LINGUIST List 6.1220

Thu Sep 7 1995

Qs: What's Funny, English Default Genders, Spanish in Austral.

Editor for this issue: Annemarie Valdez <avaldezemunix.emich.edu>


Directory

  1. Budd Scott, What's Funny?
  2. , Q: Eng default genders
  3. Francisco Martinez, Help: Spanish in Australia

Message 1: What's Funny?

Date: Thu, 07 Sep 1995 10:53:30 What's Funny?
From: Budd Scott <budlogos-usa.com>
Subject: What's Funny?

Does anyone know of a compilation of linguistically based jokes (besides
those of Groucho Marx?). A great deal of humor is indeed based on play
with language, but has anyone ever compiled this?

Meanwhile, compilation or no, maybe we can tell a few amongst ourselves.

Here's one based on a syntactic pun:

 Judge (to bride who teaches linguistics)
 Do you take this man to be your
 lawful wedded husband in good times
 or in bad?
 Bride (after brief pause):
 In good times.

Here's my favorite:

 A distinguished linguistics professor was lecturing
 on the phenomenon of double negatives. As he neared
 the end of his talk, he drew himself up and declared
 solemnly:

 In conclusion, let me observe that while there
 are numerous cases where a double negative conveys
 a positve, there is no case where a double positive
 conveys a negative.

 Whereupon, from the back of the room, arose a small voice
 dripping with disdainful condescension:

 Yeah, yeah...


Any contributions? Will be happy to compile and publish responses on the foru

Bud Scott
budlogos-usa.com
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Message 2: Q: Eng default genders

Date: Thu, 07 Sep 1995 23:20:20 Q: Eng default genders
From: <JPKIRCHNERaol.com>
Subject: Q: Eng default genders

Dorine Huston's query on default genders in different languages has prompted
me to write my own about English.

I currently work on a lot of internal automotive industry materials in which
some default gender is needed to designate various people, but especially the
customer, since the car companies want to get salespeople to stop thinking of
car buyers as only male. (Interestingly, furniture industry clients always
called their hypothetical customer "she".)

Obviously, masculine pronouns are out, and gender inclusiveness also
eliminates the possibility of using "she". No one among us likes the
cumbersome "he/she" ("he" and "she" with a hiccup in between), and especially
not "s/he" (which in fact just spells "she"). The only way to go seems to be
with restructuring of some sentences, and in others using gender-neutral
precedents already long common in spoken English -- namely plural pronouns.

The problem is that there seem to be syntactic rules that make plural
pronouns sometimes acceptable to people even in reference to singular
entities, but quite grating at other times. I found in a British textbook,
for example, this sentence that sounded quite natural to me:

 "If a person introduces him or herself to you using his or her
 patronymic, use it to address them as a sign of respect."

"Himself or herself", "his or her" and "them" all refer to the same single
hypothetical person. The following, more consistent renderings of the same
sentence would bother bother a lot of people:

 "If a person introduces himself or herself to you using his or
 her patronymic, use it to address him or her as a sign of
 respect."

 "If a person introduces themselves to you using their
 patronymic, use it to address them as a sign of respect."

Colloquially, I think I have even heard a "singular" form of "themselves"
used for default purposes (obviously no good for written text), making the
following conceivably possible:

 "If a person introduces themself to you using their
 patronymic, use it to address them as a sign of respect."

I am lost on this. Does anyone know the specifics of when people's intuition
accepts they/them/their as default pronouns and when not?

James Kirchner
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Message 3: Help: Spanish in Australia

Date: 08 Sep 1995 17:34:42 GMT
From: Francisco Martinez <FMARTINEstingray.ac.cowan.edu.au>
Subject: Help: Spanish in Australia

Hello out there!
Can anyone help me out on the following grammatical point?

a) los estudiantes estan sano y salvo
b) los estudiantes estan sanos y salvos

I ask because although option b seems grammatically correct, if you take
out the "sanos" part of this colloquial expression and say "los
estudiantes estan salvos", it sounds very odd to me. Dictionaries show
"Estar sano y salvo" in the singular form. However, almost half the
native speakers of Spanish in my university class thought option b is
correct. One or two had doubts, and the rest went for option a. This
happens when, like me, one lives away from one's native language
environment for a number of years.

I expect a variety of answers. A grammatical explanation, however, would
help more than a 'gut feeling' reply which may fail to convince either
camp.

Many thanks. I look forward to your help.(If this works for me, I'll be
a new convert to the Internet system!)

Desde Perth, Australia, un saludo a todos.

Francisco Martinez
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