Heard on The Judges

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Fri Feb 29 17:47:21 UTC 2008

On Feb 29, 2008, at 9:13 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> Three other examples still don't make "be aloose" common, even taking
> into consideration that these are merely a few sample examples, so to
> speak.

i got those three examples from the first three of many pages googled
up.  i took that to indicate that the usage was reasonably common.
i'm certainly in no position to accurately gauge its frequency in
vernacular english.

> But it could be that "be aloose" is novel to me because it's
> peculiar to the real South, east of the Mississippi.

the report of "be aloose" as pittsburghese suggests that its
distribution is wider.  but this is something to be investigated.

> As for the other
> examples of the type, "come aloose," etc., my point was precisely that
> this is the "non-standard standard," as it were, use of "aloose."

the idea here is that some uses of non-standard items are more
widespread than others, which is certainly true (and could be
illustrated with many other examples).  as a piece of terminology,
however, "non-standard standard" looks unlikely to win acceptance.
and it's somewhat misleading, since it suggests a crisp boundary,
while in fact we're probably looking at a gradient.  (this is the sort
of stuff that multivariate analysis, with different weightings of
factors, is good at describing.)

> Until my chat with my friend, followed by a search of dictionaries, I
> was fully persuaded that "V (NP) aloose" was probably common to the
> speech of every speaker of English on the face of the earth, as well
> as completely standard, cross-dialectally, in the United States. I was
> truly taken by complete surprise to discover that this was not the
> case.

all of us are occasionally surprised in just this way ("doesn't
*everyone* say that?") -- and also surprised in the other direction
("do people actually *say* that?").  it's an inevitable consequence of
the fact that nobody can have synoptic knowledge (or anything even
close to that kind of knowledge) of the varieties of their language
and the social distribution of individual variants.

> ... [arnold, I have irrefutable evidence that what you believe
> to be the history of the name, Zwicky, is totally false.]

how odd, since i have no belief in the matter.


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