Externalization of verbal inflection

A little while ago, Wilson Gray reported an occurrence of double downed as the PST form of the verb + particle idiom double down; doubled down is the standard PST form, so in this usage the inflection has been “externalized”, moved from the head (the verb double) to the edge.

Three examples:

(1) He’s at it again. At a town hall meeting in New Hampshire yesterday, Rick Perry double downed on his denial of climate science. (link) [League of Conservation Voters Facebook page]

(2) Personally, I felt as though the questions asked were soft ball questions. For example, when Rick Perry double downed on his statement regading “Social security being a ponzi scheme,” it should have been fodder for further discussion. (link) [commenter on Huffington Post]

(3) Obama double downs at AIPAC (link) [Washington Post blog]

Example (1) is a comment on this Los Angeles Times story, which has internal/head inflection in both the headline and the body of the story:

At town hall, Perry doubles down on climate skepticism

Reporting from Derry, N.H.— Republican presidential candidate Rick Perry may have backed down on tuition breaks for illegal immigrants, but he’s doubling down on his skepticism of climate-change science. (link)

And example (3) is a headline with external inflection; but the body of the story has internal inflection:

… President Obama took nothing back from his foreign policy speech on Thursday and blamed the press for any controversy. He doubled down, making this upcoming presidential election a time for choosing for friends of Israel.

So we see a tendency to treat the idiom double down as a unit, with inflection at the end.

[Digression on double down. A draft addition of August 2004 to the OED2 entry for the verb double:

intr. Pontoon (Blackjack). to double down : to double the bet after one has seen the initial cards, with the requirement that one and only one additional card be drawn. Also in extended use: to engage in risky behaviour, esp. when one is already in a dangerous situation.

The first cites:

1949    J. Scarne Scarne on Cards iii. xv. 154   He doubles down on a count of 9 and he draws a deuce.

1956    Jrnl. Amer. Statist. Assoc. 51 438   It is good strategy to double down on soft 12 when the dealer shows a five.

And some extended uses:

a1991    J. Epstein Line Out for Walk (1991) 233   Let me double down‥and see if I can’t win some points for being a racist by asserting that, for some while now, black men have worn hats with more flair than anyone else in America.

2001    N.Y. Times Mag. 10 June 77/3   Far from admitting defeat, Middelhoff is effectively doubling down. In February, he managed to persuade Mohn‥to agree to sell a quarter of the company to the public.

No doubt a fair number of speakers no longer appreciate the etymology of the idiom, which would encourage them to treat it as an unanalyzable whole.]

Externalized verbal inflection has come up on this blog before, in the example drag-assing (instead of dragging ass), here. And there are more cases with V + Prt combinations.

jack off (or jack-off) ‘masturbate’. Internal inflection is standard, but external inflection is not uncommon:

Dork is also a musician. He listens to music regularly (almost as much as he jack-offs). (link)

I’ve been dating this guy for about 7 months, and he’s a great guy. He shows me alot of respect and love. But a few days ago, he confesed to me, that he downloads porn movies every night. And that he jack offs every other day. (link)

even the best guy in your class, you know, the intellectual-faced one, that sucks up to the teachers, and that you assume he only thinks about working, doing his homework and getting the best marks, he jack offs too … (link)

tick off ‘annoy, anger’. Here I disregard examples involving ticks, the parasites. Almost always in the PSP (tick offed instead of ticked off), as here, but frequent:

In human combat the most feared soldier is one seriously tick offed woman with a weapon. (link)

i am tick offed at you!!!!! (link)

Thats it, no higher no lower, Try to respec and have been trying to sell this thing for about a month now. Getting pretty tick offed that others can sell theres but not me. (link)

Similarly, piss off. Again, in the PSP, and frequent:

Add another piss-offed former youtube’r to the list. (link)

i am piss offed at my friend!!!!!!!!!! (link)

It was the sort of weather that piss offed the bees, made the dogs bark and run across their yard at you. [Christopher Sorrentino, Trance (p. 226)] (link)

This one might well have been encouraged by the expression PO’d ‘pissed off’, which has final inflection, as initialisms do in general.

