as such 'therefore'

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at CSLI.STANFORD.EDU
Mon Nov 21 16:38:13 UTC 2005

On Nov 21, 2005, at 7:15 AM, Jon Lighter wrote, about "as such"

> Not only is it nonstandard, it's *thoroughly incomprehensible* to
> those of us who say "therefore."
>   Of the thousands of students I've had, the one I mentioned was
> the first to use "as such" in this bizarre way - at least in writing.
>   So - for the moment - it's still quite unusual.

let me just add my (now usual) caution about these estimates of
frequency.  the usage is frequent enough for it to appear in Brians
(i'll now have to check some other sources), and some people seem to
use it without any awareness of its nonstandardness.  so i'd guess
that it's a bit more frequent than, say GoToGo (most recent example,
sent to me yesterday: "We're going down to Dale's and have
Thanksgiving dinner down there.")  i get an example of GoToGo roughly
once a month, and this is without any systematic search on my part; i
am somewhat attuned to it, but probably miss a fair number of
instances, and people who aren't attuned to it seem not to notice it
at all, even when their explicit judgments are that the construction
is totally unacceptable and, on reflection, incomprehensible.  so i
suspect that many occurrences of nonstandard usages go unnoticed
(even by me and jon lighter), in the same way that most occurrences
of speech errors go unnoticed (thank god).

(once i'd become sensitized to GoToGo, i discovered a fair number of
examples that i *must* have heard or read before then -- in movies
i'd seen and books i'd read.  probably i'd experienced a fair number
of occurrences of consequential "as such", too, but i didn't notice
them until a few days ago, when i was reading with enough attention
to stumble on the usage.)

in addition, the frequency of occasions for choosing these
constructions in the first place isn't great, so we wouldn't expect
their raw frequency to be very high, even for people who are in some
sense fond of them.  this should be obvious for GoToGo, but it's true
of consequential "as such" as well: just how often do we have reason
to express the following ideas, after all?
   because X is a person/thing/event of the type I have just
described, the following is true of X...
   because Xs are people/things/events of the type I have just
described, the following is true of Xs...

the point is that the rate of occurrence of the usage should be
judged relative to the rate of occurrence of expressions of the idea
conveyed by the usage.  admittedly, this latter rate can be hard to
gauge; for some nonstandard usages, like quotative "all", this is a
fairly easy task, but for others i have no idea how to go about it.
in any case, we have absolutely no idea of what the actual relative
frequency of consequential "such as" is, and mere impressions about
its frequency -- even mine -- are totally unreliable.

arnold (zwicky at

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