Date: Wed, 25 Jan 1995 23:45:27 -0500

From: "William H. Smith" Wh5mith[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: Tidbits

At the SECOL meeting in Memphis it was noted that eavesdropping was the worst

form of data collection. Nevertheless, I report the results of eavesdropping

there. I overheard an African-American woman, probably from the Chicago

church group that was staying at the hotel, say to her friend, "She's got a

lot of nieces and thing." I asked Michael Montgomery and Walt Wolfram if

"and thing" was not a Gullah puralizer, and both answered "No." My question

was misstated; Ambrose Gonzales reported that "'n' t'ing" was a Gullah

collectivizer; so "nieces and thing" would mean "nieces and nephews." Of

course, if she really were speaking Gullah, the "and thing" would have been

redundant, since "niece" in Gullah is unmarked for sex ( I was referred to by

a speaker in Colleton county, SC, as my uncle's "niece."

That SECOL meeting included a presentation on the use of the past perfect for

recent past events. Shortly afterwards I returned an item to the local Belks

store. The clerk had to take the sales slip to the office for approval of

the refund. Since there were other itiems on the slip, I asked for it when

she returned. She replied, "I had just tookened it to the office." Aside

from the triple participle, the event referred to occurred only moments


Adding to the spread of superfluous prepositions introducing relative

clauses, Bob Schieffer on Face the Nation (26 June 1994), in referring to the

subject of a book (the name of neither of which I recorded) said, "...on whom

the book [...] was written about." Michael, it isn't just college students

in written assignments.

By the way, Michael, in the ADS Centennial on usage your article uses "they"

with "every student" as antecedent. Is singular "they" now acceptable usage?