[Ads-l] "Lose complete control" and its ilk

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu May 25 10:30:14 EDT 2017

Has anyone encountered descriptions of these “transferred modifiers” in which “A-ly VERB +nominal” is expressed as “VERB A +nominal”?  I’m especially interested in the ones in which there’s a potential compositional or transparent meaning that happens not to be the one intended.  So, for example, we have these Google-attested cases:

“lost complete interest in my life/in the news/in smoking cigarettes/hobbies/career goals”

“lost total control of my life/my desktop/myself/the match/his power/his presidency/her faculties”

“lacks total understanding of the problem"

With the meaning ‘completely (totally) lost interest, control,…'

These are similar to a construction I think we’ve discussed in an antique thread, exemplified by “He raised an insouciant/inquisitive/expectant eyebrow”, meaning ‘He insouciantly/inquisitively/expectantly raised an eyebrow’, in that the eyebrow itself was not insouciant or expectant; this sometimes is employed self-consciously (and archly) as a figure of speech.  But the ‘complete/total control' case is especially interesting to me because in principle it *could* refer to losing *complete* control (while retaining partial control), but it doesn’t: 
#I lost total control of my faculties, but fortunately I still have some control of them.

It’s not a question of total control (and lacking or losing it), but of totally lacking or losing control.  

Can anyone point me to any discussion of these constructions?  I sort of recall someone supplied a (Greek?) name for the trope of the adverb-in-adjective-clothing in the case of insouciant eyebrow, but I can’t recall what the name was, or whether there was any specific focus on the “lose complete control” cases.  


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

More information about the Ads-l mailing list