The ultimate go-ahead-and

Lynne Murphy lynnem at COGS.SUSX.AC.UK
Tue Aug 22 19:23:21 UTC 2000

> I don't remember when I became conscious of this, but it's been around
> awhile.  It's what might be called the empty "go-ahead-and."  As in, "I'll
> go ahead and tell Mr. Smith you're here."  In my experience it's confined
> to female speakers who are secretaries, receptionists and the like.  With
> some speakers, it seems as if EVERY verb becomes "go-ahead-and V."  The
> meaning seems to be something like, "Get ready--pay attention--verb
> coming."  Nonetheless it seems to me that at least a vestige of literal
> meaning is usually preserved, in that the verb that follows denotes an
> action that one MIGHT, theoretically, have been waiting for a go-ahead to
> carry out.
> Not anymore.
> One of the secretaries here just said, "Do you want me to go-ahead-and not
> even bother stuffing those envelopes?"  Somehow that seems to complete a
> transition that I had not seen completed before.
> Peter Mc.

I don't see why this doesn't involve the "literal" meaning.  She wants a "go
ahead" to not bother stuffing the envelopes.  I suppose your point is that
she's asking permission to not take a course of action, so she can't go
ahead to it. (Is that what you're saying?)  She certainly does need a
go-ahead to not do it, though, if it was previously considered part of her
job to stuff them.  The other (non-negative) cases seem to be saying "I
assume I have your permission to..." (and sometimes they also seem to mean
"I give myself permission to", as in "I'm going to go ahead and buy those
endangered species shoes.")  The thing about 'go ahead' and permission seems
to be that  it involves permission for somthing that you were
inclined/expected to do anyway, but for which there was some barrier to your
just doing it.  For example, the sec'y who says "I'll go ahead and get him"
is acknowledging that it's what she'd like to do (because it's what you want
her to do) but she still has to excuse herself from your presence.  So the
"I'll go ahead and.." is "assuming I have your permission, I'll..."

I think you'd hear this a lot in secretaries because everything they do
involves someone else's permission.  (And I think you'd hear it a lot from
women because they're overrepresented in such positions.)

I've checked the web for some other go-ahead-and-not examples.  Most were
literal "go forward" sorts of things.  (E.g., "We'll just go ahead (in the
proceedings) and not discuss this matter further.")  Here are a couple of
examples that seemed to be more like your secretary's example.
I would go ahead and not charge toll on cargo vehicles, which are already
burdened by various taxes,...
Ok, now that the vertice is in, I can go ahead and not give up for a few
months. Public Health people said it was ok not to get the shots I would
need to do home daycare. I can just get them later...

(the vertice?)

I'll just go ahead and sign myself

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