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One thing that bothers me - a lot - reading older English texts, is the apparent tendency of writers to write what appear to me to be sentence fragments. For instance, today I found this old "map":

http://i.imgur.com/hPLXDrK.jpg

The map contains this sentence near the top:

"Four Hundred Passages in the Bible that Condemn the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and None Sustain It"

Ignoring the actual claims made by this sentence (I've seen this type of thing in other more reputable works but I can't recall any of them at the moment), it seems to me that this isn't a valid English sentence. I have tried to determine the parts of speech and haven't come up with anything convincing. I'm trying to figure out how this could ever have been grammatically correct. The word "that" seems to completely wreck what would have been a perfectly valid construction. But even worse, with the word "that" the following "and" seems very mismatched.

Is this sort of thing deliberately a non-sentence? Is there a way to interpret it as a valid sentence? It seems like this thing was pretty common in the 19th century; is this some sort of cultural thing whereby titles of pieces of writing were overly wordy incomplete sentences? How should I interpret this sort of thing?

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    Captions and titles don't have to be valid English sentences. Consider movie titles today; almost none are complete sentences, even though some are quite wordy. Consider the other words on the top of the map: "Map of the Square and Stationary Earth. By Prof. Orlando Ferguson, Hot Springs, South Dakota." And on the bottom, "Scripture that Condemns the Globe Theory." All of these phrases have periods after them. But none are complete sentences. – Peter Shor Feb 22 '15 at 16:45
  • @PeterShor Still, it seems like a very awkward construction. It would seem like one would want a title to avoid confusion and be easy to understand. – Michael Feb 22 '15 at 16:46
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    It would be an awkward construction today in the USA. In the time and place when this map was produced, it displays the kind of formal and redundant syntax that its audience demanded. Or at least their betters thought they did. Syntax changes, and so does style. Style becomes syntax sometimes, and sometimes just becomes awkward. But it changes. Get used to it. – John Lawler Feb 22 '15 at 17:25
  • I can't decide whether the best thing about the map is the position of the rotating sun above its surface (far from most of the continents but quite close to the rim of ice that borders the outer edge like salt on a margarita glass) or the gravitational forces assumed to be at work to make the sideways oceans stay in place (despite the earth's seeming lack of a center of gravity). Unorthodox wording is the least of Professor Ferguson's problems. – Sven Yargs Feb 22 '15 at 22:13
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I think it does make sense. It means that there are 400 biblical passages that condemn either theory that planet Earth is a sphere, or that it is moving in space, or even moving at all, and also that in the Bible there are zero passages that support these claims. But also there is another sentence after it:

This Map is the Bible Map of the World

So the first sentence is a antique advert for Professor Orlando Ferguson's biblical projection of the planet. Hence the Angels looking over it.

I don't think they'd invented dictionaries yet, at least not popular ones:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/A_Dictionary_of_the_English_Language

  • Yes. I read it as "[There are] Four Hundred Passages in the Bible that Condemn the Globe Theory, or the Flying Earth, and None Sustain It." – anemone Feb 22 '15 at 21:21
  • Professor Ferguson's map is from 1893, long after the advent of comprehensive English dictionaries. – Sven Yargs Feb 22 '15 at 22:16
  • @anemone Thanks, that's actually a good way to look at it! – Michael Feb 22 '15 at 22:21
  • Reference: thehistoryblog.com/archives/11651 – JonMark Perry Feb 22 '15 at 22:54

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