"You want punched out?"

Herb Stahlke hfwstahlke at GMAIL.COM
Thu May 26 02:11:28 UTC 2011

I'm positioning this at the top of the thread, but I'm responding to
comments farther down as well.  As an Inland Northern speaker, I have
"needs washing."  I can manage "wants washing," but it feels British.
What I'm wondering is if the present participle here might be a relic
from the use of progressive as passive in Early Modern English and up
into the 19th c.  "My house is painting" instead of "my house is being
painted, which is an early 19th c. development.  "Needs/wants washed"
reflects the extension of the BE passive.  I don't know, though, if
there is evidence to support this conjecture.


On Wed, May 25, 2011 at 11:59 AM, Ben Zimmer
<bgzimmer at babel.ling.upenn.edu> 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. [..]
> ---
> --bgz
> --
> Ben Zimmer
> http://benzimmer.com/
> ------------------------------------------------------------
> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org

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