Archive for the ‘Coordination’ Category

Annals of NomConjObj: Miss Adelaide

August 24, 2017

Yesterday from Ben Zimmer, e-mail saying that he’d recently seen a performance of the musical “Guys and Dolls” and thought I’d appreciate an exchange in the song “Marry the Man Today” (one of the songs that was cut for the movie adaptation), a duet for the characters Adelaide (Miss Adelaide of the Hot Box girls) and Sarah (Sister Sarah Brown in a Salvation Army band):

Adelaide: At Wanamaker’s and Saks and Klein’s
A lesson I’ve been taught
You can’t get alterations on a dress you haven’t bought.
Sarah: At any vegetable market from Borneo to Nome
You mustn’t squeeze a melon till you get the melon home.
Adelaide: You’ve simply got to gamble.
Sarah: You get no guarantee.
Adelaide: Now doesn’t that kind of apply to you and I?
Sarah: You and me.

(referring to Adelaide and Nathan Detroit, who runs a crap game; and Sarah and Sky Masterson, a high-rolling gambler)

You can listen to the song, in the original cast album, here.

A NomConjObj (nominative conjoined object) from Adelaide, corrected by Sarah. The first instance of NomConjObj in my life that I actually noticed — surely not the first that came past me, but the first I was conscious of, and tried to locate in its social world (working-class NYC low-lifes, in the show) — also part of my first experience of a live performance of a musical, in the original Broadway production, which opened in 1950. I was 10, and it was stunning.

(#1) Playbill from the original production

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Reduced coordination, joke forms, and sociocultural categories

August 13, 2017

Two days ago, I set a competition for readers:

Compose a follow-up to the following lead-in to a joke:

Tom, Taylor, and Jonathan Swift walk into a bar…

Three matters, having to do with reduced coordination, joke forms, and sociocultural categories.

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A failure of parallelism, sort of

May 22, 2017

In this headline from the 21st:

The crucial part is the NP

(PA) child- and gang-rapes

a reduced variant of the coordination child rapes and gang rapes — with rapes “factored out” of the full coordination, leaving the two-conjunct constituent child and gang. What gives this reduced coordination the whiff of non-parallelism is the difference in the way the factor rapes is semantically related to the two conjuncts child and gang: the first conjunct, child, functions as patient, or affected participant, with the factor rapes (like a canonical syntactic object; in a child rape, someone rapes a child), while the second conjunct, gang, functions as agent, or active participant, with this factor (like a canonical syntactic subject; in a gang rape, a gang rapes someone).

The coordination of patient with agent has a mildly zeugmatic flavor. It probably adds a bit of processing difficulty to this example — and it’s certainly enough to make a linguist like me take notice of the headline.

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Annals of zeugma

November 15, 2015

From Ann Burlingham, this zeugmatic dialogue from the tv series Leverage (“The Long Way Down Job”, season 4, episode 1, first aired 6/26/11), at 17:27:

(1) Drexel gets paid and away scot-free

(Drexel is the character John Drexel.)

The verb gets here represents two different lexical items, with very different meanings, one in construction with the PSP verb paid, the other in construction with the particle away and the adverb scot-free: the first is the main verb in a passive construction (the so-called “get-passive”, an alternative to the be-passive), and the second is the main verb in a (metaphorical) motion construction.

So we have zeugma — plus a massively non-parallel coordination paid and away scot-free. Overall, (1) is a major WTF sentence, of a sort that is often concocted as a joke, but that doesn’t seem to the case here.

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Non-parallel gaps in Jackson Hole

October 5, 2015

(Mostly geekily technical, but I hope you’ll persevere.)

From John Lawler a while back, a link to an Industry Tap story of 2/27/15, “Wyoming Vertical Farm Produces 37,000 Pounds of Greens on the Side of a Parking Garage!” by Marshall Smith. As John said, along with the intrinsic interest of the story (a bit more below), there’s this opening sentence:

(1) Jackson Hole, Wyoming, may not be a place many people pick out on a map to travel to, let alone even know exists.

