the new new thing

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Apr 19 01:01:32 UTC 2000

>I seem to remember an earlier discussion on the prevalence of repeating a
>word for emphasis. For example, "do you like him, like him or just like
>him?" But since I cannot remember the exact words a search of the archive
>was fruitless. Anybody else remember?
We had a thread on these in late Oct.-early Nov. 1996.  I have had a number
of cites of this from my students' observations--since the late '80's,
every time I teach my Words and Meanings course I give the class an
assignment to collect and analyze the phenomenon of lexical clones, and
this one is always one of the favorite submissions. Some related examples
also culled from the students' responses:

"I slept with him.  No, I didn't SLEEP with him sleep with him."

--We hooked up.
--Did you hook UP hook up?

I'm sure there are a number of hits from movies over the past ten years as
well.    Just to take one case in point:  within a half-hour running time
of one fairly recent movie, Object of My Affections, we are provided with
the following three instances, all involving the gay male protagonist
1) George goes into crib store with Nina, his roommate and best friend,
who's pregnant with the baby-to-be (not his) they're planning to raise
together, and the guy running the store turns out to be (it develops) an

CRIB STORE GUY: YOU'RE not someone I expected to see in here.
GEORGE:         This is my friend, Nina Borowski.
CRIB STORE GUY (puzzled): Yes, I see that.
GEORGE:         No, she's my FRIEND...friend"

2) George is flirting with Paul, a young actor who is attending a literary
workshop as the companion of an older man, a famous critic, who George and
the viewer incorrectly assume is his lover.  (George is there as the
companion of his self-impressed ex-lover he's about to break up with.)

GEORGE:  How long have you been with him?
PAUL:    I haven't been WITH him with him.

3)  Just afterward, in post-coital conversation, when Paul mentions having
to make a phone call and George suddenly realizes he was supposed to call
Nina, and explains his gaffe to Paul:

PAUL:               Your roommate.
GEORGE: Yeah, we live together.  [pause.]  We don't LIVE live together,
        we just live together.

Some background:

In her 1987 U. of Chicago Masters' thesis "Doubles and Modifiers in
English", Nancy Dray used the prototypes of such examples to demonstrate
the context sensitive nature of the inferences associated with this
construction, including the immortal

"Are you HOT hot, or...HOT hot?"

and the minimal pair (I believe constructed by Dray, unlike the previous,
naturally occurring one)

We're not LIVING together living together.    (==> 'we're just roommates')
We're just LIVING together living together.   (==> 'we're just roommates')

I'm responsible for the introduction of the bandwagoneering "lexical
clones" to refer to what Dray calls doubles.

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