"belong to be"

Jonathan Lighter wuxxmupp2000 at GMAIL.COM
Fri Sep 23 13:33:44 UTC 2011

Patty, "You belong in the penitentiary" sounds absolutely normal to me.

"You belong *to be* in the penitentiary" sounds borderline insane.

I'm not kidding about "borderline." Each time I think of it, it seems to
shift from clearly OK to virtually impossible.

Perhaps it's because the "to be" is logically sound but (to me)
syntactically alien.


1. "You belong in jail!"  (Perfectly normal.)

2. "You belong to be in jail!"  (Cue Twilight Zone theme.)

Note too how the meaning of "belong" changes from "ought to be/ should be/
deserve to be" in 1, to merely "ought/ should/ deserve" in 2.


On Fri, Sep 23, 2011 at 12:12 AM, Wilson Gray <hwgray at gmail.com> wrote:

> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
> -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
> Subject:      Re: "belong to be"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> On Thu, Sep 22, 2011 at 10:05 PM, Jonathan Lighter
> <wuxxmupp2000 at gmail.com> wrote:
> > "You *belong* to be in the penitentiary!"
> Cf. chapter title (quotes original):
> _"What We Belong to Be"_
> http://goo.gl/k2Aee
> --
> -Wilson
> -----
> 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

"If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."

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

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