(with a continuation about it still garnering significant tourist numbers). People will tend to judge (1) as a WTF sentence, awkward and hard to understand at best, simply ungrammatical at worst. The ingredients of the problem are the let alone construction and the gaps of relativization in two contrasted constituents. Both ingredients have been studied in some detail, but not, so far as I know, in combination as in (1).

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Ten language-y comics

September 13, 2015

On the Comics Kingdom blog on Tuesday the 8th: “Tuesdays Top Ten Comics on Grammar and Wordplay” (with grammar, as usual, understood broadly). CK distributes strips from King Features; it’s one of my regular sources of cartoons for this blog. The strips here are all from 2014-15.

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NYRB GbN

July 3, 2015

In the NYRB of 7/10/15, p. 46, in “Climate: Will We Lose the Endgame?’ by Bill McKibben (relevant bit boldfaced):

(1) the geology of the region is bowl-shaped: beneath the glaciers the ground slopes downward, meaning that water can and is flooding underneath them.

Modals like can govern the BSE form of their complements (water can flood underneath them); the auxiliary verb be governs the PRP form of its complement (water is flooding underneath them); so when can and is are coordinated, there is no verb form for the complement VP that satisfies both requirements. Quite commonly, speakers and writers (even in formal written contexts like NYRB) opt to satisfy only one of the requirements, the one imposed by the nearer V: this is government by the nearest (GbN).

I’ve grown accustomed to many occurrences of GbN, but some strike me as particularly jarring, I’m not sure why, and this is one of those cases.

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caused traffic to snarl, as well as some injuries and accidents

June 20, 2015

The whole sentence, as it appeared in the Daily Post (central S.F. Peninsula) on 6/11/15, p. 38, in “Juror complains protestor trial is a waste of time” by Angela Ruggiero:

(1) The sudden blockade caused traffic to snarl, as well as some injuries and accidents.

This has the V caused in construction with some sort of DO + VP complement traffic to snarl (a kind of “accusative + infinitive”, to use traditional terminology) and simultaneously in construction with a direct object, a coordinate NP some injuries and accidents. We start with the observation that this is a kind of coordination of unlike syntactic categories: whatever the syntactic category of DO + VP is, it’s not NP.

Now, despite what some usage handbooks would have you believe, coordinations of unlikes are far from generally barred — but some types are markedly odd, at least for many speakers (and in this case, I am one of them; for me, (1) is one type of what the Language Loggers came to call “WTF coordinations”, for the characteristic reaction some people have to them). (more…)

Charles Blow’s non-parallelism

May 24, 2015

From his op-ed column “Unaffiliated and Underrepresented” in the NYT on the 18th:

(1) The issue in this country is less that Christians are persecuted as much as peevish.

Two things: the parallelism between persecuted and peevish; and the parallelism between less that X and as much as Y.

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Feuilleton: government by nearest in Baltimore

May 3, 2015

In the NYT on the 1st, in the story “Baltimore Police Complete Initial Inquiry Into Death of Prisoner”, this quote from Baltimore state’s attorney Marilyn Mosby:

“While we have and will continue to leverage the information received by the department, we are not relying solely on their findings but rather on the facts that we have gathered and verified.”

This would be labeled as a straightforward grammatical error by many commenters: a failure of parallelism in coordination, the result of failing to include all necessary words (possibly as a consequence of failing to attend to the syntax of sentences as they are being produced):

NOT we have and will continue to leverage …

BUT we have leveraged and will continue to leverage …

The have of the perfect governs a PSP complement, but there is no PSP VP in the example, only a BSE VP (continue to leverage …) governed by the modal will, an infinitival VP (to leverage …) governed by continue, and a BSE VP (leverage …) governed by infinitival to. The second part of the coordination is fine, but the first part fails the government requirement on the perfect. Put another way, the government requirement in the first conjunct is disregarded, and we see government determined by the nearest governor to the affected VP. In short, government by the nearest (GbN).

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