"New device may have prevented tragedies"

Alice Faber faber at HASKINS.YALE.EDU
Tue Jan 29 03:33:14 UTC 2002

sagehen said:
> >I think Larry's point (if I may be so bold as to speak for him) was that
>>in large chunks of New England "so Don't the Pats" isn't at all ambiguous.
>>  It's just in a stylistic level one wouldn't expect to find in a headline,
>>  even in Boston.
>>Alice Faber
> ~~~~~~~~
>Aren't arresting, slangy headlines  the norm, especially on the sports pages?
>Would this have been clear to New Englanders because this particular
>inverted  syntax  was common, or because they'd have known the Pats'

This construction with a pleonastic negative is reasonably widely used,
though I associate it more with Western Massachusetts than with the Boston
area. I haven't heard it commented on they way expressions like "I could
care less" are (where people who argue that it's illogical are clearly
familiar with the intended meaning but have decided, for whatever reason,
to be obstreperous about it), but I'd imagine that more people are familiar
with it than use it.

As for sports headlines in general, there's a certain "dog bites man"
quality to a headline asserting that a team wants to win, so (without
seeing the story, of course), I'd have to suspect some Gricean subtext--why
are we asserting that which is obviously true? But I couldn't say what use
of this casual, pleonastic construction contributes to such a subtext.

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