Heard on The Judges; more "jump on"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Mar 17 16:41:58 UTC 2008

At 10:26 AM -0400 3/17/08, Wilson Gray wrote:
>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.

Excellent.  Great illustration of the difference between descriptive
negation (on the plaintiff's part) and metalinguistic negation (on
the judge's).  (Cf. "You were right, I didn't lose a lot of money.
[Pause.] I lost *all* of it!")


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

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