Archive for the ‘Count & Mass’ Category

troop ‘servicemember’

August 3, 2023

(From a while back, but this exchange, on a very small bit of usage, between SRA (Stephen R. Anderson, the Dorothy R. Diebold Professor of Linguistics Emeritus at Yale University, now living in North Carolina) and AMZ (me), came during various medical crises on my part, so never got posted. But now …)

The usage issue set out in 7/18 e-mail from SRA to AMZ:

I guess lots of people send you weird things they saw online for commentary. Let me join that crowd.

In a story today on NPR about the soldier (apparently on his way to discipline on an assault charge) who ran across the demilitarized zone in Panmunjom into the arms of the North Koreans, we read that

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said he expected to have more information on the man in the coming hours and days.

“I’m absolutely foremost concerned about the welfare of our troop,” he told reporters during a Tuesday briefing, offering little other information than what has already been confirmed.

He obviously is referring to this individual guy as the troop he’s concerned about. I can’t find any instances of troop as a singular referring to an individual and not a group, but I’m not all that good at Google-searching for that kind of thing. The singular exists, of course, but it’s not the singular of [our] troops. Is this somehow a usage in the military?


Substance massification on the golf course

September 15, 2015

In another watching of the GEICO “Kraken” commercial (posting here), I caught a nice everyday example of the sort of conventionalized metonymy that I called in a 2008 LLog posting substance massification, a particular type of conversion of a C (count) noun to a M (mass) use.

In their in-play commentary on a golf game in progress, one reporter says to another, about a golfer attempting to cope with a sea-monster:

(X) Looks like he’s going to go with the 9 iron. That may not be enough club.

(Golf) club is C, but here is used with M syntax, according to this generalization (from the LLog posting):

C>M: substance massification. A C noun denoting an individual has a M use to denote a generic substance or totality, usually in construction with a quantity determiner (“That’s a lot of horse”, “That’s more elephant than we can handle”). [So: horse / elephant (roughly) ‘amount of horse / elephant material or substance’ (considered as a whole)]

Or in the case of (X), enough club, with club (roughly) ‘amount of club substance or material’.