"friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics professors

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Wed Nov 21 22:02:26 UTC 2012

On Nov 21, 2012, at 11:46 AM, Jonathan Lighter wrote:

> When I was teaching freshman comp, about 1983, the phrase "so-and-so's
> relations" appeared in one of the readings, possibly _Heart of Darkness_.
> (Never teach it to freshmen, BTW!)   When I repeated the phrase (in all
> innocence, of course), the class broke into a
> what-you-used-to-be-able-to-call  a "titter."
> When I asked what was so funny ("Ah, youth!" - Conrad), they explained that
> "relations means sex."
> I observed calmly that it also means "relatives."  There was much
> eye-rolling and disbelief in consequence, including the always unanswerable
> loaded folk-question, "If he meant relatives, why didn't he say relatives?"

It does really mess up "Tea for Two"--

No friends or relatives/On weekend vacations

--there's a missing je ne sais quoi here…


> On Wed, Nov 21, 2012 at 11:30 AM, Joel S. Berson <Berson at att.net> wrote:
>> ---------------------- Information from the mail header
>> -----------------------
>> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
>> Poster:       "Joel S. Berson" <Berson at ATT.NET>
>> Subject:      Re: "friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics
>> professors
>> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
>> At 11/21/2012 09:19 AM, Amy West wrote:
>>> On 11/21/12 12:00 AM, Automatic digest processor wrote:
>>>> I'm not sure.  I confess that until recently I thought it was "no
>>>> holes barred", until I was disabused of this by incredulous
>>>> relatives.  And I even used to watch wrestling on TV, so I have no
>> excuse.
>>>> LH
>>> And the relations get to lord it about that a *Yale* *linguistics*
>>> *professor* made such an error. Tsk! Bonus for them! (We language geeks
>>> get 0 slack from friends and relations . . . )
>> To put them back in their assigned place, picture Rabbitt's
>> friends-and-relations, minor animals near the Hundred Acre
>> Wood.  "Rabbit also has good relationships with the minor animals in
>> the forest, known as his "Friends-and-Relations". Several are
>> mentioned by name, including beetles called Small, Alexander Beetle
>> and Henry Rush, and three unspecified creatures called
>> Smallest-of-All, Late, and Early. According to the illustrations of
>> the book, his Friends-and-Relations include other rabbits, a
>> squirrel, a hedgehog, mice, and insects. At one point, Rabbit
>> estimates that he would need "seventeen pockets" if he were going to
>> carry all his family about with him. Whether that number refers just
>> to his relatives or to the friends-and-relations as a group is
>> unknown, if it had any basis at all."  [Wikipedia.]
>> Perhaps someone can come up with a non-Disney illustration, and then
>> Larry can decide whether any of his look like or can be called small,
>> beetle, rush, smallest-of-all, late, or early.
>> Joel
>>> ---Amy West
>> ------------------------------------------------------------
>> The American Dialect Society - http://www.americandialect.org
> --
> "If the truth is half as bad as I think it is, you can't handle the truth."
> ------------------------------------------------------------
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