another lost preposition

Mark Mandel thnidu at GMAIL.COM
Mon Feb 11 19:39:42 UTC 2008

On Feb 11, 2008 1:40 PM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:

> It wasn't exactly a locus classicus, but in _American Speech_ 52(for
> 1977):28 I had a notula inspired by such imperative advertising slogans as
> "Shop Macy's" and "Fly the friendly skies of United," which sounded odd to
> me at the time. I titled it "Optional Prepositions"--not a very good title,
> since the presence or absence of a preposition isn't necessarily optional
> for given speakers or dialects. I made no effort to ascertain whether,
> historically, prepositions have been added or deleted in individual
> expressions. I attempted no analysis.  Here were my examples:
> think (about) snow. (bumper sticker)
> think (about) safety.  (road sign)

I think of this construction as meaning not just "think about X" but "think
(somehow) in favor of X". When I first encountered "think snow" I
interpreted it as similar in meaning to "pray for snow", in the same way as
many people I know by email or LiveJournal will write "sending Good
Thoughts" to someone having difficulties.

"Think safety", not exactly the same, but "keep safety in mind".

OTOH, I wouldn't expect to see "think about the war in Iraq" abbreviated to
"think war in Iraq", unless in the context of "As an example of what I've
been talking about, consider the war in Iraq"... which, come to think of it,
is a different common sense of this same form.

Mark Mandel

The American Dialect Society -

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