I noticed something queer, though, when poking around in Fowler's work. On page 5 under "absolute possessives", he writes the following:
– The ordinary uses of these need not be set forth here, though it is perhaps worth remarking that...
Has he not just contravened the "worth-without-an-object" rule? Does this construction ("it is worth remarking/noting/observing, etc...", all to my mind quite common) constitute some sort of exception?
This is a very interesting case—one that I have thought a good deal about in the past, not that I had seen the example you found, penned by the great Fowler himself.
There are two ways of parsing "It is worth remarking that thus-and-such is the case." If "it" is parsed as anticipatory "it," with the -ing clause extraposed, we have: *"Remarking that thus-and-such is the case is worth."
I am happy to report there is another way of parsing such clauses. The "it" is still treated as anticipatory; however, the extraposed clause is not the -ing one, but the "that"-clause: "That thus-and-such is the case is worth remarking."
Isn't that satisfying?
My only remaining "thorn" is therefore the construction "it is worth remarking/noting/observing, etc...". I will venture to plumb the question I posed above, though. Let us compare the following:
(a) It is worth remarking that cows are not red.
(a') That cows are not red is worth remarking.
That is exactly the parsing I recommended above!
(b) It is worth making an appointment before you go.
(b') An appointment before you go is worth making.
The fact that (b') does not work seems to go some way towards showing why (b) is ungrammatical (though I cannot put my finger on why yet...). T=
I agree with you that neither of those sentences works. However, (b') would be OK if "before you go" were placed in its proper position, as a modifier of "making": (b'')
(b'') An appointment is worth making before you go."
As to the reason (b) is ungrammatical, the problem is that, unlike "that"-clauses and infinitival-clauses and embedded interrogatives, indefinite and definite noun phrases do not extrapose. We could use Right Dislocation (very forced):
(b''') It/One is worth making before you go, an appointment.
That said, the second sentence from the Oxford Learner's Dictionary does not seem to lend itself so well to this analysis:
(c) It is always worth paying the extra £3 for next-day delivery.
(c') The extra £3 for next-day delivery are always worth paying.
The ungrammaticality of (c') is not as clear-cut to me. What do you think? Is this train of thought at least somewhat valid?
Sentence (c') would be fine if "are" were changed to "is." If I say, "Five dollars are on the table," I am thinking about individual bills; but if I say, "Five dollars is nothing," I am thinking about a quantity of money for some purpose.
Again, the reason a sentence like (c) is ungrammatical is that definite and indefinite noun phrases do not extrapose; and, again, we could force Right Dislocation: "It is always worth paying, the extra £3 for next-day delivery."