Sheidlower in NY Times

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Aug 20 02:27:35 UTC 2000

At 12:59 PM -0400 8/19/00, jester at PANIX.COM wrote:
>  > so, jesse, what have you found out about 'gen-X SO' (as in 'i'm so
>>  over that topic')?  geoff pullum and i have had to say a bit about
>>  this SO in our work on auxiliary reduction, but only to distinguish
>>  it from the degree adverbial SO that modifies adjectives ('you've
>>  become so famous!') and the positive rejoinder SO that's an
>>  alternative to TOO and emphatic NOT (A: you aren't going to
>>  finish that article.  B: i am SO/TOO going to finish it!).
>Well, what was awkwardly quoted in the article is what I do
>believe: what distinguishes this "so" from others is is use
>to modify things that do not normally take modification. There
>can be degrees of famousness, but there can't be degrees of
>"fifteen minutes ago" (e.g. "That's so fifteen minutes ago!") or
>the like.
>The positive-rejoinder "so" can be confused with this newer one;
>for example, I have a quote from _Spin City_ where a beautiful
>woman applies for a job and says something flattering about
>Michael J. Fox, and he replies, "You are _so_ hired". This is
>the new one; it does not contrast with an earlier or implied
>state of not-hiredness.
>The earliest example I know of is from 1988, but I'd welcome
>an antedating!
Along with its modifying of non-modifiables (as in not only "You are
SO hired" but "You are SO fired", which I'm sure I've heard on
Friends at least once), there's also the striking (at least to me)
ability of the gen-X SO to take negated adjectives within its scope:
That is SO not cool.  Needless to say, normal intensifying adverbs
(e.g. VERY) can't do this, but as far as I know neither does
intensifying WAY (way cool/#way not cool).

On another point, at the very end of the wonderful Times profile
(just to the right of the facial encounter from--what movis IS it
from, can anyone say?), Jesse describes--(or is quoted as
describing--DISAMBIGUATE as a verb "mostly used in computational
lexicography".  Is it really that restricted?  Generative, and
probably pre-generative, linguists have been disambiguating lexical
items and syntactic structures under that name since at least the
early 1960's, judging by the OED cite from _Language_ and my own
recollections within the field, and I'd like to think computational
lexicographers still make up a minority of its wielders.


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