COME vs GO

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Fri Nov 17 18:41:09 UTC 2000


>... she asked, "Can I come in?" Then she observed that she could not use
>the verb GO in her question, although I am the one that was inside my
>office. (Apparently a counterpart of either verb would be OK in Korean!) I
>concurred, adding that there was probably a pragmatic constraint that
>requires that one adopt the addressee's "camera angle" (to borrow
>something from Susumo Kuno) under such conditions. If I had been outside
>my office too, next to her or behind her, she probably should have asked
>"Can I go in?" ...

An interesting observation (at least to me). I agree with the interpretation.

A parallel example: a phone conversation across town:

"How are you?"

"I'm sick."

"I'll bring you some chicken soup. How's your friend who lives over here
near me?"

"She's sick too."

"Then I'll take her some soup too."

>... In sexual intercourse a man can only tell his partner that he is
>coming, not going, I suppose.

I think this is a special usage. "Come" = "have an orgasm" or = "ejaculate"
(male subject). By contrast, "go" = "excrete" (i.e., "urinate"/"defecate"):
e.g., "Is there a restroom nearby? I've got to go." There are some jokes
based on this, along the lines of "He doesn't know whether he's coming or
going." I suppose "come" < "come to climax" or something like that, "go" <
"go to the toilet" or something like that.

At the moment of truth, one does not want to tell one's beloved that one is
going ... but then again, perhaps I'm naive or old-fashioned ....

-- Doug Wilson
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