9.1205, Sum: Capitalism in American English

LINGUIST Network linguist at linguistlist.org
Mon Aug 31 23:42:19 UTC 1998

LINGUIST List:  Vol-9-1205. Tue Sep 1 1998. ISSN: 1068-4875.

Subject: 9.1205, Sum: Capitalism in American English

Moderators: Anthony Rodrigues Aristar: Wayne State U. <aristar at linguistlist.org>
            Helen Dry: Eastern Michigan U. <hdry at linguistlist.org>

Review Editor: Andrew Carnie: U. of Arizona <carnie at linguistlist.org>

Associate Editors:  Ljuba Veselinova <ljuba at linguistlist.org>
                    Martin Jacobsen <marty at linguistlist.org>
                    Brett Churchill <brett at linguistlist.org>

Assistant Editors:  Elaine Halleck <elaine at linguistlist.org>
		    Julie Wilson <julie at linguistlist.org>

Software development: John H. Remmers <remmers at emunix.emich.edu>
                      Zhiping Zheng <zzheng at online.emich.edu>

Home Page:  http://linguistlist.org/

Editor for this issue: Martin Jacobsen <marty at linguistlist.org>


Date:  Mon, 31 Aug 1998 14:53:03 -0400 (EDT)
From:  Chang-Bong  Lee <cl379 at columbia.edu>
Subject:  A Summary: Capitalism in AE

-------------------------------- Message 1 -------------------------------

Date:  Mon, 31 Aug 1998 14:53:03 -0400 (EDT)
From:  Chang-Bong  Lee <cl379 at columbia.edu>
Subject:  A Summary: Capitalism in AE

I posted a query concerning capitalism in American English two weeks
ago. The main gist of the query was as follows.

    I just want to throw my two cents in this discussion.
    I bet you will enjoy it.
    I don't buy that argument for a second.
    The Bulls cashed in on that play.
    You will pay for this. (with the feeling of revenge)
    The bottom line is ---.

The above examples show some kind of capitalistic flavors and seem
surely culture specific in that a simple word-by-word translation
doesn't work when translated into another language such as into
Korean.  Having made these lines of observations, I posed the
following questions to get help in my future research on this topic.

    (1) Do you know of any previous research on this topic?
    (2) Can you think of some more insightful examples of
        this kind as native speaker of American English?
    (3) To make this line of research academically strong,
        what do you suggest me to look at in terms of background

The following people have kindly responded to my query and provided
valuable information and tips for me. They are (in no particular

	Amy D. Ruzycki-shinabarger
	Deborah d. Kela Ruuskanen
	Henrik Rahm
	Kormi Anipa
	A.F. Gupta
	Monika Bruendl
	Jens s. Larsen
	Donald F. Reindl
	Nancy Frishberg
	Mike Moss
	J. Kingston Cowart
	James Kirchner

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the above people for
their kindness to help in my research. The followings are a brief
summary of their response.

Nobody was aware of any specific previous work on exactly the same
topic as mine above. However, many of them suggested very interesting
things to look at for resources and references for this topic.

Amy Ruzycki-Shinabarger suggested that I look at Lakoff and Turner's
1989 book "More Than Cool Reason of Use", adding the insight that
Americans seem to discuss everything in terms of money (especially
time). Deborah Ruuskanen questioned my use of the term 'capitalism' as
vague from a sociologist's point of view and suggested that 'monetary
idioms' are the ones I might be looking for. She suggested that the
following two books are good places to start. Donald F. Reindl
questioned whether this 'monetary' feature or 'gambling' flavor is
only found in AE by providing examples from Russian. Mike moss
provided Polish examples along the same line of argument. James
Kirchner also questioned the culture-specific nature of my examples
saying that he can think of corresponding examples in Czech and German
though he did not come up with concrete examples.

Monika Bruendl mentioned that there are parallel examples in German
and suggested to look at the same two books. Jens s. Larsen also
brought up some parallel examples in Danish and recommended the same

    'Mataphors We Live By' by Lakoff and Johnson
    'Women, Fire and Dangerous Things' by Lakoff

Henrik Rahm pointed out that I cannot pin down the above examples as
capitalistic and culture-specific simply because there is no
appropriate word-by-word translation into one language, Korean.
Specifically, he mentioned that in the Scandinavian languages it is
often possible to make word-by-word translations of the above
examples. He asked what I exactly mean by 'capitalistic'. J. Kingston
Cowart simply questioned whether my examples are necessarily
capitalistic terms or they are more generally monetary references.

Kormi Anipa pointed out that my interest falls within the relatively
new linguistic field known as 'Ethonography of communication'
introduced by Dell Hymes.
  A.F. Gupta cautioned me not to make a hasty conclusion that the
above capitalistic flavor thing in AE is just a feature of AE; that
is, it's not really dialectological thing, but a big part of
metaphoric systems in English as a whole. Then, he advised me to look
at a new book by Andrew Goatly on metaphor and idiom.
 Nancy Frishberg provided wonderful insight and resources of work in
the field of translation studies such as Ved Mehta's collections.

All in all, I have to acknowledge that my use of the term
'capitalistic' was vague and primitive and I need to be working on
understanding the professional terms used in this new field called
ethnography of communication. After reading the posts by many these
people, I also feel that I need to be careful about simply
categorizing the above examples as having 'capitalistic falvors' and
further thinking it is a feature of AE only. Many of their examples
already disputes this. However, I find it interesting that nobody came
up with counter examples of this kind from Asian languages like
Japanese or Chinese. Thus, it seems legitimate to pursue further
whether or not this monetary metaphor is found or prevalent in one
culture or in a group of cultures over another or another
group. (maybe East vs. West).

I thank once again those who kindly provided information and sharing
your insights with me.

 Chang-Bong Lee
 Korean Lecturer
 East Asian Languages and Cultures Dept.
 Columbia University
 New York, NY 10027
 cl379 at columbia.edu

LINGUIST List: Vol-9-1205

More information about the Linguist mailing list