I am the Sears Catalog

Benjamin Barrett gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM
Wed Jun 7 20:20:17 UTC 2000

Hee, hee. Good.

I think Rudy's outhouse scenario shows definitively that interpretation is
purely contextual/pragmatics. It seems likely that someone not familiar with
Al Bundy's reading habits would be more likely to interpret "the paper" as
toilet paper.

Having had this discussion, now, I don't think I'll ever be able to be asked
for "the paper" in the john again without simply replying, "Today's or are
you out?"

I think the possibility of interpreting my neighbor as making a slip of the
tongue would be directly dependant on how close his accent is to mine. (Or
in other words, yes.)

Benjamin Barrett
gogaku at ix.netcom.com

-----Original Message-----
From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU]On Behalf Of
RonButters at AOL.COM

In a message dated 6/6/2000 8:43:11 PM, gogaku at IX.NETCOM.COM writes:

<< Again, my earlier posts were not intended to be inflammatory, and I

apologize if they appeared that way. >>

Goodness no--this has been a most amusing and enlightening (and polite)
discussion, as far as I am concerned--enlightening because it makes it so
very clear how great is the roll of context in the interpretation of
utterances--including the mental state of the hearer.

I suspect if John Kennedy had been dressed as a sweet roll he would have
understood differently.

I wonder if Benjamin Barrett is willing to concede that he might just also
possibly have simply assumed that the speaker made a slip of the tongue? I'm
certainly willing to concede that--because THE PAPER is idiomatic for
'today's newspaper'--I would at least have considered that as a possibility
(though, again, I would have ruled it out, I think, on the grounds that I
not have a newspaper and that people do not ask for newspapers under such
circumstances--though they might well need to ask for toilet tissue).

Now what if the speaker had said, "Do you have the catalog"?

Perhaps I should make it clear that by a mistake in "grammar" I meant simply
a mistake in the use of the determiner, i.e., the use of THE instead of ANY.

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