Date: Tue, 11 Oct 1994 21:59:46 -0700

From: Birrell Walsh birrell[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]WELL.SF.CA.US

Subject: Re: -"had" Constructions

On Tue, 11 Oct 1994, Judith Rascoe wrote:

Isn't there an Irish construction along the lines of "he had a drink taken".

As I understand it, it's a faintly euphemistic way of suggesting that the

subject has taken many drinks. ("He claimed he swerved to avoid the cat, but

he had a drink taken if you ask me.") In this sense it reminds me a bit of

what a Peruvian friend said about Spanish -- that lots of things seem to

happen by themselves in that language ('the vase broke itself'). The 'had O

part.' construction relieves the subject of onus. It's trying to shuffle the

action into the "I had my car sideswiped" category, where the subject is


My Sanskrit teacher pointed out to us that in Sanskrit, the active and

the passive have the same status - both derived from the verbal root, and

neither derived from the other. Thus they have even passives for

intransitives: "It is gone by me" as a way of saying "I go."

Maybe these bureaucratic passives, and the "had" constructions, date back

to this layer in *IndoEuropean?