The appearance of Xing

Walter Stuart wrote to the NYT’s “Metropolitan Diary” yesterday about an encounter in Madison Square Park in which a park official treated the appearance of Xing as equivalent to Xing for the purposes of park regulations:

The salesperson at the Urban Angler store suggested I take a fly rod across the street to Madison Square Park to make a few test casts before making my purchase. After several casts across the grass, I was approached by a uniformed park official.

“There’s no fishing here, sir.”

“You’re telling me,” I said with a smile. “I haven’t caught a thing.”

“Fishing is not allowed in the park,” said the earnest official.

“I am not fishing. There is no water here!”

“Well, if you don’t stop whatever you’re doing, I’ll have to write you a ticket.”

“A ticket for what?”

“For fishing.”

I suppose Stuart stopped giving the appearance of fishing — by ceasing to perform some of the motions of fishing — and didn’t get a ticket. I wonder how the case would have played in court; I imagine it would depend on how the regulations are worded.

(Note: NOAD2 defines fishing as ‘the activity of catching fish, either for food or as a sport’. But of course you can fish for days without catching any fish.)

4 Responses to “The appearance of Xing”

  1. arnold zwicky Says:

    From Jonathan Lundell in e-mail:

    SOED gives “The action of fish (verb)”, which in turn is “Catch or try to catch fish”. The second entry abandons the catch entirely: “Try to obtain or elicit a compliment, secret, etc., by indirect means or artifice.”

    OED: “The action of the vb. fish. a.1.a The action, art, or practice of catching fish.” (With fish defined similarly to SOED)

    Casting in a waterless park falls at least arguably under art, if not practice (in this sense, anyway).

  2. mollymooly Says:

    Chambers: “to catch or try to catch or obtain fish, or anything that may be likened to a fish (such as seals, sponges, coral, compliments, information or husbands)”

  3. Gregory Stump Says:

    This reminds me of a story from the Lexington Herald-Leader (May 11, 2005) which reported an incident in Somerset, Kentucky. After downing “about a twelve pack” and riding his Tennessee walking horse Prince into town, Millard Greg Dwyer was arrested and charged with “operating a vehicle other than a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants.” The issues here are both legal and syntactic.

    On the legal side, does a horse qualify as a vehicle? For detailed discussion, see

    If one grants equine vehicularity, then the syntax of ‘operating a vehicle other than a motor vehicle under the influence of intoxicants’ has two possible interpretations–one in which ‘under the influence of intoxicants’ is an adjunct of ‘operating’, and one in which it is an adjunct of ‘vehicle other than a motor vehicle’. Under the first parse, the charge against Mr. Dwyer was obviously appropriate; under the second, however, the appropriateness of the charge would have depended on whether Prince got any of the beer.

  4. Officialdom’s semantics « Arnold Zwicky's Blog Says:

    […] It seems to depend on what you mean by cream. Shades of fishing in the park! […]

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