Shout outs and hard ons

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed May 20 18:15:26 UTC 2009

At 2:02 PM -0400 5/20/09, Herb Stahlke wrote:
>I remember learning the term "hard on" in boarding school at about the
>age of 13, and from the way it was used by my fellow denizens of an
>adolescent boys' dormitory it seemed unanalyzable.

Agreed.  For me, "hards-on" would have been as unlikely a plural as
"Horn and Hards-art" for more than one Automat.


>  I also remember
>wondering whether it would be spelled with a <d> or a <t>, since the
>alveolar stop laxed to a tap.  To my thirteen-year-old sensibilities,
>"have a hard on" didn't sound like a verb+particle construction, even
>if I didn't have a clue what a verb+particle construction was.
>On Wed, May 20, 2009 at 11:16 AM, Neal Whitman <nwhitman at> wrote:
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Neal Whitman <nwhitman at AMERITECH.NET>
>>  Subject:      Shout outs and hard ons
>>  Deja vu: I've learned that some speakers have "hards on" as the plural of
>>  "hard on", and for me it raised the same questions about reanalysis as it
>>  did for the term "shout out". Specifically, I suspect:
>>  have [a hard] [on] --> have a [hard on]
>>  ...but for some speakers the reanalysis never occurred, or some speakers do
>>  have "hard on" as a noun, but hypercorrectly pluralize it as "hards on".
>>  I've written a post on the topic at:
>>  The "shout out" thread from July 2007 began at:
>>  Neal Whitman
>>  Email: nwhitman at
>>  Blog:
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society -
>The American Dialect Society -

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