Rhett to Scarlett

Heard in passing on KFJC’s Norman Bates show Saturday morning, Rhett Butler (Clark Gable) to Scarlett O’Hara (Vivien Leigh) in the 1939 movie of Gone With the Wind, what I heard as:

No, I don’t think I will kiss you, although you need kissing, badly. That’s what’s wrong with you. You should be kissed and often, and by someone who knows how.

I’m interested in the third sentence, boldfaced above. Transcribed as here:

 (Kiss1)

Two modifiers of kissed in the VP: often and by someone who knows how. These modifiers can be tightly adjoined (in speech, not set off prosodically; in writing, not set off by punctuation) or loosely adjoined (in speech, set off prosodically; in writing, set off by a comma); and the modifiers can be syntactically unmarked, or marked as coordinate (with and). The version in #1 has both modifiers marked with and, with the first tightly adjoined, but the second loosely adjoined.

My question about these matters is to what extent they involve linguistic structure, and to what extent they are (more or less literally) choices in performance, options indicated in writing in the fashion of stage directions, or options taken by actors.

Note: taking the Performance option here doesn’t mean that there’s no system at work, only that there are other systems — other kinds of knowledge about using language, other kinds of linguistic abilities — in addition to those of grammar in a narrow sense. For some discussion, see my 1999 handout on “Grammar and the User’s Manual”.

In the case at hand, there are a variety of ways in which the tight/loose and the unmarked/marked choices for two modifiers can be combined. The one above (Kiss1) is non-uniform for tightness (first modifier tight, second loose). A fair number of citations for the Mitchell sentence are, however, uniform, with the same treatment for both modifiers. Using a numbering system originating in another source, there are four uniform treatments, two illustrated here from artwork on the net:

tight unmarked: kissed often by someone who knows how

loose unmarked: kissed, often, by someone who knows how

tight marked: kissed and often and by someone who knows how (Kiss2):

loose unmarked: kissed, and often, and by someone who knows how (Kiss5):

Then there are mixed treatments, including eight possibilities in which one factor is constant while the other varies, of which three are illustrated here:

unmarked: tight + loose: kissed often, by someone who knows how

unmarked: loose + tight: kissed, often by someone who knows how:

marked; tight + loose: kissed and often, and by someone who knows how (Kiss1 above)

marked; loose + tight: kissed, and often and by someone who knows how

tight; unmarked + marked: kissed often and by someone who knows how (Kiss4):

tight; marked + unmarked: kissed and often by someone who knows how

loose; unmarked + marked: kissed, often, and by someone who knows how

loose; marked + unmarked: kissed, and often, by someone who knows how (Kiss3):

People who credit their versions sometimes give Margaret Mitchell (that is, the book) as the source, sometimes Gone With the Wind (not distinguishing the book and the movie), sometimes Rhett Butler (again not distinguishing the book and the movie), sometimes Clark Gable (that is, the movie).

This brings me to the question of what Mitchell actually wrote in the book. (We have the evidence on what Clark Gable as Rhett Butler says in the movie.) This has turned out to be vexingly difficult to answer. I consulted two print dictionaries of quotations and several authoritative on-line dictionaries of quotations, but none had the “should be kissed” line.

The Goodreads site purports to be an on-line quotations dictionary, and in a sense it is. Alas, it gives three versions for the “should be kissed” line: Kiss1 above; the marked; loose + tight version “should be kissed, and often and by someone who knows how”; and, even worse, a version (“kissed and by someone who knows how”) that completely lacks the first modifier. It looks like Goodreads is created from reader submissions, and so suffers from the vagaries of memory and from confusion between the book and the movie.

I will now appeal to ADS-L for help. But if any reader here has an authoritative dictionary of quotations that has the line, please e-mail me with the exact text (paying attention to commas and ands), and I’ll update this posting.

These are, of course, very small distinctions, of the sort that actors play around with all the time while practicing readings of lines.

[Almost immediate update, thanks to ADS-Ler Stephen Goranson at Duke, who writes:
1936 book itself page 310:
….You should be kissed and by someone who knows how.”
no comma. the ” is from the text [indicating the end of Rhett’s speech]. The elipsis is not.

AZ Note: only one modifier; no “often”. So one of the Goodreads versions is right.]

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