[Ads-l] "still" a question?

Dave Hause dwhause at CABLEMO.NET
Tue Feb 10 03:35:34 UTC 2015

I see this as ellipsis:  Can you still believe it [was made by somebody in 
his right mind]?

Dave Hause, dwhause at cablemo.net
Waynesville, MO
-----Original Message----- 
From: Laurence Horn
Sent: Monday, February 9, 2015 7:06 PM
Subject: "still" a question?

Some of you may recall Seattle coach Pete Carroll's ill-fated decision =
at the end of last week's Super Bowl by Seattle coach Pete Carroll to =
try a pass from the 1 yard line. The decision backfired and has been =
almost universally second-guessed ever since.  On ESPN's weekly Sports =
Reporters panel show yesterday, moderator Jay Harris began the =
discussion of Carroll's play call with this question:

"Maybe THE most controversial call in the history of America's biggest =
sporting event=85Can you still believe it?

He later uses the same syntax in asking Boston-based journalist Bob Ryan =
"Bob, can you still believe that call?"=20

For me, these questions are impossible as given, even though they =
clearly expect (and in Ryan's case received) the response "I still can't =
believe it."  In other words, it's as if Harris is asking "You still =
can't believe that call, right?"=20

Am I just being old and crotchety?  Is there a "dialect difference" on =
the use of "still" in this sort of question?  Notice that it's perfectly =
natural to ask "Can you still ride the subway for $2.50?" or "Do bears =
still shit in the woods?", where there's a presupposition that the =
mentioned practice or state of affairs used to hold in the past.  The =
only question is whether "still" questions are possible when the =
opposite assumption holds, i.e. here that you couldn't believe the call =
after it happened, and I'm asking whether that's still true.


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

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

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