Re: English Sentences Without Overt Grammatical Subjects

Roger Shuy rshuy at MONTANA.COM
Tue Apr 26 19:56:29 UTC 2005

on 4/26/05 1:39 PM, RonButters at AOL.COM at RonButters at AOL.COM wrote:

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> Poster:       RonButters at AOL.COM
> Subject:
> =?ISO-8859-1?Q?Re:=20=A0=20=A0=20=A0=20Re:=20English=20Sentences?
> = =?ISO-8859-1?Q?=20Without=20Overt=20Grammatical=20Subjects?=
--> -
> In a message dated 4/26/05 2:48:45 PM, laurence.horn at YALE.EDU writes:
>> For Quang, now that I think of it, the crucial parallel is with other
>> XP constructions where no verb (much less subject) is involved:
>> Down with Nixon!
>> (God)damn all of those imperialist butchers!
>> Away with the running dog colonialists!
>> (Remember, Quang was affiliated with South Hanoi, and the war was on.
>> As an atheist, he was also free to observe the ungrammaticality of
>> "Goddamn Himself", which he took to argue that "God" is not the
>> implicit subject of "Damn"-type drecatives [pace Barbara Partee,
>> IIRC].)
>> L
> Well, McC may have been an atheist, but goddamnit, most people aren't.
> (Moreover, McC did not believe in unicorns, but he could say "Go screw a
> unicorn!")
> Surely "God" is the AGENT in "God damn the bloody linguists!" -- again, a sort
> of subjunctive ("Let the bloody linguists be damned by God"). Similarly,
> "Down with Bush!" means 'May it come to pass that Bush be put down! [i.e., out
> of
> power]." The agent is understood, but "Bush" serves exactly the same
> grammatical function (PATIENT or whatever term you like) in both "Down with
> Bush!" and
> "Fuck Bush!"
I feel a bit like I'm in a party where people are seated in a circle playing
telephone. I began this by asking if anyone knew of the distribution of my
father's expression, "keep a cow." My how the discussion morphed! Most of
the early responses were to the meaning of the expression or to suggest
similar ones, or ones thought to be similar, most of which my father never
said and never heard of and probably never thought of.  From there the
discussion went to derivations and other matters. Hey folks, all I wanted to
know (long lost in the telephone game) is whether "keep a cow" was used by
anyone else besides my father, anywhere else than Ohio, any other time than
the 1920s to 1950s or so. I would guess that the  answer must be no. But
what a trip it was to get here!


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