"Call you crazy but..."

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu Jun 5 17:23:31 UTC 2008

At 12:41 PM -0400 6/5/08, Marc Velasco wrote:
>Not to be quippy, but in a sentence like 'Goddamn the imperial warmongers.'
>isn't it an imperative addressed at God?  (On the particularness of
>'damning' I disagree to that part of the Phuc Dong paper.  I think it goes
>back to cultures where magic and minor curses were accepted practice.)

Quang's argument (note that "Phuc Dong" were his given, not to say
Christian, names) was that if God were the subject, we'd get "Goddamn
Himself", but in fact we get "Goddamn God".  Nor is God the likely
subject of "Fuck you!", but again the lack of a reflexive here (as
opposed to "(Go) fuck yourself") indicates that the subject can't be
second person either.  Whence the title of his paper, "English
sentences without overt grammatical subject".


>As for something like 'Call me crazy...' wouldn't that be an implied "[You
>can] call me crazy, but..." ?  To me it seems an invitation to an associate,
>as derogatory terms coming from close associates can have a harmless sort of
>quality to them, while the same epithets from a stranger might seem to sting
>more.  (In any case, it all depends on the delivery.)
>So, if the example you cite was the inverse of this, then 'Call you crazy,
>but...' might imply something like "[I might] call you crazy, but for some
>reason you like saving money."

Not implausible,

>It keeps the derogation coming from a 'safe' source, presuming that there's
>an immediate familiarity formed by the speaker in the commercial with the
>viewer (which seems a common advertising conventions).
>On Wed, Jun 4, 2008 at 3:56 PM, Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at yale.edu>
>>  ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>>  -----------------------
>>  Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>>  Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
>>  Subject:      "Call you crazy but..."
>>  Yup, this appears to be an extension of the rather more common "Call
>>  me crazy but..."  It occurs in a currently aired GEICO commercial, in
>>  which the insurance company attempts to appeal to those who
>>  (surprisingly) are fond of avoiding unnecessary expense.  The full
>>  line (just confirmed on the internet) is:
>>  Instead of paying more for car insurance you'd rather pay less. Call
>>  you crazy but for some strange reason you like saving money. ...
>>  This sort of works, if at al, as a report of the addressee (the
>>  putative insurance buyer) announcing "Call me crazy but...I like
>>  saving money".  What is the subject of the above sentence? It's
>>  obviously not 2d person, or it would be "Call yourself crazy".  (I'm
>  > reminded of the immortal Quang Phuc Dong paper, "English sentences
>  > without overt grammatical subject", which treats pseudo-imperatives
>>  like "Goddamn those imperialist war-mongerers" and "Fuck you".)
>>  Maybe the underlying form is something like
>>  "[Let them] call you crazy but..."
>>  (I can't tell if GEICO invented this; it's hard to search for "Call
>>  you crazy (but)" on google without case-sensitivity or a symbol for
>>  the beginning of a sentence.)
>>  LH
>>  ------------------------------------------------------------
>>  The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
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