Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Sat Jul 13 01:24:33 UTC 2013

On Jul 12, 2013, at 8:16 PM, Wilson Gray wrote:

> On Fri, Jul 12, 2013 at 5:44 PM, Benjamin Barrett <gogaku at ix.netcom.com>wrote:
>> This looks grammatical and within normal usage to me. Does the Onion not =
>> normally use profanity?
> I should have warned newcomers. This really just an in-joke based on posts
> from back in the day. When I was at the Army Language School in 1960, I
> once rhetorically asked my classmates, all of whom were white, whether they
> had heard how the first sergeant had "fucked over" another classmate. My
> hearers freaked, never having heard the expression, "to fuck over NP,"
> before. Yet, this phrase falleth so trippingly from the tongue of black
> speakers - I've been familiar with it since WWII - that *I* freaked, in
> turn, to discover the extent of Jim Crow, that a phrase as common as "cool"
> among blacks wasn't even comprehensible by whites. Ca. forty years later, I
> posted the anecdote to this listserv and white people were *still*
> unfamiliar with the phrase, though "to fuck NP over" *was* familiar and the
> semantics, being the same, were no mystery. Some suggested that "fuck NP
> over" was a modification of "fuck over NP," but, IMO, you have to be
> familiar something in order to modify it and nobody but me was familiar
> with "fuck over NP."
Ah, but given the passive in the Onion headline,
Insurance Company Gets _Fucked Over_ By Another Cancer Patient
you can't tell if the active counterpart would be the version that's OK by you
Another Cancer Patient Fucks Over Insurance Company
or the one that's not
Another Cancer Patient Fucks Insurance Company Over

For me, both versions are fine, as with most verb-particle constructions, e.g. "I looked up the number"/"I looked the number up"


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