Is it good styling in English to place physical-thing and non-physical-thing nouns in one row?

There are many kinds of creatures and cultural heritage in the sea.

Here it looks like "many kinds" is related to both "creatures" (physical) and "cultural heritage" (doesn't strike me as totally physical) and both "many kinds" are in the sea.

Does it sound okay in English?

enter image description here

  • 1
    There are many kinds of cultural heritage in the sea just doesn't sound like the kind of thing a native Anglophone would say. Not so much because of the syntax as because it's such a strange concept (which I realise might not be the case for some speakers of other languages). – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '18 at 13:15

There is no such general rule for or against mixing physical and abstract, but many kinds of ... cultural heritage doesn't really work stylistically because the plural heritages is not really used, and heritage is not like the noun cheese or fish. It is idiomatic to speak of kinds of cheese but kinds of heritage requires a very esoteric context to make decent sense.

So, it is not really the combination of the physical (creatures) with the abstract (heritage) that is the problem here. Rather, it is that many kinds of ... is understood to apply to both grammatical objects of of, creatures and cultural heritage, but the word kinds doesn't go well with the latter.

Also, creatures are in the sea in a very different way that heritage is in the sea. Stylistically, when clarity and immediate intelligibility are the goals, you don't want to have a preposition require different meanings for each of its objects:

He arrived in the nick of time and a taxi.

  • The terms Zeugma and Syllepsis come to mind. – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '18 at 13:17
  • They used to use mercury to treat syllepsis. – Tᴚoɯɐuo Sep 3 '18 at 13:19
  • 1
    Indeed - I remember when I had syllepsis I took mercury and to my bed for a week! – FumbleFingers Sep 3 '18 at 13:23

Your Answer

By clicking “Post Your Answer”, you agree to our terms of service, privacy policy and cookie policy

Not the answer you're looking for? Browse other questions tagged or ask your own question.