"I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Thu Nov 18 02:30:47 UTC 2010

When I was taking Latin in high school, Mad ran a cover showing a Roman ruin
with the carved words, "QVID ME ANXIUS SUM?"

My Latin teacher kept insisting that it was ungrammatical and had to be "EGO

No matter how much I pointed out that "ME" was the only possible pronomibal
equivalent.  His defense was that the Romans never used an accusative ME for
a nominative EGO - no matter what!!


But the larger question is, even with EGO, would a Roman have understood the
sentence as we understand it?  Or do we understand it?  Is the translation
really even close?


On Wed, Nov 17, 2010 at 8:55 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "I'm not a doctor but I play one on TV"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>  At 8:31 PM -0500 11/17/10, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
> >Larry, I'll search my complete digitized collection.  But I won't be able
> to
> >get to it till tomorrow.
> >
> >JL
> >
> >------------------------------------------------------------
> >The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> Great!  _Mad_ was, after all, the SNL of its (not-quite-postliterate)
> era. Unknown to many, though.  My favorite illustration of this
> semi-obscurity comes from a discussion in a syntax textbook by Andrew
> Radford.  Radford was presenting a noncanonical verbless construction
> exemplified by "What me worry?", as first analyzed by the late Adrian
> Akmajian in a squib in Linguistic Inquiry.  Radford commented that
> such examples were "inexplicably" referred to by Akmajian as "mad
> magazine sentences".  Inexplicably if you can't explain (or
> punctuate) it.  Is this a theoretical eggcorn?
> LH
> *to be sure a non-American, writing for Cambridge U. Press, but you'd
> think either he or his editors might have asked someone
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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