"own it for a limited time"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Mon Feb 27 14:53:12 UTC 2006

>My guess is that this use of "own" is limited to videos/DVDs; it's used to
>emphasize the permanent possession rather than the rental of the video.
>They could use "buy," but are probably trying to play down the spending of
>money. Commercials like this are extensively tested to see exactly what
>words and images are best at convincing you to part with your money, so I am
>fairly confident that the usage is quite deliberate.
>--Dave Wilton
>   dave at wilton.net

This is all true, but "buy it for a limited time" would have the same
reading:  the adverbial goes not with "buy" but with the hidden
modal, or else they'd be talking about a lease, in which you do sort
of buy something for a limited time.  And of course "rent/borrow it
for a limited time" would be ambiguous, with the same reading we get
with "own" and "buy" (the offer is valid for a limited time) and the
trivial reading that's built in to the verb.  Maybe "limited time
offer" is so overused that they can say "Own it for a limited time"
and everyone is supposed to recognize the blend:  "Own it, but this
is a limited time offer".


>-----Original Message-----
>From: American Dialect Society [mailto:ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU] On Behalf Of
>Benjamin Zimmer
>Sent: Sunday, February 26, 2006 5:55 PM
>Subject: "own it for a limited time"
>Disney only releases its classic movies on DVD for brief periods in
>order to boost demand, with _The Lady and the Tramp_ the latest to get
>this treatment. A commercial currently running for the DVD exhorts,
>"Own it for a limited time!"
>Has the verb "own" shifted while I wasn't looking, from 'possess' to
>--Ben Zimmer
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
>The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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