"You want punched out?"

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Thu May 26 00:56:40 UTC 2011

This is fairly persuasive and I like the way it generalizes to "want
in/out", but I wonder whether it really works for the prototypical
case that you mention below:

This car needs [?to get] washed.
The shelves need [?to get] dusted.

--the "get" passive here and in other cases seem to convey some sort
of personification.  And do you get "Your son needs punished" without
the "to get"?  Or "I need home soon?"  I'm not a native speaker, so
even though I know that Murray & Simon paper I don't quite have the
intuitions down.


At 2:54 PM -0400 5/25/11, Douglas G. Wilson wrote:
>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

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

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