Playful anaphoric islanding

Adrienne Shapiro on Facebook on the 14th, reporting on a day trip from Seattle with Kit Transue:

Cape Disappointment did not [understood: disappoint].

An instance of the anaphoric construction VPE (Verb Phrase Ellipsis) in which the antecedent for the ellipted material is not an actual expression in the preceding text, but instead is merely evoked by a word-part in this text, the disappoint inside the nominalization disappointment. The configuration requires some processing work on the part of a reader (or hearer) — it presents a kind of puzzle for you to solve — so it’s jokey, likely to elicit a smile from you, in admiration of Adrienne’s condensed cleverness.

Background: the place. From Wikipedia:

Aerial view of Cape Disappointment, view to the northeast, with very modest fog

Cape Disappointment is a headland located at the extreme southwestern corner of Washington State on the north side of the Columbia River bar … The point of the cape is located on the Pacific Ocean in Pacific County, approximately two miles (3.2 km) southwest of the town of Ilwaco. Cape Disappointment receives about 2,552 hours of fog a year – the equivalent of 106 days – making it one of the foggiest places in the US.

The cape was named on April 12, 1788, by British fur trader John Meares who was sailing south from Nootka in search of trade. After a storm, he turned his ship around just north of the Cape and therefore just missed the discovery of the Columbia River. George Vancouver credits John Meares in his account when he saw Cape Disappointment on April 27, 1792.

Background: anaphoric islands. I begin with a 10/20/07 posting of mine on Language Log, “More fun with VPE”, about the playful example:

one of those see-through blouses you don’t even want to [understood: see through]

Notes from that posting:

[an idea from 50-some years ago that] lexical items are “islands” for anaphora, that parts of lexical items or referents merely evoked by lexical items cannot serve as antecedents for anaphoric elements (of several different kinds[, including in VPE])

… some linguists began to argue that the AIC [Anaphoric Island Constraint] was not a syntactic phenomenon at all, but a pragmatic one, having to do ease of antecedent retrieval (as related to contextual cues and morphological transparency, in particular)

Many anaphoric-island examples are merely ways of speaking or writing compactly (look at the examples on this Page on this blog), but the configuration is wide open for playfulness. Three more examples from my postings:

on 4/23/11 in “Porn name up for grabs”: Tony Buff (who is both buff and in the buff) and Brandon Bangs (who does)

on 8/20/18 in “Anaphora into proper names”: “Margaritaville” was playing over the sound system, so she ordered one [understood as: a Margarita].

on 12/12/18 in “Prosthetics on an anaphoric island”: He conducted most of his career singlehandedly — the other [understood: hand] having been blown off by a cannonball.

One Response to “Playful anaphoric islanding”

  1. Robert Coren Says:

    Maybe under the circumstances Cape Disappointment should be regarded as an anaphoric peninsula.

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