Two from The Ridger
Posted by Neal on May 9, 2011
Karen Davis, who blogs at The Greenbelt and frequently comments here using the handle The Ridger, emailed me a couple of interesting linguistic finds this week.
First up, a quotation from someone named Matt Smith on BBC America, on what is evidently a feature called “Dr. Who Insider”. He seems to have said it around April 23:
River Song sort of beguiles, infuriates, endears, and turns the Doctor on, all at the same time.
Karen had two things to note. First of all, there’s the unusual usage of endear. For her and for me, endear has to be used in the frame X endear Y to Z, in which X causes Z to like Y. In this passage, though, the frame is X endear Y, with X pleasing Y (or Y liking X).
Karen wondered if this might be something specific to British English. I don’t know. I haven’t found this usage in the Corpus of Contemporary American English, though I didn’t look through every hit. I did find one example of it in the British National Corpus:
Our impression over a two week jaunt round the Republic was of a country shedding the shackles of its tortured past without sacrificing its most endearing features. What endeared us most was the CRACK — convivial evenings of booze, banter and traditional music.
Leaving that aside, Karen’s second observation was that the whole coordination is one more example of right-node wrapping. All four verbs (beguiles, infuriates, endears, and the phrasal verb turn on) share the Doctor as their direct object, but the last one wraps around it. If we were to interpret this coordination as a parallel coordination, we would end up with ungrammatical phrases like *beguiles the Doctor on, *infuriates the Doctor on, and *endears the doctor on.
Karen’s next example is from a workplace flyer for an employee referral program. It says:
Think about getting eight hours paid time off or possibly up to $5,000 for every one of those people you refer and are hired.
She stumbled over the relative clause you refer and are hired. In the first part of it, the noun phrase those people is the understood missing direct object of refer, but in the second part, those people is the understood missing subject of are hired. As Karen puts it, the omitted relative pronoun in for the first clause is whom; for the second clause, it’s who. It’s another case of coordinated relative clauses with different kinds of gaps. Sometimes these sound OK; other times, like this one, they sound strange. Karen suggests that the problem is the case clash between who and whom, but I don’t think so — first, because these coordinations sometimes work; second, because whom is moribund, and many speakers, if they used a relative pronoun for the first clause at all, would use who; and third, because those relative pronouns aren’t there, so I don’t think they can cause a case clash. An example of this kind of coordination that sounds pretty good is this one from one of the other posts on this topic you’ll find under the relevant category at the bottom of this post:
New Mexico, which the president leads  but  was still uncalled as of noon Wednesday…
If any of you have some ideas on why this sentence sounds better than Karen’s example, comments are open. (Of course, they’re open in any case, but you know what I mean.)