Coordination Meets Quotative Inversion
Posted by Neal on June 7, 2006
Last summer, I added to my list of Friends in Low Places coordinations a couple that I got from a posting on Blogslot, written by Bill Walsh, a copyeditor for The Washington Post. Walsh read my post quoting him, and had this to say in a comment:
I have a similar problem with a common fiction device:
“I don’t love you anymore,” she said, and turned away from me.
She said it, but she didn’t turn-away-from-me it. I think another “she” is required after “and.”
In other words, these coordinations have the form [A B C] and [D], but are to be interpreted as [A B C] and [B D]. The element B that is trapped inside the first coordinate still manages to be part of the second one. In Walsh’s example, A = “I don’t love you anymore”; B = she; C = said; and D = turned away from me. A few months later, I wrote about some other coordinations in English and German that were formed in much the same way, and inadvertently produced one myself:
“Hmmm…that’s a good point,” I acknowledged, and said no more.
This kind of coordination gets even more interesting when the direct quotation portion is phrased with quotative inversion, so that the subject appears after the verb, as in this example:
“I won’t,” promised Henry, and got back into the car.
Here, instead of [A B C] and [D], we have [A C B] and [D], with the subject B, Henry, pushed even deeper into the first coordinate and still managing to escape in order to serve as the subject of D, got back into the car. (Read more about quotative inversion in this Language Log post.)
In Walsh’s view, the non-parallelism in these coordinations should be eliminated by inserting a subject into the second coordinate, so that the whole phrase becomes a parallel coordination of two complete sentences, instead of a nonparallel coordination of two verb phrases (VPs). However, I’m inclined to call this an atypical but grammatical way of coordinating VPs, just as I like coffee, and my friend, tea is an atypical but grammatical way of coordinating material surrounding a verb. (The technical term for the latter, BTW, is gapping.) Though it’s certainly not wrong to repeat the subject for the second coordinate, the effect you end up with is (to my ear) the same as what you get when you repeat the subject for VPs that are coordinated in more parallel fashion:
“I don’t love you anymore,” she said, and she turned away from me.
“Hmmm…that’s a good point,” I acknowledged, and I said no more.
“I won’t,” promised Henry, and he got back into the car.
Furthermore, I’m seeing this kind of coordination from seasoned writers, who presumably looked carefully at these coordinations (at least some of them) during the editing and deemed them acceptable. One such writer is Beverly Cleary. She uses them a lot, in fact, or at least in the last couple of books of hers that I’ve been reading to Doug and Adam. The Henry example above came from Henry and Ribsy, where all of the following non-parallel VP coordinations can be found:
- (Without quotative inversion)
- “Boy, is he mad about something!” he exclaimed, and ran over to the driveway. (46)
- “Wuf,” he said mildly, and waited patiently while Beezus frantically pried Ramona’s fingers loose from his tail. (64)
- “Hi,” she answered, and entered the kitchen with her arms full of packages. (73)
- “Ow,” he exclaimed, and pulled away. (78)
- “Wuf!” he said, and looked hungrily at the lunch box. (129)
- Come on, salmon, bite, he thought, and tossed out his line.
- (With quotative inversion)
- “I won’t,” promised Henry, and got back into the car. (15-17)
- “I have come to haunt you,” said Henry in his hollow voice, and let out a groan. (19)
- “I just stepped into the market to buy a pint of milk to drink with my lunch,” began the officer, and went on to explain what had happened. (30)
- “Wuf,” said Ribsy, and went to the refrigerator to show that what he really wanted was another piece of horse meat. (37)
- “Day in and day out,” said Mrs. Huggins, and laughed. (39)
- “Aw, keep quiet,” answered Henry, and grinned. (70)
- “Oh, it’s nothing,” said Henry modestly, and bared his teeth. (90)
- “Ribsy!” yelled Henry, and grabbed his dog by the collar. (94)
- “Try and get it,” taunted Scooter, and began to laugh. (96)
- “I wonder if…” began Mrs. Huggins and paused. (100)
- “O.K., you old dog,” muttered Henry, and steeled himself for the meeting with Scooter and Robert. (103)
- “Good old Ribsy,” said Henry, and hugged him. (111)
- “Wuf,” answered Ribsy, and worried the rope. (112)
- “Better not count on it,” said Mr. Grumbie, and yawned. (148)
- “Don’t lean out,” said Mr. Huggins sharply, and rewound the rope. (167)
How do these coordinations strike you?