roselyndoll (roselyndoll) wrote in linguaphiles,

English "pure and simple"

Hello. I am an English learner and have a question related to English. I have been reading a book which was translated into (American) English in 1904. In the beginning the author is introduced. The introduction includes a clause that goes  "it is for humanity, pure and simple, that he stands". If I understand correctly, "pure and simple" defines humanity, which makes the clause "He stands for pure and simple humanity". Am I right? I am asking because for me it would make more sence (my native is Finnish) if it said "it is for humanity, purely and simply, that he stands". I am also not certain about the English language usage in the beginning of the 1900s.
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  • 13 comments

steepholm

August 18 2014, 08:04:02 UTC 2 months ago

Your "it is for humanity, purely and simply, that he stands" is much closer to the sense. "Pure and simple" is a stock phrase, and describes (in this case) not humanity itself but the word "humanity" as a description of that for which he stands. That is, he stands for humanity alone, without qualification and without caveats.

roselyndoll

August 18 2014, 08:34:14 UTC 2 months ago

Thank you for your answer. The phrase seems more sensible now in the context!

lied_ohne_worte

August 18 2014, 10:14:32 UTC 2 months ago

I've found that it in such cases it helps me to look for other examples where a certain expression is used, which is so much easier now I can do it online. For example, here are recent news articles using it.

roselyndoll

August 21 2014, 05:19:18 UTC 2 months ago

The link did not work for me, but thank you anyway for your comment.

lied_ohne_worte

August 21 2014, 06:16:50 UTC 2 months ago

Hm, strange, it does for me. Basically, I did a Google search in the "News" category for the expression.

paulistano

August 18 2014, 13:51:42 UTC 2 months ago

If I were to "translate" this into 21st-century American prose, one possibility I'd write would be "Pure and simple, he stands for humanity."

houseboatonstyx

August 18 2014, 16:42:32 UTC 2 months ago

In an allegorical context, your example could mean, "This pure and simple character represents all humanity."

In an SF context, "This character is so pure and simple that he takes a stand in favor of the human race only, with no consideration for the Vulcans, the Martians, etc."

dorsetgirl

August 19 2014, 00:04:55 UTC 2 months ago

"Pure and simple, he stands for humanity."

I would absolutely take it for granted that the first half meant "This pure and simple character" but I would read the second half as "promotes or models humanity for others to be inspired by and aspire to"

whswhs

August 18 2014, 21:31:15 UTC 2 months ago

You could read this in either of the ways you describe.

It's possible for the adjective to be placed after the noun:

It is for humanity, pure and simple, that he stands = It is for humanity in its pure and simple form that he stands = It is for pure and simple humanity that he stands. The idea is that he stands for humanity as such and nothing more, less, or other. That's a statement about the content of his beliefs.

It's also possible for a word without -ly to be read adverbially as well as adjectivally. For example, I can say "Maria was the last guest to arrive" or "Maria arrived last" (not "lastly," which is an overcorrection; "last" here is good English). So

It is for humanity, pure and simple, that he stands = It is for humanity that he stands, pure and simple = It is for humanity that he stands, purely and simply. The idea now is that he is standing in a pure and simple manner. Here the statement is not about the content of his beliefs but about the manner of his holding them: he believes purely and simply.

The two are very close together. But I would take it as the former, because the modifier is placed next to "humanity" and not next to "stands."

5x6

August 18 2014, 23:30:45 UTC 2 months ago

Using these words adverbially implies colloquial context, while this example seems rather formal. Because of that, I would read in only as "for humanity in its pure and simple form".

roselyndoll

August 21 2014, 05:39:37 UTC 2 months ago

Thank you for your detailed comment. The book was translated into Finnish in 1906, the translation including also the preface. The "pure and simple" phrase was also translated but the translation is incorrect, so I became interested in it (there are also other changed parts in the preface; the translator has added some things and left out some others, either consciously or by mistake, so the whole text is very interesting example of translation).

whswhs

August 21 2014, 13:15:40 UTC 2 months ago

I have seen an Italian proverb, Tradittore traduttore, meaning "A translator is a traitor."

roselyndoll

August 21 2014, 05:40:29 UTC 2 months ago

Thank you all for your interesting and very helpful comments!