[Ads-l] Odd sequence of tenses

Ben Yagoda byagoda at UDEL.EDU
Thu Oct 14 07:01:31 UTC 2021

Thank you, Laurence. I’ll add my impression that in sports talk, the sports present is waning. One thing it’s being replaced by is what is apparently referred to as a plupluperfect construction. I associate it with the Fox football commentator Troy Aikman, e.g.: “If he’d’ve caught that ball, the Patriots would be right in this game.”

Now, the ‘d in the (hypothetical) example is ambiguous. Could stand for the pretty common conditional variation “would,” as in Bruce Springsteen’s “Bobby Jean”: "I wish I would have known…”

But I prefer to think it stands for “had”; that is, “If he had have caught that ball.” 

Searching around for examples on the web, I came on nothing by Aikman, but I did find this <https://www.researchgate.net/publication/276082798_If_I_Had_Have_Been_On_the_Web> 2012 paper investigating the plupluperfect construction. And also this from The Great Gatsby, in which a Ring Lardneresque “of” replaces “have." Gatsby’s father is talking at his son’s funeral: '"If he'd of lived he'd of been a great man. A man like [Midwest railroad tycoon] James J. Hill.”


> On Oct 14, 2021, at 6:00 AM, ADS-L automatic digest system <LISTSERV at LISTSERV.UGA.EDU> wrote:
> ------------------------------
> Date:    Wed, 13 Oct 2021 11:00:41 -0400
> From:    Laurence Horn <laurence.horn at YALE.EDU <mailto:laurence.horn at YALE.EDU>>
> Subject: Re: Odd Sequence of Tenses
> Huzzah! No modesty needed, Ben. 12 years before David Carkeet’s “On Language” column in the NYT Mag, https://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/23/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-72300-on-language-batting-the-breeze.html <https://www.nytimes.com/2000/07/23/magazine/the-way-we-live-now-72300-on-language-batting-the-breeze.html>, that doesn’t cite your earlier finding and dubbing.  If Carkeet cites you in his 2000 “On Language” piece, the world is a fairer place (and maybe I begin a data-exchanging correspondence with you 33 years ago instead of with him 21 years ago).  On the other hand, Carkeet has published a couple of novels with linguists as (anti-)heroes, so I don’t want to be too tough on him.
> LH
>> On Oct 13, 2021, at 2:48 AM, Ben Yagoda <byagoda at UDEL.EDU <mailto:byagoda at UDEL.EDU>> wrote:
>> I will immodestly note that I named and identified the “sports present” back in 1988: https://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/magazine/on-language-tense-talk.html <https://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/magazine/on-language-tense-talk.html><https://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/magazine/on-language-tense-talk.html <https://www.nytimes.com/1988/08/14/magazine/on-language-tense-talk.html>>
>> Ben

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