man up, roughly ‘act like a man, rise to the occasion’ (see Ben Zimmer on the idiom, here, here, and here). Here I disregard examples like “one man upped the ante”. A fair number of hits, for PST, PSP, and PRP:

What If The Vatican Actually Man-Upped (link)

I’m actually pretty impressed that the kid finally man-upped. (link) [another commenter corrects this to “manned up”]

Sorry for getting all angry and whining like a little girl, I am over it, I have man-upped again. (link)

This work provided a real-life “Man Up” test. I was impressed by each member’s level of ’man upping’ on the weekend. (link)

While my partner has done some conciliatory “man-upping”, I have still been the one to bear the bulk of the sick child load (as a mum does). (link)

As I regularly say on such occasions, no doubt there are more examples — in this case, more V + Prt combinations that have picked up external inflection as an option for some speakers.

[Final note on double down. Searching for “double downed” and “double downs” pulls up a collection of red herrings. There is, for instance the KFJ Double Down Sandwich, called the Double Down for short; but that’s a noun. Then there are two sporting uses of double down as a verb, with down ‘defeat’ as the head verb (so of course it gets the inflection).

One is double down ‘defeat two times’:

Tornado Volleyball Double Downed at Tusculum [defeated in two matches] (link)

Double downed
Bucks fall to Scarlets, Lakers in Saturday twinbill (link) [baseball]

France double downed Slovenia
France beat Slovenia (30-29) in PAOK Sport Arena, for a second time in as many matches in this tournament and will now oppose Spain for the 5th place. (link) [handball]

The other is more specialized. From what I can determine (I’m an outsider in this world), it’s used in soccer reporting, said of a soccer player on the winning team who scores two goals on the opponent (note the argument structure: PLAYER double downs TEAM):

Montero double downs Timbers
Seattle Sounders striker Fredy Montero scored two goals to help his side beat Major League Soccer rivals Portland Timbers 3-2 on Sunday. (link)

Miller double downs Saints
Kenny Miller’s brace helped Cardiff beat Southampton 2-1 to inflict only a second defeat of the season on the early Championship pacesetters (link)

Leeds 3 Crystal Palace 2: McCormack double downs Eagles
Scotland international striker [Ross] McCormack scored the first and last goals of an end-to-end game … (link)

Interesting, but not relevant to examples like (1)-(3).]

8 Responses to “Externalization of verbal inflection”

  1. Bob Richmond Says:

    When English constructions like these get loaned into German, it’s even more fun. Downgeloadet or gedownloadet? (I’ve seen both.) And which verb class? – ich habe getweeten or ich habe getweetet – Once again, I’ve seen both. (Never zwitschern, the actual German cognate of tweet.)

  2. Ben Zimmer Says:

    And see here for a discussion of “big-upping” (and “voice-overing”).

  3. Rick Wojcik Says:

    I like all of these examples better when the particle is a homonym of a commonly-used verb–“to down”, “to up”, “to out”, etc. The ones that grate a little more on my intuition are those in which the particle has a less common verbal homonym–“piss off”, “voice over”, etc. Analogical catalysis at work, I suppose.

  4. Lauren Gundrum (@laurengundrum) Says:

    Interesting post. Not exactly the same thing, but it reminds me of all the times I hear “passerbys” instead of “passersby”. Here’s an interesting post on words that are pluralized in the middle.

  5. re-up « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Arnold Zwicky's Blog A blog mostly about language « Externalization of verbal inflection […]

  6. mollymooly Says:

    The soccer example is a false positive. It is not
    – PLAYER [double downs] TEAM
    but rather
    – [PLAYER double] downs TEAM

    In this format it is headlinese
    – Smith goal beats United
    – Smith double downs United
    – Smith hat-trick sees off United

    IMO “brace” is more common than “double” in UK soccer journalism for “player scoring two goals in one game”.

  7. Cartoon 3: Snowman up! « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] to Ben Zimmer’s writing on the slang idiom man up here. Notes on the gay porn flick Man Up […]

  8. On the masculinity beat « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] Man Up — another dose of masculinity. Some background: links to Ben Zimmer on the expression here, notes on the porn flick Man Up here, and a cartoon with the phrasal overlap portmanteau snowman up […]

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