Everything Wrong With The Phrase "To Boldly Go Where No Man Has Gone Before"
So I am a huge stickler for proper grammar and spelling. I proofread the most benign of texts and emails just to make sure I don't come across sounding like an imbecile ("u" and "r" are not words). That being said, as much as I love Star Trek, the most iconic phrase from the franchise is riddled with so much bad English and stereotype it makes me ill every time I hear or read it.
To boldly go where no man has gone before.
There you have it. Nine simple words. How is it possible that a simple nine-word sentence is so terrible that I feel the need to write an entire article about it? Let's find out shall we?
We are going to start with the gender thing and get that out of the way first. The creator of Star Trek, Gene Roddenberry, had a truly altruistic and utopian view of what the future should be like. That is why most conflicts were resolved without violence or bloodshed (snoozers). The ironic part of his view of this pacifist, peace-loving, hippie future is that it was still riddled with misogyny... not racism mind you (the original series had the first ever on-screen interracial kiss), just misogyny. Plus the guy cheated on his wife constantly so he obviously had no respect for women and that showed in his show.
Now, the term "man" can be gender-unspecific as we all know. But if you want to erase any doubt you use "one" instead. Even Neil Armstrong botched his famous phrase when he stepped onto the moon. He meant to say "That's one small step for A man, one giant leap for mankind." If you think about it the way he said it doesn't even make sense really because he's basically saying that it's one small step for mankind and also one giant leap. But I digress.
The use of "man" does not have to invoke gender necessarily. But for Roddenberry I think he really meant man in the sense it was them that would be leading the human race into the stars. If you notice the roles women played in the original series they were ones typically reserved for stereotypical professions from the 1960s. The two main women were Nurse Chapel and Lt. Uhura. Nurse Chapel needs little explanation. But you may be saying "wait a second, Uhura was on the bridge; she was important!" But in all seriousness she did little more than man a switchboard and function as a receptionist (and be the occasional sex symbol). So apparently the perfect future that Roddenberry envisioned tore down all barriers except the one that existed between the genders. Once The Next Generation came around in the 1980s the powers that be probably let him know that "no man" should be changed to "no one" and it was.
Allow me to present some pictures in order to further my point here...
This brings us to...
To boldly go where no one has gone before.
Ok, now that the gender stuff is out of the way, let's move on to grammar. If you ever want to learn how to write because you write no good you need to pick up a very very very small book (more like a pamphlet) written by Strunk and White called "The Elements of Style." Best literature I've ever read. It simply and concisely helps you stop being a terrible writer. Now I know that the idea of ending a sentence with a preposition has been debunked and that it's now more-or-less acceptable but not for me. I don't approve of it and never will. As a result "before" is a preposition so I would never have ended the sentence with it. The way around ending sentences with prepositions is using the words "that" or "which" or something similar or a combination of the two.
To boldly go where before which no one has gone.
Sound stupid? Tough. It gets worse. Now we get to the most egregious infraction which is the splitting of the infinitive. For those of you playing at home an infinitive is a "to" verb. As in "he likes to volunteer at the medicinal marijuana shop because sometimes the owner gives him kickbacks." The infinitive in that sentence is "to volunteer." The thing about them is that you never put anything, such as an adverb, between the "to" and the verb. So you would never write "he likes to sometimes volunteer..." On occasion avoiding a split infinitive makes for awkward-sounding stuff but at the end of the day it's grammatically correct and that's what is most important. "To boldly go" is incorrect grammar and every time you hear it you should want to puke like I do. The correct phrasing should be "boldly to go" or "to go boldly." You do not split the infinitive. Ever! So now we have arrived at the grammatically accurate and gender-unspecific proper phrase:
Boldly to go where before which no one has gone.
Ah.... so much better. You might laugh because you're thinking to yourself "that phrase doesn't have cache and would have never worked." Well, Star Trek was cancelled after 3 seasons (1966-1969) because it was hated by the network and because it's numbers were abysmal. So don't tell me that it survived because of that phrase. It was the fanboys that kept it around until they made the motion picture in 1979.
So there you have it. The most iconic phrase in the Star Trek cannon is a misguided mess and only nine words long. Next week, I'll tackle rap music from a grammatical perspective. That article might be slightly longer. Until then, live long and prosper.
DISCLAIMER: I understand people also believe that splitting an infinitive is acceptable grammar. I personally don't agree and if you want to go around town ending sentences with prepositions, splitting infinitives, and dangling your participles for all the world to see then please, be my guest. I'm fine with it. This is a satire piece and as such should be taken at face value. But if you feel the need to argue in the comment section about what is and is not proper grammar that's fine. Just understand you'll never convince me otherwise. Go write your own article.