on the other hand

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Mon Aug 17 14:04:04 UTC 2009

I pretty much agree, except for the Omit Needless Words rule, since no
one can provide a list of words that's "needless" on any authority
other than his own. And yes, I do realize that your mere mention of
such a list is not meant to promote the compilation or use of such a
list or even to suggest that such a list could have any validity.

OTOH, I do claim a certain validity for IME, since it's not likely -
well, maybe it is likely; how would I know? - that any dialectologist
could spend the first twenty years of his life living entirely among
black people in Marshall, Texas, and Saint Louis, Missouri, in which
latter location he would have occasion to live among other black
people from Arkansas, Mississippi, Southern Illinois, Kentucky,
Tennessee; Peoria, Quincy, and Chicago, Illinois; then the second
twenty in Los Angeles (where as chance would have it, he lived once
again primarily among blacks who old friends from Saint Louis and
Marshall, but getting to know black people from as far away as New
York City, interacting linguistically with non-black speakers only for
business purposes, with no occasion to interact socially with
non-black speakers.

In high school and in the Army, I lived in a sea of white people, but
I didn't socialize or interact with them in such a way as to feel that
I was a part of their social life.

In other words, in general, white people have not the slightest idea
of the extent to which the average black person comes into contact
*only* with other black people, on a social basis. There's more than
jocular validity to "It's a black thang. You wouldn't understand."

Despite my age and experience, I still find myself amazed by what
white do without giving it a second thought.

Way back when, I was surprised when a white classmate said, let's go
have a cup of coffee, here. He didn't realize that Walgreen drugstores
were the only white joints in Saint Louis that served colored other
than as takeout. But I figured, he's white; he must know what he's
doing. He didn't. I was refused even takeout service. The classmate,
an Englishman, was shocked. Of course, he'd heard of segregation, but
he had no idea how it worked. I should have warned him.

Another time, a white guy from elsewhere invited me to have a brew
with him in Lubbock. At that time, Lubbock was in a dry county, hence,
no bars. Otherwise, I would have had to tell him that there was no way
that he was going to be able to treat me to a brew, unless we left the
Greyhound station for the colored part of town.

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

On Sun, Mar 8, 2009 at 12:16 PM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: on the other hand
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Mar 5, 2009, at 10:54 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> I'm with you, Charlie. I'm no fan of Dubya, needless to say, but,
>> "September _the_ eleventh"? What in the world is wrong with that?!...
> in both cases -- September (the) eleventh, on (the) one hand -- i find
> both variants acceptable, but i definitely prefer the arthrous variant
> in the second case.  it seems clear that just googling is not going to
> provide any evidence about the relative frequency of the variants (the
> search results are way too noisy to be useful), but even a little
> googling shows that in both cases, both variants are reasonably
> common.  i conclude from this, and from the discussion here, that in
> both cases, both variants should count as standard.  individual
> speakers, or groups of speakers, will have their preferences, of
> course, as they will for other pairs of variants within the standard
> language.
> i haven't found prescriptions on either of these points in the advice
> literature, though they'd both be candidates for Omit Needless Words
> advice.  but they're hard to search for.  still, tentatively, i
> conclude that there's no evidence in the advice literature to suggest
> that one item in the pair is standard and the other not.
>> It's "standard" BE and also probably "standard" SE. It's far and
>> away more common than "on _the_ one hand," in my experience.
> here i'm going to object (once again) to subjective impressions of the
> frequency of forms as estimates of those frequencies; adding "in my
> experience" doesn't really help, since you can't possibly have been
> tracking the frequency of these variants in the language you hear and
> read -- especially for the"September (the) eleventh" case, since it's
> not this specific expression that's at issue, but an abstract pattern
> for referring to days:
> worse still, trying to compare the frequency of the arthrous variant
> in one case to the frequency of the arthrous variant in the other case
> is a difficult enterprise at best.  even if we can clean up the
> searches, and can settle on which texts to search, it won't do to
> compare frequencies in texts, since the two *cases* almost surely
> differ in their text frequencies: (a) references to days via the MONTH
> (the) ORDINAL pattern and (b) comparisons of the form "on (the) one
> hand ... on the other hand" are surely not equally frequent.
> so the relevant comparison would be between ratios:
>   arthrous variant for (a) : anarthrous variant for (a)
> and
>   arthrous variant for (b) : anarthrous variant for (b).
> suppose we could somehow manage to calculate these ratios.  how do we
> interpret the results?  the ratios are probably different, but so
> what?  ok, suppose they're significantly different (in the statistical
> sense), but again, so what?  we already know that both variants occur
> in each case, we know that other cases of variation between X and Y
> show big differences in X:Y ratios, and we have no reason to think
> that the variations in (a) and (b) are related to one another (or to
> other cases of arthrous/anarthrous variation) -- so why should this
> particular difference of ratios be of interest?  (the ratios
> themselves might be of interest, just as any X:Y ratio might be.)
> arnold
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