Date: Wed, 4 Oct 1995 08:05:46 -0400


Subject: lexical choice

i think bob wachal's student's fill-in-the-blank is going to bias its


today, i'm going to do the _________.

since you're forced into using a definite determiner, i would be more

likely to fill-in-the-blank with "wash"--but that's not what i would

say about my need to wash clothes--i'd say "today, i'm going to do

laundry." i'd be less likely to stick "laundry" in there, because

"the laundry" = the place that does washing for me (or a laundromat).

(for a while there was a trend to promote laundromats as singles

joints. so i suppose "doing the laundry" could take on a whole nother

meaning there.)

this is not to say that i can't use "the" with "laundry" meaning

'dirty clothes', but that would be in a case where the laundry in

question is more definite. when i "do laundry", i do whatever

laundry there is. i don't talk about doing "the laundry" because

the "the" makes it sound like it's something you can do and be done

with--but we know this is not true (unless you launder au naturelle,

there will be more laundry to do when you're done with "the" laundry).

the "the" makes it specific-- as in "the laundry you left at my house

is starting to smell".