Heard on The Judges: "_for_ to"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Thu Aug 6 01:25:42 UTC 2009

On Wed, Aug 5, 2009 at 2:09 AM, Benjamin
Zimmer<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Benjamin Zimmer <bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Heard on The Judges: "_for_ to"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 9:28 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Tue, Aug 4, 2009 at 12:30 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:
>> >
>> > On Aug 4, 2009, at 7:35 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> >
>> >> Late-teen-aged, black male college student from Ohio, using
>> >> Northern-BE phonology, i.e. r-ful, "right" [raIt]:
>> >>
>> >> "I went to college _for_ to do the right thing."
>> >>
>> >> I know that the continued use of "for to" is hardly startling, but the
>> >> fact that it was used by such a young, Northern person I thought might
>> >> be of peripheral interest.
>> >
>> > i'm away from my copy of DARE, and failed to locate an entry for "for
>> > to" by searching DARE on-line... so can anyone report on what's known
>> > about the social and regional distribution of "for to" in current
>> > English?  (the OED is, of course, not of much use here, since it gives
>> > older examples and merely reports that the usage is obsolete "in
>> > educated use".)
>> Damn! I hate when this happens! I usually try to keep in mind that the
>> fact that black people may use a given syntactic structure all of the
>> time still leaves the occurrence of said structure a rarity. The
>> "fuck-over" syndrome strikes again!
> Well, even those who lack the construction in their dialect have
> probably heard it deployed lyrically in "Swing Low, Sweet Chariot"
> ("Coming for to carry me home"), "Oh, Susanna" ("I'm going to
> Louisiana, my true love for to see"), "Mr. Tambourine Man" ("I'm ready
> to go anywhere, I'm ready for to fade"), "A Horse With No Name"
> ("There ain't no one for to give you no pain"), etc.
> --Ben Zimmer
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
Thanks, Ben! The exact wording of that line from "Mr. Tambourine Man"
has evaded me for years! Of course, I could always have googled the
lyrics, but that been one of many, many things that I've never gotten
around to doing.
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.
-Mark Twain

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

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