disclaimer inclusiveness

James Harbeck jharbeck at SYMPATICO.CA
Thu Nov 17 03:33:19 UTC 2011

>---------------------- Information from the mail header
>Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>Poster:       Victor Steinbok <aardvark66 at GMAIL.COM>
>Subject:      disclaimer inclusiveness
>TV commercials for Lipitor include disclaimers that read,
>"Lipitor is not for everyone, including people with liver problems," etc.
>I find the structure fascinating. The "including" clause derives from
>"not for everyone", not from "everyone"--that is, the included people
>are the ones for whom Lipitor is not advised (i.e., those for whom it is
>NOT include people with liver problems). I am not convinced this is the
>plain reading of that sentence. Dare I raise the specter of "ambiguity"?
>(without getting AZ to slap me down...)

It does display anm interesting semantics-first topic-expansion
approach, doesn't it? Strictly speaking, if we make some parallel
sentences, we can see what you're pointing out: that by the usual
rules it posits a set "everyone" that includes lever patients, etc.,
and presumably, well, everyone, and that it excludes Lipitor for the
entire set:

This movie is fun for everyone, including children, adults, and even

This play is not to the taste of some people, including the very
short, the very tall, and the hiccup-prone.

I don't want anything, and that includes cakes, flowers, and cards.

This drug is prohibited for everyone, including the terminally ill.

There are two possible readings of "not for everyone": "[not for]
everyone" and "not [for everyone]". If it were "[not for] everyone,"
then the list of following NPs after "including" would reasonably
modify the NP "everyone", but would also be redundant due to the
catholicity of "everyone" (the examples above show that we are,
however, always looking for exceptions to universals). But with "not
[for everyone]", what we have with "for everyone" is effectively an
adjectival in the guise of a PP; the sentence is structurally more
like saying "Lipitor is not universally indicated, including liver
patients, etc."

However, it's not generally taken that way, no doubt in part because
"is not for everyone" is a common phrase, and in use has the effect
of creating a subset of people it is not for. If we say "it's not for
liver patients" we create a subset; it would seem that with "not for
everyone" we also create a subset, as if we were saying "it's not for
some people" (by which not meaning "not just for some people"), but
using the via negativa to make the subset. And rather than following
the syntactic trail, the speaker and listener take the opening
assertion at semantic effect rather than at face value (something we
do quite commonly with many things, notable "danglers" and lovely
examples such as this one from Global BC news: "The young woman who
died in a tent at the Occupy Vancouver site last week was caused by
an overdose of cocaine and heroin"). That done, the "including" list
follows naturally. The set has been created without being named
explicitly but is accepted, even though the more syntactically
focused of us may find the structure a bit odd.

But I, too, eagerly await AZ's insights on this.

James Harbeck.

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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list