fun with negatives
JBAKER at STRADLEY.COM
Wed Oct 5 17:06:28 UTC 2011
My understanding of "X can't drive for sh*t" is that it is an opaque fixed phrase meaning that X is a terrible driver. The bumper sticker, then, means "Just because you're paranoid doesn't mean I'm a terrible driver." Perhaps it's expected that the buyer would put this sticker on his or her own car.
In spite of Jon's predictions, bumper stickers seem to me to be increasingly rare. Is Twitter the bumper sticker of today?
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of Jonathan Lighter
Sent: Wednesday, October 05, 2011 12:35 PM
To: ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU
Subject: fun with negatives
The other day I picked up a book called _Impounded_, published anonymously a
few years ago in Maine.
Though sold in book stores_Impounded_ is, in point of fact, a thick pad of
adhesive bumper stickers designed especially to be applied by you - covertly
of course - to other people's bumpers. But that's neither here nor there.
One of the stickers bears the following message:
JUST BECAUSE YOU'RE PARANOID DOESN'T MEAN I CAN'T DRIVE FOR SH*T!!
This utterance seems to be grammatical, but I confess it baffles me. Can or
cannot "I" (the driver-victim) "drive for sh*t"? If so, is that good or
bad? What effect does the reader-dupe's asserted paranoia have upon the
driver-victim's ability to drive (or not to drive) "for sh*t"?
In the Future, moreover, all hard-copy books will be pads of adhesive bumper
stickers. Bumper stickers facilitate rapid recall, enable instant
comprehension (except in this case), and, unlike the primitive books of
today, enable the reader instantly to share his or her new insights with the
great world at large, and in permanent form.
The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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