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The Wasington Post quotes Obama as saying:

"Here in America, our success should not depend on an accident of birth, but the strength of our work ethic and the scope of our dreams. That's what drew our forebears here ... [that's] how the son of a barkeep is speaker of the House."

Would it be also possible to say in this context:

  1. "and a scope of our dreams"

  2. "a son of a barkeep is the speaker of the House"?

  • Yes, both constructions are acceptable. Are you asking whether one is "better" (or more accepted) than the other? I don't think it would raise eyebrows either way. – phenry Jan 31 '14 at 22:59
  • Yes – FumbleFingers Jan 31 '14 at 23:00
  • @phenry - it's not like I'm looking for a better option. In 1, for example, I was wondering whether we could also say "a scope of" analogous to "an accident of birth" to indicate that our scopes may differ. – jules Feb 1 '14 at 9:46
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"a scope of our dreams" is not acceptable in any American dialect I'm familiar with. Dreams only have one scope, so to speak.

You might say that something depends on the length of the road, or the height of the wall, the pitch of the sound...etc

I'd say "a son of a barkeep" is better than "the son of a barkeep", "The" indicates that you are only talking about one particular son, which is true in this sentence, but the point of the sentence is that any and all sons of barkeeps might achieve the same lofty position.

(edited "the barkeep" to "a barkeep", that was a typo)

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  • Thanks swbarnwes2. I'm not a native speaker of English but I too felt that "the son" is somehow too much. BTW, how about "the speaker"? Wikipedia's entry uses "the Speaker of the House". Why did Obama use "speaker" in mass/abstract sense? – jules Feb 1 '14 at 9:51

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