Prescriptive Linguists

David A. Daniel dad at POKERWIZ.COM
Fri Feb 1 01:10:21 UTC 2008

> "Which car did you put in the Mary garage?"
>Which car did you put in the Mary-garage?  Meaning which car did you
>put in the garage associated with or belonging to Mary.  Again, I've
>heard people say this kind of thing in rural Michigan.

>I can't come up with natural-sounding interpretations of the other
>ones, but I wouldn't be surprised if other people could.

Actually, the next one on the list was my favorite: "Which car did you put
in Mary the garage?" With punctuation, this could be: "Which car did you put
in Mary, the garage?" Interpretations:
(1) The garage's name is Mary;
(2) Mary is so large they call her "the garage" (and parking a car in her is
a facetious reference to her size);
(3) The speaker is speaking to Mary and there is a make of car called
"Garage". (You know, like "Mustang" or "Porsche") This one needs an extra
comma, after "in";
(4) With reference to 2 above, I have several other possible interpretations
but they are, to varying degrees, ribald in nature, so I leave it to the
collective imagination.

I left punctuation out of my original series of word strings because, since
there is no such thing as G-word, we don't need punctuation. Punctuation
only limits someone's ability to interpret the string of words as he/she so
wishes or deems intelligible.

>It seems to me that we all know there CAN BE meaningless strings of

Nope, this can not be assumed. No matter how much G-word one might think
something is, there just may be someone, somewhere who will say "I know what
that means!" and we shall all have been enlightened.

(A former presidential ADS member, returning to the fold after many years

Andrea Morrow
Director of Writing Programs
Stephen M. Ross School of Business
The University of Michigan
Room ER3615 Executive Residence
Ann Arbor, MI 48109-1234
aandrea at

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