"fact" = notion or idea that has not been established as a fact or is not a fact

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sun Apr 30 01:02:21 UTC 2006

At 5:27 PM -0700 4/29/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>In other words, a "social fiction."
>   But seriously, this meaning of "fact" is everywhere. Listen
>closely to people being interviewed on TV news.  They don't say
>   *And that's a fact!
>   meaning "It's not a fact." Things aren't that crazy yet. They say
>things like,
>   A: "The moon is made of green cheese, so it must have been hard
>for the astronauts to walk on it."
>   B: "Well, the fact that it's made of green cheese wouldn't matter
>because they wore special shoes."
>   JL

see, though, these examples of "I deny the fact that" (I'm not
including g-hits of the form "Nor do I deny the fact that" or "It's
not that I deny the fact that"):

I deny the fact that the oil-burning furnace in the basement contains a flame.
I deny the fact that I wish he had defended himself against my accusations.
I deny the fact that my wife betrayed me
I deny the fact that consciousness is an *objective* property of >matter

And now that I look at it, that last hit comes from here, as part of
a debate between Jon and me on this very issue, from just last May:

>Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU> wrote:
>   ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender: American Dialect Society
>Poster: Benjamin Zimmer
>Subject: Re: "fact" = notion or idea that has not been established as a
>fact or is not a fact
>On 4/29/06, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>  I may have reported this very common SOTA perversion of sense and
>  > logic before,

Indeed so, as noted above.  (We weren't debating whether the examples
existed, just whether they're reducible to "the claim that" or some
such; I was arguing the negative.)


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