A carnival of omission

The Mother Goose and Grimm cartoon from 9/11/18:

What Grimm says to Ralph is just a bare NP, but what it conveys is the content an entire sentence, but with almost all of its parts “omitted” — that is, implicit, rather than explicitly expressed: That’s / It’s the last time I let you talk me into flipping my house. 

— a subject that or it or something similar (referring to some antecedent that’s loosely in the context — here, Ralph’s convincing Grimm to flip his house) can be omitted (SubjOmit, Ref type)

— in combination with SubjOmit (of several types), a copular verb (specifically, a form of BE, here is or ‘s) can be omitted (VerbOmit in combination with SubjOmit)

— in sentence-initial position, certain occurrences of articles (primarily  the definite article the) can be omitted (ArtOmit)

All of these phenomena are constrained in complex ways by conditions having to do with which items are affected, in which circumstances. Below I’ll run through the phenomena with a few examples selected from my files, plus some notes about the conditions.

SubjOmit. First, of the Ref type (with vaguely referential it or that as the omitted subject).  From e-mail reported by Peter Edidin, “A New Pecking Order on Fifth Avenue”, NYT Week in Review, 12/19/04, p. 9:

Thank you for supporting the hawks!  Ms. Winters, the owner of the apartment where the birds nest, should be evicted from NYC.  How dark is her heart? Goes to show, money can buy you everything, but not class!

In a different type of SubjOmit, the omitted subject is a non-referential “dummy subject” (it or there).

For dummy it, from Bill Hayes, review of Avery Gilbert’s What the Nose KnowsNYT Book Review 10/12/08, p. 34:

Turns out, we are wrong.

For dummy there, from Jason Love, “Reflections on Marriage”, Funny Times, March 2008, p. 19:

No matter how much you love your mate, comes a time when, if you don’t get out a little, your tolerance level drops to dangerous lows, as in “Could you PLEASE stop digesting so loudly!”

(There are further types of SubjOmit — one exemplified in a sentence at the very end of this posting:

Hope you know what you’re wading into!)

SubjOmit + VerbOmit. Possible for both Ref subjects and dummy subjects.

For a Ref subject, from Garry Trudeau’s Doonesbury strip of 9/10/04 (with omitted that’s):

[Iraqi:] She’s a U.S. citizen.  If we get married, I can get out of this hell-hole.

[Duke:]  My kind of love story.  Worked out the pre-nup?

For the dummy subject there, from the Doonesbury of 7/3/04 (with omitted there’s):

A:  Hey, dude!  Don’t let ‘em promote you!

B:  Not a chance, man!

ArtOmit. Mostly the definite article the. Omitted from a subject in a NYT Science Times column of 10/22/02, p. D3:

But for now, experts say, there is no solution for the botulism outbreaks.

“It’s naturally occurring,” Mr. Obert said.  “Chances are we won’t be able to do anything about it.”

And omitted from a sentence-initial adverbial, from Lea Wait, Shadows on the Coast of Maine (NY: Penguin, 2003),  p. 66:

Last she’d heard, he was in Arizona.

And for an indefinite article a in an adverbial, from Darrin Bell and Theron Heir, Rudy Park cartoon, 9/27/04:

[boss:]  Rudy, when was the last time I fired you?

[Rudy:]  Couple of months.

The whole carnival. Parallel to the MGG example above (but with omitted a rather than the), from the Doonesbury of 9/11/04:

[Honey:]  So what do you think of my guy, sir?

[Duke:]  Interesting choice, Honey.  Hope you know what you’re wading into!

Duke’s comment to Honey, in full, would be

That’s / It’s an interesting choice, Honey.

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