Date: Fri, 7 Oct 1994 09:27:43 -0500
From: debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]UIUC.EDU
Subject: Re: Name that syntagm
Okay, do the perfessional linguists (what's a "linguist"? That's another
list) have a technical term for phenomena like "I don't care (to)"?
One big problem I've had with my Taiwanese students has been when they
offer to do something for me, and I say, "That's okay."
My meaning: "No thank you, I don't want to put you to any trouble."
Non-native speaker's (literal) interpretaion: "I accept your offer."
Cf. could care less -- couldn't care less
Got a name for it?
I've been looking for some time for a suitable name for words (or
expressions) that mean both themselves and their opposites (literally,
ravel, let, oversight -- see "A Literal Paradox" in _Declining Grammar_
[Urbana: NCTE 1989], pp.. 73-80). I've never encountered positive "I don't
care to" until this discussion, but now I'm sure I'll notice it a lot (I
still remember hearing my first might could about a week after I learned
about double modals years ago). Anyway, if you can name that syntagm, maybe
ADS will give you a prize at the annual new words meeting (are you
Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]uiuc.edu
Department of English 217-333-2392
University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321
608 South Wright Street
Urbana, Illinois 61801