"wear" and "put on"

Alexander Gross2 language at sprynet.com
Fri May 27 18:14:43 UTC 2005

I've mulled over this whole `wear vs put-on' exchange a bit, and I think
I'll vote with Rob when he says "'Correct' usage is really a mire" and that
"so much of what we think of as meaning does seem to depend what side of the
bed you get out of in the morning :-)"

Can anyone explain to me why we are still citing Aristotle as an authority
on linguistics, when all the other sciences kicked him out long ago?  Even
modern dramaturgy has gone far beyond the principles invoked in his Poetics.
Could it be that our entire field of study has fallen into a
neo-Aristotelian Quinean quagmire?  Most of Quine's notions about language
don't hold up very well--is it just possible that their acceptance by a
single impressionable and uncritical student could have led us into our
current impasse?

Also, no one bothered to answer David's second question, namely: "are there
other pairs of verbs with a similar distinction?"  There sure are, probably
several truckloads full, some of them matching the telic-atelic so-called
model but more of them either falling between the cracks or into a pattern
of their own.  There are at least two sources for hunting them down, one
which i recommended to Steve a few months back, my own ancient, pre-windows
program, "The Glorious Verb `To Put,'" a free download from my website at:


Or an even better source, the Oxford Collocations Dictionary for Students of
English ,* which should provide not just examples with "put" but "get,"
"set," "run," & "turn" plus lots of prepositions, along with many, many more
as well.  All of which can be more or less "translated" by other English
words as can "put on" by "wear," which may or may not actually be

These are among the tools available to translators for resolving this sort
of frequently encountered issue on a case-by-case basis, and it seems a bit
strange to me that they do not seem to be equally available to linguists as
well.  The tools so far provided by linguists--WordNet, CYC, Sowa's
ontology, Schank's scripts, or any number of MT methodologies--don't come
anywhere near defining the job, much less doing it.

very best to all!


*I assume this is roughly the same as a volume with a closely related title,
which I found at the UN Library 20 years ago when I first became interested
in these questions.  I have a copy of that book 100 miles upstate but am
unable to provide any further details right now.

----- Original Message -----
From: "Rob Freeman" <lists at chaoticlanguage.com>
To: <funknet at mailman.rice.edu>
Sent: Sunday, May 22, 2005 1:05 AM
Subject: Re: [FUNKNET] "wear" and "put on"

> Hi Debra,
> "Correct" usage is really a mire.
> Sorry to be a pedant, and it doesn't change your point that this contrast
> doesn't exist in Chinese, but you know, "You wore shorts!" sounds
> completely
> idiomatic to me in the context. You decided to wear shorts, you made the
> decision earlier, past-tense of wore, wear.
> On the other hand, to me, "You have put on shorts" carries of implications
> of
> recent change. So the implication would be either that you changed just a
> little earlier, or you are going to continue wearing shorts all summer
> (c.f.
> You've put on summer uniform.)
> Perhaps if I'd been there I would have heard it differently. The more you
> think about these things the less clear they become. When it comes down to
> it, so much of what we think of as meaning does seem to depend what side
> of
> the bed you get out of in the morning :-)
> Best,
> Rob Freeman
> On Thursday 12 May 2005 22:56, Debra.Ziegeler wrote:
>> Dear David,
>> It is interesting to hear how many languages do not make this
>> distinction. It is also found in Hong Kong English and Singaporean
>> and Malaysian English. I recall a Singaporean speaker once
>> walking into a room and saying to me on a hot day in Australia:
>> "You wore shorts!" ( = 'You have put on shorts'). The use in those
>> dialects is probably related Chinese contact dialects - Mandarin
>> chuan1 means either 'wear' or 'put on' as well.
>> Best,
>> Debra Ziegeler

More information about the Funknet mailing list