Fucking shut the fuck up

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Jul 31 15:14:48 UTC 2009

At 6:08 AM -0700 7/31/09, James A. Landau <JJJRLandau at netscape.com> wrote:
>On Thu, 30 Jul 2009 19:20:25 Zulu plus 0800 Russ McClay
><mcclay at TAOLODGE.COM> quoted:
>"The main syntactic problem is to determine whether
>"the fuck" is being used as an pleonastic (semantically empty)
>direct object of shut or as a pre-head modifier of the
>preposition phrase (PP) headed by up. (Yes, the up of
>shut up is a one-word PP. It is not an adverb X all the
>traditional grammars are flat wrong on that. The
>arguments are given in chapter 7 of The Cambridge Grammar
>of the English Language, or more tersely in A Student's
>Introduction to English Grammar.) And I think we can do this."
>If I were writing a book on English grammar, I would lay down the
>law that "shut up" is a two-word phrasal verb and therefore "up" is
>to be parsed as part of the verb.  I would also state that in
>English phrasal verbs, like infinitives, can be freely split:
>      Never use a preposition to end a sentence with.
>      Never end a sentence with a preposition
>      Nover have a sentence end with a preposition.
>I declare that all three of the above are equally grammatical and
>equally acceptable.  In all three sentences "with" is part of the
>phrasal verb; in none of the sentences is it a preposition.

I think a distinction needs to be made between the syntax and the
semantics.  "shut up" is certainly a lexical item or lexeme
semantically, but it's not always a single continuous item in the
grammar when it's used transitively ("He shut me up"), besides the
evidence from "He shut the fuck up" itself.  But that's generally how
phrasal verbs are treated, essentially as discontinuous verb-particle
lexemes.  I'm not sure why "end with" would have the same analysis.
"with" is a preposition taking an object rather than particle (or
intransitive preposition), it can't be split by a direct object ("He
looked the number up" vs. *"He looked her dress up" was the classic
minimal pair in the bad old sexist days), and you don't get the same
opacity in meaning--the meaning "look up" or "shut up" as a
verb-particle phrasal/separable verb can't be computed from the
meaning of its component parts, but that of "look up" (the street/the
dress) can be.  Plus other evidence indicates that "with a
preposition", say, is a constituent, while "up the number" isn't:
"Up what did he look?" can't be answered "the number", and "Up who(m)
did you shut" is hopeless.  (Cf. "With what did he end the
sentence".)  Another minimal pair:

With a preposition I ended the sentence.
*Up the idiot I shut.

I would argue that "with" in your sentences is a preposition, and in
each case it has an object ("a preposition").


>(note: sentence 1 appears in a published textbook by a Louisville KY
>English teacher named Annie Polk.  My parents (one of whom I believe
>had that teacher) kept a copy of that book just to prove that
>slip-of-the-mind actually appeared in print.  Unfortunately, the
>copy has since been lost).
>Similarly, "shut up" is a phrasal verb, as there is nothing in
>"shut" without a direct object that implies shutting one's mouth and
>refraining from any more speech.  The only way to make "up" a
>preposition is to say something like "Shut the window up the stairs"
>which sounds more like Penn Dutch dialect than proper English, which
>would be "Shut the window that is up the stairs".
>How to classify "the fuck" in "shut the fuck up"?  It is a
>meaningless intensifier, and what it intensifies is the phrasal verb
>"shut up".  Hence "the fuck" can only be parsed as a two-word
>adverbial phrase.
>I might add that "fuck up", "fuck with", and "fuck over" are phasal
>verbs that are divorced in meaning from "to fuck".
>OT:  On Fri, 31 Jul 2009 02:35:56 Zulu plus or minus 0000 Tom
>Zurinskas <truespel at HOTMAIL.COM>
>See "I'd've" below.  I haven't seen a double apostrophe before.
>I am not aware of any prescriptive rule against having two
>apostrophes in a word.  And are you familiar with the long-accepted
>English word "fo'c's'le" (which MWCD10 spells with only two
>apostrophes, "fo'c'sle")?
>            James A. Landau
>            test engineer
>            Northrop-Grumman Information Technology
>            8025 Black Horse Pike, Suite 300
>            West Atlantic City NJ 08232 USA
>Netscape.  Just the Net You Need.
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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