April 29, 2008
Earlier this week, I was driving home from work and I saw a bumper sticker that said, “Trees are the answer.” My first thought was, of course, “What’s the question?”
What is the meaning of life? Trees. What time is the meeting this afternoon? Trees. How did you make those delightful raspberry tarts from last week’s poetry reading? Trees. What number am I thinking of? Trees. How can we reverse the damage mankind has done to Earth since the Industrial Revolution? Tre- …nah, that’s ridiculous.
Immediately following, my next thought was, “Wait, shouldn’t that be ‘Trees is the answer’?” Or maybe “Trees are the answers“? Even “Tree is the answer” would work. Grammatically speaking, multiple trees can’t be the one answer. On the other hand, I suppose the concept of trees and what they represent could be the answer. Or simply the word “Trees” could be the answer. Given the opportunity, I probably would have slightly altered the phrasing to “Whatever our problems are, a large part of the solution involves trees and their various attributes & roles.”
Don’t get me wrong, I’ve said “[plural noun] is the answer” in the past, along with countless other similarly phrased sentences, and I probably will again in the future. That’s the phrasing that sounds correct to me. I’m just not sure that it technically is correct.
That bumper sticker was a failure.