LINGUIST List 2.515

Sat 14 Sep 1991

Disc: In case

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  1. Night Phantom, WARNING: READ THIS IN CASE OF FIRE
  2. jack rea, in case of / professeure
  3. Stephen P Spackman, WARNING: <imperative>

Message 1: WARNING: READ THIS IN CASE OF FIRE

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 11:57 EST
From: Night Phantom <>
Subject: WARNING: READ THIS IN CASE OF FIRE
>From: David Powers (AG Siekmann) <powersinformatik.uni-kl.de>
>Subject: Signs: "In case of fire"; "WARNING: <imperative>"
>"In case of fire ..."
>
>I was waiting for that one to come up. But I had expected it
>in the context, "In case of fire do not use lifts", seen all round
>the world: a phrase I find most irksome, and which means
>to me "Do not use lifts in case it causes a fire".
>
>Do Americans really find that a natural way of saying "In (the) event
>of fire do not use lifts"? Or is it a sign invented by OTIS or
Etc.
No, it is not natural, but that's because Americans say "elevators." But
aside from the minor lexical difference, "In case of fire do not use lifts"
means to me what it's supposed to mean. Your alternate interpretation would,
for me at least, be better for a sign like "Just in case of fire, do not use
lifts." So now we're back where we started.
>In Australia recently I noticed several usages of WARNING which I
>felt were inappropriate in that they were not followed by
>information about a danger but simply an imperative (with or
>without the implicit specification of the danger). E.g. at Darling
>Harbour in Sydney, at IJCAI, "WARNING. No swimming." Or in the
>train "WARNING. Do not lean out of window."
>
>Does this usage seem appropriate to people?
To me it seems appropriate, shorthand for "I'm warning you--you'd better not
lean out of the window (or else)!" I don't see the word "warning" as implying
that an explicit description of the danger is forthcoming.
Erik Carvalhal Miller
ECMILLERUCS.INDIANA.EDU
Indiana University (Bloomington)
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Message 2: in case of / professeure

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 20:33:22 EDT
From: jack rea <JAREAUKCC.uky.edu>
Subject: in case of / professeure
On Friday 13 September one subscriber to Linguist-L cites an example,
"In case of fire do not use lifts," and asks, "Do Americans really find
this ... natural?" The answer is, quite simply, "No!" The "really"
(even through my computer I can hear the slightly drawled RP accent)
lets us know that such a usage is presumed to be barbaric, and that
Americans are the predominant barbarians of the day, therefore they
might not know better than to talk this way. The basic give-away is,
of course, the word "lifts", which no American would use, and clearly
pins the utterance to a British speaker.
On a different topic, I notice, as surely others have, that the use
of "professeure" and similar titles seems to primarily Canadian French,
and am led to wonder whether the reinforcement of the notion that
gender is to be equated with sex may not be in part due to the closer
relationship of Canadian French with English where nearly all "gender"
reference (he/she) is in fact sex governed.
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Message 3: WARNING: <imperative>

Date: Fri, 13 Sep 91 13:41:30 -0500
From: Stephen P Spackman <stephentira.uchicago.edu>
Subject: WARNING: <imperative>
David Powers asks for thoughts on Australian "WARNING: <imperative>"
signs.
It's an explicit speech-act marker.
"WARNING. Do not lean out of window." is analogous, to my ear, to the
(parental) "I'm WARNING you. Do NOT lean out of the window." except
that the sign doesn't have to personify itself (?!).
That the dire consequences are left implicit doesn't mean that the
sign is not a warning....
+----------------------------------------------------------------------
stephen p spackman Center for Information and Language Studies
stephenestragon.uchicago.edu University of Chicago
+----------------------------------------------------------------------
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