[Ads-l] But-ing in: is it just me?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 1 05:31:34 UTC 2014

This is a paragraph from an article on a social-psychologi site. My problem
is that use of _but_. _But_ is used when what precedes that conjunction is
*contradicted*, in some sense, by what follows, right? Am I confused in
thinking that nothing in the final sentence contradicts, in any way,
anything in the preceding paragraph? I wouldn't bother anyone here with
this, except that I see it more and more often. It's as though the language
were undergoing a semantic shift that I'm unable to grasp. Am I getting
senile? Seriously!

In one experiment, the researchers asked random white people on the street
to look at a video containing photos of various white and black inmates,
and then asked them their opinions about prison policy. The researchers
manipulated the proportions of white to black faces throughout, but
typically included a higher proportion of black faces than are actually
represented in California’s prisons, where the experiment was conducted.
They asked everyone to guess the percentage of black inmates in the prison
population, and everyone guessed higher than the proportion of black faces
they saw, and higher than the proportion actually is in real life.
the researchers also found, the more black faces they showed the
participants, the more likely the participants were to sign a petition in
support of the state’s strict “three-strikes” law.

Jelani Cobb, despite being a native-born, black American himself, writes
(edited) in the New Yorker, that

Voters don't necessarily form neat blocs according to their race. In 2006,
Lynn Swann, Ken Blackwell, and Michael Steele--three black Republicans--ran
for statewide office in, respectively, Pennsylvania, Ohio, and Maryland,
none of them garnered more than a quarter of the black vote.

"But"?! What "but"? As Cobb points out himself, "three black
*Republicans*"! That Republicans, regardless of race, didn't get black
votes is precisely the expected outcome. His assertion, "don't
necessarily," isn't supported by his supposed "evidence."

IMO, no conjunction at all, let alone the adversative, is required, in
either case.

Or maybe I'm completely missing the point.

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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