What on Earth??

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Oct 17 18:55:35 UTC 2011

Reminds me of those old papers by Georgia Green and/or Jerry Morgan that begin with a sentence that sounds like word salad out of context, e.g.

"The Pope thinks with a fork"

and then goes on to point out that this is unexceptionable as the answer to a question like

"How does Nixon eat pizza?"

Some speakers no doubt end up feeling, even after the elliptical reading is pointed out, that the first statement is…well, odd--for spiritual reasons, as it were.


On Oct 17, 2011, at 1:09 PM, Arnold Zwicky wrote:

> On Oct 11, 2011, at 11:31 AM, Victor Steinbok wrote:
>> I couldn't make out the meaning of this sentence when I saw it in Google
>> News:
>>> Sixty percent of Americans do, surveys show, and 20 percent think
>>> aliens live among us disguised as humans.
>> When going to the page [ http://goo.gl/r44RG ], I realized that there
>> was another sentence that did not show up in the abstract:
>>> Think there‚s life on other planets?
>> So the other sentence was answering the question... It still looks odd
>> to me, even though now I know what it is saying.
> odd in what way?  it strikes me as an utterly ordinary ellipsis in context, in a follow-up to the truncated question "Think there's life on other planets?"  along the lines of:
> Believe in ghosts? Lots of people do.
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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