Prom time . . . .

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Tue May 2 17:02:14 UTC 2006

At 9:27 AM -0700 5/2/06, Arnold M. Zwicky wrote:
>On May 2, 2006, at 8:00 AM, Charles Doyle wrote:
>>Used to be, high-school kids would "attend the prom."  Now,
>>however, they simply "attend prom."
>>I wonder just when (and why) "prom" became a "non-count"
>>noun, or--like "table" and "hospital"--with the definite
>>article deletable (or insertable) depending on the dialect
>>and the context.
>i suspect it's neither; "prom" here doesn't take any of the modifiers
>of mass nouns, and it doesn't require some particular preposition(s),
>the way anarthrous nouns do.  instead, i think it's a pseudo-proper
>noun; nouns denoting specific events can sometimes be used this way:
>   Graduation/Commencement starts at noon.
>though there are all sorts of complicating details: for instance,
>   Prom starts at 8 p.m.
>is pretty odd for me, but
>   Prom is the crowning event of the school year for many seniors.
>is fine.  and some nouns resolutely denote types, not tokens:
>   Party starts at 8 p.m.
>is just impossible for me, except as a casual-speech variant with
>omitted definite article, even when context makes it clear that some
>specific party is referred to.
>as far as i can see, CGEL doesn't cover this -- at least, not in the
>section on uses of bare NPs.
"Homecoming" works this way too--wonder if that's the sponsor for the
shift in "prom".  Anymore, homecoming is sort of a partial-dress
rehearsal for prom in the high schools.


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