[Ads-l] Query from New York Times on "Sounds good."

Arnold M. Zwicky zwicky at STANFORD.EDU
Fri Dec 9 17:50:58 EST 2016


> On Dec 9, 2016, at 1:46 PM, Ben Zimmer <bgzimmer at gmail.com> wrote:
> 
> Paging Arnold Zwicky... sounds like a case of the Recency Illusion,
> Frequency Illusion, and Adolescent Illusion all wrapped up in one.
> 
> http://itre.cis.upenn.edu/myl/languagelog/archives/002407.html

yup.

> 
> On Fri, Dec 9, 2016 at 4:36 PM, Cohen, Gerald Leonard <gcohen at mst.edu>
> wrote:
> 
>> Dear ads-l colleagues,
>> 
>> Would anyone be able to help Jane Karr (New York Times editor) with her
>> query
>> below?  Any assistance would be much appreciated.
>> 
>> G. Cohen
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> 
>> From: Karr, Jane [jakarr at nytimes.com]
>> Sent: Friday, December 09, 2016 2:29 PM
>> To: Cohen, Gerald Leonard
>> Subject: NYT inquiry
>> 
>> 
>> Professor Cohen,
>> For the magazine I edit, Education Life, I'm wondering if you could shed
>> light on the usage of the phrase "Sounds good."
>> I notice it was entered in the Urban Dictionary in 2009, although I've
>> been hearing it from young people more recently in alarming frequency.
>> (They are Midwesterners and college students.)
>> Do you have a sense of when this phrase was popularized and was it on
>> campus?

SOUND (plus other perception verbs, like FEEL, LOOK, TASTE) with adjectival complements goes way back:

  It/That sounds wonderful/fantastic/terrible/good/great/awful/... (to me)

Meanwhile, subjects like _it_ are freely omissible in casual speech and have been for a long time:

  Sounds wonderful/fantastic/terrible/good/great/awful/... (to me)

Put them together, and you get:

  Sounds good! (Let's do it!)

Now, there *might* be a fashion for _Sounds good_ as an alternative to the _Ok_ of agreement.  Preferences like that do have their days.

Maybe I'm missing something, but I don't see anything particularly notable here.

Arnold
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