[Ads-l] How long has this been going on?

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Jul 15 16:04:23 UTC 2015

> On Jul 15, 2015, at 10:37 AM, George Thompson <george.thompson at NYU.EDU> wrote:
> ...
> I've been seeing the locution "think X" for some years now, but it still
> seems strange to me -- I expect "think of X".
> Somehow, I'm not aware of *hearing* "think X".  But now that I am thinking
> of "think X", I think I don't often hear "think of X" either -- perhaps I
> should listen to other people more.
> -- 
> George A. Thompson
> The Guy Who Still Looks Stuff Up in Books.
> Author of A Documentary History of "The African Theatre", Northwestern
> Univ. Pr., 1998..

I wonder whether "think X" is really equivalent to "think of X", though.  If you say "think summer" or "think classy but affordable" you're not really saying "think of ...", and in the case of adjectival complements the paraphrase might not even work.   OED on transitive "think" 2c comes pretty close to what I have in mind for these (and I was also vaguely associating it with advertising slogans, as the entry suggests):

 c. With adjective as complement or used adverbially: to have one's mental processes full of, centred on, or influenced by, or to concentrate on, things that are of the specified kind or quality (cf. sense 2b). Freq. in slogans. Esp. and earliest in to think big (see also big adv. 2c).

1903   P.E. Burrowes Revolutionary Ess. in Socialist Faith & Fancy v. 40   When they..find that in order to relieve one poor little fellow's trouble they must relieve the president's, they begin to think big.
1954   N. V. Peale in Washington Post 5 June 18/7   Think big, believe big, pray big.
1962   A. Lurie Love & Friendship xv. 300   Living in a small town had subtly affected my mind, and I had begun to Think Small.
1970   in M. Pei Words in Sheep's Clothing ii. 14   For those who think old!
1972   D. Haston In High Places xii. 139   With people pulling off tricks like the West Ridge, Dhynenfurth was not day-dreaming in thinking tall.
1979   Now! 21 Sept. 134/3   Simple, uncluttered and tubular they illustrate fashion's new mood of ‘think thin’.
1981   Daily Tel. 21 Dec. 2/3 (heading)    ‘Think British’ call to CBI firms.
2007   J. Craig One Team in Tallinn vii. 87   He was wearing a tartan baseball cap which had a piece of plastic stuck on its front, the bit of plastic having ‘Think Scottish’ printed on it.

The related 2b has nominal complements functioning similarly:

b. With simple object. Now only: to have one's mental processes full of, centred on, or influenced by; to formulate or hold ideas in terms of (cf. sense 2c).

Some apposite "recent" cites:

a1616   Shakespeare Macbeth (1623) ii. ii. 31   These deeds must not be thought After these wayes.
1725–6   W. Broome in Pope et al. tr. Homer Odyssey IV. 133   Is it not a derogation to Ulysses, to think nothing but what the Goddess dictates?
1821   Byron Diary 29 Jan.   They..think and dream Dante.
1859   Habits Good Society Pref.,   A horse-dealer..if he thinks nothing but horses, he cannot be good society.
1866   C. Kingsley Hereward the Wake I. ii. 96   Unless thou hast been drinking beer and thinking beer.
1889   Pall Mall Gaz. 24 Oct. 7/2   The present generation of Greeks talks French but thinks German.
1913   Eng. Jrnl. 2 172   You see nothing but neckties and gloves, you think nothing but receptions and teas.
1935   Music Educators Jrnl. 22 16/2   If we wish to do big things we must think big things and never forget that there are no impossibilities.
2007   Washington Post (Nexis) 19 Nov. a1   ‘A lot of people think nothing but polygamy’ when they hear of the Mormons.

Even as far back as Byron, to think and dream Dante is not simply to think and dream of Dante.

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

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