pronominal advice sought

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 29 23:08:36 UTC 2009

I don't know about nothing.

However, the HDAS practice is to alphabetize under the word least likely to

Thus, synonymous "buy it," "buy the farm," "buy the ranch," "buy the real
estate." are all alph'd under "buy."

On Mon, Jun 29, 2009 at 5:11 PM, Charles Doyle <cdoyle at> wrote:

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> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Charles Doyle <cdoyle at UGA.EDU>
> Subject:      pronominal advice sought
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> As some of ya'll know, Fred Shapiro, Wolfgang Mieder, Jane Garry, and I are
> in the latish stages of collaboration on _The Yale Book of Modern Proverbs_
> (or some such title). Our province is proverbs that, as far as the record
> appears to show, originated no earlier than 1900.
> For the sequencing of entries, we intend to follow the procedure
> standardized in the great mid-20th-century proverb collections by Archer
> Taylor, M. P. Tilley, and B. J. Whiting. The procedure is this: The
> designated "key word" of a proverb (for alphabetizing purposes) is the first
> noun that occurs; if the proverb contains no noun, then its first finite
> verb; if there is neither, then the first important word of whatever kind.
> The problem is so-called indefinite pronouns. My own early learning about
> the category correlates well with what Quirk and Greenbaum state: that a
> "compound indefinite pronoun" comprises "a determiner morpheme every-,
> some-, any-, or no-, and a nominal morpheme -one, -body, or -thing."  Then a
> (predictable) list follows: everybody, everyone, everything; somebody,
> someone, something; anybody, anyone, anything; nobody, no one, nothing.
> However, most (but not all) modern dictionaries designate "nothing" simply
> as a noun--not only in special uses like "He's just a nothing" but
> (seemingly) in all uses.  I'm wondering why?  Is "nothing" no longer being
> generally regarded as a pronoun?
> A good many of our proverbs begin with "Nothing . . . ."  Should "nothing"
> be the key word, or should it be regarded as transparent?
> --Charlie
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