On the ACES board, this question was posed:
"An additional $18 billion in six-month bills was auctioned at a discount rate of 4.545 percent."It's obvious to me that "were" is correct. It's obvious to almost everybody else that "was" is correct. (Congratulations to Autumn, though, who replied first and got it right.)
"An additional $18 billion in six-month bills were auctioned at a discount rate of 4.545 percent."
Which one do you like better, and why?
There are interesting issues along these lines, as many people pointed out, but that isn't an example of them. My final thought:
It's easy to get distracted by the dollar amount in the original example. . . .(I claim bonus points for illustrating how easy it is to confuse millions and billions.)
Yes, as many pointed out, you say $18 million was, not were -- but that's not the issue at all in this case. Forget the dollars and imagine it was "a lot of bills were sold" or "a bunch of bills were sold." "Lot" and "bunch" are singular, but your ear, and those synesis principles that Garner describes, should make it clear that the plural "bills" requires a plural verb. Sums would behave no differently -- the specifics on that side of the equation are an irrelevant distraction.
Others that actually are close calls:
"A group of doctors is/are going to meet." Depends. The AMA is going to meet, but Drs. Brown, Smith and Jones are going to meet. In one case we're really talking about a group; in the other we're really talking about some doctors.
"Eighteen million barrels of oil is/are consumed each day." Are we counting the very countable "barrels," or are we simply using them as a unit of measurement for a non-countable entity? I'd say the latter (just as we were talking about bills, not dollars, here we're talking about oil, not barrels), but here's one where I might expect such vigorous debate.
Meanwhile at Newsdesigner.com, somebody who makes posters using images of newspaper pages was taken to task for thievery and copyright infringement and whatnot.
My current attitude toward copyright law is "I don't even know who you are anymore," and so Newsdesigner and the commenters who came before me may well be correct, but here's what I had to say:
It's not theft, any more than taking a photo of somebody in public is stealing his or her soul. Am I not allowed to take a photo of the side-by-side newspaper vending machines displaying such pages and call it art? How about whipping out my brush and dashing off an oil painting? What happened to fair use?Flame away, but be careful about violating this copyright.
"Copyright" nonsense has gotten way out of hand, as the Washington Nationals' imminent name change to the Washington Natsxxxindc64071@aol.com (it was the only name not previously thought of) is proving.