Arnold M. Zwicky
zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Oct 17 00:08:38 UTC 2005
On Oct 16, 2005, at 2:04 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> From Letters in today's NYT Magazine:
> "[NP] may have caused more than one clerk a reprimand, if not a job."
> Presumably, what the writer was reaching for was:
> "[NP] may have cost more than one clerk a reprimand, if not a job."
that's just as bad as the original. the problem is that if X causes
Y NP, Y receives NP, but if X costs Y NP, Y gives (up) NP. so "may
have caused one clerk a reprimand" is fine (the clerk gets/receives a
reprimand, i.e., is reprimanded), but "may have cost one clerk a
reprimand" is not, at least if understood in the historical sense
(the clerk does not relinquish a reprimand) -- though it's possible
that some people have extended "cost" to mean 'be negatively
affected', in which case it might be possible for the second object
to be understood as denoting the negative consequence. the question
is whether some people can say things like "My one mistake cost me a
final grade of D" 'the cost to me was (that I had to accept) a final
grade of D'. for me, that's just impossible, but i could see how it
but there's nothing wrong with "may have caused one clerk a
reprimand". there *is*, of course, a problem with "may have caused
one clerk a job".
in any case, this looks like blendish rather than eggcornish.
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