"What's that got to do with the price of pickles in Park Slope?"

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Oct 22 20:50:10 UTC 2011

On Sat, Oct 22, 2011 at 10:39 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:
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> Sender: Â  Â  Â  American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster: Â  Â  Â  Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU>
> Subject: Â  Â  Â Re: "What's that got to do with the price of pickles in Park
> Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â  Â Slope?"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Oct 21, 2011, at 3:41 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> From Law & Order. Probably artificial.
> what does "artificial" mean in this context? Â this is either a playful variation on the "price of tea in China" expression or an instance of a Price of X in Y snowclone (developed from the tea-in-China version), and like many occurrences of playful variations and snowclones, it was intentionally devised by a user. Â how does that make it "artificial"? Â (what would a non-artificial example be like?)
> arnold
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

I mean that, very likely, a scriptwriter, who could easily have used
the banal "price of tea in China" bit that's been around "since mother
was a girl," as my mother used to say, instead, being familiar with
the 'hoods of The City, _consciously_ decided to concoct a snappier
version - with three-part alliteration - and use that, instead, as he
sat at his computer.

Of course, it's also possible that the speaker ad-hocced it.
Youneverknow. Everyday people do it and an experienced actor is
certainly capable of doing that. It's also possible that the
_scriptwriter_ had heard the "pickles" version in the wild and decided
to use it. And no, I wouldn't call that "artificial."

Back in the day, a discussion of what musical instruments it would be
desirable for one's future wife to play ended in laughter when one of
the guys allowed as how he just wanted his wife to play the organ.

It's not likely that the speaker had, somehow, foreseen that precisely
that situation would arise and, therefore, had composed his quip
accordingly, merely waiting for the arrival of the right moment to
toss it into the discussion.

This is certainly, IMO, a non-artificial example.

Needless to say, a scriptwriter *can* "foresee," so to speak, the flow
of a conversation and plan what will be said.

All say, "How hard it is that we have to die!"---a strange complaint
to come from the mouths of people who have had to live.
-Mark Twain

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

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