[Ads-l] "still" a question?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue Feb 10 01:47:43 UTC 2015


On Feb 9, 2015, at 8:39 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> I'm with you. I'm happy that I didn't actually hear it.

Much less twice, so it wasn't an "error".  But I'm happy I *did* hear it.  I just love me some exotic fauna & flora!

LH
> 
> On Mon, Feb 9, 2015 at 8:06 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>> Subject:      "still" a question?
>> 
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> 
>> Some of you may recall Seattle coach Pete Carroll's ill-fated decision =
>> at the end of last week's Super Bowl by Seattle coach Pete Carroll to =
>> try a pass from the 1 yard line. The decision backfired and has been =
>> almost universally second-guessed ever since.  On ESPN's weekly Sports =
>> Reporters panel show yesterday, moderator Jay Harris began the =
>> discussion of Carroll's play call with this question:
>> 
>> "Maybe THE most controversial call in the history of America's biggest =
>> sporting event=85Can you still believe it?
>> 
>> He later uses the same syntax in asking Boston-based journalist Bob Ryan =
>> "Bob, can you still believe that call?"=20
>> 
>> For me, these questions are impossible as given, even though they =
>> clearly expect (and in Ryan's case received) the response "I still can't =
>> believe it."  In other words, it's as if Harris is asking "You still =
>> can't believe that call, right?"=20
>> 
>> Am I just being old and crotchety?  Is there a "dialect difference" on =
>> the use of "still" in this sort of question?  Notice that it's perfectly =
>> natural to ask "Can you still ride the subway for $2.50?" or "Do bears =
>> still shit in the woods?", where there's a presupposition that the =
>> mentioned practice or state of affairs used to hold in the past.  The =
>> only question is whether "still" questions are possible when the =
>> opposite assumption holds, i.e. here that you couldn't believe the call =
>> after it happened, and I'm asking whether that's still true.
>> 
>> LH=
>> 
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__www.americandialect.org&d=AwIBaQ&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=u35gCRfKcVOsRb80yiP6V22y3XrsPgI_gt9Jumq5PKs&s=XQ8H8ikkHS86OFbb00V9lOuGCGYWFuIypk7mOLCr06U&e= 
>> 
> 
> 
> 
> -- 
> -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
> 
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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