Date: Wed, 4 Oct 1995 08:05:46 -0400
From: "M. Lynne Murphy" 104LYN[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]MUSE.ARTS.WITS.AC.ZA
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
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".