R is for Rhonda consumed by <a> fire

Discussion in 'English Only' started by AntiScam, Jun 2, 2016.

  1. AntiScam

    AntiScam Senior Member

    Tripoli-Libya
    Arabic
    Hi,

    Why did the author use a fire not fire in:
    Source: The Gashlycrumb Tinies: Edward Gorey
     
  2. Myridon

    Myridon Senior Member

    Texas
    English - US
    She was killed by a particular fire.
     
  3. veggie21 Senior Member

    English England
    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.
    etc. etc.
     
  4. goldenband Senior Member

    English - American
    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. :)
     
  5. waltern Senior Member

    English - USA
    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)

    EDIT: cross-posted!
     
  6. johngiovanni

    johngiovanni Senior Member

    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.
     
  7. goldenband Senior Member

    English - American
    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".
     
  8. waltern Senior Member

    English - USA
  9. johngiovanni

    johngiovanni Senior Member

    Whatever versions there are about, I still maintain that the version without the article is good English.
     
  10. goldenband Senior Member

    English - American
    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.)
     
  11. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    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.
     
  12. Loob

    Loob Senior Member

    English UK
    :thumbsup::thumbsup::D
     
  13. AntiScam

    AntiScam Senior Member

    Tripoli-Libya
    Arabic
    Oh my! I have developed an ear for good English!:D

    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
     
  14. goldenband Senior Member

    English - American
    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!
     
  15. PaulQ

    PaulQ Senior Member

    UK
    English - England
    the "by fire" version fits better with the picture:

    [​IMG]

    "... by a fire" would show Rhoda in a house fire or similar.
     

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