prescriptivism, conventions, irony, and could(n't) care less

Beverly Flanigan flanigan at OAK.CATS.OHIOU.EDU
Wed Jan 31 17:02:40 UTC 2001

At 11:25 AM 1/31/01 -0500, you wrote:
>In the case of "Take it slow," can I assume that this is an elliptical
>construction, as in "Take it slow and easy"?  Also,  I often hear "I am well"
>in response to "How are you? For me, "I am well" has a different meaning than
>"I am good."  The former connotes the physical/psychological/social
>well-being of the person while the latter connotes the behavior?   PAT
>P.S.  On another note, I can count on one hand the times I've heard people
>use "spat" as the past tense/participle of "spit".  While dictionaries I've
>consulted still list "spat" as the past tense, very few people (including
>educated speakers) use it; they use "spit" as past and present.   Does usage
>dictate that "spat" be dropped?

I increasingly hear "I'm well" as well, meaning (presumably) "Everything's
good/fine."  I've assumed the change to be a hypercorrection, similar to
the spread of "whomever" after every preposition even if it functions as a
subject (heard twice just yesterday, on NPR and TV news).  The latter may
also reflect a tendency toward liaison between vowels (as someone suggested
here some time back?), but I suspect hypercorrection is the real culprit,
esp. since I seldom hear it from "ordinary" folk.  Has anyone else noticed
the (seemingly) increasing use of "whom" generally in the media?  Even our
student newspaper is using it more, and it invariably sounds stilted.

On p.t. of 'spit':  My dictionary (an old Webster's New World) lists both
'spat' and 'spit' (in that order).  I still hear, and use, 'spat', but it
will go when it goes.

Beverly Olson Flanigan         Department of Linguistics
Ohio University                     Athens, OH  45701
Ph.: (740) 593-4568              Fax: (740) 593-2967

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