"Look less-powerful weapons"

Randy Alexander strangeguitars at GMAIL.COM
Mon Jun 4 00:36:07 UTC 2012

On Mon, Jun 4, 2012 at 5:31 AM, Arnold Zwicky <zwicky at stanford.edu> wrote:

> On Jun 3, 2012, at 1:08 PM, Dan Goncharoff wrote:
> > Opening sentence in a WSJ article:
> >
> > "Take the nuclear option off the table, and some patents look
> less-powerful
> > weapons."
> >
> > I have never noticed this construction [N-look-N without a preposition or
> > some form of to be] before in an edited publication.
> _look_ 'look to be' takes a predicative AdjP in English dialects
> generally.  OED2 lists it as taking predicatives in general -- including NP
> ("he looks a fool") and PP ("he looked to be in great anxiety") -- though
> in fact these last two possibilities are usually associated with BrE rather
> than AmE.
> perhaps the construction with NP and PP is spreading to AmE, or perhaps
> the WSJ writer has some BrE influence in their speech.

I think that's a possibility, and I agree with everything above except
"look to be" being BrE.

COCA 1159/425,000,000
BNC 207/100,000,000

These numbers are pretty close, so "[look] to be" ([look] being the lemma)
would have to be said just to be "pond agnostic".

To me the WSJ quote just looks like an editing oversight.  Dan, no link?

Randy Alexander
Xiamen, China
Manchu studies: http://www.sinoglot.com/manchu
Chinese characters: http://www.sinoglot.com/yuwen
Language in China (group blog): http://www.sinoglot.com/blog

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

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