I'm reading in a newspaper:

"He is a neither-nor judge."

Is the phrase correct?

  • Any"thing" can be a noun. (Almost) any noun can be used as a modifier. Where's the problem? – Kris Apr 24 '14 at 13:00
  • neither-nor is a loaded expression. – Kris Apr 24 '14 at 13:00
  • 2
    The usage has no meaningful level of currency. Whether it's "correct" or not is a matter of opinion, but I wouldn't bother even having an opinion unless you can cite the context. I've heard of someone being called an either-or person to mean they tend to see things in absolute, black-and-white terms. But I couldn't begin to guess what two things a neither-nor judge might conventionally be assumed to be rejecting. – FumbleFingers Apr 24 '14 at 13:01
  • @FumbleFingers Could it be someone who always finds a middle ground? Take it away from the context of a legal judge (guilty or innocent with no room for middle ground) and into the judging of a best cake competition and that might open some possibilities where it could describe someone who would never judge a cake as 'delicious' (the ultimate) and he would never judge a cake as 'unpalatable' (the worst), everything would fall into various degrees of 'nice'. The opposite of either-or. – Frank Apr 24 '14 at 13:16
  • @Frank I think your understanding matches the Google examples I've found, which I've listed in my answer below. – Alicja Z Apr 24 '14 at 13:53

Both grammatically and logically, this is fine.

Grammatically, this phrase is in parallel to structures such as "a yes-and attitude", "a potato-potahto disagreement" or even "a two-birds-one-stone situation".

As for the meaning (and thus also whether or not the phrase is logical), a quick glance through Google yielded such examples as:

"...that made him a “neither/nor” person (neither aristocratic nor plebeian, neither amateur nor specialist, neither reliant on patrons nor fully independent, etc.)"

"a neither/nor person who is neither ethnic nor religious, neither affirmer nor denier of Jewishness or Judaism"

"someone who falls between stable categories, a neither-nor person; neither leader nor colleague"

All of these seem to imply that the person in question is the opposite of an either/or person (who tends to think in extremes or be characterised in such terms) - so a person that somehow fits in in the middle ground between two opposing viewpoints, skill levels, etc.

In your particular case, I imagine a neither/nor judge might be one that is, for instance, neither a Republican or a Democrat; or perhaps neither extremely pro-abortion or anti-abortion, etc etc.

That said, more context would be needed to properly decipher what the author actually meant in this particular case...

|improve this answer|||||

Grammatically it is fine, but without more context it is hard to know what the columnist means by this. Perhaps the judge tries to find novel "win/win" outcomes for his or her cases rather than choosing one side over another - neither A nor B, but C.

|improve this answer|||||

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

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