Odds and ends 2/13/14

Two (unrelated) items in my queue, on familiar topics: ambiguity and government by the nearest.

Ambiguity.From Nathan Sanders on Facebook 11/29/13, what he described as “cannibalistically amusing ambiguity on my bag of potato chips”:

We think they taste great, and we think you will too.

The question is what’s ellipted (or “understood”). The intended meaning is:

We think they taste great, and we think you will think they taste great too.

(ellipted material boldfaced).

But another meaning is easily available, and has less material ellipted:

We think you will taste great too.

Government by the nearest. From the NYT on 2/12/14, in an editorial on “Demonizing Gays in Africa”:

Another severe law has been passed by Uganda’s Legislature, but President Yoweri Museveni has not and should not sign it.

Some would treat this as simply ungrammatical, a failure of parallelism in reduced coordination; in their opinion that last VP (boldfaced here) should have been:

has not signed and should not sign it

But as I’ve argued in postings on “government by the nearest”, especially this one, this is an alternative grammar, one that is so common — including in careful writing by serious writing, like the NYT editorial writers — that it has to be treated as an alternative standard to parallelism. In this scheme (which I have to say I don’t use myself), BSE sign is acceptable because it’s governed by the modal should, and the non-parallelism with PSP signed in the first conjunct is irrelevant. Parallelism isn’t a law of nature, but a convention of language use for some speakers, applicable in some cases but not in others.

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