"substitute X for Y"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Aug 15 19:00:39 UTC 2013

On Aug 15, 2013, at 2:28 PM, Mailbox wrote:

> Apologies for the earlier email. I see this is an old topic. My first search in the archives didn’t turn up any threads (must’ve misspelled “substitute”). But a later search shows many earlier discussions.
> Pat O’Conner
Yes, indeed.  But I can't remember any of the earlier examples (provided, or linked to, by Arnold Zwicky inter al.) featuring the two different practices--

SUBSTITUTE NEW FOR OLD [original pattern]
SUBSTITUTE OLD FOR NEW [innovative pattern]

--within the same sentence, without even a change in the preposition ("with" vs. "for" vs. "by")

But given the sentence you quote from the body of the piece, “A zoo in China has substituted lions and wolves for dogs and rats for snakes in what is being seen as a cost-cutting exercise", on the understanding that the dogs and rats are the cheap replacement beasties, this is indeed such a case.  The only way the context could sort this out is if we all first recognized that dogs and rats are cheaper, and so the cost-cutting wouldn't have worked in the other direction for either case.  But still…arghhh!!  Nice catch, I guess, even if it is a SOTA.


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list