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In one of my answers, I had only copy-pasted definitions from a dictionary so the moderator commented on my post and said:

Merely copying in this or that dictionary definition does not an answer make.

What kind of grammatical structure is this? Does it have a name?

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I'd call it stylistic (or poetic / literary) inversion. Familiar to many in contexts like One swallow does not a summer make, it may have been more common in natural speech a few centuries ago (I've no idea), but it's definitely "non-standard" today.

DON'T COPY THIS STYLE - unless you're really good at English, and wish to be "whimsical"!


BUT... note that the specific verb combination do + make in this negating / refuting construction X does/do not Y make is something of a SNOWCLONE (another familiar variant is Stone walls do not a prison make). It's been more closely examined by Why is “xxxx doth not a yyyy make” considered valid English? as asked on English Language & Usage, if you're interested.


EDIT: Having just actually looked at the linked ELU question myself, I think it's worth flagging up what the top answer there says:

this little short phrase has a lot going on. Three figures of speech, idiom, hyperbaton and ellipsis, and an archaic verb particle.

From which it should be obvious that technically speaking the "answer" here is "hyperbaton and ellipsis" (though I don't see how knowing the first of those two words helps anyone learn English, since I never needed to know it myself until now).

Note that the "archaic verb particle" referred to above is the word doth - often used instead of do in this construction, primarily as a hint to the audience that the speaker is being "facetiously archaic".

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  • Now be honest. Do you really care about knowing the specific word hyperbation? Personally, I have no doubt I'll forget it myself very soon, having never needed to know the word until now! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 28 at 12:13
  • I read the question you linked and I've never heard 'hyperbaton' before. I saw that sentence structure yesterday and it sounded pleasant to my ears :P And as always, I'll forget it in no time. :D – Void May 28 at 12:16
  • It was used by tchrist (he often uses old structures like this in chatroom). – Void May 28 at 12:20
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    Try to remember the bit about including doth. If you ever come out with this construction yourself, using doth instead of do guarantees that people will understand you're being flippant (they won't just think you don't know English syntax very well! :) – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 28 at 12:22
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    @gidds: Methinks the gentleman doth protest too much! :) Actually, I'm impressed with how consistently people get it right. Hundreds of written instances of Stone walls do not a prison make, but not a single one with doth in that exact sequence. Although I did find Iron bars doth not a prison make, but iron-clad ideas do, and a quick glance at the context soon convinced me the writer knew exactly what he was doing there! – FumbleFingers Reinstate Monica May 29 at 0:42
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To pull out and emphasize one piece of the current top-voted (and only) answer...

The specific stock phrase "X does not a Y make" entered the culture via Richard Lovelace's 1642 poem "To Althea, From Prison":

Stone walls do not a prison make,
Nor iron bars a cage;
Minds innocent and quiet take
That for an hermitage.

The phrase's literal meaning is the same as "X does not make a Y," but the inverted phrasing is specifically an allusion to Lovelace's poem.

The literary allusion is unimportant in most contexts, including in the context you quoted; just a bit of cleverness that some readers will get and some won't. It's no different from if someone said "I hold this StackOverflow answer to be self-evident" or "Friends, Romans, countrymen, this is a good answer" or "Answer, or answer not; there is no 'comment'."

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