Crack the door

ronbutters at AOL.COM ronbutters at AOL.COM
Tue Aug 25 18:57:56 UTC 2009

In the United States, we have resort to a linguistic practice that we call "pragmatic interpretation of figurative language." if a word or phrase does not make literal sense in context, we try to figure out what the speaker could have meant. We can even figure out what it means to open an egg whilst cracking a grin.

 The English would do well to emulate the Americans in this regard. Or the Welsh--wasn't Grice Welsh?
------Original Message------
From: Damien Hall
Sender: ADS-L
ReplyTo: djh514 at
Subject: [ADS-L] Crack the door
Sent: Aug 24, 2009 6:26 AM

Larry said:

'And you can only imagine what would happen if Amelia Bedelia were
asked to "crack the window"...'

Exactly. The reaction she would have had is the one that I (BrE)
momentarily had when I was advised to 'crack the window' to keep the
humidity down in my basement. The person giving the advice was the owner of
our local hardware store and general local handyman, who's Philadelphian
and Black. I only worked out what he meant because I was certain that he,
being a local handyman and almost certainly the person who would have been
asked to replace a cracked pane of glass, wouldn't have been asking me to
actually break the window. Unless he was touting for business; but business
was good!

Moral: no variety of BrE that I'm aware of has the locution _crack the
door/window_ meaning either 'open [it] a crack' or 'close [it] a crack,

In that first paragraph, I struggled with the wording of the second
sentence for a while so as not to imply that there was a 'Black
Philadelphian' or 'Philadelphia(n) Black' ethnicity (_cf_ 'Black Arab').
The relative clause was the best I could do.


Damien Hall

University of York
Department of Language and Linguistic Science
YO10 5DD

Tel. (office) +44 (0)1904 432665
     (mobile) +44 (0)771 853 5634
Fax  +44 (0)1904 432673


The American Dialect Society -

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The American Dialect Society -

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