Date: Thu, 23 Oct 1997 13:16:06 -0400

From: Allan Metcalf AAllan[AT SYMBOL GOES HERE]AOL.COM

Subject: Damned if you do, damned if you don't

If a linguist doing fieldwork in another language were to express anger at

the ritual greetings used in that language, we would be shocked at such

unprofessional behavior. And at such ignorance of the functions of various

speech acts. We know that every utterance is not meant to convey a literal


Yet when the linguists on this list encounter ritual greetings in our own

language - they get furious. Either they are furious because others use

ritual greetings, or they are furious because others don't.

So in present-day American English, perhaps the function of ritual greetings

is to mutually antagonize the interlocutors.

- Allan Metcalf