[Ads-l] fuck them

Geoffrey Steven Nathan geoffnathan at WAYNE.EDU
Mon Aug 29 19:56:21 UTC 2016

You need to read the classic article

Dong, Q. P. 1973[1992 reprint] English sentences without overt grammatical subject, published in Studies out in left field, edited by, among others, Arnold of this list. Although it's tongue in cheek, and extremely crude, it also makes a clear syntactic case (using the syntactic argumentation of the time) that these are not imperatives.

It can be found at


and is also still available from Benjamins, who republished it in the nineties.
I believe Larry has a (pswaydonymish) article in there too.

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From: American Dialect Society <ADS-L at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> on behalf of Benjamin Barrett <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM>
Sent: Monday, August 29, 2016 3:41 PM
Subject: fuck them
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Poster:       Benjamin Barrett <mail.barretts at GMAIL.COM>
Subject:      fuck them

I always assumed =E2=80=9Cfuck you=E2=80=9D is an imperative, but it=E2=80=
=99s not clear what is being commanded (unless it means something vague =
like =E2=80=9Cgo jump in a lake=E2=80=9D), and even more to the point, =
the form =E2=80=9Cfuck them=E2=80=9D surely cannot be imperative.

Is this a subjunctive desiderative such as =E2=80=9CMay it rain today!"? =
I don=E2=80=99t know what else to call these forms.

Benjamin Barrett
Formerly of Seattle, WA=

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

American Dialect Society
The American Dialect Society, founded in 1889, is dedicated to the study of the English language in North America, and of other languages, or dialects of other ...
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