Take the 2-minute tour ×
English Language & Usage Stack Exchange is a question and answer site for linguists, etymologists, and serious English language enthusiasts. It's 100% free, no registration required.

Given two options, we can use 'either and 'neither' to show no preference.

Do you want to watch A or B

Neither, I don't like either.

The only option I can see for more than two options is: 'any' and 'none'

Do you want to watch A, B, C ... ?

None, I don't like any.

Actual Question: Is there, or has there ever been a word to show no preference for 3 options?


More Information

Sometimes we have an extra, sometimes uncommon, option for a 3-type question. This question is searching for a similar option for "either"

How many times have you eaten sushi?

Thrice


What is your phone number?

Oh, seven, double five, treble zero


9 is triple 3


share|improve this question
    
Either and neither are both fairly similar to themselves. –  snailboat Sep 29 '13 at 21:00
1  
Yep. "Neither" is just a contraction of "not either". I'm not sure you've understood the question –  James Webster Sep 29 '13 at 21:18
1  
Not similar to each other, but to themselves. People use both words for 3 or more items. Still, that was more a response to the question title than the question body... –  snailboat Sep 29 '13 at 21:22
1  
Either can't be used (grammatically) to mean more than two. See definition –  James Webster Sep 29 '13 at 21:29
2  
People say things like either A, B, or C all the time. It's perfectly standard. Huddleston and Pullum say "Both is restricted to two-coordinate constructions. Around 1900, usage books began to claim that this was also true of either and neither, but the evidence does not support them." In my idiolect it's okay in the anaphoric sense, too, though I don't know how widespread that is. –  snailboat Sep 29 '13 at 21:50
show 2 more comments

4 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

Any (vs. either), none (vs. neither) are your options AFAIK.

The last option in a multiple-choice list is None of the above, not Neither of the above, (even when the options are just two.)

share|improve this answer
add comment

I think you've confused everyone no end. So I am going to skip over most of what has been said here, and merely aim at the answer to your question, which seems to be the one thing that no one has actually done. And here's my answer: No. There is no such word.

To be clear: You are asking if there is a word similar to neither which one could use if asked one's preference for something out of three or more things, when one's answer is that one prefers none of them (a word other than none). The word you seek would be something on the order of theither (a neologism I created just now merely to demonstrate the sort of word you would be seeking), and I reiterate, it doesn't, and never did, exist.

Do I know this for a fact? Absolutely not. I assert this merely on the basis of my own personal knowledge and long experience of the language. I have nothing to back it up. So take that for what it's worth.

share|improve this answer
    
How about 'eithreer' and 'neithreer'? I have often heard them in Englishes spoken in Africa and in Asia. –  user52726 Sep 30 '13 at 6:55
    
The neologism is the sort of word I was after, but I am satisfied there is no existing word. I'd forgotten about "nor" "Neither A nor B nor C", we simply don't need a word. –  James Webster Sep 30 '13 at 10:40
    
@user52726 I wrote to the author of the (fascinating, by the way) web column A-Z of Sri Lankan English asking if eithreer and neithreer were actually used. (I did this before your answer and comment claiming it was used "especially in Sri Lanka" were deleted.) I'm afraid they said that it was definitely not used in Sri Lankan English, or any other English they were aware of. Still, it was a noble attempt at word invention. –  snailboat Sep 30 '13 at 16:48
add comment

While perhaps not the most standard construction, neither can be used in lists of three. Wikitionary, for example, lists the idiom neither fish, flesh, nor fowl as an acceptable form. W.H. Fowler makes the same claim. And, Wikitionary points out that you can use neither for lists of two or more.

If it is vital that each word be negated, one could perhaps follow Dr. Suess:

Not on a train! Not in a tree! Not in a car! Sam! Let me be! I would not, could not, in a box. I could not, would not, with a fox. I will not eat them with a mouse I will not eat them in a house. I will not eat them here or there. I will not eat them anywhere. I do not like them, Sam-I-am.

If you like neither Green Eggs, nor Ham, nor anything similar, you could get your point across that way - but it also works well just to say "I do not like any of them."

All of this to say, there is no need for a new word to express what neither / nor / nor already does. Like a good programmer, English seems content with only knowing three numbers - zero, one, and more than one. The difference between two and three is sufficiently insignificant to need a new one.

share|improve this answer
    
That whole effort is essentially a comment, though. "Actual Question: Is there, or has there ever been a word to show no preference for 3 options?" And the answer would be "probably no." –  Kris Sep 30 '13 at 6:46
add comment

Neither A, nor b, nor c itself is fine.

U.S. Postal Service Creed: Neither snow nor rain nor heat nor gloom of night stays these couriers from the swift completion of their appointed rounds. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/9/99/James_farley%2C_NYC_post_office_inscription.JPG

In the context of not wanting:

  • I like neither A nor B nor C.
  • I don't like any of A or B or C.
  • I'll watch neither A, nor B, nor C.
  • I like none of them.

or, most likely in conversation, 'or':

  • I don't like A or B or C -- with extra stress on 'or'.
share|improve this answer
    
"Nor" seems to be the critical word I was missing! –  James Webster Sep 30 '13 at 10:36
add comment

Your Answer

 
discard

By posting your answer, you agree to the privacy policy and terms of service.

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.