"friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics professors

Dan Goodman dsgood at IPHOUSE.COM
Thu Nov 22 03:53:48 UTC 2012

On 11/21/2012 4:02 PM, Laurence Horn wrote:
> ---------------------- Information from the mail header -----------------------
> Sender:       American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU>
> Poster:       Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>
> Subject:      Re: "friends-and-relations" who disrespect linguistics professors
> -------------------------------------------------------------------------------
> 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?"
In junior high or high school, other boys in my English class snickered
at everything Shakespearean which sounded like a sexual reference.

Years later, I realized they had missed all the real ones.

Dan Goodman

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

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