The current obsession with "Gone Missing"

Arnold Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Mon Jun 8 17:07:19 UTC 2009

On Jun 7, 2009, at 11:24 AM, Chris Waigl wrote:

> On 7 Jun 2009, at 19:12, Cohen, Gerald Leonard wrote:
>> Is there any possibility of  English "gone missing" being influenced
>> by
>> German "verloren gegangen" (lost; missing)?
> Without taking sides on your question: "verloren gehen" is not 100%
> analogous to "go missing". I'd gloss it as "go lost".

in any case, it's a stretch to look to another language as the source
of an idiom that has a plausible development in english.  "go missing"
unpacks the meaning components of similar verbs, like "disappear": a
general change-of-state verb plus a specification of the end-state.
semantic generalization from motional uses of "go"
to other changes of state (as in "go crazy/wild/etc." and some other
classes of examples) gives us the "go" of "go missing".

(if "go missing" had appeared first in AmE, where there are many
pockets of German influence, then i might have taken the idea of a
German source more seriously, at least for a moment, despite the
differences in formal details.)


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