Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jul 26 03:18:35 UTC 2001

At 10:45 AM -0400 7/26/01, Jesse Sheidlower wrote:
>  >
>>  But I think the OED is right in distinguishing the (non-slang)
>>  "largely, in the main" or as I'd put it "for the most part" sense
>>  (1c), which the Milton quote exemplifies, and the (slang) intensifier
>>  sense (1b) that can be paraphrased by "very".  I don't see the MLN
>>  quote as involving the novel slang/colloquial sense ("majorly
>>  serious", "majorly depressed") that I was conscious of as "funny"
>>  when I first heard it in, I assume, the 1980's.  If this is right,
>>  the "it" in dInIs's sentence doesn't pick out a single referent and
>>  he can go back to ignoring MLN with a clear conscience.
>I wonder what you think of the few examples of 'mostly; primarily'
>in HDAS? The treatment there was less than satisfactory, since we
>don't really explain why it differs from the 'primarily' that W10
>cited to 1956 (which we didn't see, of course). But the HDAS examples
>could also be parsed as 'largely, in the main, for the most part',
>yet strike me as unquestionably slangy or colloquial, as the Milton
>quote does not.
>1995 _Real World_ (MTV): I've majorly been hanging out with Mike.
>1996 _New Yorker_ (Jan. 15) 27: Majorly, why I got it [sc. a
>cellular phone] is if a party gets busted, gotta get outta there.
It's subtle, I grant you.  I see these as paraphrasable by 'mostly'
or 'to a large extent', like the OED's (1b), although they can't be
paraphrased by 'very', so the syntax is different.  What the earlier
non-slang cases, like the Milton quote, have in common semantically
is a presupposition that there are partitions of a given set, so that
'for the most part' is taken literally--the part of Milton that was a
poet is more significant than the parts that were philosopher,
essayist, etc., while the earlier slang uses (majorly serious,
majorly depressed) aren't partitive in this way, and I think that's
true of the two newer examples as well.  But I think those two
mid-90's examples are mostly (majorly?) innovative because of their
syntax, modifying a sentence or VP rather than (like classical
"majorly") an adjective or predicate nominal.  This is, I admit,
majorly slimy (as the Montreal Gazette would have it), but not
unprecedented; as we've discussed, the "Gen-X SO" differs from
standard "so" mostly in its extended syntax.


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