Pronoun [was Finally!]

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Sep 27 13:48:54 UTC 2007

At 9:01 AM -0400 9/27/07, Benjamin Zimmer wrote:
>On 9/26/07, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at> wrote:
>>  At 6:04 PM -0700 9/26/07, Jonathan Lighter wrote:
>>  >Am disappointed to see that the authors of that article did not find
>>  >the historical perspective in HDAS of any use or interest.
>>  ...and a very rich entry, or set of entries, it is.  I was just
>>  thinking of "Don't let your mouth write a check your ass can't cash",
>>  and that's in there with a couple of hits, under the 'ability and
>>  determination' entry.  Wilson's friend's greeting ("How's your ass?")
>>  makes an appearance too, from 1960 ("usu. considered vulgar"--like
>>  virtually every other entry for _ass_, curiously enough!).
>HDAS also has excellent coverage of a related usage, "(one's) balls":
>ball, n.
>6. pl. [cf. identical use of ASS] one's body, person, or self --
>sometimes functions as an intensifier of pronouns; one's life or
>wel-being, "hide," "skin," "neck," -- usu. considred vulgar. [Used
>only by men.]
>In some parts of the country, at least, "How's your balls?" or "How's
>your nuts?" would be the equivalent of the "How's your ass?" greeting
>Wilson mentioned. But I gather that "X's balls/nuts" isn't nearly as
>pronominally flexible as "X's ass".
Right, even controlling for the role of sex of referent.  I don't
think "Get your balls some help" would be construed as a suggestion
to seek out a therapist--at least not a psychotherapist.

The metonymic use of "X's ass" and similar body parts in Creole
languages, as mentioned by dInIs, does appear to be relevant to the
English construction.


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