LINGUIST List 4.297

Fri 23 Apr 1993

Disc: Rude Negation

Editor for this issue: <>


  1. , Re: 4.292 Rude Negation
  2. , Rude negation in Mandarin
  3. Mr Andrew Rosta, Re: 4.292 Rude Negation
  4. Celso Alvarez-Caccamo, Rude Counter-Assessers
  5. , bollix/bollocks

Message 1: Re: 4.292 Rude Negation

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 13:49 EDT
Subject: Re: 4.292 Rude Negation

I have been working on an article on the use of DEVIL as a negator
in Irish and Scottish English. In at least the traditional
varieties of these dialects, there is a rich range of
possibilities (e.g., Devil a hear ever I heard of it in
in the world of God = Indeed, I never heard of it). As some
may suspect, such usages appear to be due to crosslinguistic
influence from Irish (and probably Scottish Gaelic, though
I haven't been able to find much yet DEVIL negation in S.G.).
 Devil negation exists to one degree or another in at least
the following languages: English, Irish, French, German,
Icelandic, Slovak, and Russian. In some languages it seems
to be more grammaticalized than in others.
 The Chinese examples of rude negation have been
interesting for me--I had suspected that some pan-linguistic
principles of discourse are at work, and such evidence
strengthens my conviction. Probably not all languages have
devil negation, but I suspect most have some fairly close
Anybody interested in sources for what I've said
can best contact me at TODLINMAGNUS.ACS.OHIO_STATE.EDU.
Terry Odlin
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Message 2: Rude negation in Mandarin

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 11:47:30 EDRude negation in Mandarin
From: <>
Subject: Rude negation in Mandarin

This is to reply David Wible's message about rude negation
in Mandarin. The phrase:

 jian nide da-tou gui
 see your big-head ghost

is not common in the Northern part of China, at least not
common in my dialect. However, a very similar and simpler
phrase often heard is "jian gui qu ba" (lit: see ghost go)
meaning "forget about it or I am not going to do it". If
someone said something and you don't like it, you also
could also use the phrase. To me, anything one does not
like or does not want to do could "go to see ghost".

Zhiqun Xing
University of Michigan
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Message 3: Re: 4.292 Rude Negation

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 19:55:36 +0Re: 4.292 Rude Negation
From: Mr Andrew Rosta <>
Subject: Re: 4.292 Rude Negation

In case someone is about to do their PhD on rude negators, I should
like to add one more datum. As has been pointed out, in some (British?)
lects (including mine), when the RN is utterance-final, subject-auxiliary
inversion is triggered:
 Bollocks he did.
 Did he bollocks.
But, going by the lect of a friend of mine from Southern Lancashire, it
is not just the subject and auxiliary that invert:
 Like heck he did.
 Did he heckers like.
- a complete reversal in word order.
[Note that this last example is entirely equivalent in meaning to
_Did he heck_ - that is, this is not the adverb _like_ in _He did,
like, (but...)_ which is found in dialects of the North West of England.]
And Rosta
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Message 4: Rude Counter-Assessers

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 1993 21:32:16 Rude Counter-Assessers
From: Celso Alvarez-Caccamo <>
Subject: Rude Counter-Assessers

It seems to me that rude negators shouldn't be subjected to
any particular restrictions, or any additional constraints
on the sequential organization of speech acts. As rude-negator
constructions are interpretable as second-part counterassessments
to previous propositional content, whether they are "rude" or
"not rude" is circumstancial here. Distributional restrictions apply
similarly to, say, "bollocks" and "no way":

 (1) Bollocks he did!
 (2) *He did bollocks!
 (3) No way he did!
 (4) *He did no way!

Apparent constraints on utterance length which might
cause the oddness of

 (5) Like hell she will have it ready by tomorrow.

can be explained in terms of unnecessary information
redundancy. (5) contains two elements:

 (b) "She will have it ready by tomorrow" -

Thus, segments (b) in rude-negator constructions constitute embedded,
invisible quotations of previous material. Quoting the previous
utterance entirely or not depends on situated communicative efficacy.
That explains literal quotations or deletions of some material.
In Galician-Portuguese:

 (6) A: --Que gente mais agradavel [What a good wine]
 B: --Que gente mais agradavel uma merda!
 [lit., "What nice people", a shit = my ass]
 (6b) B: --Gente agradavel uma merda!
or simply
 (6c) B: --E uma merda!

One more note: Postponed rude negators form together with main
assessments only one intonational phrase:

 (7) He is intelligent my ass.
 (8) He is intelligent. My ass.

Why? (the above is not a trivial observation). Previous assessments
should be treated as the focalized referent of the counterassessment:

 (9) "He is intelligent" is inaccurate.

I'd rather call them "rude counter-assessers".

Celso Alvarez-Caccamo
Linguistica Geral e Teoria da Literatura
Univ. da Corunha, Galiza, Spain
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Message 5: bollix/bollocks

Date: Thu, 22 Apr 93 09:52:55 ESbollix/bollocks
From: <>
Subject: bollix/bollocks

In response to Geoff Nathan's query:
bollix (vb), also spelled bollox, is the same word etymologically as
bollocks (n), also spelled ballocks, as you suspected. The verb, unlike
the noun, is as you say common in North America and is used by people who
would be both surprised and deeply embarrassed to learn its roots. The
verb bollix (bollox) is an entry in the American Heritage Dictionary; the
noun bollocks/ballocks is not. The noun (only under the spelling ballocks)
is in the OED, "obs. in polite use"; the spelling bollocks makes it into the
Supplement, and so does the verb, spelled bollix; they give a third spelling
possibility, bollux, and call it "low slang", although in the U.S., as I've
mentioned, it is used by people who would not say "balls".
In a final grammatical twist, the OED Supplement says that "bollix" can by
extension of the verbal meaning be used to mean a mess, confusion. Their
first quote is Dylan Thomas in a 1935 letter: "I've been learn
about...the bollix of the old gang." I think this quote is well chosen to
illustrate the fact that the meaning of bollix (n) is not identical with
that of bollocks (n).
--Elise Morse-Gagne
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