"You want punched out?"

Douglas G. Wilson douglas at NB.NET
Wed May 25 18:54:23 UTC 2011

On 5/25/2011 11:59 AM, Ben Zimmer wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society<ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Ben Zimmer<bgzimmer at BABEL.LING.UPENN.EDU>
> Subject:      "You want punched out?"
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> The much-watched special election in New York's 26th congressional
> district (northeastern suburbs of Buffalo + western suburbs of
> Rochester) had a dialectal wrinkle to it. A couple of weeks ago, Jack
> Davis, the third-party spoiler running on the Tea Party line, was
> confronted by the chief of staff of the Republican candidate, Jane
> Corwin, outside a veteran's event. The video of the confrontation
> included Jack Davis saying, "You want punched out?"
> http://tpmdc.talkingpointsmemo.com/2011/05/tea-party-candidate-jack-davis-to-gop-tracker-you-want-punched-out-video.php
> I presume this is related to the "needs washed" construction.
> According to Davis's campaign bio<http://www.jackdavis.org/about/>,
> his family moved from Pittsburgh to Buffalo when he was a child. I
> know "needs washed" is common in the Pittsburgh dialect region, but I
> wasn't sure about Buffalo. This Linguist List post suggests it's found
> in Buffalo as well, at least among transplants from the Midland:
> ---
> http://linguistlist.org/issues/2/2-885.html#3
> Date: Sun, 15 Dec 1991 23:08 EST
> From:<BRANDM at ACFcluster.NYU.EDU>
> Subject: Re: 2.866 Responses: Language&  Culture, Washed, No way
> I am an originally a native speaker of a "needs washed" dialect. Even though I
> have lived in the NY and Boston areas since age 13, I never realized
> the form was not used by those around me until someone commented on it.
> Until age 13 I lived in the Akron area of Ohio. My parents are natives of the
> Akron and Columbus areas.
> The form has always been interesting to me both in terms of its origin and its
> structure. In recent years I have often remarked on the frequency of its
> occurence among speakers of the dialects that use it. Among them I have
> encountered a native of Buffalo (which led me to theorize that such usage was
> spread via Lake Erie), and a Scot from Glasgow. The native of Buffalo had
> lived much of her childhood in West Virginia however. [..]

We've discussed this construction here in the past, as y'uns know.

My own notion (no doubt presented previously by somebody) is that it
might be viewed as involving "to get" deletion rather than (or in
addition to) "to be" deletion.

Various constructions have 'optional' "to get" deletion (I realize that
these are not all exactly comparable grammatically, but I suppose the
form might have spread from the more-ordinary to the less-ordinary):

Ordinary (I think):

He needs [to get] some whiskey.
I want [to get] more exercise.

Ordinary (I think) but sometimes said to be regional:

The dog wants [to get] out.
I want [to get] in.

Less ordinary, dialectal/regional(?):

Excuse me, I need [to get] past.
I need [to get] out of Ohio.

Dialectal (Scots-Irish-Pittsburgh or whatever):

The car needs [to get] washed.
Do you want [to get] punched in the nose?
He just wants [to get] laid.

Even more restricted (I think):

My cat likes [to get] spanked.

In my own experience (of course not necessarily representative) the
"needs washed" construction is used very frequently in Pittsburgh
vicinity and less frequently in Columbus OH but is unheard[-of] in
Detroit or Chicago. Various persons have said that it's usual in central
PA and eastern OH. And of course it must occur to some extent in any
place to which people have moved from Pittsburgh.

-- Doug Wilson

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

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