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I feel doubts regarding the usage of few as a substantive. The sentence is:

"Both kinds of literature are the product of the academic few."

Is this correct?

Now I want to place the adjective fluent to qualify the academic few:

"Both kinds of literature are the product of the fluent academic few."

It sounds odd, but that's perhaps because of the f's?

What do you suggest?

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sure, why not? It sounds OK. A tiny bit stilted. But acceptable to the audience that the context seems to be for –  Mitch Jan 11 '12 at 16:20
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Why don't you make it an answer? :) Perhaps I should use a synonym for "fluent" that sounds better against "few". –  Benjamin Jan 11 '12 at 16:24
    
+1 for Benjamin. Grammatically it's fine but "fluent few" doesn't exactly roll off the tongue. –  Lynn Jan 11 '12 at 16:59
    
Actually I think the "fluent few" has a nice ring to it. –  Jay Jan 11 '12 at 17:21
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Modifying a quantifier is tricky; most will not accept the bridle or float away. But it's not impossible, if one doesn't expect too much for the effort. I think it would be better to speak of **a** fluent academic few. There's no reason to expect this sentence to convey a claim that it's the same few fluent writers in academe that're responsible; that's asking too much of an odd expression. –  John Lawler Jan 11 '12 at 17:33
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1 Answer

up vote 6 down vote accepted

Certainly, as in these two citations from the OED:

The favour of the few may silence the clamour of the many.

A life not for the many, but for the few.

But most famously,

Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few.

No definite article there, but Battle of Britain pilots have ever since been known as 'The Few'.

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+1 for the famous citation; it makes an excellent point. –  Irene Jan 11 '12 at 18:40
    
+1 especially for not being distracted by the flu, I mean, the fluent few. The others focused more on the specific than the general. –  Kris Jan 12 '12 at 7:25
    
@Kris: - 1 for your inconsistence regarding your interest in the specific and the general :) –  Benjamin Jan 12 '12 at 10:04
    
@Benjamin: My comment at OP was a mere pun, as you could have seen, and so it is here as well. :) –  Kris Jan 12 '12 at 10:12
    
@Kris: I know :) –  Benjamin Jan 12 '12 at 10:32
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