Meaning of a common construction and date of first usage

Grant Barrett gbarrett at WORLDNEWYORK.ORG
Mon May 22 13:40:20 UTC 2006

Joe, can you elaborate? I cannot see why that particular construction
is in any way noteworthy.

Grant Barrett
gbarrett at

On May 22, 2006, at 07:15, Joseph Nardoni wrote:

> I have an interesting question about a common construction.  I have
> always
> thought that when you say, “You can tell by X whether or not Y is
> so,” you have
> made a statement that indicates a conclusion drawn from practical
> experience.
>  As an example demonstrating this I’ll use the following brief
> dialogue.  A
> boy asks his father who is sanding the arm of a chair, “Dad, how do
> you know
> when you’re done sanding?”  The father replies, “You can tell by
> running your
> hand along the wood and feeling how smooth it is.”  What I’d like
> to know is,
> when did it first come into usage, and are there other meanings
> commonly
> associated with this phrase or construction?
> Thanks,
> Joe Nardoni
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society -

The American Dialect Society -

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