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The following was taken from a book.

...and it may be that on the list of martyrs will yet shine the name of some faithful little reader of this story of St. Dorothea, on whose feast-day priests will offer up the Holy Sacrifice in blood red vestments, thanking God that America, and the United States, has given a martyr to Christ.

Is this a correct way of saying it? Is there a better way of saying the same thing?

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To ask whether a particular phrase is correct or if there is a better way of saying the same thing is a broad question. You are asking whether the phrase best expresses what was intended by the author. The author's intention is impossible to know, because the author has been dead for a century. Voting to close "not constructive". –  MετάEd Jan 25 '12 at 15:49
    
It's not about the phrase. It's that whole statements. Verb numbers don't agree. –  user17857 Jan 25 '12 at 19:47
    
The question is already answered why do you have to close it? –  user17857 Jan 25 '12 at 22:53
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2 Answers

up vote 1 down vote accepted

The text you link to is from an old religious book (published 1883) whose author writes in what is known as "purple prose":

purple prose
noun
prose that is too elaborate or ornate. [NOAD]

It is also written in highly periodic style:

period
noun
6 Rhetoric a complex sentence, esp. one consisting of several clauses, constructed as part of a formal speech or oration.

I suppose the style reflects the author's rhapsodic enthusiasm for the prose of the King James Bible or religious tracts of the period.

Here the inclusion of the U.S. ("and the United States") is rendered as a parenthetical by means of commas, so that the verb may agree with a the singular subject ("America"). Why the author feels obliged to separate America into two entities (America and the United States) is beyond me. Clearly she feels deep in her bones that more words means better writing.

It is worth noting that this book is full of terrible, overblown writing, and I would not recommend using it as a model of grammar, style, or anything else worth imitating.

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I doubt that a Catholic book would evince "rhapsodic enthusiasm for the prose of the King James Bible"...And is that phrase itself not a bit purplish-tinged? :) –  JeffSahol Jan 25 '12 at 14:15
    
My Canadian friends tell me that North America is not coterminous with the United States, so it is possible to feel loyalty to America without being pro-US. –  TimLymington Jan 25 '12 at 15:28
    
@JeffSahol: 19th century American authors of all faiths were in large part influenced by that style of writing. And thank you for noting my mockery of the style. –  Robusto Jan 25 '12 at 15:28
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I haven't read the book so know nothing beyond that one sentence fragment, but one person's "too elaborate or ornate" is another's "poetic and powerfully moving". I'm sure one's evaluation depends a great deal on whether one agrees with what the author is saying. –  Jay Jan 25 '12 at 16:06
    
RE splitting "America" and "U.S.": In context it seems pretty clear that the writer means America, the continent, in general, and the U.S. in particular. Like, "Your help has meant a lot to me and to my family". Not that I am not a part of my family, but specifically to me and also to my family in general. –  Jay Jan 25 '12 at 16:09
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The only grammatical problem here is possibly verb number agreement. With a plural subject, (assuming that you don't consider that ", and the United States," is parenthetical, as pointed out by Robusto and Tim) should be:

thanking God that America, and the United States, have given a martyr to Christ.

If you are referring to the meaning of the phrase "giving a martyr to", yes, it is correct to say it that way. It simply means that a member of the country, community, or family has become a martyr. Not that they purposefully made the person a martyr, but that they created an environment where a person could have been devoted enough to the cause that they could willingly be martyred for it.

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I think that the commas indicate a parenthesis, which means that the verb should be singular; you wouldn't say America (and, of course, the United States) have given... But it's not entirely clear. –  TimLymington Jan 25 '12 at 15:25
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