My allergic ass

Back on 4/21, I wrote to John Beavers (the University of Texas semanticist) with a data find that was, perhaps, of interest to him (mail exchanges edited quite substantially):

AZ >JB: Caught in a Facebook discussion just now:

Sister Hera Sees Candy (wonderful drag name of a Sister of Perpetual Indulgence [a SF order of queer and trans drag nuns]): My allergic ass in high school used to sing, “The hills are alive with the sound of mucus.”

It’s the 1sg pronominal ass [that is, my ass referring to the speaker, Hayden Reynolds, not to his buttocks], which I thought was admirable (I am easily amused), as well as an ingenious way to get a noun in there so that allergic would have a place to go. (otherwise, the marginal Allergic me in high school used to sing …; and the clearly ungrammatical Allergic I in high school used to sing …).

Did you and Andrew [John Beavers & Andrew Koontz-Garboden, A universal pronoun in English? Linguistic Inquiry 37.3.503-13 (2006)] have other 1sg examples? (Clearly, it’s pushing the envelope.)

JB > AZ: That’s a great example of pronominal ass, and yeah, it’s a good covert way of slipping in a noun like allergic without having to go out of one’s way. That phenomenon reminds me of the way cognate objects are sometimes used, being redundant in general but not when you add in an adjective that colors the interpretation, often in a way that an adverbial wouldn’t be as good for (She smiled a wan smile [adjective modifying the cognate object in She smiled a smile] sounds a bit smoother than She smiled wanly [adverbial modifier]). [AZ: yes, just the right connection]

Anyway, here’s a first person example from our paper [AZ: a very cool extended example, which I’d forgotten; I’ve bold-faced the 1sg pronominals]:

their asses sure know how to fuckin’ jam. kick ass guitar, whaling keys, and fuckin’ screetching ass voices! dig it. fuckin’ a. after the fuckin’ jam was over my ass handed the old chick her ten fuckin’ bucks…. his ass claimed that his old lady gave him the fuckin’ bucks to fuckin’ buy an ice cream sandwich…. i told his ass i needed the fuckin’ money in order to fuckin’ buy some beer. shit. my ass ain’t ready to rip off texaco quite yet. [AZ: note the alternation between 1sg my ass and 1sg I; I’m not quite sure what to make of it]

[AZ: in response to my “pushing the envelope” remark] To my intuitions, though, any pronominal form plus ass is as acceptable as any other, and it never even occurred to me that there might be acceptability differences. That could well be. But these were certainly attested.

AZ > JB It might only be that I haven’t been exposed to nearly as many pronominal ass examples as you have. [AZ added later: and that the 1sg examples are simply much less frequent than 2nd and 3rd person examples, so that they stand out]

Previously on this blog. From my 12/16/15 posting “Go H+A+R+D”:

His cute ass. An ambiguity here [in: but affectionately / Treasure his cute ass when they’re done]: M-Dig treasuring Kenny Boy’s buttocks, and the anus that is their centerpiece; or him treasuring Kenny Boy the man, with his cute ass used as a pronominal expression. For the second sense, with possessive pronoun + ass used as a pronominal, there is in fact some linguistic literature, namely [Beavers & Koontz-Garboden (2006)] One example (of a number) from this paper: “their asses sure know how to fuckin’ jam” ‘they sure know how to jam’. Yes, the construction is very much street vernacular (but not specifically black street vernacular).

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