June 17, 2004

Legal manners or means

The expression by no manner of means is doubly archaic. The relevant sense of means is best known these days through collocations like ways and means, by means of, means of production, and so on, or through the contrast between means and ends. And manner of is an archaic way of saying kind of or type of, as in "what manner of man is this?"

So by no manner of means is an archaic emphatic form of by no means, just as in no kind of way is an modern emphatic form of in no way. An informal modern example: "To hear one of those amplifiers compared to what we have now, they ain't no relatives in no kind of way."

Originally, by no manner of means was just as straightforwardly compositional as in no kind of way. But as a result of the double archaism, many people no longer understand how this expression means what it does. We can see this by the way they substitute other words into it:

(link) The course material in "Sweet Endings: Coffee, Tea, Port, Dessert Wines and Single Malt Scotch," is by no matter of means frivolous, and at the end of the thirty hours, the students will have acquired a lot more than some good social chatter.
(link) This was by no manner or means a distinguished performance by the winners who must improve out of all recognition if they are to pose a threat to wither Cork or Tipperary in next month’s final.

Likewise not ... by any manner of means is historically just an emphatic way to say not ... by any means. It's analogous to not ... in any kind of way in today's English: "We weren’t related in any kind of way." Here too, we can find plenty of examples of all the expected substitutions:

The designation "Solo" does not say it all, by any matter of means.
From what I have heard, there will be an upgrade in the area, but it won't be
a magic cure by any matter of means -- an incremental advance at best.
The legend of The Black Dog of West Peak did not end with the death of geologist Pynchon by any matter of means.

I think you should know that we are not laggards in this field by any manner or means.
I'm not a big royal fan by any manner or means, I just dislike unchivalrous acts more.
In short, one didn't think of him as a warm personality by any manner or means.

They aren't all screwball reports by any matter or means.
I had courses in accounting when I was in college and I was not, by any matter or means, stupid about the fact that the business had to make money.
This list is not complete by any matter or means!

And even some less expected ones!

The Daniela hotel is not "luxury" by any manor of means, but it is a lovely place to stay, and allows easy access to the centre of Rome.

The big surprise, however, is how common by any manner or means is in legal discourse:

(link) "Manufacturer" shall include every person who, in the process of filling or refilling an original package with alcoholic liquors purchased by such person, changes the degree or quality of such alcoholic liquors by any manner or means whatsoever.
(link) It is unlawful for any licensee, or any employee thereof, directly or indirectly to make, disseminate, represent, claim, state, or advertise, or cause to be made, disseminated, represented, claimed, stated or advertised by any manner or means whatever, any statement or representation concerning structural pest control, as defined in Business and Professions Code section 8505, which is unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading, and which is known, or which by the exercise of reasonable care should be known, to be unfair, deceptive, untrue or misleading.
(link) Upon payment in full to the Animation Writer of the Script Fee and subject to Articles 807 and 811, the Producer shall be deemed automatically granted from the Animation Writer an exclusive licence for the full term of copyright (and any extensions thereof) to exploit by any manner or means, now or hereafter known the copyright in the Script Material.
(link) In this permission form, “disclose” means to permit access to or the release, transfer or other communication to any person (other than school officials SBISD has determined have a legitimate educational interest) by any manner or means, including oral, written, or electronic release to the news media and on the Internet’s World Wide Web.

and so on for more than 350 other cases in Google's current index.

Are these examples just misconstruals of by any manner of means, or are they independent, fully compositional phrases? It's not clear. In other legal writing, we do get things like

(link) No part of this website may be reproduced in any form, by any manner, without explicit written permission.
(link) Any proposed acquisition of property by any manner shall be subject to the approval of the Board.
(link) It is unlawful to take or attempt to take any fish in fresh waters by any manner except in the manner commonly know as angling with handline or with rod and line, or as otherwise allowed by law.

So given that we can say that "no part of this website may be reproduced by any manner" and also that "no part of this website may be reproduced by any means", it seems perfectly compositional to express the disjunction: "no part of this website may be reproduced by any manner or means." And that is exactly what is happening, when the Pennsylvania Game Commission stipulates that

...it is unlawful for any person to:

(1) Hunt or take any game or wildlife by any means or manner or device, including the use of dogs, without first securing and personally signing and displaying the required license.

However, it seems to me that you should do (or be prohibited from doing) something in any manner, not by any manner. In support of that view, I can offer the fact the OED's examples contain 28 cases of "in any manner", e.g.

1886 Laws Lacrosse ix. §7 The goal-keeper..may put away with his hand or foot, or block the ball in any manner with his crosse or body.
1677 GALE Crt. Gentiles IV. 404 The Divine Wil is universally efficacious, insuperable..nor impedible and frustrable in any manner.

and only four cases "by any manner", three of which are instance of "by any manner of means", and one of which is the following, which I am unable to parse at all:

1533 CRANMER Let. to Duchess Norfolk in Misc. Writ. (Parker Soc.) II. 255 When it shall be by any manner way void.

If I'm right that manner should take in, not by, then maybe all those legal by any manner phrases are back-formations from a misconstrual of by any manner of means as by any manner or means. If this analysis is correct, then this phrasal "folk etymology" has not only modified the idiom by any manner of means, it's also modified the prepositional affinities of the noun manner -- thus restoring healthy compositionality to a mangled idiom!

[Update 8/3/2006 -- John Cowan writes:

I well remember the tale of an official (and officious) sign saying "PLEASE LEAVE THIS TOILET IN THE MANNER IN WHICH YOU FOUND IT" under which someone had written "You mean by groping around?"

I think the Book of Common Prayer's "prayer for all sorts and conditions of men" may be the ancestor of this strange use of "manner", though googling for "all manner and conditions" comes up void.


Posted by Mark Liberman at June 17, 2004 05:16 PM