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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Nov 1 13:26:08 UTC 2014

I think what might seem odd here is that the "topic sentence" of the paragraph, that "Voters don't necessarily form neat blocs according to their race", could be seen supported by the remainder of the paragraph, which makes the "but" seem strange.  But the "bloc" voting that the writer had in mind is "black voters tend to vote for black candidates", not the one Wilson (and most of us) have as part of our background knowledge, something like "black voters [like Jewish voters, Latino voters, etc.] tend to vote for Democratic candidates", which is supported--not challenged--by the failure of Lynn Swann et al. to garner black votes (assuming Swann is running for political office and not for the Pro Football Hall of Fame or Dancing With the Stars).  Or it may be indirect:  Black voters tend to vote in a bloc for candidates who support their interests, Republican candidates tend not to support the interests of black voters, ergo…  But the point is that the evidence supports the thesis that there's no bloc voting by black voters for black candidates.


On Nov 1, 2014, at 3:36 AM, Spanbock/Svoboda-Spanbock wrote:

> Isn't it in opposition to their running for office? Sort of like, "I ran for the bus, but the driver didn't see me." ??
> On Oct 31, 2014, at 10:31 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Wilson Gray <hwgray at GMAIL.COM>
>> Subject:      But-ing in: is it just me?
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 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=E2=80=99s prisons, where the experiment was condu=
>> cted.
>> 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.
>> _But_,
>> 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=E2=80=99s strict =E2=80=9Cthree-strikes=E2=80=9D 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,
>> _but_
>> 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.
>> Youneverknow.
>> --=20
>> -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
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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

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