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

Laurence Horn laurence.horn at YALE.EDU
Fri Dec 9 20:06:27 EST 2016


> On Dec 9, 2016, at 5:50 PM, Arnold M. Zwicky <zwicky at STANFORD.EDU> wrote:
> 
>> 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.
>> 
>> https://urldefense.proofpoint.com/v2/url?u=http-3A__itre.cis.upenn.edu_myl_languagelog_archives_002407.html&d=CwIFAg&c=-dg2m7zWuuDZ0MUcV7Sdqw&r=wFp3X4Mu39hB2bf13gtz0ZpW1TsSxPIWYiZRsMFFaLQ&m=JuPZkjf1fmSMBIZZnzwc6fd04C6B-zTs6CR2f9glJIg&s=7gt9vNTj5G6L2YXm0tol_gf2MUd4Xquv5tIzUooWMY8&e= 
> 
> 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

One additional factor: the smart phone.  If you begin your message with the word “Sounds” (which the phone will helpfully upper-case for you), the Three Suggestions (at least on the iPhone 5s) will include “good” as the second word.  The same is true, unsurprisingly, for messages beginning with subjectless “Looks”, and also for those with “Tastes”, and “Feels”, although not “Smells”, for which the suggestions are “so”, “like”, and “of”.  This is a bit puzzling to me, since I can easily imagine writing “Looks good” if someone sends me a photo or “Sounds good” in many messaging contexts (it is, after all, my son’s default text message, in its entirety), but it’s harder to imagine circumstances in which I’d be sending a message that begins “Feels good” or “Tastes good”, although I concede I’m not in the habit of texting in the middle of activities that would elicit such a comment.  

LH

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