"A * doesn't a good * make"

16

1

I'm curious about a certain sentence construct that I've seen in different contexts. I'm talking about sentences in the following style:

A * doesn't a * make.

(* being a wildcard). For example:

A good camera doesn't a good photographer make.

A google search for that specific sentence construct yields several results. However, the placement of the verb at the end of the sentence seems to be a grammatical error to me.

Is this construct grammatically correct? Is it archaic? Is it derived from a famous quote? Or is it just plain wrong?

MoritzLost

Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697

Reputation: 391

I just want to replace your google search with this search, which is more specific

– zyurnaidi – 2016-05-16T12:51:10.877

It's quite a common construct, if not something you hear every day. The word "good" isn't necessarily required. – nnnnnn – 2016-05-16T14:24:50.093

@nnnnnn I edited the question accordingly. zyurnaidi, I changed the google search as well – MoritzLost – 2016-05-16T15:17:12.843

5A lightsaber doesn't a Jedi make - Yoda. – Glorfindel – 2016-05-16T15:30:19.807

@Glorfindel a good jedi or a bad jedi? – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T15:39:22.200

4@AlanCarmack Only a sith in absolutes deals – MoritzLost – 2016-05-16T15:41:57.893

FYI the general idea of a pattern where you fill in the blanks to make a new saying that alludes to an old one is called a "snowclone": https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snowclone

– Eric Lippert – 2016-05-16T18:02:27.490

Damn, I was hoping this would be about the A* algorithm. – John Dvorak – 2016-05-17T07:19:10.153

Answers

20

It is grammatically correct. The most common usage is probably the proverb, "one swallow does not a summer make".

Here and here are some explanations of this word order. In short, it's an hyperbaton used to emphasize "make", and it is considered archaic (or poetic).

user27060

Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697

Reputation:

1+1, but I don't see how it can be considered archaic if the construction is still in use today. – Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T15:37:38.740

11@AlanCarmack, afaik, if it won't be in use today, it would be considered obsolete, not archaic. Archaisms just sound old-fashioned outside of specific context – None – 2016-05-16T15:48:59.530

5@AlanCarmack: A single, idiomatic use does not a non-archaic word make. – Lightness Races in Orbit – 2016-05-16T15:59:53.657

3@AlanCarmack The construction is valid, but no one uses it these days except in this context, so it sounds very archaic. – Kevin Wells – 2016-05-16T16:10:16.250

Hello! People the Google search results included in the question shows multiple contemporary uses of this construction.......

– Alan Carmack – 2016-05-16T16:36:52.027

Bartlett's Familiar Quotations, 18th Edition (2012), page 78:5, attributes "One swallow does not make a summer" to Aristotle in Nicomachean Ethics I, 7. – Mark Hubbard – 2016-05-16T17:22:46.313

5

@AlanCarmack If methinks is not archaic (based on its frequency of usage on Twitter), you may wish to inform Merriam-Webster of their error. :) Whether a word is archaic depends in part on whether it registers tonally as archaic. A word being archaic doesn't mean that it's not used or understood (as mentioned above, that's obsolete).

– apsillers – 2016-05-16T17:36:39.000

Related proverb: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Barba_non_facit_philosophum “A beard does not constitute a philosopher,” attributed to "the Athenian aristocrat, ex-Roman consul and man of letters Herodes Atticus."

– Mark Hubbard – 2016-05-16T17:37:07.933

Aristotle wrote in Greek, which (afaik) had/has a more flexible word order than English. Translators into English had/have the choice of retaining the original word order or rearranging it to the English of their time, which is why 'does not a summer make' and 'does not make a summer' are both found. As well as being poetic, SOV can sound (mock-)philosophical. (I found the original quotation in Greek, but Google Translate couldn't cope with Attic Greek and returned gibberish.) (BTW, Google Ngrams shows 'does not make a summer' is far more common.) – Sydney – 2016-05-16T22:25:32.310

1The swallow/summer proverb may be the oldest and most well known use of this sentence construction, but I don't think it is archaic because it is still used quite often for non swallow/summer purposes. (It's not something everybody says, of course, but I know a few people who do say it. Including me.) – nnnnnn – 2016-05-17T01:17:24.127

4

The sentence that jumps into my mind is

One swallow does not a summer make.

You can read more about the sentence, including historical uses at the Wikitionary Page for it. The alternative sentence with ... does not make a summer sounds lackluster in comparison.

So, no it's not ungrammatical or outdated, and your latest Google search brings up several examples.

Alan Carmack

Posted 2016-05-16T11:13:47.697

Reputation: 11 630

but is the swallow African or European? – Federico – 2016-05-17T09:14:08.817