Date: Fri, 7 Oct 1994 09:27:43 -0500


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

listening, Alan?).



Dennis Baron debaron[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]

Department of English 217-333-2392

University of Illinois fax: 217-333-4321

608 South Wright Street

Urbana, Illinois 61801