Discussion in 'English Only' started by AntiScam, Jun 2, 2016.
Why did the author use a fire not fire in:
Source: The Gashlycrumb Tinies: Edward Gorey
She was killed by a particular fire.
In English the article is usually used with fire.
A fire in Canada has recently caused destruction.
When I was younger, my parents used to light a fire to keep us warm.
We lit a fire in the garden to burn the waste.
Look, there's a fire burning over there.
It's also because of the meter of the verse, which is in dactylic tetrameter, more or less:
R is for Rhonda consumed by a fire
If you omitted the article, you'd lose a syllable from the meter.
In addition, "fire" alone would not fit with the rhythm of the line - 1 2 3 1 2 3 ...
(R) is for (Rhon) da con (sumed) by a (fire)
None of this applies. It is a line in a song "R is for Rhoda consumed by fire".
It doesn't need the article.
"p is for Prue trampled flat in a brawl
q is for Quentin who sank in a mire
r is for Rhoda consumed by fire", etc.
By "none of this" I assume you don't mean my and waltern's posts, since I think we're quite correct in explaining why it's "a fire": to make the meter work. You're correct about Rhoda, but I've checked multiple online sources (including Google Books) and they all say "by a fire".
The line in the Edward Gorey book the OP mentions is "a fire".
Whatever versions there are about, I still maintain that the version without the article is good English.
Of course it's good English -- hence "baptism by fire", "trial by fire", etc. In this case, though, it would be bad poetry. (Or at least metrically inconsistent.)
The difference is as Myridon suggested in #2
R is for Rhonda consumed by a fire -> here "fire" is countable and refers to some fire that took hold somewhere.
R is for Rhonda consumed by fire -> here "fire" is uncountable and refers to to the class of inflammatory occurrences - it might have be spontaneous combustion, or a guy with a flame thrower, etc.
Oh my! I have developed an ear for good English!
Well, I believe I already know the difference between the countable and uncountable versions at least in theory, but in the poem I thought the uncountable version sounds better of course ignoring the poetry meters which make sense.
I do not see any reason other than that meter for choosing the countable version.
Collins COBUILD Advanced Learner's English Dictionary
Thank you very much to all of you
In fact I agree with you: "consumed by fire" is somehow more poetic (if only slightly), perhaps because it's not specific to any one fire. But in this particular case, the meter is more important.
Clearly, your ear for English is indeed quite good if you can pick up on subtle differences like that!
the "by fire" version fits better with the picture:
"... by a fire" would show Rhoda in a house fire or similar.
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