Anybody else?

Wilson Gray hwgray at GMAIL.COM
Sat Nov 5 03:10:22 UTC 2005

On 11/4/05, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: Anybody else?
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> At 1:19 PM -0800 11/4/05, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
> >On Nov 3, 2005, at 7:56 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >
> >>>On Nov 3, 2005, at 10:27 AM, Wilson Gray wrote:
> >>>
> >>>>Has anybody else noticed the TV voice-over guy who speaks of
> >>>>"rare but
> >>>>serious fatalities" that have _     _or may occur as a
> >>>>consequence of using
> >>>>the patent medicine that he's shilling for?
> >>
> >>D''oh! I, uh, meant "... that have _occurred_ or may occur ...," of
> >>course. It was just a lapsus calami. That Latin make up for it, right?
> >
> >you're in good company, wilson: joan didion, NYT editorial writers,
> >AP news writers, NPR reporters, and ADS-L's own benjamin barrett
> >(10/6/05: "I expect the simplified characters will or are becoming
> >standard there"), not to mention thousands of people you can google up.
> >
> >yes, i collect examples of "determination by the nearest" (usually
> >treated in the handbooks as instances of "failures of parallelism"),
> >and have posted about the phenomenon here and on Language Log.  my
> >assessment is that for a fair number of people, this has simply
> >become the way government of verb form works with conjoined
> >auxiliaries -- much as "as Adj or Adj-er than" is "is probably simply
> >a long-lived English idiom" (MWDEU on "as good or better than").
> >
> another one is the upper-bound-suspending locution "X is one of the
> A-est if not THE A-est", for a random synthetic superlative adjective
> A, which is then standardly followed by the singular on the
> determination-by-the-nearest principle. Thus for example: "He's one
> of the nicest if not THE nicest guy/*guys you'd ever want to meet"
> and so on.  St. Paul, for example, is googlably described as "one of
> the first if not the first convert".  I've always thought the only
> sort of example that really works here (for occasional purists like
> me) is
> "That's one of the nicest if not THE nicest sheep you'd ever want to meet".
> Larry

Amen, Larry!

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