In which I present two quotes: because they are both poorly expressed; because I came across them both in the same evening; and because Natalie Portman. I can’t imagine another context in which they would appear in the same piece of writing, but don’t let that stop you from contriving just such situations in the comments.
The first quote comes from a Jerusalem Post article describing a conversation between Palestinian Authority envoy Salah Abdel Shafi and a group of Israeli journalists. He told them:
Every nation feels their suffering is the worst, but suffering cannot be quantified.
In other words, a standard Palestinian position regarding the Holocaust (the subject of the discussion under discussion): ‘Don’t lord it over us just because you had it lorded over you in Europe‘.
The only problem is that the above was a follow-up to the quote that headlined the article:
Shafi told a group of Israeli journalists that in his mind “the Holocaust is the biggest crime in human history.”
The envoy’s statements raise many more questions than they answer: According to Shafi, suffering can’t be quantified, while crimes – like the Holocaust – can. After all, it is the ‘biggest’. But on what basis can one quantify crime? What is crime but the infliction of suffering upon others? Why can suffering not be quantified? And if suffering cannot be quantified, on what basis can one quantify a crime like the Holocaust?
Back to square one.
On to weightier subjects. The second quote is drawn from an article in the Seattle Times, Manager Eric Wedge calls team meeting to address ‘unacceptable’ performance:
“You’ve got to play every day like it’s your last, and some of the people out here need to be playing every day like it’s their last,” Wedge said of his team.
This is a mess.
The quote contains an ‘and’, so let’s break it into two separate clauses. The first, ‘You’ve got to play every day like it’s your last’ – kicks off by addressing a ‘you’. Who is this you? If you’re a native speaker of English, you might find this silly, but to the dictionary!
you [yoo; unstressed yoo, yuh], pronoun1. the pronoun of the second person singular or plural, used of the person or persons being addressed, in the nominative or objective case.2. one; anyone; people in general.
One might assume that ‘you’, in this instance, follows the second definition: ‘people in general need to play every day like it’s their last’.
Just one problem: In the second half of his statement – the part after the ‘and’, and said ‘of his team’ – Wedge addresses only ‘some’ members of his team, implying that other members do not need to play every day as if it’s their last. The mere existence of such people means that the initial ‘you’ cannot possibly refer to everybody, leaving but one possibility:
1. the pronoun of the second person singular or plural, used of the person or persons being addressed
In other words, ‘you’ must refer to the journalist or journalists to whom Wedge addressed his remarks. Wedge thinks journalists have ‘got to play every day like it’s your last’. Meanwhile, only ‘some’ members of his team need to make a similar effort. And journalists don’t even play baseball!
Eric Wedge manages a Major League Baseball team.