Heard on The Judges; more "jump on"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Mar 17 14:26:53 UTC 2008

Forty-ish Northern white male plaintiff speaking:

"[My brother] got into a fight with his wife and she had him arrested,
your honor."

Judge Mathis:

"Did he _jump on_ her?"


"No, your honor. He tried to hit her with a tire iron."

Judge Mathis:

"You right he didn't _jump on_ her! He tried to *murder* her!"

My intuition is that the white speaker interpreted _jump on_ as
referring to a literal "jump" on the wife. That wasn't what happened
in the literal sense, the brother having used a tire iron, so he
answered no in a situation in which a black or Southern speaker also
most likely would have answered no. But the black/Southern speaker
would have said no not because the brother didn't *literally* _jump
on_ his wife, but because trying to hit her with a tire iron goes way
beyond a mere _jump on_, as the judge notes.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die"---a strange complaint to
come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
                                              -Sam'l Clemens

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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