Grammar Girl's "needs done" survey

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Sep 7 18:12:13 UTC 2011

On Sep 7, 2011, at 1:56 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:

> On Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 1:16 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> On Wed, Sep 7, 2011 at 12:11 PM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
>>> with folksy dropped g
>> You mean "with the standard dropped g of Black English, Southern
>> English, Southwestern English, Western English, etc.," of course.
>> When you make a point of describing Obama's speech as "folksy," here,
>> you make it appear that you think that his use of "dropped g" is
>> unnatural or artificial, that he's merely faking it in order to appear
>> down with the common people or some such thing.
>> OTOH, if you had written "with gutless dropped g," implying an effort
>> on Obama's part not to appear to be too erudite, hence too uppity or
>> too biggity, lest he annoy any Republicans who may have condescended
>> to concern themselves with what he had to say, well, naturally, I'd
>> gladly cosign that.
> Didn't mean to imply that Obama's g-dropping was "unnatural" (I don't really
> know how "natural" it is for his idiolect), but it's certainly a feature that
> Obama, like many other politicians, varies for rhetorical effect (or for
> Goffmanian self-presentation, if you prefer). In the context of his Labor Day
> speech, it appears to be used as a way of forming solidarity with his audience
> and to "folksify" the subject matter, much as Mark Liberman described in his
> Language Log post, "Empathetic -in'":
On "faux-bubba" (as Mark calls it) or folksification beyond -in, there was Kerry's notorious personal dative in "Can I get me a hunting license here?" (widely but incorrectly reported as "Can I get me a huntin' license here?") during the final, fatal stages of the 2004 campaign.  And then, beyond language, there was the patrician George H. W. Bush's professed fondness for pork rinds.


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