Literal-Minded

Linguistic commentary from a guy who takes things too literally

Foundering on a Syntactic Puzzle

Posted by Neal on January 18, 2004

Thanks, Glen, for the introduction. And now, I’ll get right to some linguistic stuff.

In a recent post on LanguageLog, Geoff Pullum spoke of “founder[ing] on [a] semantic puzzle”. I’ve known this feeling when it comes to syntax, and particularly in song lyrics. I’ve always had a tendency (which I’ve gradually learned is not a normal one) to take things literally, and end up chuckling over lines like this one:

Your prison is walking through this world all alone. (“Desperado,” by the Eagles)

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