Date: Thu, 9 Apr 1998 15:03:51 -0400
From: Larry Horn
Subject: Re: more on non-negative "un"

At 2:15 PM -0400 4/9/98, Gregory {Greg} Downing wrote:
>At 10:17 AM 4/9/98 -0500, you wrote:
>>Last night on CNN, a Hollywood reporter twice (within a few seconds)
>>referred to singer George Michael as having been caught in an
>>"uncompromising" position (or situation--don't remember which) when the LA
>>cops arrested him in a park restroom yesterday.
>So, a general question: How does one draw the boundary between (so to speak)
>"common performative error" and "empirically observed, descriptivistically
>existent linguistic mode"? It would seem paradoxical to say that "common
>performative error" is a null set....
>Pardon the philosophical issue....
No easy answer, since it's a matter of degree, but that's why the category
of nonceness (as in "nonce reanalysis") comes in handy, even if it begs the
question. One person saying "that's a whole nother thing", or
"uncompromising position", or asking "what's a poy?" [in response to the
claim that Aunt Jane has a lot of poise] may be doing a nonce reanalysis,
but many people saying "that's a whole nother thing", or speaking of newts
and aprons and umpires instead of ewts and naprons and numpires, or
treating "pea" as a back-formed singular from reanalyzed "pease" is no
longer performance error. And then (as possibly with 'nother', and
certainly with e.g. 'monokini' for topless bathing-suit in the '60's), we
have not performance error but performance of linguistic games, the best
current example being this essay, which may well have been posted on the
list but is worth redredging from time to time at these moments...

How I met my wife
by Jack Winter
Published 25 July 1994 in the New Yorker

It had been a rough day, so when I walked into the party I was very
chalant, despite my efforts to appear gruntled and consolate.

I was furling my wieldy umbrella for the coat check when I saw her
standing alone in a corner. She was a descript person, a woman in a
state of total array. Her hair was kempt, her clothing shevelled, and
she moved in a gainly way.

I wanted desperately to meet her, but I knew I'd have to make bones
about it since I was travelling cognito. Beknownst to me, the
hostess, whom I could see both hide and hair of, was very proper, so
it would be skin off my nose if anything bad happened. And even
though I had only swerving loyalty to her, my manners couldn't be
peccable. Only toward and heard-of behavior would do.

Fortunately, the embarrassment that my maculate appearance might cause
was evitable. There were two ways about it, but the chances that
someone as flappable as I would be ept enough to become persona grata
or a sung hero were slim. I was, after all, something to sneeze at,
someone you could easily hold a candle to, someone who usually aroused
bridled passion.

So I decided not to risk it. But then, all at once, for some apparent
reason, she looked in my direction and smiled in a way that I could
make heads and tails of.

I was plussed. It was concerting to see that she was communicado, and
it nerved me that she was interested in a pareil like me, sight seen.
Normally, I had a domitable spirit, but, being corrigible, I felt
capacitated---as if this were something I was great shakes at---and
forgot that I had succeeded in situations like this only a told number
of times. So, after a terminable delay, I acted with mitigated gall
and made my way through the ruly crowd with strong givings.

Nevertheless, since this was all new hat to me and I had no time to
prepare a promptu speech, I was petuous. Wanting to make only
called-for remarks, I started talking about the hors d'oeuvres, trying
to abuse her of the notion that I was sipid, and perhaps even bunk a
few myths about myself.

She responded well, and I was mayed that she considered me a savory
character who was up to some good. She told me who she was. "What a
perfect nomer," I said, advertently. The conversation became more and
more choate, and we spoke at length to much avail. But I was
defatigable, so I had to leave at a godly hour. I asked if she wanted
to come with me. To my delight, she was committal. We left the party
together and have been together ever since. I have given her my
love, and she has requited it.