suggest to me that its utterer isn't a native English speaker. "Nightlife" can be a mass or non-count noun, but doesn't have to be; the word is back-formed from life, of course, and we can talk about pleasures in life, or we can talk about a rich interior life.
Pointing your students to count-noun synonyms for "nightlife" — "club scene," for example, or "after-hours circuit" — may help them remember that they need an article with "nightlife." As for why, well, English is just weird like that.
And now, a word from a high-school classmate of mine who's in search of a book. Take it away, Pip!
I have a very random question and it is rather ironic considering I am a librarian. (Keep in mind though that I am an elementary-school librarian!)
I need the name of a book we read in high school. I started a book club for some of the teachers where I work and I want to refer to a quote from this book, but I can't remember the title. Do any of you recall the name of this book:
On the cover there was a picture of a boy balancing on top of an outline of a house. I think the word YET was in the title but I can't say for sure. Does this sound familiar to anyone? My sister remembers reading it too but she can't recall the title either. I remember there was a passage about memories — how we remember things different. Unconsciously we remember things as bigger or smaller than they really were depending on how those moments impacted our lives.
I am leading the book-club discussion and this quote is very applicable to the book we're reading. I really wanted to start the discussion with the quote. If any of you have any idea of what I am talking about I would really appreciate it.
I don't remember what Pip's talking about, but we didn't always wind up in the same English section, so she may have read things I didn't and vice versa. Our curriculum didn't vary much from what you'd expect — Hawthorne, Wharton, Dickens, blah blah — and the only thing I can remember that might fit is The Bluest Eye. But…that ain't a book you forget.
Anyone have any thoughts, based on the (maybe) title fragment and the other info?
Tags: friends grammar Pip popcult